By Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator
Trigger warning for Hurts Me More Than You series: posts in this series may include detailed descriptions of corporal punishment and physical abuse and violence towards children.
Corporal punishment has become a national conversation after a former NFL Most Valuable Player (MVP) was indicted for child abuse in Texas.
Pictures of the injuries (trigger warning: graphic wounds) can be seen here. A surprisingly large group of people defended Peterson’s actions, many cited his intent to “reasonably” discipline his son, or their own harsh treatment as children. Sean Hannity literally removed his belt and beat his news desk, later remarking that he “deserved” a punch to the face from his father:
These responses remind me of my childhood and young adult, when I thought being spanked bare-bottomed with a plumbing line marketed as “The Rod” was reasonable. It shocked me to the core to realize that The Rod was a literal embodiment of the “plumbing line” advocated by child-abuse manuals like Michael and Debbie Pearl’s To Train Up a Child. The same plumbing line that left no visible marks, but killed Lydia Schatz because it broke down her muscles leading to organ failure.
In my own life, spanking predictably created in me a violent child. My parents always note my “sensitivity” as a very young child, then they became fundamentalists and the corporal punishments increased. Suddenly, I hurt animals, got in fights with neighbors, began my obsession with war, justified violence, and I often fantasized about engaging in violent actions. G.A. Henty’s historical fictions did nothing but stir up those fantasies.
It wasn’t until I read about the impacts of spanking on children that I connected the dots. Antisocial behavior, violence against animals, violent fantasies are all more likely as the frequency and intensity of corporal punishment increases (see endnote for academic reading).
I have wanted to start a conversation about this, but I couldn’t harness the energy for an extensive post on the topic. I’m an ardent football fan and my conversations with abuse apologists on internet forums the last two weeks have been exhausting. Today, “Abiram” sent me his story, similarly inspired by conversations about Adrian Peterson.
“Are your parents dying?
Are you being persecuted for being a Christian?
Then why are you crying?”
I can’t even count the number of times I heard those words. Always associated with a spanking. For most people. The Adrian Peterson story is either a non-story or something that just doesn’t make sense. For me, it is inescapably real. I have been hit with a paint stirrer, a pizza paddle, a belt, a dowel. Always accompanied by the saying “this hurts me more than it hurts you.” But it doesn’t. Have you ever stared into a mirror wishing that either you would die or your parents would. Have you ever clenched your jaw thinking that maybe your were demon possessed. Have you ever avoided talking to a parent for days because you thought the Holy Spirit would tell them that you had unconfessed sin?
Well I have.
It seems laughable to most, but it is real for me. I was spanked for disagreeing about my actions. Spanked for covering my bottom from swats with the paint stirrer. Spanked hours after being corrected because no lesson would be complete without physical punishment. No one should think back on their childhood and have their most poignant memories be of pain, but I do. My parents weren’t monsters. They can’t be dismissed as an aberration. They are mainstream America. There are no bruises on me today. No physical scars. All the welts have healed.
But my childhood will stay with me till the day I die and possibly after that. I can remember every time in the last 13 years that I have cried. Each time because I felt like someone else had been hurt, not me. But reading about Peterson reminds me that I was hurt. That my brothers and sisters were hurt. May still be hurt. And I don’t know how to make that better. And that kills me inside almost as much as those swats with the belt…. Don’t kid yourself and think that your children won’t remember what happens when they are children.
We remember everything.
What was your experience with corporal punishment?
Describe your experience with physical discipline in less than 400 words, in any format — first person, stream of consciousness, short essay, et al. How did the corporal punishment impact you as a child and does it continue to impact you as an adult? If you have children of your own, what is your reaction to the thought of disciplining them as you were?
Submit your stories to: email@example.com
- “Spanking and the Making of a Violent Society,” Murray A. Straus, Pediatrics 98, no. 4 (October 1996), 836-842. [Link]
- Murray A. Straus, Emily M. Douglas, Rose Anne Medeiros, The Primordial Violence: Spanking Children, Psychological Development, Violence, and Crime (Routledge, 2013). [Link to Preface]
- Akemi Tomoda, MD, PhD, Hanako Suzuki, MA, Keren Rabi, MA, Yi-Shin Sheu, BS, Ann Polcari, PhD, and Martin H. Teicher, MD, “Reduced Prefrontal Cortical Gray Matter Volume in Young Adults Exposed to Harsh Corporal Punishment,” Neuroimage 47(Suppl 2), Aug 2009. [Link]