It happens every day on social media. Videos are posted of children being abused by siblings or in fights while adults stand around filming and cheering them on. No criminal charges ever seem to be filed and social media repeats this formula on a daily basis and people pass them around for entertainment. It’s disgusting. But there is one case happening right now that could go a different way. “DaddyOFive” was a YouTube channel run by two parents, Mike and Heather Martin, who allegedly filmed the torture of their children for views and money under the guise of “pranks.” (Note: these were not pranks by any definition. It was mental and physical torture which would be illegal to use on prisoners of war.)
The alleged abuse was mostly directed at the youngest, Cody, and includes using sleep deprivation, physical abuse to the point of making him bleed, dragging him screaming across the floor, pretending to abandon him in dire situations, allowing his older step-brothers to beat him and hold him down on camera and more. In one video, they filmed Cody slapping his sister in the face for fun claiming, “You never hit girls, but she’s your sister so she don’t count.” It is important to note that Mike Martin is the father of some of the children and Heather is the mother of some of the children, making them a “blended” family. The page has been taken down since YouTuber Philip DeFranco blew the whistle on this horror and brought authorities into it. (I have seen the original videos in full showing situations that are abusive and disturbing. There are archived mirrored copies of them all linked here.)
Since then, Mike Martin has temporarily lost custody of the youngest two, Cody and Emma, who have been returned to their biological mother pending a hearing. Heather’s children are still in her “care,” although it seems her ex-husband is petitioning the court for some action. But is this all that can be done? Not according to the law. These people have allegedly abused children on video for money. There are many many laws against this. Why haven’t they been charged? Instead of sitting in jail, these two people have been making the rounds on the morning shows begging forgiveness. Watch the following video with caution because it is truly heartbreaking and dark. (NSFW or children)
How does our society devalue children to such an extent that over 700,000 people were subscribers to this channel? They watched and left gleeful comments egging on the behavior. The Martins have hired a reputation repair company and will probably try to create a new YouTube channel about their comeback from this scandal (or get a reality show on TLC). However, this is one of those times when public outrage could stop such an abortion of justice with a demand that these people be charged with child abuse and face the legal penalties that come with what they have done: jail.
The state of Maryland, where the Martins live, defines abuse of a child as:
- Physical injury (not necessarily visible) of a child under circumstances that indicate that a child’s health or welfare is harmed or at substantial risk of being harmed.
- The failure to give proper care and attention to a child, leaving a child unattended where the child’s health or welfare is harmed or a child is placed in substantial risk of harm.
- An act or acts involving sexual molestation or exploitation whether physical injuries are sustained or not.
- Identifiable and substantial impairment of a child’s mental or psychological ability to function.
- Finding credible evidence that has not been satisfactorily refuted that physical abuse, neglect or sexual abuse occurred.
Based on the video content it appears the Martins have done three out of five of these things repeatedly and unapologetically, but so far they have not faced legal ramifications.
According to criminal law in the state of Maryland, such actions carry a sentence of up to 25 years in prison. PJ Media called Maryland Child Protective Services to find out if there may be charges coming but received no comment.
The only reported run-in CPS had with this family in the past resulted in a declaration that what was discovered at that time was apparently legally allowed “corporal punishment.”
There had been a previous Child Protective Services investigation, but Hall’s sister, Crystal Reynolds, told New York Magazine that the agency had determined that the behavior was ‘[appropriate] corporal punishment.’ CPS could not confirm nor deny an investigation by law.
Heather Martin claimed in a video response to abuse allegations that “We been investigated already for the YouTube channel. Nothing was found!” (See minute 3:44 at this link.)
It’s difficult to imagine that any person who is supposedly certified in child welfare could watch those videos and determine it was appropriate discipline. PJ Media reached out to State’s Attorney Charlie Smith of Frederick County, Md., where the family resides. Smith clarified their involvement and stated,
We are working with child protective services to determine whether any potential child abuse occurred in Frederick County, Maryland. I should be able to give you more specific comment tomorrow morning.
This morning, PJ Media reached out to him again for an update and he responded:
We are continuing to attempt to determine whether the conduct we believe to be criminal occurred in Frederick County. I cannot speak for CPS. Based on our initial review of the video, it appears that physical injury was sustained. Additionally, we are evaluating the case under our physical and mental neglect statute. Again, jurisdiction is at issue.
Part of the frustration in getting decisive action is tied up in minute details like jurisdiction. This case, because the videos were sometimes filmed in the home and sometimes filmed outside of the home, could cause a legal nightmare as authorities sort out what happened where and in whose jurisdiction.
For the sake of these children and to send a strong message to others who might try to exploit and abuse children for profit, let’s hope the Maryland legal community does whatever it takes to bring the Martins to justice. It’s time that this kind of abuse for entertainment ends.