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Mother goes on trial for slapping runaway daughter

October 22, 1997

BRIGHTON, Mich. (AP) _ A mother who admits to slapping her runaway daughter in the face says she shouldn’t have been charged with a crime for simply administering parental discipline.

Debbie Skousen could get up to a year in jail if convicted of assault and domestic violence against her 18-year-old daughter.

``It has been a painful thing,″ Skousen said in Tuesday’s Ann Arbor News. ``It has so severed relationships between siblings that I don’t know if they’re ever going to talk again. It really drove a wedge in my family.″

In April, Skousen’s daughter Rebecca, then a high school senior, took off for two days and refused to say where she had been. The mother said her daughter cursed at her, so she slapped her twice in the face.

``We’re talking about parental discipline _ an openhanded slapping _ twice,″ Skousen said.

Rebecca complained to her school counselor, who contacted police as required by state law when abuse is suspected.

Skousen was eventually charged and is scheduled to go on trial Nov. 6. An older daughter, one of five Skousen children, is expected to testify against her mother.

Livingston County Prosecutor David Morse said that when slapping results in physical injury, it steps out of the realm of parental discipline. A police officer said he saw a bruise.

But Skousen said her daughter was not injured. She said a doctor who saw her that same day at Urgent Care in Brighton _ where she had been sent by the school _ said in his report that she had no bruise or other indication of any physical injury.

The mother’s attorney said the case does not belong in court.

``Here we are prosecuting a case where the parent is trying to discipline her child,″ John Yiannatji said. ``The logic of this escapes me.″

Rebecca is now attending Michigan State University. Skousen’s husband, Samuel Skousen, hopes mother and daughter will work things out.

``I honestly believe we can patch this thing up,″ he said. ``We’ll work at this _ we’ll just persevere.″