Hurts Me More Than You: Jace and Jocelyn’s Stories

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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.

Extra trigger warning for Jace’s story: reference to family sexual abuse.

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Jace’s Story

I believed my parents when they said this hurts me more then it hurts you. At least when I was young I did. I knew I was bad and needed the rod to drive the evil from me. The things my cousin did to me made me bad. I knew that. I was bad because I let him do those things to me. He always gave me the option, do as he said or he would just go get my little sister. So I done as he said. I was so bad.

When my father asked if I understand that I deserved the beating. I always said yes even if the reason he gave was false I still knew I was bad and deserved the spanking. My father loved me. God was using him to drive the bad from me. Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child.

Then the day came when someone in the family had committed a crime in my mother’s eyes. She was going to get to the bottom of it but no one would confess. So she put me in one room, my sister in another. Then she went back and forth spanking us and asking for a confession. I remember wishing she would just ask if I knew I deserved the spankings. I could say yes but to confess would be a lie.

I did not know what to do. I sat and listened to my sister’s screams when it was her turn to be spanked. I heard mom say this hurts me more then it hurts you. I knew that was a lie! I had suffered for years at the hands of my cousin so my sister could be safe. I loved my sister and I knew I could never beat her and hear her scream in pain even if God commanded it.

How could my mother do that? The spanking did not hurt mom more then my sister. I got up went in to the other room and confessed to a crime I had not done.

Mom beat me and for the first time I did not believe her when she said this hurts me more then it hurts you.

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Jocelyn’s Story

“Spanking isn’t abusive in and of itself.”

I used to say this when I heard someone say they would never spank a child. In my mind, you would have a bratty child if you didn’t spank them. Because that’s what I was told. Every time the wooden paddle came out, it was accompanied with a reminder that this was for my good, that it was because I was loved, and that God said it was the best way to discipline.

“My parents spanked in the right way”, I argued. 

I was never spanked to the point of bruising. It was always with clothing on. It was not a daily occurrence.  But recently, I have been becoming more in touch with my childhood, seeing it for what it was. I see fear. And anger. And confusion. I see a disturbing fascination with violence, even sexual violence, before I was ever exposed to much of the outside world or knew what sex was. Where did those feelings and thoughts come from? I am beginning to think that they came from being spanked. Spanked “in the right way”.

Which urges me to reconsider that there is a “right way” to hurt your child.

The violent and disturbing fantasies I had as a child have not gone away yet. I’m thinking of having my own kids soon. I won’t be spanking.

Not even in “the right way”.

Hurts Me More Than You: Warbler and Laralyn’s Stories

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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.

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Warbler’s Story

I was a “liar and a thief” growing up. AKA: I would take saltine crackers out of the cabinet and eat them between allowed meals and then I would lie when I was inevitably caught and told to fess up. I got spanked at least once per day for a couple years.

I don’t know were exactly my parents first learned about spanking, but they read and promoted the Pearls out the wazoo.

Over the years they spanked us with hands, paint stirrers, and lastly with 2-by-4s. My mom had a 2×4 custom made with a handle. If we tensed out butts, or put on extra layers we were spanked for avoiding the pain and made to take the layers off and be spanked over underwear. We were usually taken to another (private) room, but our walls were thin and every *thwack* echoed through the house, along with the eventual crying and the “I love you and this hurts me too.” Afterwards we were expected to say in explicit language exactly what we had done wrong, that we were sorry, and that we loved the parent who had just beaten us.

My mother was usually the one to do it, but she would spank us so often that her hands started hurting (blood vessels breaking, etc) that she had the 2×4 made, or she left us to wait in dread for daddy. His hands were tough and he hit hard. The paddle sometimes hit the tail bone as well, and that was the worst.

I usually cried.

As much as I tried I was “weak.” Sometimes if the boys didn’t cry they were spanked till they showed “proper” repentance. If we were stubborn, refused to say we loved them, or did not properly state our transgressions we were spanked again. 5 spanks was the bottom line, then ascending in number by units of 5.

As for me, I never got more than 40 in one sitting (that I remember) because I was (as stated) weak and timid and disliked getting spanked. My older brother was rebellious and would often get spanked for hours. I can still him yelling defiantly over the strikes, refusing to back down even when being punished.

As we got older (teens), our parents decided that spanking was not working and we were given leaf-raking jobs, cleaning jobs, or extra writing assignments. They thought that we were either so bad, or so old that spanking still hadn’t done well, and it was time to try something else. I once heard my mom say something about “decency” having something to do with it, but I have my personal doubts.

