Corporal Punishment: The whitewashing of child abuse
When did we as a society declare violence against children acceptable?
The National Fooball League’s (NFL) recent struggle with domestic abuse highlighted a problem plaguing society for centuries – men’s aggression and the need to insert their physical dominance over women. The NFL has rightfully been criticized for its light punishment of domestic abusers in the NFL. It originally handed only a two-game suspension to Ray Rice for knocking out his then-fiancé and dragging her unconscious body out of an elevator.
Since TMZ leaked the video footage of the Rice incident, the NFL toughened its domestic abuse policy and Ray Rice has since been suspended, indefinitely. After constant criticism and negative reception, the NFL was once again seen in a positive light and the league’s damaged image was nearly healed.
Then, Adrian Peterson was arrested and indicted on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child. However, the public outrage was mute when the victim of abuse was not Peterson’s wife, but rather his 4 year-old-son.
Many Americans, as well NFL players, surprisingly have mixed opinions toward the Peterson case, with some believing his suspension is nonsense and that his actions toward his son were justifiable. Peterson has admitted he hit his son, but maintained he was merely “disciplining” him.
Peterson did not “discipline” his son out of love, which he claims; he violently beat him out of disgust. Peterson didn’t give his son a spanking and he didn’t slap him on the wrist. Peterson beat his son with a belt, pulled down his son’s pants, stuffed leaves in his mouth and whipped him with a tree branch so viscously that his son’s bruises and lacerations on his arms, legs, buttocks and scrotum were still visible a week later, when the child went to his doctor’s office for a routine check-up.
Upon examining the child, the doctor discovered the boy’s injuries and concluded they were consistent with child abuse.
Peterson claimed he whooped his son to “discipline” him and teach him a lesson.
Disciplining a 4-year-old child is taking away his favorite toy and teaching him it’s unacceptable to shove his brother. Peterson did neither. Instead, he chose to hit a weak and defenseless child, completely unaware of the long-term impact of child abuse on its victims. According to Adults Surviving Child Abuse, abuse survivors are more susceptible to depression, eating disorders, poor self-esteem, increased drug use, alcohol abuse, aggressive behavior, suicidal thoughts and criminal activity.
Hitting children doesn’t teach them to consider the morality of their actions, before carrying them out. It teaches them that it’s alright for powerful people to hit weak people. It teaches them that violence is necessary to obtain what one desires.
Justifying child abuse as corporal punishment is damaging to society, because we fail to protect the most helpless and vulnerable citizens in this country. If we can’t protect our children, then whom can we protect?