Baby Beating

I’ve been trying to figure out how to articulate what I think about the current NFL scandals, and more specifically about the Adrian Peterson child abuse charges.  I’ve got two reasons this sticks in my craw:

1.  I was abused as a child, and the pictures I’ve seen are reminiscent of so many of my own injuries.

2.  I am Sooner born and bred, and Adrian Peterson is something of a hero in the Sooner football community.

I think what amazes me the most about this story is how so many people are saying “well, that’s not abuse, that’s just a good old-fashioned butt whoopin’!”  They say they got the same thing growing up and don’t see anything wrong with it.  Well, I got the same thing growing up (and much, much more) and I DO see something wrong with it.

When we see those stories about people locking their kids in cages, withholding food, affection, clothing, education, burning children with cigarettes, and yes, beating them, we are horrified.  And then someone says that the parents were treated much the same way as children.  And that is a horrible thing, but it never seems to excuse those people.

So where is the line?  Is it ok for this little four year old boy to have these marks on his body, and allegedly his scrotum?  Is that just thisside of the child abuse line?  Is that line fluid for NFL players?  Is that line fluid for the community at large?  And if there is a line, and this hasn’t crossed it, should we just wait until it crosses the line?  Don’t step up and advocate for this child until he’s had a broken bone or a severe head injury?

It amazes me again how these people who think it is ok to beat this four year old were probably shaking their heads over poor Janay Rice.  How horrible to see her get her head bashed into an elevator railing, knocked out cold and dragged into a casino lobby.  Poor woman.

Guess what?  That woman had the ability to walk away at any time from that relationship.  She could pack her things, drop her engagement ring on the dresser and go.  She could tell him to stop, fight back, call 911 and get the fuck out of there.*

Does a 4 year old boy have those same abilities?  No.  The person he trusts, the person he most wants to please, the person he most wants to love him beats him hard enough to leave lasting marks.  Where does he go for help? Who does he turn to?  Especially when he was allegedly told that if he told anyone about the beating he would get even more of the same?  Terrifying.

My mother used to beat me with anything she could get her hands on: phone book, PVC pipe, leather belt, wooden spoon, vacuum cleaner cord.  She’s thrown hairbrushes, pots and pans, and slaps and punches.  She used to force me on my knees and hold my head down in a prayer position for hours, until my knees were bleeding. She would punch me hard in the head if she didn’t hear me praying loudly enough or fervently enough.  And when she was finally satisfied she would grab a handful of hair, yank my head back and whisper viciously in my ear “If you say anything to your father about this, I will kill you.”

So by the definition of some, I am well within my rights to treat my daughter the same way.  After all, it was done to me.  But which camp do I fall in?  The one that gets no mercy no matter the circumstances, or do I get the famous NFL player treatment because of my “white trash” upbringing?

A friend of mine is of the belief that this is a cultural thing, and that it is no one’s right to say how this man parents his children.  I think that he is correct, to an extent.  I do not want the government in my business, particularly when it comes to my daughter.

But as a former abused child, I wish someone had spoken up on my behalf.  I wish someone had taken me away and kept me safe.  I guess my stupid, druggie mother was just smarter than Adrian Peterson.  She would never have taken us to the doctor with marks on our bodies.  Our secrets were well-hidden.

I no longer have a relationship with my mother, though I tried fervently for years to be the daughter she wanted, so I could have the mother I wanted.  It didn’t work, and now we are irretrievably estranged and she will never know her granddaughter.  In hindsight I can see how stupid it was to keep opening myself up to abuse to get into her good graces, but that’s what victims of abuse do: instead of giving up, we try harder.  We are told to respect our parents, and that they love us even as they are ripping chunks of hair out of our heads or calling us disgusting stupid little whores, or beating us with switches.  She was my mother, after all.  And you only get one of those, right?

Full disclosure: I have spanked my daughter on her diapered bottom.  A single pop on her padded rump gets her attention much more quickly than yelling (and is always administered after I have yelled more than once with no response).  I have swatted her hand away from something dangerous, like when she pulled my laptop cord out of the outlet and tried to plug it back in.  Even yelling “No! Stop! Drop it! Don’t touch that!” didn’t deter her.  The swat on the hand got her attention, and also got her to drop the cord.

Would I beat my daughter with a switch, or a pipe, or a Bible or any other available weapon?  No.  Never. I look into her face and even when she infuriates me, it is my job to love her, to teach her and to be a safe haven for her.  The world is a cruel and unforgiving place.  Home should not be.  My love for her will never be measured by how hard I beat her to “discipline” her, but by how hard I fight to quell the impulses my upbringing instilled in me.

This child that I longed for, that I thought I would never have, she is so precious to me.  How could I betray her trust the way mine was betrayed?

*I in no way believe that Janay Rice was not abused, or that she deserved any treatment that she received.  As a victim of abuse I get why she stayed, but she did have options.

As for Adrian Peterson?  The most he will walk away with in terms of punishment will be a $10,000 fine or 2 years in jail or possibly both.  He might even lose his job.  And that is a real shame.  But hopefully he will learn his lesson and work as hard as he can to make it up to that small child who calls him Daddy.  That should be his main concern, but it probably won’t be.


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