Finding Asha Degree, Shelby's Sweetheart

Home » Part Two ~ Debunking the Runaway Myth: Asha & Her Family’s Profile » Asha Degree Did Not Run Away: Debunking the Whipping Boy Influence

Asha Degree Did Not Run Away: Debunking the Whipping Boy Influence


Be reminded, that many court cases include character witnesses and answers to questions that involve prior behavior and such statements as, ” . . . she would never do that!” are important enough to be entered into testimony. Early efforts in any investigation begin with character references and habitual behavior of victims or suspects as reported by those closest to them.

Remember, it’s this prior behavior that’s an indicator of future behavior. We are, indeed, creatures of habit. So, lets examine piece-by-piece the theory Asha did not run away from being influenced by The Whipping Boy tale and why.

The idea’s been broached that Asha was influenced to run away by the children’s classic, The Whipping Boy, where a prince and ‘his’ orphaned servant (who would receive whippings as punishment for the prince’s misdeeds) ran away together simply because the prince was bored. After a fantastical adventure, the boys returned to the castle–safe and sound. The bratty prince was made a better person as a result of all the trials they endured and conquered by the boys working together.

While this ideal may seem fitting, it’s merely coincidental and bears no resemblance to Asha and her personality as you’ll soon see. But the book, I believe, has something to do with the timing of Asha’s disappearance.
It’s important to note that, by age nine, kids abandon the, ‘There’s a monster under my bed!’ condition and replace such early-childhood fears and anxiety with real-life threats including storms and homes lost through natural disasters, crime and divorce or losing a parent to heart attacks, cancer or other illness as they learn about such things through others’ trauma or media reports.

A source strengthening this argument and worthy of your review from Perdue University:

Asha had several fears; most notably, she was afraid of the dark, thunderstorms, and was described by her father as being, “. . . deathly afraid of dogs.” Asha was also shy (a social anxiety), “. . . very, very shy.” said her pastor, who has known Asha since she was born.

It’s been noted that some of Asha’s fears manifested in the middle of the night, prompting her to find comfort being closer to her brother and as Asha got older, she had to be reminded she was too old to bunk with her brother. Asha’s remedy for said problem was to sleep on the floor beside her brother’s bed.

Such improvisation with Asha sleeping on the floor, demonstrates obedience–her willingness to comply with her parents’ instructions–despite being frightened. Since she wasn’t able to manage her fear at night, she’d take to the floor and sleep closer to her brother to compromise: satisfy her parent’s rule and her fears.

These fears and social insecurities are not easily overcome in childhood and often require cognitive therapy if they’re not outgrown over time. During such therapy, sufferers are prodded to hold, say, a puppy in the instance of dog phobias, and graduate to, perhaps, touching small adult dogs for a second or two. Cognitive therapy must be monitored and it’s a slow process that includes both counseling and touch/sensory sessions.

Because Asha had several fears it’s near impossible that she would have suddenly overcome her fear of the dark, insecurity at handling frightening situations alone (bunking with a family member when afraid), her ‘deathly fear’ of dogs and indifference about storms. That’s quite a psychological load to abandon seemingly overnight and unnoticed, stepping out on a cold, stormy night and simply leave–without a coat–the comfort of her home and everything she knew.

It’s not possible.

Here’s a very good resource regarding cognitive behavioral therapy with other treatment examples of what it would take to overcome Asha’s fear of dogs by M. Farouk Radwan MSc. :

Now, about the book, The Whipping Boy: In the story, the boys encounter thieves and are kidnapped. Such assaults would be frightening to Asha, to say the least. Too, each boy was in company of the other. If Asha, being influenced by the story, wanted to run away, her actions would have been more reminiscent of the book, as she had no experience with running away, truancy and other delinquent behaviors.

Asha would not have run off on some adventure ‘like in the book’ without another person going, too–and, most likely want her parents, or at the very least, her brother. And a coat. And a hat. And a . . ..

The strength of the argument that Asha was influenced to leave her home after studying The Whipping Boy is thereby null. But there is a connection to the story and I’ll reveal it in due time.

On the next page, I’ll consider Asha’s world as she knew it on February 14, 2000, the day she disappeared.

UPDATE 04/24/2015: After studying the covers of several versions of The Whipping Boy from a psychological perspective, the graphics would be a frightening visual to a child–particularly one in Asha’s case where she would be alone, in the dark, in a rural setting flanked by trees, in a raging rain storm. 

Page Poser: Has anything come to your mind between the story and Asha’s disappearance or actions? Feel free to comment with all your thoughts. Asha needs all of us. 


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