Our younger siblings were spanked much less because the “other” punishments on us older ones seemed to be working (or as we got older we didn’t take so much food and hid things better) so they got some similar punishments and spanking was reserved for serious, extra bad transgressions. With the sidelining of the spanking it got worse, though. They were reserved for daddy and he often beat far longer than needed because the younger siblings were not used to being contrite, crying enough to get out of it, and say the right things. I remember the 8th child had a problem at dinner and shouted at my mom or something. My dad had just gotten home from working and it seemed like the height of sin to be making noise and disturbing his dinner. My baby was taken to his room and hit for about 5 minutes long, screaming up until the last minute or so. He was either 4 or 5.

My mom also got more into slapping or hitting as we got older and talked back to her as older teenagers. It was like the ultimate shame because you could never hit back. Those were some of the times that I “saw red…” Brilliant shades of red color everything as you focus in on one person with all the hatred and anger in your tortured soul. Your body shakes and you blink, but still see the color. Nothing else is, or ever was. The only two things in the world are you and the face screaming at you in red waves…. and you wish you had a knife in your hand…. Sometime later you awake from your dissociation, you can’t remember the past 30 minutes, but you feel guilt for your feelings.

After all, you were the one in the wrong. You deserved punishment for your sins…

I don’t know how common spankings are now, as I “ran away” from home 4 years ago. I do know that if my mom had access to plumbing line or glue sticks one or more of us might have fared worse. The wood was solid and “just” bruised.

And we learned how to hide our transgressions in order to avoid it.

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Laralyn’s Story

Spanking. Even now I don’t know what to make of the term.

It feels so wrong to apply it to how our parents punished us. I initially assumed I would always spank my own children. After all, it was Biblical and right according to so many Christian parenting books. I didn’t want to have horrible children, so of course I would spank. As my first baby became a toddler, I found I couldn’t stomach the idea. I tried to spank her once and the attempt was half-hearted and I cried because I knew deep down it was horribly wrong. The moments I was tempted to spank were when I was angry or I didn’t know what else to do and that to me said more than any Christian parenting book ever could. I decided then and there that I would never physically punish her or future children in such a way.

I wish I couldn’t feel my stomach turn when I remember my parents disciplining us. The angrier they were, the worse it was. A belt was the most frequent tool and almost all spankings accompanied the remove of clothing below the waist. I still feel humiliation and shame when I remember it. We were spanked for nearly every infraction – my parents knew no other mode of discipline.

However, the moment I remember most vividly is when I was spanked for being afraid of the dark.

I had horrible fears as a child (of hell, of the house burning, of dying) and refused to sleep alone. One night, after repeated attempts to settle me, I was still crying uncontrollably. My parents, frustrated to the point of losing control, marched into the room. My dad ordered me to turn over and with my head buried in the pillow to muffle my crying, he hit me several times across my bottom. He yelled at me to shut up and then they left.

I was still crying. I was still afraid.

I started injuring myself when I was five in response to anger and overwhelming emotions. This behavior continued and worsened into my teens and young adulthood. My parents shamed me and blamed bad influences.

I blame their shaming and willful crushing of spirit.

Hurts Me More Than You: A Poem by Sam

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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.

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“Love?”: A Poem by Sam

 

A child naked, helpless, letting himself be hit.

If he resists he will be hit more, if he doesn’t stop crying on command it is the same.

Every time he doesn’t obey unquestioningly,

Even if he just doesn’t want to finish his lima beans.

“We only do this because we love you.”

But is it love, or something very different?

 

Parents talk of all day spanking sessions till “they” are black and blue

After work a father continues what his wife did all day.

They talk to their pastors who tell them to continue to achieve the desired outcome.

Unquestioned obedience the only apparent goal.

“We only do this because we love you.”

But is it love, or something very different?

 

“You can only have friends over if the house is clean.”

But the house is never clean enough.

Friends do things differently, to dangerous to remain friends.

Xanga blocked. E-mail monitored. Mail read. Checkmate trapped.

“We only do this because we love you.”

But is it love, or something very different?

 

Behind in logic when it is reviewed the first time all semester

Upset mother. Tension palpable. She grabs coat to leave.

Son begs her not to go. “Tell your father I’m leaving.”

He comes home, begs forgiveness, and searches.

“We only do this because we love you.”

But is it love, or something very different?

 

I awake.  I can smell dinner in the kitchen.

