Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Dragon and his Wrath


A 23-year old woman in Texas has released a video she made of her father beating her with a belt when she was 16. As if that were not bad enough, her father is a judge who decides child abuse cases. Hillary Adams, who suffers from cerebral palsy, was caught downloading pirated music on her computer but was often beaten by her father, which was why she secretly recorded the incident.

She has received a great deal of support since the video went viral. She claims that her motive in releasing it was not revenge, but a desperate attempt to get her father the help he needs. Her mother, who is also in the video aiding her husband's abuse of their daughter, divorced him after 22 years, blaming his violence on an addiction which she did not identify, calling it "a family secret."

The judge has received death threats but insists he did nothing wrong in disciplining his daughter. I beg to differ. I am adamantly opposed to hitting ones children for any reason and consider it a hideously traumatic form of bullying. Violence at the hands of those who are supposed to love and protect us has the emotional effect of locking a child inside a box with no way out. There is no excuse for treating children like enemies.

When I was 16, I was going steady with a boy my parents disliked. He was a kind and gentle boy as well as good looking and fun, and he treated me with great care. He was also the captain of our high school football team. The reason my parents didn't want me to date him was because he was a Catholic from a working class family. My father was a lawyer and my family was Jewish, although they didn't practice the religion at all. The family credo was that we were "just American" and I never identified as a Jew; yet when I began dating boys, suddenly I was supposed to date only Jewish boys. It seemed like bait-and-switch to me.

My parents met secretly with my boyfriend's parents and my mother informed me that his mother had said, "Susan is a very nice girl, but we want (our son) to marry a Catholic girl." I was ordered to break up with him but we cared deeply for each other, so we went underground. One of his teammates who was Jewish picked me up for dates, my boyfriend picked up his friend's girl, and we switched partners later. Everything was fine until the night my mother, listening in on an extension phone, realized that we were still seeing each other. She told my father, who gave me the worst beating of my life.

I ran out the door and down the street but he jumped into his sports car and sped after me, catching me a block away. He threw me into the car and drove home, where I jumped out and tried to run again. He grabbed me and beat me with his fists until I fell down in the garage while my mother, standing on the steps between the garage and the laundry room, said "Don't kill her. Don't kill her." This was a valid warning as my father had been a Golden Gloves boxer in his youth. Finally, I was allowed to crawl to my room, where nobody checked on me all night to see if I was still living.

In the morning, my mother stopped me at the door and informed me that I couldn't go to school "looking like that," as if it were my fault. She kept me home for nearly two weeks while my bruises healed and then gave me a note stating that I had been sick. She looked deeply into my eyes, conveying wordlessly that if I told anyone, I would be a bad person. I never did.

The incident was never mentioned again, and I'm positive that like Judge Adams, my father believed he had done nothing wrong. I believe as strongly that violence never changes minds or hearts and that only kindness and respect can do that. I still do not consider religion or race important in choosing ones life partner or friends and have always felt that we learn little from those whose backgrounds are identical to our own. The world's people constitute a vast smorgasbord of cultures and appearances, knowledge and world views, all of which are wasted when we cleave only to our own kind.

There are a few animals in nature which eat their young. I consider beating ones child, either literally or emotionally, exactly the same as eating ones young. The laws regarding corporal punishment of children are different in various states, but I really hope they throw the book at Judge Adams. There is no way he should be deciding child abuse cases, and what he did to his own daughter is unforgivable. I applaud her courage and hope that she, too, got the counseling she needed. It's tragic that she didn't have the parents she needed.

27 comments:

Paula said...

Susan, that was a terrible thing that happened to you, on several levels. Intellectually, I am opposed to all spanking, thinking that it teaches violence, yet from experience, I know I was spanked appropriately a few times, without abuse, turned out fine, and am not a violent person. More often, I was sat down and "given a good talking to."

It is also disturbing to me that you were discouraged from dating someone working class, even though he sounds like a wonderful person. Believe me, as the child of a police officer and a mother who had to work in food processing to help out financially, blue collar children are not oblivious to the feelings white collar parents sometimes harbor for them.

I've had both blue and white collar jobs, and my husband was in radio for twelve years, but spent the last 34 years before he retired working in a huge factory. This slight shift in facial expression, depending on the answer to the question "what do you do?" does not fail to sting in adulthood, either.

I hope that boy had a nice life, and I hope you got a chance at some point to tell your parents how you felt about both the beating, and the manipulation.

Hugs to you today.

Jo said...

Susan, Oh my Gawd...! I had no idea that had happened to you. That is not discipline, that is physical abuse. I watched part of the video of the judge in Texas, but it made me physically ill, and I had to stop. Apparently it was no the first (or the last) time he did it to her. He continues to be verbally abusive of her, and that is why she released the video. He has been harassing her.

I know that still goes on here in Vancouver, with some of the communities. They are not permitted to date someone of a different culture.

