Beyond Punishment: Taking An Inside Look At Child Abuse

When I first saw this video yesterday it broke my heart. What I saw was not only in my eyes child abuse, but an angry man who probably not only beats his children like they were strangers on the street, but also probably abuses the women in his life. On top of that, what I saw was a culture where this type of physical abuse is not only excepted, but encouraged, hence the person video taping it and most likely the other people in the house who never intervened.

From my understandings, this father was “punishing” his thirteen-year-old daughter for being “rude”, “disrespectful” and talking to grown men. Obviously these are things that no parent would want from their child, but beating a child purposely with a belt on her face is not discipline. I can almost guarantee that this is not the first time that she has been beaten and yet her inappropriate, most likely defiant behavior hasn’t stopped.

Chances are that this parent has no real idea of how to be a parent or raise a child, if he did, there would have never been a need for him to discipline her physically because she would have been raised, taught, guided and disciplined more appropriately over the last thirteen years. If this father had any real ideal of how to raise a child in a loving way, he would have punished her in a way that wasn’t to hurt her necessarily, but to teach her right from wrong.

Most parents punish their children from a place of love. I didn’t see any love for this child during this beating. What I saw is a father who is psychologically disconnected in so many ways.

From a psychological point of view we have a young lady who is acting out for one reason or another and physical punishment isn’t going to stop that. She is acting out and only talking and trying to understand why she is acting out is going to stop that.

Secondly, we have a man in a wheelchair who probably already feels emasculated if not just outright angry at the world for whatever condition put him in a wheelchair and therefore is always a ticking time bomb. He may have been a mean and angry man before whatever put him in a wheelchair, but many people become more angry when they are injured, in pain or handicapped.

Read my article on physical punishment to understand some of the ways it can affect a child’s mental and emotional health. From my experience in working with children who have gotten punished like this, they rarely learn to stop the undesired behavior, but learn how to be more sneaky. The sad part is, a valuable lesson this girl may have learned from this is one many girls who grow up in abusive homes learn which is:

  1. If a man really loves me he will hit me to show it
  2. It’s okay if a man puts his hands on me, it’s all part of being in a relationship
  3. I need a man who knows how to “handle me” and put me back in my place when I step out of line

To most of us those three responses may seem trivial, but I’ve worked with enough abused girls and young girls who ended up in abusive relationships to learn that many of them came from abusive homes where either they themselves were abused or where they witnessed abuse in their homes. They grew up thinking that it was not only okay, but the norm. Some even felt like it was a vital part of being in love because that is what they grew up seeing and thinking love is: Mom and dad fight, but they love each other and I see that. OR, mom fights with her boyfriend and then they go make love afterwards.

One young lady in particular saw her dad not only beat her mom, but he also beat her. Every relationship she got into as a teen and young adult was an abusive one. She didn’t understand it, but she unconsciously would seek out abusive men. She had two kids, each from an abusive man and the last time I met with her in counseling, she was with yet another abusive man. She couldn’t break the cycle. Her young boy and young girl are going to grow up witnessing and maybe even experiencing abuse.

This father in the video, in an attempt to raise a virtuous young lady may be in fact creating a woman who will go through a lifetime of troubled and abusive relationships because of the abuse she receives from her father.

No doubt some people may look at this video and see nothing wrong with the way he is disciplining his daughter and believe that people should mind their own business, but I personally hope that child protective services sees this video and rescues this child while the law punishes this “man”.  I wrote this post not only because I am passionate about protecting children from abuse, but also in hopes of increasing the exposure of this video so that maybe someone will recognize the child and the father and contact child protective services in whatever city, state this took place in. It’s a new video so chances are something can be done relatively soon.

***Warning, the video may be hard for most people to watch.***

Adrian Peterson and Whipping: A Tradition That Goes Back To Slavery For Black Children

Livermore215This is not a post about corporal punishment although it could be. However, with all the buzz going on about Adrian Peterson being charged with reckless and negligent injury after whipping his 4-year-old son with a “switch” that left severe welts and broken skin on the child’s legs, it had me thinking about why do so many Black parents whip their children.