We’re all there, we smile and eat. No one explains, no one questions.

Three months later I burst into tears at what was swept under the rug.

“Why do you bring things up that happened so long ago?”

“We only do this because we love you.”

But is it love, or something very different?

 

Of course since you are a Christian, you believe this.

What that means in practice varies by the day.

Questions are dismissed. Opinions can change,

But only if it is a parents thought.

“We only do this because we love you.”

But is it love, or something very different?

 

Son fails out of school, a perfect trophy no more.

Explosions from minor things. Parents are impossible to please.

He works hard and returns to finish what he started.

Professors see a success. Parents still only see a failure.

“We only do this because we love you.”

But is it love, or something very different?

 

Gorgeous woman. Incredible friend. Determined to treat her right.

Hugs and dancing leads to consternation.

Forced home. Cut off. Will Broken.

Why do I feel forced to agree to every demand?

“We only do this because we love you.”

But is it love, or something very different?

 

They try to sabotage and marry smile as we say “I do.”

We leave and cleave and start an incredible life.

Married children are not to be respected as adults.

If they think differently, they can not interact with younger siblings.

“We only do this because we love you.”

But is it love, or something very different?

 

I awake.  This is not right.

“You may not keep treating me this way.”

“Son, stop being bitter, get past the hurt.

“Why do you bring things up that happened so long ago?”

“We only do this because we love you.”

 

But this is not love, this is very different.

Hurts Me More Than You: The Stories of Five Sisters

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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.

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HA note: These five stories are the perspectives of five sisters, with psuedonyms taken from the seven sisters from greek mythology. They have previously guest-blogged at Becoming Worldly.

Maia’s Story

My parents were very zealous about raising us right.

They read the Bible, joined the groups, read the books. When I was very young, I was punished in a way that I think was very typical of the late 80’s (and still common now): a slap on the hand, a swat on the bottom. But after the books and the groups, it became more violent, and included hitting us on a handy body part, pinching and squeezing handy body parts, and formal spanking.

My father accumulated spanking implements, and he enjoyed hearing about new materials that could be used to spank his children.

He insisted that it be called the rod, as a matter of respect to him. His favourite stick was a think branch from our woods. He cut it off the tree himself, trimmed off the little branches with a knife, and sanded the nubs down.

It still had most of the brown bark on it, and over time, the sanded nubs started to look shiny and polished from use. It seemed to me that my parents thought that spanking had magical properties. They thought it could be used for anything from attitude adjustments to ensuring instant obedience to helping the memory when we had a hard time reciting the Bible verses we were supposed to memorize.

When my father thought we had a rebellious attitude, he would spank us, and then talk to us about having a better attitude, which was difficult to process, especially on those occasions when we weren’t having rebellious thoughts to begin with. If we failed to respond to a command immediately, or did it with the wrong attitude, or not thoroughly enough, we were spanked. We were spanked until we cried, because they felt that resisting tears was a rebellion of its own (it was). But we became disconnected from our own reaction of crying, so sometimes we would start crying right away, trying to do what was expected, and we were spanked until we stopped the rebellion of crying.

They told us that they didn’t want to hit us, but they had no choice because the Bible made it clear that they would be punished if they didn’t spank us.

Being spanked and hit and pinched made me flinch around sudden movements from my parents, but, you guessed it, I was punished for flinching. I became very fearful, and tried to completely control my behaviour and reactions to avoid being punished. I became a very silent and somber child, trying to show respect and obedience all the time, even though inside I was extremely angry. I learned to try to avoid punishment, not to do things well from any internal motivation, and this was something I have had to learn to overcome as an adult.

I do not support spanking as a discipline method.

Electra’s Story

I was spanked when I was a kid.

The spankings went on from when I was about 2 to when I was 12. Sometimes the sessions would go on for hours, and they usually took place at least once a day. Even the slightest offense, such as taking an extra piece of fruit, or “having a bad attitude”.

I remember one event, when I was about 8, when my parents decided I was possessed.

This was at bedtime and the beating and praying went on till the early morning hours. Usually I would get a forced hug after a spanking session, along with a prayer and a guilt trip for “causing them this pain”.

I feel that a lot of my social skills were hindered by this abuse, and I think that spanking is an unnecessary and brutal use of force that should never be used.

Alcyone’s Story

As a child, I was spanked by my dad and my mom. Most of the time it was for pointless and unimportant things. My dad would spank me until I cried. I don’t mean whimper; he would spank me till I cried loud and in pain. He would spank me with a rod that had the diameter of a quarter.

