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My Own Private PTSD

Ah, this story (link to Pandagon, not the actual video, because Amanda Marcotte's take on it is very good) just kills me. 

(For those who do not click through, it's about a Judge in Texas who beat his teenage daughter viciously - and she got it on camera and posted it to YouTube.  Trigger warning for abuse and bullying if you watch the video.)

Amanda's last paragraph is really the thing for me, when it comes to people's attitudes about hitting children:

By the way, I want to quickly address the people who are all over
internet defending Adams by saying, "I was whipped and I turned out
okay." Using the surival
[sic] skills of victims to condone abuse is not okay.
That's like saying it's okay to throw yourself downstairs because two
years from now, that broken leg will be completely healed. The here and
now counts as much as the later. A child is more than the adult they
will become. They are a human being now, and their pain and suffering
now matters.

Children are people, too.  The US is the only country apart from Somalia who refuses to sigh the UN treaty for children's rights, and the Christian Fundamentalist faction is why; they really believe that they have the absolute right to do anything they want to their children.  Even more so than secular abusers, they rationalize abuse as right and good.

My father had a temper; when I was a child, I was his preferred target when he got angry.  It was only one hit, always just one - but it was to the face, and as hard as he could hit.  I can count on one hand the times I remember being hit, but they're seared on my brain.  Once for being late getting up by ten minutes, once because I couldn't remember the name of a flower, once for eating some travel sickness pills (I was four, and they were pink), and once because I didn't get my friend and my stepsister back into the car fast enough when they went for a wander after a picnic.  Each time, I did not see it coming.

Abuse does not teach children submission; if they are naturally obedient, like I was, they become fearful and quietly angry.  If they are braver, they become oppositional and angry.  If they are unlucky, they will grow up to be abusers themselves.  If they are lucky, they will "only" have to deal with low self-esteem, fucked-up notions of what a healthy relationship should be, and a deep well of unresolved anger that can threaten to burn through everything.  Anyone who thinks children are not affected by even one "spanking" are wrong.

I applaud this brave, brave girl for speaking out.  I am amazed at her powers of compassion that she responds to people who demand her father be violently harmed with a statement that he needs therapy, not punishment.   Please note, however, that this video is old - it has come out as part of a custody battle over the girl's younger sister.  Her mother has since left the abuser.

Long ago I forgave my father for his temper, and for other things, but I was *abjectly* terrified of him for years (and, by extension, all tall men).  My mother has openly acknowledged how difficult my childhood was, and that I was the target of my father's anger.  I've made peace with my past, repaired my own internal workings (with lots of help from Bob!), and moved on.  But people who respond to stories like this with commentary that spanking isn't so bad annoy me.  A swat on the butt to a toddler who has run out into the road?  For me, that's probably pushing it, but I'll let it go.  Hitting a child (of any age) repeatedly?  No dice.  Hitting a child in anger?  That's abuse, and no amount of God-bothering will make it okay.

(Comment request:  please, please, if you think hitting your children is okay, keep it to yourself and don't try to justify it to me.  You're not going to make me change my mind, and I'm not going to support you.  The same goes for other abusive behaviors like putting soap in a child's mouth, or hot sauce, or pulling their hair, or anything that uses violence or pain to discipline.  Yes, even for a child who's utterly incorrigible.)

(Also, no "this guy should be beaten himself!"-type comments, please.)


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Christy Dedman
Nov. 4th, 2011 03:30 am (UTC)
Thanks for sharing with us. I remember so much more the few times I was disciplined out of a reaction to anger, but that doesn't mean it changed me to a different person. The principles that I was taught by my parents have gone much further than a raised hand.
Nov. 4th, 2011 03:45 am (UTC)
i was hit, repeatedly, by my parents as "discipline"

i am a neurotic, PTSD suffering, low self esteem person who is a bundle of nerves and social anxieties.
i still get panic attacks at certain tones of voice.

i have had what i thought were good friends tell me i was no longer welcome to talk to them when i tried to explain that i was having flashbacks....
because after all "i wasnt abused really"

some people recover well, some dont. some people can go through hell and come out smiling, but let that same person see a garter snake and they lose it.. you never know what someone 's trigger or break point is.
all hitting kids teaches is that hitting is ok, as long as you are bigger
Nov. 4th, 2011 03:51 am (UTC)
{{HUGs}} scary, all of it. I was not a victim but my next door neighbor was. Every day and night for my whole life there I heard them beat my best friend for all sorts of things until she graduated from HS and left. I cannot tell you how helpless I felt every day and how much I strongly disliked myself for not being able to help her.
Nov. 4th, 2011 05:03 am (UTC)
Thank you for posting that...it's really hard-hitting, and should be brought to everyone's attention. And that scene's all too familiar to me - not the beatings, but the screaming, dominating "discipline". If I could count the number of times I also heard that I and my sister were lucky to have what we did...

