Back to previous post: Brooklyn Haiku

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: The future presses hard upon us

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

August 5, 2002

A prudent approach to child abuse
Posted by Teresa at 04:21 PM *

If you look long enough on the net, you can find how-to instructions for doing just about anything. This is one set I never thought to see. The site says it’s into “child protection reform”. The following are excerpted from a page called Protect Yourself from False Accusations of Child Abuse. Nothing I can say can do justice to its opening paragraph.

Step 1: Don92t abuse your kids

*9If you get great satisfaction from seeing fear in your kids92 faces, or from dreaming up new and better ways to torture kids in ways that leave them unmarked — get help NOW, TODAY! You need it! Your kids need it! America needs it! (…)

*9Practice the full range of disciplinary techniques. Timeouts, extra chores, and mandated apologies are all pretty effective. If you just have one bag of tricks — namely physical discipline — you92re setting yourself up for failure as your kids grow up. (…)

Step 2: Be careful in your application of physical discipline

* Regardless of what92s right, of your own past experiences, of anything you believe — understand the system, in the words of one counselor we92ve contacted, “clearly hates spanking.a0 The system wants spanking eliminated from the face of the Earth.”a0 In using physical discipline, you are indeed in the mainstream. a0 You are also at odds with the governing elite.a0 They92re convinced they know best.a0 They will get you if they can.a0 They won92t be sorry.

Everybody does it. They’re just out to get you. And nobody’s gonna tell you how to raise your kids.

Actually, the statistics say you can get away with just about anything short of life-threatening physical abuse; and even then, the state’s extremely unlikely to remove your kids. Your biggest worry is that your wife will leave you, and sue for custody on grounds of abuse.

*9Don92t spank in public.a0 A classic is the “grocery store parking lot spanking”. Some busybody Boomer is sure to get your license plates. And the cops, lacking serious bad guys to chase, will be waiting for you at home.

*9Don92t spank in ways that leave bruises. The system treats a welt on the posterior —

What kind of “spanking” leaves welts that take a day or more to subside?
— with the same seriousness as a cigarette burn, a broken bone, or a severe beating.a0 State laws provide NO distinction between a single mark from legitimate discipline, and devastating injuries from willful, sustained torture.

Step 3: Protect yourself

*9If, Heaven forbid, you do bruise your child — do NOT allow him/her to attend school the next day. —

If the bruising is severe enough to excite alarm, it wasn’t a spanking. And if the bruises are visible in the classroom, it definitely wasn’t a spanking. School teachers aren’t conducting daily inspections of their students’ bums.
— Services to Children and Families (SCF) indoctrinates teachers to turn OFF the brain and get ON the phone to report “any” suspected child abuse. As mandatory reporters, teachers are told they are at serious risk of prosecution for not reporting. That is not true. However, most teachers believe it is true; they will act accordingly.

*9If you spank, strongly consider taking your kids out of public schools. Statistics verify what we92ve been told by SCF caseworkers: most reports of child abuse come from public school teachers. (…)

Isolating your kids makes it harder for them to get help, and less likely that others will notice there’s a problem.
*9Be a devoted spouse or family member.a0 You need the mutual support of someone who loves you to be strong in everyday life.a0 If you are accused of abuse, you will need to depend on each other more than ever.a0 Don’t let second-guessing or blaming come between you and your spouse. —
That is, don’t alienate the person who’s in the best position to testify against you.
— This is about the system, not about your relationship.a0 Be strong with each other.a0 Your loving spouse or family member is the first part of your support network.
Yeah, I know, guys like this exist. It’s just that one so rarely sees them explain themselves.
Comments on A prudent approach to child abuse:
#1 ::: Janet Lafler ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2002, 07:21 PM:

So, don't abuse your kids -- just hit them and, if necessary, cover it up. Interesting.

#2 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2002, 09:27 PM:

And remember, if your loving and devoted spouse won't lie for you, slam her against a hard surface until she learns the true meaning of love and devotion.

#3 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2002, 11:05 AM:

And if you beat your wife, strongly consider taking her out of public places.

#4 ::: disconnect ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2002, 11:26 AM:

"[The governing elite are] convinced they know best. They will get you if they can. They won’t be sorry."

It's a good thing these people don't use drugs; imagine how paranoid they'd be. Wait a minute...

#5 ::: disconnect ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2002, 11:32 AM:

"Be an active member of a community of faith. Your local church or synagogue..."

... will provide you with the Word of God that says you gotta beat the tar out of your kids or they'll be headed straight to hell. Listenin' to that devil music, shakin' their behinds, darin' to question the church/parents/priests, they're badddd. They were probably asking to be molested, anyway.

#6 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2002, 12:40 PM:

All of this sounds eerily familiar. "Spare the rod and spoil the child."

I remember being a young teenager on a trip from Pittsburgh to Belle Fountaine, Ohio. Somewhere on the Ohio Turnpike my father lost his temper with us kids. I don't remember the proximate cause, but it happened about the same time every car trip. He was threatening to pull over and spank the lot of us, when he remembered that we were in Ohio, which had recently made spanking illegal. His anger became a truly terrifying white rage. Fortunately, he managed to deal with it by screaming for a while.

