It is an interesting thing, child abuse. People seem to be able to see it when other people do it, but refuse the fact that they, themselves, are perpetuating this vicious plague that still tortures the world’s children and haunts the survivors.
Abusers seem to be able to justify it morally, religiously, and socially. When asked about it, abusers will use excuses like “I am doing it for his good,” or “someone should teach him a lesson. When asked if this is based upon their beliefs, they will spout some false understanding of scripture such as “spare the rod and spoil the child” or, even worse, “All of my sins are covered in Christ’s Blood.”
This is the response I received today, as I confronted a woman who was “spanking” her child across the way from the library. She had made the boy pull his pants down, to expose his underwear, and she was whipping the boy with her purse strap.
As I approached this situation, I found there were 4 or 5 other adults that had walked past this, and not said a thing. I could hear the clap of the strap as it hit his skin. I could hear the wails of this little lad, and it filled my heart with sorrow. What came into view was a 3 or 4 year old boy who apparently spilled his hot chocolate over the front of his pants and underwear.
The mother had this boy standing near naked and cold, with red welt marks on his thighs. I was sure his underwear did little to shield his bottom from the strikes. I had counted the sound of 5 strikes before I could interrupt this horrific event.
When this parent and child came into view, I spoke up. Her response was what gripped my heart:
“Oh, you’re one of those. Your not from around here, and you should mind your own business. What I do to my stepchild is not your concern. Go back to where you come from.”
With those words, she dressed her “stepson” and scurried off, probably to continue the abuse. Unfortunately, I had broken my cellphone and could not call the police, or even take a picture, so something could be done.
Under my breath, I cursed the men and women that walked by this display. I cursed them for not having the compassion, for not having the inspiration, for not having the courage to speak up for this poor child.
I returned to my car, put the key in the ignition, and proceeded to cry. Tears welled up, and out of my mind's image of that little boy came a flood of memories from my own experience. The shame of “Spankings” and “Shouting” that was instilled in me with every “correction” my parents made in public. Phrases that my stepfather and mother used echoed through my mind:
“You have monkey ears and monkey lips, your nothing but a monkey.”
“Get back in the bath tub and scrub yourself clean. Oh, that’s right, it won’t come off.”
“You aren’t nothing but your mother's mistake.”
I did not realize it at the time, but I had been triggered. After careful thought, I remembered that my mother and stepfather had done very similar abuse to me. Not only was I openly spanked by my parents, but they traumatized my social development by publicly humiliating me.
I find it sad that people actively “teach” that Punishment and Humiliation equal Love. Parents who grew up with being physically abused, sometimes without realizing it, use the same excuses as their abusers. Parents tell themselves the need for “Corporal Punishment and Humiliation” is for the good of the child. Sometimes, these same parents lie to themselves, claiming that they have done an exhaustive search and the best solution is violence.
To the despair of their children, Parents start by falling into the trap that violence causes, regardless if you are Black or White, Rich or Poor, or even Female or Male. This trap has caused the destruction of families and the toppling of world leaders. This trap has been the source of many a morality tale and fable:
“Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely”
The greatest evidence of this occurs in the school system. Let us look at a child who may have behavioral problems. Maybe he has not learned the social skills to fit into class. Maybe he has not learned how to appropriately deal with his emotions. Maybe he just lacks common sense. Regardless of the reason, he is placed in detention, due to a situation that may or may not be totally his fault.
He sits in detention, maybe the teacher talks about the specifics of what happened and how to deal with it more appropriately. He pays the appropriate penance that the teacher feels is necessary. Satisfying the requirement of the class, of the educational facility, and of the school system.
This same boy goes home, only to find that he receives consequences, such as a spanking or grounding, for something he had already suffered the penalty for. Some of the excuses that many parents use for this is to reinforce the lesson he is taught in school, or to show that the parents agree with the teacher, or to ensure that the same never happens again. What is worse is that, quite often, the punishments are worse at home than they are in school.
The reality is that many parents have secretly learned to enjoy abusing their children. In their heart of hearts, there is not sadness, disappointment, or shame at the act. Many parents feel they have to reinforce their authority on their children. Others want to assert their disciplinarian provisions in their own homes to prove “ownership” of the child. Even worse, some parents have lost their ability to empathize with their children and enjoy oppressing their offspring, sometimes even laughing at the reaction of their children to the “Belt.”
Imagine, instead of a child, this happens to an adult friend of yours. This person has a bad day at work, and ends up with some sort of penalty. Regardless if it is a written warning, a suspension from work, or even being permanently let go, this person goes home, to find that their spouse waiting with pepper spray, a stun gun, or just their fists. This unfortunate person suffers punishment at home for the occurrence that happened at work.
What kind of advice would you give this person? Would tell them to stay silent, things will get better or would you be horrified at the abuse they had suffered? How would you react if instead of a friend, it was yourself?
Few adults, if any, would tolerate the berating, the anguish, the anxiety, caused by such a relationship. Many would exclaim that they are adults and do not deserve this kind of treatment, but if you are a child, often such words would increase amount and length of this abuse.
Children maybe your offspring, but when did they lose the right to be loved, honored, and nurtured in the same way that we adults expect from the other relationships we have around us?
If you are the woman that I witnessed, I am not writing this as some misguided act of judgment and criticism. I am hoping that any abusers would start being empathetic to those around them, and realize the natural order of the universe includes natural consequences, but not as a means of punishment.
Your punishment is not a natural consequence, it is not a means of providing discipline to teach them a different way, it is a dark personal need to assert your authority and the ownership of your children.
Maybe it is time to think of children more like people you love, and not objects you own.