And I liked the way this commenter put it, "Abuse is the last resort of a coward who has lost the ability to earn respect." So true.
Nov. 4th, 2011 05:54 am (UTC)
Dear God, that was horrific. All I wanted to do was curl in on myself, hug myself until the terror went away and try to shut out the sound. It's amazing that after all these years, something like this reduces me to the reactions of a child again.

And that the mother was a part of this was even for terrifying.

This sort of behavior [save my mother was not an active participant, but much more passive] was part of my life growing up. I have yet to convince some folks [friends and care providers] that just because you're a survivor, doesn't mean you are untouched and unscarred.
Nov. 4th, 2011 07:16 am (UTC)
This video is horrifying and it made me physically sick. I was hit regularly and repeatedly as a child by my father in anger.

I can understand a possible motivation for the mother, however. My mother would sometimes attempt to discipline us herself to save us from a harsher discipline from my father. If that's the case here it doesn't make her actions right, but it might explain them.

It's taken me decades to work through the anger and violence that were part of my childhood, and I suspect it will always be part of who I am. It did help to realise, though, that my father was simply reenacting the version of 'good discipline' that he had received as a child, without the tools to analyse it or do things differently. The violence stopped when I was sixteen and I threatened to report him to the police.
Nov. 4th, 2011 11:30 am (UTC)
I saw this video yesterday and was just appalled. For me the swearing at her, and repeatedly coming back in the room is the worst part; beatings can be survived, and for the most part can make you more determined (at least in my case the fear of being hit was always worse then being hit, the sound of my Dad's belt as he pulled it out of his belt loops was always more terrifying than anything to me.) But the fact that he is cursing at her, getting in her face to do so, storming in and out of the room, those are the things that leave you mentally off balance and terrified.

I seriously struggle with the idea that some people claiming to be Christian "condone" this sort of thing, if you think spanking is alright, that's one thing (not that I am agreeing with it,) but how do you not stop yourself 1/2 way through screaming and swearing at your child and think, "Wow, I've crossed a serious line here? This is not about love at all." I guess by extension we can assume Jesus must have had a mouth on him that couldn't kiss his mother?

I just don't know how you get to the point where you think saying the word F!$# in front of or at your kids is okay, the hitting/beating thing is unacceptable too, but I very much doubt it would have ever gone as far as it did if he hadn't allowed himself to get so verbally worked up and increased his own anger through the verbal abuse.
Nov. 4th, 2011 12:48 pm (UTC)
I feel guilty sometimes saying I'm a survivor of child abuse because for the most part it wasn't beating, it was verbal abuse. But I also remembering at the time that I wished my mother would hit me instead.

Children are at the mercy of their parents, you can't just leave, you don't have money or a car to move out and live on your own. And even if there are adults around who would help... a child doesn't know how to ask.
(no subject) - reasie - Nov. 4th, 2011 01:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gwacie - Nov. 4th, 2011 02:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Nov. 7th, 2011 04:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 4th, 2011 12:31 pm (UTC)
If they are braver, they become oppositional and angry.

Thanks you thank you thank you for writing this. In the past couple of years my mother has started to describe what I was like as a child in a way that almost makes it sound like I had oppositional defiant disorder. But I always thought I was the "good" kid (I got good grades and stayed out of trouble, my sister was the one with the blue hair whose friends rang the bell and left her on the door step one night when she was drunk).

I hate to think of my childhood as abusive, but the fact is that my mother spanked me. She once broke a yardstick across my bottom. Now granted, we're talking light wood, but the fact still exists, she broke it. Over my ass.

I think the cause of it was my parents unhappy marriage. I am very much like my father (bright, introverted, would rather read than do chores for my mother). I have begun to suspect that part of the reason why my mother would fly off the handle and beat me (much more so than at my sister) was because I am like my father. She couldn't beat him, but she could beat me.

Yeah, no wonder I have issues with authority. I always expect them to be batshit crazy like my mother.
Nov. 4th, 2011 01:18 pm (UTC)
Man hands on misery to man
It deepens like a coastal shelf
So get out as early as you can
And don't have no kids yourself.

(If I remember that right - Philip Larkin)

I'm glad you said that about not wanting comments about 'he should be beat up himself'. I hate that sort of revenge-based attitude. That solves nothing.