My dad justified his spanking methods by saying that God showed him that it was time to spank. He once spanked all of my siblings and myself, with the reason that he had to test out his new spanking implements. I got spanked because I baked cookies for my dad as a surprise, but I burned them. I got spanked for climbing out my bedroom window. I got spanked for dropping a watermelon because it smashed on the ground.

The actual spanking didn’t hurt me psychologically. It was the reason and the criticism that the spankings were served under. I was scarred by my dad’s spanking physically; more emotionally though. My dad once beat my sister with a broomstick in front of me because she missed a spot on the floor. That scarred me.

Spanking is wrong in many circumstances. When a spanking is meaningless for no reason, then it is wrong. I don’t know if it’s wrong all the time, so in my children’s lives, I have chosen not to. I can’t justify hitting child, no matter what they did.

Taygete’s Story

I was spanked when I was growing up. And it definitely affected me permanently. I was spanked for everything; it was extremely inconsistent and never for the same things. I  was spanked and it hurt. I was spanked anytime my father wanted too. He spanked me so often that I thought it was just the normal way of life.

My parents instilled fear in me at a young age. As a child the one thing I feared the most was my parents; no matter what I was doing ( playing the piano, playing lego, or even playing in the yard ) because anything could set my dad off.

This not only hurt me as a child but followed me into adulthood as I went on to parent my own child.

I developed bipolar as a result of this and multiple other mental issues. It made it hard in relationships because I couldn’t even tell I was being abused for the longest time.

This is only a very brief description of how child abuse affected me forever.

Celaeno’s Story

I was spanked by my parents when I was younger. Each spanking wasn’t very long (as I can remember), but it is hard to remember how often I was spanked. I was often spanked with grey patterned tent rods, and I was never spanked for a reason (as far as I know). Each Sunday, we were taught at “church” that spanking was normal and a fine way of discipline so I didn’t realize that the living situation I was in was a horrible one.

Later on in life I got counselling which I probably had needed much earlier but from counseling, I learned so much more about spanking, how wrong it was, and how illegal and inexcusable it was. There are many wrong things about spanking especially when you aren’t given a reason for it. It hurt me physically and psychologically. I will never spank my kids when I have them, hurting them physically won’t be the answer. Kids don’t realize when they’re doing something wrong unless you tell them.

There are alternatives to hurting them.

Hurts Me More Than You: Sabina’s Story

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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.

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Sabina’s Story

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.

Hurts Me More Than You: Lynn’s Story

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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 Lynn’s story: descriptions of sexual arousal due to corporal punishment.

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Lynn’s Story

“Whoever spares the rod hates his son” Proverbs 13:24

 “For those whom the Lord loves he disciplines, and he scourges every son whom he receives.” Hebrews 12:6

From my earliest memories, love and pain have been inter-mingled.  Hugs, kisses, painful blows, and stinging words blur one into the other.  As a child I was taught both explicitly and implicitly that love and pain are opposite sides of a single coin.

One cannot exist without the other, because, children are so very, very bad.

In our Christian, homeschool family, multiple spankings a day were a normal part of life for me and my four siblings.  Dowels, wooden spoons, belts and those slender, flexible, rods used to open and close mini blinds were all instruments of punishment.  Our pastor taught a lot about “biblical discipline”: the spanking should hurt (a lot); you should never hit your child in anger; you should not hit them anywhere but the buttocks; your child should feel loved and reconciled afterward.

He also taught that “biblical discipline” sometimes leaves “little marks” even hours after the punishment is inflicted.  He assured his congregation that this does not amount to abuse.

However, even these harsh teachings failed to line up with what I experienced at home.

My dad almost always spanked us in anger, often smacked us in the face (giving me a bloody lip on a few occasions) and occasionally used his large carpenter’s fingers to flick us repeatedly on the head until we screamed.  Sometimes the spankings would go on for what seemed like forever.  The one time my mom tried to intervene, my dad screamed at her to leave.  She later apologized to the whole family for being an unsubmissive wife.

The worst part of the abuse was not the physical pain, but the constant anxiety.  I couldn’t protect my siblings, and I couldn’t be perfect enough to avoid deserving punishment, so I lived in fear of the next mistake.  My dad loved the fact that he could produce such fear.  He would sometimes stomp up the stairs shouting, “Let the beatings begin!” carrying a heavy wooden mallet from my great grandfather’s farm.  He never hit us with it, but he enjoyed seeing the terror in our eyes. He delighted in telling stories of how he had hurt or scared other children. I believe my father is a sadist.[i]  Perhaps it shouldn’t be at all surprising that he raised a masochist.

