On 19 February 2015, a user-submitted story about a mother’s angry response to her daughter’s being punished for punching a male classmate who snapped her bra was published on the website Not Always Learning.
The story, titled “Was Bra-ced for a Different Reaction,” reported that a female student (identified only as “daughter”) was about to be punished for hitting a male student (identified only as “boy”) before her mother stepped in and explained to the teacher that the school should be punishing “boy” instead of “daughter” since “boy” was the one who had sexually assaulted “daughter” when he snapped her bra:
(I’m an A&E nurse. We’re not allowed [to keep] our phones on us; they’re to be kept in our lockers. A call comes into hospital reception on a private line for me.)
Phone: “This is [Teacher] from [School]. There’s been an incident involving [Daughter]. We need you to come in.”
Me: “Is she ill or injured? Can it wait until my shift is over in two hours?”
Phone: “[Daughter] has struck another pupil. We’ve been trying to call you for 45 minutes. It really is very serious.”
(I go to the school and am ushered into the head’s office. I see my daughter, her head of year, a male teacher, the headmaster, a boy with blood around his nose and a red face, and his parents.)
Head: “Mrs. [My Name], how kind of you to FINALLY join us!”
Me: “Yeah, things get busy in A&E. I’ve spent the last hour administering over 40 stitches to a seven-year-old who was beaten by his mother with a metal ladle and then I had to deal with the police regarding the matter. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
(After watching him try to not act embarrassed, he tells me what has happened. The boy had twanged my daughter’s bra and she had punched him in the face twice. I got the impression they were more angry with my daughter than the boy.)
The details of the above-quoted story are impossible to verify since all names and locations have been redacted. Without this information we have to rely on the source, the content of the article, and basic intuition.
While Not Always Learning publishes user-submitted stories that “are based on actual, real events,” the FAQ section explains that some stories are changed from second-hand tales to first-person accounts for dramatic effect:
Sometimes we will need to edit a story slightly to make it suitable for publication. Scene-setting is great, but extraneous detail may need to be cut down a little. Your submission might explain that this didn’t happen to you but to your classmate/colleague/friend, but the audience doesn’t need to know that.
Don’t worry, we still aim to keep the spirit of the story alive and ensure it remains as hilarious as ever!
The stories published on Not Always Learning are user-submitted anecdotes meant to entertain readers. While the editors supposedly endeavor to ensure stories are based on real events, an amusing story clearly takes precedence over a factual one.
Which brings us back to the content of “Was Bra-ced for a Different Reaction.” The story is filled with unnecessary detail to make the mother character the only credible voice; for instance, the story gives plenty of detail about the mother’s heroic work in the A&E (accident and emergency room), while the other characters are painted as ignorant and incompetent:
Me: “Oh. And you want to know if I’m going to press charges against him for sexually assaulting my daughter and against the school for allowing him to do it?”
(They all get jittery when I mention sexual assault and start speaking at once.)
Teacher: “I don’t think it was that serious.”
Head Of Year: “Let’s not over-react.”
Head: “I think you’re missing the point.”
(The boy’s mother then starts crying. I turn to my daughter to find out what happened.)
Daughter: “He kept pinging my bra. I asked him to stop but he didn’t, so I told Mr. [Teacher]. He told me to ‘ignore it.’ [Boy] did it again and undid my bra so I hit him. Then he stopped.”
(I turn to the teacher.)
Me: “You let him do this? Why didn’t you stop him? Come over here and let me touch the front of your trousers.”
Teacher: “What?! No!”
Me: “Does that seem inappropriate to you? Why don’t you go and pull on Mrs. [Head Of Year]’s bra right now. See how fun it is for her. Or on that boy’s mum’s bra. Or mine. You think just because they’re kids it’s fun?”
The mother’s quick retorts also seem implausible. The story depicts a very frustrating situation, yet the mother manages to find the perfect words at every turn. While this is possible, it seems more likely that the story was written after the incident as the writer recalled exactly what she should have said. There’s no English word for this concept: the French use the term “esprit de l’escalier,” the Germans know it as treppenwitz, and fans of Seinfeld call it the Jerk Store Paradox.
The story concludes with a final speech about sexual assault from this enraged mother as she scolds the teacher and the headmaster, threatens “boy,” and takes “daughter” out of the office:
Head: “Mrs. [My Name]. With all due respect, [Daughter] still beat another child.”
Me: “No. She defended herself against a sexual attack from another pupil. Look at them; he’s nearly 6 feet and 11 or 12 stone. She’s 5 feet and 6 stone. He’s a foot taller than her and twice as heavy. How many times should she have let him touch her? If the person who was supposed to help and protect her in a classroom couldn’t be bothered what should she have done? He pulled her bra so hard it came undone.”
(The boy’s mum is still crying and his dad looks both angry and embarrassed. The teacher won’t make eye contact with me. I look at the headmaster.)
Me: “I’m taking her home. I think the boy has learnt his lesson. And I hope nothing like this ever happens again, not only to [Daughter], but to any other girl at this school. You wouldn’t let him do it to a member of staff so what makes you think he can do it to a girl of 15 is beyond me. I will be reporting this to the governors. And if you–” *turning to the boy* “–EVER touch my daughter again I WILL have you arrested for sexual assault. Do you understand me?”
(I was so angry I gathered my daughter’s things and left. I reported it to the Board of Governors, several of whom I know from Church (it’s a Catholic school), and was assured it would be strongly dealt with. I also reported it to OFSTED (Government-run school monitoring) and they were equally as horrified and assured me they would contact the school. My daughter was put into a different class for that subject, away from the teacher and the boy.)
Since this story does not contain any specific details about where or when it happened or who was involved, it is impossible to verify. But since the editors at Not Always Learning strive to only publish stories based on factual events, we’ll concede that somewhere at some school at some time some girl hit some boy after some boy snapped some girl’s bra. Possibly.