In retrospect, I wonder if spanking had actually been outlawed, or if some relatively sane and toothless law was being interpreted by the fundies as meaning that corporal punishment was totally illegal. I remember a law forbidding schools from using corporal punishment being interpreted from the pulpit as outlawing all corporal punishment.

I find the anger that is generated by being forbidden to hit your kids to be quite frightening. It also, however, highlights the problem with corporal punishment in the first place. People don't hit their kids to discipline their kids, they hit their kids in order to make themselves feel better. While this is not a universal, it is an overwhelming majority. The issue is not how to raise their kids, but rather their property rights as the head of the family.

#7 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2002, 09:39 AM:

One more scary thought: As these sorts of things go, "Protect Yourself from False Accusations of Child Abuse" is restrained and compassionate. Take a sample of his links and you'll encounter hysterical and paranoid pages about how Old Hippies want to Take Away your children Just For the Money! and they want to let Teenagers Rampage Without Any Discipline! And so on. Believe it or not, this guy is rather gentle and concerned.

#8 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2002, 01:20 PM:

What's so sad about this is that this guy is clearly a concerned and interested parent, but is also sufficiently bad at it to have needed to come up with all these strategies for keeping his parenting out of public scrutiny.

#9 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2002, 01:22 PM:

Um, it's also really sad that he beats his kids. (I neglected to say that .)

#10 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2002, 05:29 PM:

I'd guess this guy feels that he is required to beat his children in order to be a good parent. He's clearly writing for his community, so I wouldn't assume that the worst stuff there is automatically stuff that he does. Maybe he doesn't bruise his kids, for example. (I didn't get welts or bruises very often -- probably under 5 times in my life. I can attest that a wooden spoon used too enthusiastically leaves a bruise the same shape as an egg. Quite fascinating, and it turned so many interesting colors, too.)

When my sister had her first child, she decided that she wouldn't use corporal punishment. My mother was horrified and badgered her and lectured her and quoted from the bible, threatened her with dire consequences. When Jonathan was about 2, I think, Bethany did start spanking her kids. Her eldest, the point of contention, is currently in jail. She has six more at home. It worries me to be related to these people, dammit.

#11 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2002, 11:54 AM:

I wouldn't conclude from the available evidence that the guy's an engaged and caring parent. Almost all of his advice is about beating the rap. Most of it is focused on how to look good in court.

Almost none of his advice is about actually dealing with your children, and the one bit that does -- the part about using broad-spectrum punishments, not just hitting -- could be taken as just another technique for looking good in court.

In the meantime, he's advising you to keep your children home from school if you've left visible marks on them, and to consider taking them out of public school entirely to reduce the chances that abuse will be reported. If he's all that concerned, I wonder at his not mentioning that both these practices can be very hard on kids, particularly the latter.

He says you should make sure your wife, church group, etc., are on your side. Notice that he never suggests that you enlist your kids. There's nothing about talking to them about why you discipline them the way you do. He gives no advice about how to help your kids deal with the situation if your treatment of them comes into question.

In fact, throughout his document, children are voiceless, without volition, having neither individual characters nor individual problems. There is no mention of interacting with them. Their happiness or unhappiness is simply not considered. I'm forced to believe that he's talking about possessions, not people.

I want to point out one more thing. Further down in the document, he mentions that you may wind up having to defend yourself in criminal, civil, and juvenile courts. (He gives this as evidence of how desperately unfair the system is when it's Out To Get You.)

If you're up on criminal charges, you're being tried for specific and defined criminal acts, on specific evidence. The rules for what constitutes evidence are strict, and they're biased in your favor. The occasional lurid miscarriages of justice aside, you don't wind up in criminal court because you're vaguely suspected of having some vague tendency to commit unspecified bad actions.

This guy is speaking in bad faith.

#12 ::: Lydia Nickerson' ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2002, 12:09 AM:

I don't know how to judge good faith, especially not in situations like this, where there is an over-riding imperative which puts the person at odds with his society. Moreover, sounds to me like he comes from one of those sects that does believe that women and children are chattel -- not that it's ever said in so many words, but the responsibilities and morality required of a man in that kind of faith do seem to force him into that kind of relationship with his family.

If I had to guess, I'd guess that my dad dealt with us in bad faith, and my mother dealt with us in good faith. I'm pretty sure that my mom was dealing in good faith with my sister when she insisted that not spanking was a sin. It was my dad that tended to lose control, but the worst bruises I ever got (including the one from the wooden spoon) were from my mom.

This guy, who knows? I wouldn't want to be his kid, I can tell you that. On the other hand, I can't help feeling a bit sad for people who get caught on the other side of the Fundamentalist line. It's an uncomfortable place, and the extremes you have to go to in order to justify yourself and your community are pretty horrible. My mother would probably agree and approve of this document.

#13 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2002, 01:36 PM:

We all stand in need of God's mercy; but I have trouble feeling sorry for someone who's fighting this hard to avoid becoming aware of what he's doing and saying.

Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.