It’s hard for me to remember a time when I wasn’t aroused by images, descriptions or fantasies of being spanked, hit, or beaten.  However, it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that the physical sensations I had been experiencing since I was a small child had anything to do with sex.

I was very young when the fantasies began—no older than six or seven.  I lived in a world full of pain (but not pain worthy of anyone’s attention), so I dreamed of the only different worlds I could imagine.  In one, I was in an orphanage, or had been kidnapped, or was a slave.  I was terribly mistreated.  Unlike what I experienced at home, the abuse in my fantasies was obviously bad enough to justifying running away or someone else coming to my rescue.  I wanted desperately to be rescued.

In the other fantasies, there was finally someone who punished me out of love, the way my pastor said they should—someone who genuinely hated causing me pain, but did it because they loved me so very deeply.  This was always a man whom I admired, trusted, and desired to please (unlike my father).  I always felt deeply ashamed of my need to be punished, but willingly subjected myself to his loving blows.  In these fantasies I felt safer, happier, and more loved than I ever did in real life.  This was the closest thing to emotional intimacy that fit into my worldview.

I thought I was imagining the way my father was supposed to treat me.

When I entertained these fantasies, my body always reacted to the images of being beaten or shamed.  I thought this is how everyone’s body responded to fear and shame.  Both of my fantasy worlds seemed so much better than my reality that I loved them.  But I also felt guilty for experiencing pleasure from scenarios that were so similar to what I hated most about my own life.  Real life spankings were terrifying, painful and humiliating.  Why did I willingly relive them over and over and over again? Still, it never entered my mind to think that my physical reaction was not a normal response to fear, guilt and shame.  My family never talked about sex.  My mom gave me the barest of details when I was 14, but I had never even heard of sexual arousal, much less had any idea of what it might feel like.

My first clue that my reaction was abnormal came when I was a sophomore in college.  The first time my boyfriend put his arm around my shoulders, I felt the same physical sensation I had always experienced when thinking about being punished.  I was surprised, but I chalked it up to being slightly afraid and feeling incredibly guilty for letting him “go too far.”

Later, I experienced my first orgasm while having a nightmare about being spanked.  I wasn’t entirely sure that what I had felt was sexual, since I was still almost completely clueless about sex, and there was nothing overtly sexual about my dream as far as I understood at the time. However, I began to suspect that something was wrong.

After I got married and became sexually active, my suspicions were confirmed.  I became incredibly conflicted about sex.  I loved the physical sensations and feeling so close to my husband, but the only way to climax was to allow the images of abuse to flood through my mind whenever I started to feel aroused.  I could fight them off, but doing so took so much mental energy that it distracted me.  When I did allow them to come, the enjoyment was always mixed with revulsion at the imagines in my head.  By this time, I had come to believe that my parents’ “discipline” was actually abusive and that the idea that someone must hurt me to truly love me was a lie.

I hated feeling aroused by those images.  I had no idea how to maintain a healthy sex life. 

Today, six years into marriage, I still struggle.  I already deal with nightmares about not being able to protect myself and my siblings from my dad.  I don’t want to have daydreams of the same.  However, I have been in therapy for the past nine months, and I hold on to hope that perhaps one day I will be free of the chains.

I strongly believe that frequent spankings and the message that love requires causing pain to the object of one’s love—both of which are so prevalent in conservative homeschooling circles—played a significant role in the development of this disorder.[ii]  After all, who could ever think that repeatedly hitting a child on an erogenous zone of the body would not have a sexual impact?

I cannot be sure that I would have had the same reaction if the spanking in my family had not been as abusive as it was, or if I had not tried to imagine the “loving spanking” that my pastor promised.  Personally, I don’t think any of the supposed benefits of are worth the risk.[iii]  However, even if it isn’t interpreted sexually, the message that “someone who doesn’t hurt me doesn’t love me” is an extremely toxic.

It prepares young victims who already believe the lies that every abuser is waiting to tell them.

Notes:

[i] I am using the term “sadist” loosely.  I know that my dad enjoys causing fear and pain to children, but I don’t know the nature of that pleasure.  While I suspect that it is sexual, I have no direct proof of this.

[ii] When arousal from physical pain or humiliation, or fantasies of such things, causes significant distress to the individual, it is considered a paraphilic disorder.

