Events running rampant over the airwaves, the internet and on the news pages about domestic violence have brought to the forefront of the public’s eye two types of domestic violence… children who are physically punished to the point that it’s abusive and spousal abuse in the household and in the process has prompted all sorts of discussions about why it is so damn prevalent among athletes and specifically the NFL.
The following exposition will attempt to examine the issues of domestic violence and to do it in as unemotional, objective and sober manner as can be accomplished. By no means will this article be the definitive word regarding domestic violence nor will it provide any magic potions or words of wisdom to cure our world of people being abused in domestic situations. Rather it is an attempt to begin an intelligent look at the issues of what and why domestic violence is and to suggest that there are answers out there and if people are willing to do some work they can be found.
Elon James White is a writer and CEO of This Week in Blackness and on September 22 he wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Daily News that is a very important and valuable insight to a very hot topic these days… Adrian Peterson and the furor that is raging over corporal punishment of children… or… in other words… child abuse.
White says as a child he got spankings from his mom and often times with belts that his mom would tell him to go fetch. But, he then says, “…if you ask me whether I was abused as a child, I would quickly answer ‘no.’ … I would never label my mother, who I know loved me with all her heart, an abuser. At times I was just problematic and obviously needed discipline. That’s not abuse, right?”
He now makes a very important… if not the most important… point of his op-ed… “…(and that is) the problem, one that we all must understand… both corporal punishment critics and defenders… if we’re ever going to learn to do better.”
Missed it? It simply is that many of us who dish out and who identify it… corporal punishments for children… don’t necessarily believe it is abuse if it is done in the name of love… if it is done because the child deserved to be punished so that the child could learn that unacceptable behavior will not be tolerated.
Now hold on before ya’ll get into an uproar… hear Mr. White and myself out…
White: “I read about Adrian Peterson and it sickens me. Intellectually, I understand how ineffectual corporal
punishment is. I’ve read the research and know that it hurts kids over the long term and doesn’t improve behavior. Yet, even as I write this piece, I find it hard to say unconditionally that spankings are wrong. Culture is a powerful teacher. Experience, even more powerful.” (My italics)
And, then he does something I would wager more than 95% of those speaking out… at times pontificating… against Adrian Peterson, against corporal punishment, against child abuse don’t say… “So how do we change minds?”
He ain’t looking for a Band-Aid just for the moment or some window dressing fix that after its been applied and everything calms down and fades to black will only return someplace down the road in another way… another form. I am not trying to be insensitive here and I hope anyone reading this understands I think abuse physically or psychologically is abhorrent but… all too often, whether we realize it or not, for the most part the attitude is that “this too shall pass.” Simply, it’ll go away and then… oh, what a relief… be forgotten. Until… it raises its ugly head again and then the entire uproar will flame brightly until it once again novas itself out… the sins of the father will be visited unto his children and then unto the children’s children and then ad infinitum… unless the circle in broken.
White then he goes on to illustrate something that personally effected both he and his mom in a very real and serious manner…
White: “During one of my knucklehead moments, I had done something exceptionally ridiculous. It had earned me quite a few lashes with a belt. Later on that evening or perhaps the next day, my mother says she saw me coming from the shower in a towel. She saw the marks on my back.
She went into her bedroom, closed the door and proceeded to weep.
You see, my mother herself was the victim of abuse. And not the type that I’ve described concerning my own childhood. My grandfather stood 6’3”, and was 250 to 300 pounds for most of his life. In an effort to discipline my mother, he would mercilessly beat her.
My mom swore she’d never do what her father did to her to me, yet when she saw the marks on my body, she realized she had done something she couldn’t live with.”
So, what did she… White’s mom… do now that she saw the terrible truth about herself? She confronted the demon… she took parenting classes and she learned how to recognize her “bad” behavior and replace it with “good” behavior and how to punish without violence.
White’s purpose of the story is this…
“When people reflexively defend the abuse of children because, they say, it happened to them and they turned out fine, it’s not a copout. For people to acknowledge that what they consider to be discipline is actually abuse is a condemnation of those they love… and, perhaps, of themselves.
People defend problematic practices because that’s what were taught by those who they loved and trust. Attacks on these ideals are internalized as personal rebukes.
None of this is to say that we should stop having the conversation about disciplining kids physically. It is only to plead that when we do, we try to appreciate how and why the practice is so deeply ingrained in our lives, and in our minds.” (My underlining)
Exactly… it is an ingrained thing in our society and that needs to be changed. And, yes, unfortunately when it is a pro athlete, like Adrian Peterson, the consequences can even be worse because of who and what they are.
But the writer’s own mother didn’t realize the harm she was doing to her own son until one day when she saw the physical marks she had put upon his back as he walked shirtless into a bathroom and the truth of what was going on became so very and so terribly clear to her.
Her behavior was a continuation of what she as a child herself had experienced. She was continuing the sins of her father who probably had most likely only continued the sins of his father who continued the sins of his father and on down through the generational history to the beginning of the lineage.
A well placed smack was what kept children in line. It had always been that way. But it was not until that moment when she saw the wounds she had left upon her son and that she then did understand the reality and the horror and harm of its wrongfulness. And, she did something which was damn hard but necessary… she changed her behavior.
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