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.
Additional trigger warning for Sabina’s story: brief description of sexual assault.
I remember the spanking I was proud of: the spanking when I closed the door on my emotions and became a blank page. I was probably 7 or 8, and two or three strokes in, bent over my parents’ bed, when my rigid body finally went limp.
Afterwards I was so proud of myself, and never again did I cry during a spanking.
For years I had been trying to “receive my discipline correctly”. I had a chart, and every time I received my discipline (didn’t scream angrily, didn’t cower or cover my bottom, didn’t lash out before, during or after) I would get a sticker and my mom would be proud of me. After I filled the chart, I got to get a pet of my very own. If I didn’t receive my discipline correctly, it was ok, my mom was good enough to give me another chance to receive my discipline right then, with another spanking. Another 10-15 swats with the paddle my dad made in the garage and sanded down smooth so it wouldn’t cause any damage, perfectly flat so that it wouldn’t hit unevenly. Made with love, not even as thick as a wooden stirring spoon, it had a hole at the top to hang it next to the phone in the kitchen.
I say this with no malice. My parents love me and I love them.
They wanted me to receive my loving discipline correctly as training for when I would need to accept the loving discipline of the Lord as an adult. They would get angry when we sinned, but they never made us receive discipline when they were angry. We would get sent to their room, to wait until they calmed down enough to do what the Lord required them to do.
Today I’m almost 27. You know how when people are angry, they say they see red? If you were to hit me right now, I know I’d see white.
I remember that white being peaceful, like I was finally not responsive to the impulses of my sinful brain that so often used to make me instinctively cover my butt.
I stopped getting spankings when I was 11 or 12, I believe. But that white numbness came again when I was 19.
A kid my age trapped me in a room and sexually assaulted me after I told him I was a virgin. I couldn’t push him off me, I wouldn’t defend myself, because something told me it would be over soon and I probably deserved it for talking with a boy about sex. Just like my spankings, I wanted everything to be over as soon as possible, so I could receive forgiveness and be able to forget about it.
So I did.
I shoved the experience away and didn’t talk about it for years, until I heard the term “sexual assault” in a sociology class and the memories came rushing back.
When I told my mom about the assault, she cried and asked why I hadn’t told her. I didn’t have an answer then, but now I know:
When you receive your discipline, you are supposed to be quiet, teachable. And the slate will be clean and your sins will trouble you no more.
I was in my early twenties when I received my last spanking from my mom. This line, “When you receive your discipline, you are supposed to be quiet, teachable. And the slate will be clean and your sins will trouble you no more.” resonates with me. My parents also did not spank while they were still angry, and we DID get a specific number of swats depending on age, but still…. yeah.
Oh boy, disassociation. “They wanted me to receive my loving discipline correctly as training for when I would need to accept the loving discipline of the Lord as an adult.” I also remember my parents telling me that I should be grateful for my spankings now, because the Lord wouldn’t correct me as gently when I grew up.
This. I can so relate to this. I didn’t have stickers and rewards, but I remember the day I discovered how to leave my body and go limp and the beatings had no power over me. And I didn’t call them beatings or recognize the horrible impact until the day my partner wrapped his hands around my throat and I went limp and calm and thought, “I know how to do this.” I said to him, “Are you going to kill me?” And I realized that I grew up thinking I might die at my parents’ hands, and it was my job to endure it quietly. They groomed me every day to be abused.
I go limp and quiet when I feel threatened, too. It takes a huge effort of will even to move, let alone speak. I think it’s because when I was little, the last thing you wanted to do when your parent was angry was speak, move, or seem in any way to challenge them. Just exist as calmly and passively as possible and hope to God nothing horrible happens this time.
I hate how this was all so normal. In some ways, it still is.