Maybe there are genuinely evil people who just want to hurt children, but mostly there are people who don't know how to parent. Who have more responsibility than they can handle and panic and resort to the worst strategies ever to try to force their kids into some mold someone planted in their brains... who are terrified of failure, perhaps, some failure of their own they want to avoid in their children, and they build up something within normal behavior range as the terrible flaw that will steal forever their last chance at redemption... or some crap.

Robin Charron-Cabana
Nov. 4th, 2011 01:43 pm (UTC)
My Mom came from an alcoholic abusive family. She took college child development and parenting classes to try to overcome her lack of knowledge, on how a functional family should behave. I give her credit for trying, she sometimes lost it, my Dad refused corporal punishment, if spankings were gonna happen, Mom was the enforcer. My Dad's method was telling us we'd disappointed him, we paid more attention to that, than my Mom chasing us with a yardstick or hairbrush.

I had a friend in high school, who's Mother was an alcoholic who beat her, she came to my house one day, split lip, black eye, bruises all over, crying. My Dad got out the polaroid camera, took photos, dated them, then got in the car, to her house and requested her parents bring her clothes and things out to the car. Next, was the sheriff's office. She had old scars all over her back, she looked a lot like those old photos of slaves with the whip mark scars. She can't wear a low backed dress, still.

My parents split up when I was 15, we choose to live with Dad, Mom had too many rules, and was still likely to clobber us if she lost her temper. I didn't have kids, didn't want to pass these F***ed up patterns.
Nov. 4th, 2011 01:52 pm (UTC)
As always, thank you for spreading the word. I saw this on the news and couldn't bear to watch the whole video. Did see a clip with the father giveing a brief rebuttal which irritated me. I then found this online with 'his side': http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2011/images/11/03/judge.adams.statement.pdf?hpt=hp_c1

Such a disfunctional family! He still doesn't get it!! And one of his excuses was that the daughter chose to live with him after the divorce. Did he never have any domestic violence cases through his court? That is classic for an abuse victim (usually a wife). Sigh.
Nov. 4th, 2011 03:11 pm (UTC)
My mom has always had a temper, but she was not a hitter (once a smack on the face when I was 17 for saying something incredibly rude and hurtful to her - and not because I had been provoked, either, just teen meanness on my part).

Her yelling can strip paint off a wall, but even that was rare. Her most effective method of disciplining really was the patented mom death stare. It is sure-fire on toddlers. Little cousin is smacking the coffee table, mom gets her attention, locks eyes with her, points her finger, and says, "No," in a tone of voice that is colder than the iceberg that took down the Titanic. Worked just about every single time (for the particularly rambunctious child, a second application of the death stare was necessary). I've even used it on kids I've babysat, and have been quite successful.

So yeah, hitting kids is really not necessary.
Nov. 4th, 2011 11:06 pm (UTC)
way off topic here, but your description here is brilliant. I looked in your profile and you say you're a journalist - you're certainly a writer. (I'm doing the LJIdol writing competition at the moment and have read 450 short entries in the last two weeks, so I'm kinda focused on writing at the moment.)
(no subject) - christianet - Nov. 5th, 2011 02:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 4th, 2011 05:56 pm (UTC)
I wanna say sooo much. But I'm gonna go with the good ol' AMEN. The fact that some people don't think they were affected with getting hit as a child makes me wanna say "You might survive a bullet too. And if you do, be very happy. But that doesn't mean you can approve of others getting shot"....

And children learn SO much more from reason and words than from physical or psychical abuse. They need to learn the "game" the good way, not the hard way.
Nov. 4th, 2011 05:57 pm (UTC)
PS - thank you for sharing your story.
Nov. 4th, 2011 05:59 pm (UTC)
My parents spanked, but they had ironclad rules about it-- never with anything but the hand, NEVER the angry parent doing the spanking, never more than once, etc-- and they mostly relied on other methods. The worst punishment I remember as a kid was having my My Little Ponies taken away for a week.

My mother, and my dad's mother, went through a hell of a lot worse. It breaks my heart knowing these things go on. May this girl and her family find some peace, as well as everyone else struggling with this.
Nov. 4th, 2011 07:51 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing such a personal story. I'm a ACOA (Adult Child of Alcholics) (both of them). Not pretty. I was the 'obedient' type. Gotten over the anger now - it's the past, it's partly shaped who I am but that doesn't mean that it has to be a part of my present.
No way would I watch the vid - waaay too confronting! But the more exposure child abuse (in all it's forms) gets, the better. I grew up in the 70s/80s and even my school knew I was in trouble,(the anorexia was a clue) but they did nothing. I've always hoped that such children are better recognised, and helped now. I love the idea of "Kids Line" (a help and referral system especially for kids) that was set up here in Australia a few years back. Somewhere they know they can reach out to.....
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