[iii] I personally think that hitting any person of any age on any part of their body is wrong unless it is in self-defense or the defense of someone else.

Hurts Me More Than You: Jaime and Susanna’s Stories

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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.

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Jaime’s Story

Two things I hate hearing the most are:  “Why are you getting spanked?” and of course “I got spanked as a kid and I turned out fine!”

We four siblings rode our bikes to a park, and we were supposed to be home by 5pm.  I was 11 and didn’t look at my watch.  When it was 5:30pm and we were still on the swings, terror gripped me.  I didn’t want to go home, then. We had to, and every delaying moment would make it worse.

We returned home eventually.  Mom lined us up.  My little sister, the youngest, got the paddle first, sprawled on a bed.  The correct technique is bare-bottom paddling until the child is gasping with sobs.  She was too little for it, and I tensed with rage.  She kicked and screamed and fell off the bed.

Mom moved on to my brothers.  You spank boys harder.  They need to be responsible.  Soon she grabbed my arm and yanked me across the bed.  She pulled my shorts and underwear off and put her elbow into my back to keep me from escaping.

The paddle was thick but slightly smaller than average—she could swing it quickly.  No set number of licks.  Just bruised and deeply red bottom and thighs.  The thighs hurt the worst.  I thought:  I’m going to run away.  Call the police.  No, wait, the HSLDA radio show said they will take my siblings away from each other.

“Why are you getting spanked?”  You must answer correctly.  You have to have “real repentance.”  It sometimes takes multiple paddlings to get it.  You sit funny that day.

“Are you sorry?”  I am whatever it takes, Mom.

I am required to hug her and can’t withdraw too fast.  Real repentance.

I want to kill her.  Or myself.  A few years later, I try to kill myself, but I can’t get anything right.

How this kind of thing happens, I understand.  She was a frustrated woman, angry with how her life was turning out at age 34.  Her husband was distant.  She did not feel she could control much.  It was past 5pm, where were her children?  They need to learn better to obey—obey the first time always, no questions ever.

She and her friends subconsciously (at times openly) judged each other based on their kids’ behavior.  And believe me, I know kids can be deeply frustrating—my coworkers today complain about their kids all the time.  It all makes sense.

Today’s culture tells me that we never hit women, we can hit children as punishment (“I turned out fine!”), and we can hit men whenever.

How about just not hitting anyone?

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Susanna’s Story

I have 10 siblings, so anytime an infraction had been committed that warranted spanking, but the exact perpetrator was unclear (“who tracked mud on the carpet?”), my mother would grab a belt or wooden spoon and have us all line up at her bedroom door for sometimes hours at a time as we all received the punishment one by one.

This means I have been spanked for literally nothing countless times. But trying to beg off and sobbing out “I didn’t do it!” only resulted in more spanks and a cold “I’m sure you’ve done Something that I missed.”

Occasionally, my siblings and I would be able to convince one of our own to take the blame for the ambiguous crime so that only one of us had to be punished. We had a system where we took turns volunteering if the option was given. But even when it wasn’t my turn, hearing the belt thwacks on my brothers’ legs would make me violently ill, and just thinking about it today is upsetting my stomach.

From as early as I can remember, a spanking has never made me feel “sorry”. Only angry, sick, and determined to never again let this happen to me (even though I was just as helpless to stop it the next time). I have never ever felt as angry as I did after getting spanked.

As an adult, I avoid speaking to my mother, as just seeing her upsets my stomach, and I struggle with any situation that could lead to confrontation. I used to work under an aggressive boss that I disagreed with frequently, but any time I even thought of confronting him on the smallest issue, my knees would get weak, my stomach would flip, and my hands would begin to sweat and shake uncontrollably. That same reaction can happen to me anytime I consider any confrontation; once it happened when my room mate ate my yogurt and the thought crossed my mind that I might speak to her about it.

It’s exactly the reaction my body would have through my childhood when I knew with certainty that I had a spanking coming my way.

Hurts Me More Than You: A Poem by HomeschooledinGA

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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.

