When Hitting Means Love: Rochelle’s Story

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Rochelle” is a pseudonym.

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Trigger warning for To Break Down a Child series: posts in this series may include detailed descriptions of corporal punishment and physical abuse and violence towards children.

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I don’t remember my first spanking. I actually don’t remember all that many specifics about spanking.

I remember dad breaking the plastic spoon on me…and then a switch….and then another switch….and then pulling off his belt and using it on me. I remember the sick feeling that I would get when mum would pull dad aside to tell him about how school went that day. That I didn’t get everything done again.

That I spent the day listlessly looking out the window in tears, trying to process moving again and dealing with depression as a 10 year old.

I remember the welts, the screaming, the bruising, the pain. The battle over my refusal to cry, and finally forcing tears to stop the spanking. I still get a sick feeling in my stomach thinking about my siblings screaming when they got spanked. My two year old sister getting spanked for not eating her food. My 10 year old brother getting spanked for not getting the table set in under 5 minutes. I remember my siblings getting spanked every time they did something wrong.

Sometimes the pipe wasn’t so small.  Sometimes the dowel was so small that it blistered my skin the moment it touched me.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve thought long and hard about spanking: the supposed biblically mandated law of using a rod on the backside of a child. Or as the Pearls suggest, a small pipe. If needed, a belt. Or just a dowel.

Anything to inflict pain, to bring the child under the control of the parent.

I’ve been talking to friends and peers lately about spanking. Some of them have gone as far as to say “shame on you for not wanting to spank your kids, if you ever have them.” Really? What are they basing this off of? A few verses in proverbs. Merriam-Webster defines “proverb” as “a brief popular saying (such as ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth’) that gives advice about how people should live or that expresses a belief that is generally thought to be true.” So people are deciding how to treat a child, and condemning people off of a piece of advice?

Spanking doesn’t work.

“I spank you because I love you” is the same thing as “I hit you because I love you.”

Saying this gives children confusing messages about what’s ok and what’s not ok. In fact, more than just abusing the child by hitting them, spanking tells the child that they are worthless and sets them up to more vulnerable to being in abusive situations their whole life, because they don’t know boundaries of abuse.

Spanking is selfish. Minus the very few circumstances that a child does something morally wrong (and even then, I can’t say that spanking is right), the majority of spankings happen because the child did something that the parent didn’t like.  Not that it was wrong, but it just displeased the parent. The Pearls teach to set something tempting in front of the child and then punish the child when it goes for that item. Is a child’s curiosity wrong? No. But since the parent was displeased, the child gets punished.

In my experience, much of the punishing that was done was because of inexperienced decisions, not choosing to do the wrong thing. Spanking is immature. Why does an adult feel the need to resort to hitting a child? Spanking shows that the child isn’t valuable enough for your time to talk to him and help him make better decisions (when he does something that’s actually wrong), but rather that you would hit him on the butt and send him on his way.

Children are small adults in training.

We don’t hit other adults, so why are we hitting children? The ones who need our protection, our love, our care and the safety that we provide? Why are we using physical harm on little people?

Spanking damaged me. Physically, I would be sore for a while after spanking. I’d have to make sure that nobody ever saw the bruises and welts covering my legs, butt and lower back. Mentally, the list doesn’t end. I learned that if I messed up, my parents would hurt me. I learned that I can’t trust adults. I learn to lie about things, to save myself from pain, rather than knowing that I could be honest with my parents. I learned that reacting in an aggressive, physical manner to anger or someone not doing things my way is “ok.”

I learned that it was an each man for himself world, and that if I was going to survive, I’d have to protect myself.

The Pearls emphasize spanking a lot, but they also emphasize the parents being in control, the children being in complete submission to the parents and they don’t value the importance of children. The teachings of the Pearls demanded perfection from children, created an atmosphere of pain, distrust and robbed me of my childhood.

I don’t remember my last spanking, even though I was 14. I still remember the pain though.

8 comments

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Something tangential that comes to mind is whether the association of Hitting = Love sets up someone for being a physical abuser (the giving end) or BDSM sub (the receiving end)?

    (My evidence for this is really fragmentary, especially on the latter (the BDSM kink setup). Mostly prognostication at a party claiming that a lot of BDSM types — especially the women — come from an Extreme Christianese Purity Culture b/g and they can’t enjoy sex unless they can fantasize they had no choice and that it was really forced upon them. Seems a corollary worth exploring in the future.)

    We don’t hit other adults, so why are we hitting children? The ones who need our protection, our love, our care and the safety that we provide? Why are we using physical harm on little people?

    Because “I’m Bigger Than You!”?

    • I’m vaguely subby and think that this definitely has a place, but there’s a helluva a lot of other reasons why BDSM might be someone’s kink.
      And I was disciplined this way, disciplined for doing something my parent’s didn’t like vs. disciplined for doing something morally wrong, and I still struggle with not doing morally wrong things that I know I won’t get caught doing and actually doing things that are morally right that my parents wouldn’t like, I think because of that.

    • Please don’t pathologize BDSM as though it’s something ‘wrong’ with people that is caused by abuse. Even if childhood spanking did cause people to like BDSM later in life (which I don’t believe is true) that would be a fairly harmless outcome for most, assuming it’s in the context of a consensual adult relationship.

      It’s insulting that these posts bravely reveal how abused children feel unloved and alone and bear physical and mental scars, how their family relationships are difficult if not destroyed… and then in the comments people add, and what if abuse makes kids like BDSM?! as if that’s somehow worse than abuse shattering their trust and brutalizing their developing bodies and minds.

    • Your theory resonates with me. Among many other messed up relationship issues, I equated punishment with love. I definitely brought that baggage into my marriage, which led to some horrific acting out on my part. I struggle with taking responsibility for my bad choices, while feeling like I was a product of childhood experiences that I didn’t control and am working to recover from. It is such a f—-d up fusion of perpetrator/victim emotional and psychological damage – all thanks to a religion full of the same unhealthy dynamics.

  • Reblogged this on The Road.

  • ‘they don’t value the children’. this right here says too much about how we were raised. we were not people, we were things to shove around the bible, constantly damned.

  • Recently I read a wonderful article about the justifications people use for spanking, most notably, the often quoted, “spare the rod, spoil the child”. With the explanation of one of the ways we have horribly misinterpreted the language due to changes in what these words mean. The word for rod used refers to a sheperd’s crook, which had a hook at the end used for guiding and sometimes rescuing sheep as they strayed of a path. Shepherd’s didn’t beat their valuable sheep with those things. The same word is used in Psalm 23 “your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me”

  • Interesting point, Bethany: How can a rod be a comfort when it’s used to terrorize? Misinterpretation of the word is a real possibility. The only other direct biblical reference to physical abuse by beating (not stoning) I can think of at the moment is the one about beating a slave to death! That, too, was discussed quite casually, as though barbarianism were the culture of the day. Oh wait…it WAS. Good thing America’s Christian culture has advanced since then.

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