To be a little technical, there is a difference between a spanking (usually done with an open hand), a beating (usually done with a belt), a paddling (usually done with a wooden paddle) and a whipping (usually done with a small branch or twig). These are all forms of corporal punishment, but we are focusing on whipping since that is what Adrian Peterson is facing abuse charges for.

Parents of many different races, culture and ethnicities whip their children, but as a Black man I was really curious to why do Black parents whip their children since to me, even the term “whip” reminds me of the history of slavery when slaves would get whipped by their slave masters. Seeing welts on a child’s legs, back or arms are subtle reminders of much worse whippings inflicted on those slaves.

So why then would a Black parent choose to whip their child?

I know this is a hot debate and many people believe that whippings keep children in line. Many people will say they are successful and not in jail today because their parents whipped them. I also know that many people are in jail or are troubled individuals not necessarily because of being whipped, but whipping didn’t seem to have the desired behavior modification it was supposed to and may have had adverse effects.

Some of the most violent and aggressive teens I have worked with were whipped regularly. Not whipping a child in some people’s views may make the child spoiled, but I have never seen any real evidence that not whipping a child is more likely to make that child more physically aggressive later in life.

Each child is different and while one child may respond positively to whippings, another may become more violent, hostile, fearful and detached from their parents. I’m not shying away from punishment. There are a number of different nonviolent ways to punish a child.

I personally don’t believe in whippings. Growing up I may have been whipped two or three times, but I was never whipped as a default form of punishment, therefore I was never afraid of whippings. I was more motivated by not disappointing my parents and by rewards for good behavior, than punishment for bad behavior. I know that each child is different so I am not debating that.

However, I am here to educate. What many Black parents don’t know is that whipping our children is a direct syndrome of slavery.

An old classic picture of a slave showing healed scars from multiple whippings.
An old classic picture of a slave showing healed scars from multiple whippings.
Injuries left on Adrian Peterson 4-year-old son after the whipping that has him facing charges.
Injuries left on Adrian Peterson 4-year-old son after the whipping that has him facing charges.

Black people were unfortunately treated like beasts of the fields and whipped to discourage undesired behaviors. Black slaves were also used to whip and punish other Black slaves as a form of emotional and psychological warfare. Black slaves would be so afraid of the slave masters whipping their children for inappropriate behavior that they often would whip them first, hoping to save them from a much more severe whipping from the slave master.

This violent model became the only form of discipline that the Black slaves had to follow and therefore it was handed down throughout history.

During slavery, Black children had to learn very quickly the do’s and don’ts of being a slave on the plantation, or they would be beat severely or even killed by Whites, so Black parents whipped their own children to prevent this.

After slavery, the tradition continued. Blacks were usually punished more severely for committing social infractions than whites by teachers, people on the street, police and courts. Blacks were more likely to be beaten, thrown in jail or even lynched for minor transgressions so Black parents would punish their children severely through whippings in order to keep them from being punished by White society.

This was not down out of malice (although many parents have whipped their children out of anger), but out of love. The Black community felt a strong need to use corporeal punishment in order to keep their children from suffering potentially worst punishment from White society. Adrian Peterson was no doubt doing what was done to him by his mother and grandmother, and what was done to them by their parents, all the way back to slavery. He was doing what he thought would teach his son to stay out of trouble.

A lot of people will disagree with me about corporal punishment and I do believe that for Black people it served its purpose back in the day, but times are different. It’s time that we evolve and start looking for nonviolent ways to correct bad behavior.

There is enough violence in this world that we don’t have to subject our children to it in their own homes on a regularly basis. Stopping the violence in our communities is much more complicated if we don’t stop the violence in our own homes.

For more information, check out the article Punishment or Child Abuse?