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A Poem by HomeschooledinGA

In slow motion I watch the belt land blow after blow.
I hear my sister’s screams as time goes slow.
I feel the terror slowly sink in,
As I realize it’s my turn again.
Try to control the urge to tremble,
The urge to cry and beg for mercy,
But this is just a preamble,
To a never ending struggle with
Love for me.
I try my hardest you see
To not let him have control of me
But
To be a person with singular thoughts
Is to be a kid with an irregular walk.
To be a kid who’s always fought
Is to be a person who’s too afraid to talk.
To be a girl with bruises down her legs,
Is to be a girl with that gait
Peg legged.
To be too scared to cry
Is the moment I realize I want to die.
In quick motion blooms the notion
That I will be nothing more than a notation
On my death certification.
As the belt lands blow after blow,
I keep my breathing going slow.
I feel the peace flood within
I realize he’ll never make me cry again.
Try to control the urge to turn around
Take his weapon seize control
Beat him until he’s the one on the ground
But now it’s time to pay the toll.
I try my hardest you see
To not let him have control of me
But
to be a person with singular thoughts
Is to have a mind full of guarded locks.
To be a kid who’s always fought
Is to be a person who’s too shell shocked.
And to be that girl with bruises down her legs
Is to be the girl who will never beg
In this never ending struggle of
Love for me.
To be too happy to feel the blows
Is the moment that I know
That I will be nothing more that a notation
On my death certification.

Hurts Me More Than You: David M. Schell’s Story

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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.

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David M. Schell’s Story

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from David M. Schell’s blog. It was originally published on October 10, 2014.

I got spanked a lot growing up. Sometimes once a day, sometimes more often.

Spanking was a legacy handed down by grandparents on both sides. My grandfather used a belt on my dad and his eleven siblings. My paternal grandmother used whatever was handy. “We learned not to irritate her while she was ironing,” my dad would joke.

He was determined to be different until he realized “At least my dad got respect.” He took up corporal punishment. I think he went with a board instead of the rod prescribed by Proverbs because it seemed to be in the spirit of the law and more merciful.

I remember my dad asking my mom when it was appropriate to start spanking my younger siblings. He decided as soon as a child was old enough to say no, they were old enough to spank for their rebellion, which was as the sin of witchcraft. I think some of my siblings got their first spanking before they were two years old.

Disobedience of any kind was always rebranded as “rebellion” and was a spankable offense. Worse, he taught us that any time we disobeyed him, it was disobedience to God, because children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. Disobedience to him was rebellion against God. He added that “To delay is to disobey,” so failure to obey immediately was also disobedience, and also therefore sin.

I was immensely frustrated and angry when I realized that my dad could turn anything into a sin simply by forbidding it, and he often did. He could make failure to do anything a sin, simply by telling me to do it. This realization made me feel helpless.

Like many kids, we had chores. My dad inspected each chore, every night. Those who completed their chores to his satisfaction were given a bedtime snack. Those who failed to complete them to his satisfaction were not given a snack, but instead spanked.

He often said, “I spank extra-hard for lying” to remind us that lying to get out of trouble would get us into more trouble, so we might as well tell the truth and take the spanking.

If we got into fights in which someone got hurt, the offending party was spanked.

When we got in trouble at church (maybe for talking out of turn; I don’t even remember), he would use a plastic coat hanger. Coat hangers were the worst, so we were more careful to behave at church.

At church he would be more cautious to hide the “discipline,” warning us that the government didn’t believe in the Bible and might take us away from our parents if we were caught. Not only were we the victims, but we were forced to collaborate, because nothing seemed worse at that age than being ripped away from our family.

My dad didn’t limit his sources of child-rearing advice to sacred scripture.

He also took disciplinary advice from the communists in a book he read to us called Tortured for his Faith. It was about Haralan Popov, a Bulgarian Christian who spent over a decade in prisons on charges of treason. It wasn’t completely unlike a horror story. In one episode, the communists, trying to break Popov, forced him to stand against a white wall for days on end, hitting him when he shut his eyes.

Shortly after reading this book, my dad instituted a new consequence for talking out of turn during our nightly hour-long “Bible Story:” Stand up until he was satisfied we had learned our lesson. I found myself standing during “Bible Story” every night after this.

When I got angry and blew up about something, my dad would assign me to find verses from Proverbs about anger and copy them in good handwriting. It took me years to re-learn how to be angry, and longer to learn how to have a healthy level of anger.

I don’t doubt that he had good intentions. He was then, and is now, “trying to do what is pleasing to the Lord.” The difference between then and now is that my siblings, my mom, and I have grown up and moved out, and now there’s nobody left for him to hurt in his attempts to please the Lord.

I think most adults look back fondly on their childhood and wish they could go back. I don’t. I don’t miss always dreading my dad coming home from work. I don’t miss hour-long sessions of my dad reading the Bible and making points, and having to stand up because my brain was wired directly to my mouth. I don’t miss my dad’s arbitrary rules having more power and authority then any of the rules in the Bible except “Children obey your parents.” I don’t miss having to copy verses about anger from Proverbs.

And I don’t miss being hit every night.

Hurts Me More Than You: Alexandria’s Story

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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.

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Alexandria’s Story

I was never told the words, “This hurts me more than you.” But I did hear, “This grieves my soul, but more importantly, it grieves God,” “Spare the rod; spoil the child,” “This is for your own good,” or my personal favorite from Mom, “I’m yelling – that must mean I’m not spanking enough,” many times.

As the fifth of seven, my parents were set in their disciplining ways by the time I came along. The Pearls’ books were scattered throughout our house. While my parents did not take all of their recommendations, there were enough implemented. I was spanked from the time I was a year old until the age of 17; with a threat of spanking even after I started college at 18. “You know, you’re not too old to spank,” was said more times than I would like to admit during the summer I was home after my freshman year.

Needless to say, I did everything in my power to not spend another summer at home until I finished college.

Some of my earliest memories are of being spanked. We could distinguish the distinct squeal of the spoon drawer from the furthest parts of the house and we knew we had to scatter, or at least distance ourselves from the offender or risk being painted with that infamous “broad brush.” I was not a bad child. But I was a child. I was sometimes willful. I made mistakes. I was clumsy. I didn’t understand math. All of these things could earn you a trip to Mom and Dad’s bedroom or the laundry room.

They were always terrifyingly calm when they spanked us. They would wait the necessary 10 minutes to cool down (while making me wait cowering and scared shitless in the laundry room or their bedroom) so they weren’t “spanking out of anger.” They may not have been visibly angry, but they were seething inside. The force that was applied and the length of the spanking correlated, not with what we had done, but with how angry it made them.

There was one spanking Dad gave me when I was about 8 that went on for 87 swats – one for each answer I had gotten wrong as I was trying to memorize my times tables. I was required to count them out as they rained down on my bent-over backside. I was immensely grateful for the skirts I had to wear because I could hide the fact that I wasn’t locking my knees out and therefore could clench as I heard the rod whistling toward me. The pause between swats was the worst – the anticipation killed me, and I’m fairly certain his timing was inconsistent on purpose so I wouldn’t know when it was coming. This particular spanking was earned because I couldn’t understand math; because no one had the patience to actually explain it to me, and because a third grader should not be teaching herself any of her own subjects.

This was also during a three day period in which I was not allowed to eat for the same reason I was earning the nightly marathon spankings.

That was not the only time they took away food as a form of punishment. There were several occasions when I and usually two of my brothers would have food taken away while also being spanked repeatedly until one of us confessed to whatever heinous act our 12, 9, and 6 year old selves had done – like leaving a door open, or turning the heat up.

My parents used wooden spoons (that were constantly breaking) when we were small, but when we got to be about 5 or 6, we graduated to the rod. The rod was a wooden paddle that was about 2’ long, 3” wide, and about ¾” thick.

Mom had carved “in love” into it.

I still snort when I think of that.

That thing packed quite a wallop! The first few times it was used on me, I wasn’t prepared for how much power it had and it knocked me over. I learned to brace for it so I didn’t lose my balance. It must have made a satisfying sound as it smacked into our backsides… until my older brother took it into the back yard and broke it when he was about 14 and sick of everything. I remember hearing it from across the house as my older siblings were in the laundry room with the door shut. After that, we went through a series of objects, such as arrows with the tips taken off (those shattered too easily and weren’t cost-effective) until they settled on a fiberglass rod that one of my brothers found somewhere that was about 30” long and 1/2” in diameter. That thing stung so bad! As it started to splinter, it would leave tiny cuts on my hips and butt. Mom and Dad didn’t believe me until I showed one of my sisters the welts and scabs after one particularly long spanking when I was about 12. Dad apologized and said he would be more careful next time. Then he duct taped that end, started using it as the handle end, and didn’t hold back. It was much more ergonomic that way! The better grip must have made it easier to get a good back-swing.

Spankings became less frequent as I began to reach puberty, but then they picked up as I moved into adolescence because I started to have my own ideas. The shame I felt every time I was spanked over the age of 11 was terrible. I was very proud of the fact that it had been weeks since I was last deserving of a spanking, but then something would happen and I would have a visit to the laundry room with Mom or Dad and my world and self-worth would come crashing down.

I am not a proponent of spanking.

I am fine in spite of my spankings; not because of them.