Gosh, I feel so sad knowing your father did that to you.

On a happier note, when I turned the page to November on that gorgeous Odilon Redon calendar you gave me, et voila! there was my favourite painting. So, for the whole month of November, my heart will be happy. :-)

(My word verification is 'sunfella') That's a good omen.

Taradharma said...

I think the beating of one's own children goes on much more than we know. Your own beating sounds horrific -- he completely lost control (and control of you) and could have killed you.

My dad used to use his belt on my sisters and me quite regularly. And it was always when he was angry and out of control. It was a trauma every time it happened. He would apologize later and appear so sorry, and I would forgive, though I never fully trusted him again because I knew those beatings could happen at any time. At 13, I'd had enough and laughed in his face when he started to take his belt off. He must have seen a determined look in my eye because instead of beating me, he sent me to my room. Last beating ever.

I really do think they believe they were just doing their parental duty to 'straighten us out.' Doesn't matter, the beatings were still wrong. But gee, I managed to raise my child with no beatings. Funny that.

secret agent woman said...

I grew up with a father like that, and came away from the years of abuse committed to nonviolent parenting. I have never hit my children, ever. All the research shows that physical discipline, whether beatings or "just" spanking makes kids more prone to aggress against peers. I think there is never a case where hitting a child is justified. The message in it is clear - that it is okay to use violence against someone less powerful than you to make them do what you want. Isn't that also the definition of bullying?

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Paula,

I really don't believe spanking, let alone beating, is ever appropriate. I consider it bullying, and have never hit my children. They all grew up to be adults who constantly amaze me with their abilities and their compassion for others.

I was downwardly mobile and as a single mother, worked at all kinds of jobs. I believe that whatever is done as well as possible to take care of ones family is honorable work.

Jo,

I forced myself to watch the video, but didn't link to it in my post because there is no need. Anyone who wants to find it can do so, but I try to keep my blog a violence-free zone.

I'm so glad you're enjoying the calendar. Your lovely drawing gives me pleasure every day!

Tara,

Your father's behavior is exactly like the abusive spouses of the women who stayed in a domestic violence shelter I managed. The cycle of violence is the same no matter who the victim is, and despite the apologies, it always escalates every time. I'm sorry you experienced that, too. My father never apologized for himself. I'm pretty sure he believed he was God and entitled to do whatever he liked.

Agent,

I didn't become aggressive either - I grew up lacking confidence in myself, my abilities, even my appearance. The reasoning went along the lines of how could I have any value if my own parents didn't love me?

I explained things to my own children from an early age with words, not fists, and they understood. Beating a child is immoral, unconscionable and vile.

Maria said...

Bing was beaten as a child too...by her mother. It was not determined until much later that she was schizophrenic, but life with her was terrifying.

I find that most people fall into two camps. Either they become what they most fear or they become voices to stop it for others.

Bing told me once that while she loved Liv, she never wanted children because she was terrified that she might be schizophrenic like her mother and she feared passing it on.

She has saved more than ten kids in her school from abuse. She's one of those teachers, the one they trust.

Susan, I truly hope that the boy went on and find someone to love just as you did.

And thanks for reminding me that things really have changed for the better. When I was in high school, I was only allowed to date Catholic boys. To take a non-Catholic boy to prom, both sets of parents had to sign a permission slip. Isn't that just ridiculous.

I cringed when I read about you being beaten. Just sat there cringing. I am SO sorry that happened to you.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Maria,

I have never understood the widespread fear that if ones children marry out of faith, countless centuries of heritage will go down the drain.

I ran into "the boy" years later while home on a break from college. He told me that he had proposed to his girlfriend the night before after too much tequila, but that if I would marry him he'd break the engagement. I said no, but I will always have a soft spot for him, and hope his marriage was (and is) happy.

Bing is an alchemist who will always transmute pain into something that makes the world better. Good on her for saving those poor children.

witnessing am i said...

Your stories, your experience always surprise me, take me off guard. This post -- and your story contained within -- are very upsetting. How can we have so much rage inside us to lash out so viciously against innocent people, those we might even consider loved ones?

I am sick.

e said...

Susan,
I'm sorry for your experience. I was hit by my mother into my early twenties. One night, after she hit me over something ridiculous, I stood to my full height, looked her in the eye and hit her right back, telling her to never touch me like that again. I stopped going home on school breaks and started spending holidays either alone or with friends in another city. You are right, this is abuse and bullying of the worst kind.

Molly said...

I remember you writing before about the abuse you endured as a child. Such treatment of those entrusted to our care is an outrage. I feel so bad for little Susan....

In Ireland, when I was growing up. a "mixed marriage" was one involving a Catholic and a Protestant! The Protestant party had to sign papers promising to raise the children as Catholics.

The mind reels!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

David,

It's impossible to comprehend hurting ones own child, especially for someone as devoted as you are to your children. I think a person would have to be deeply unhappy within himself to raise a hand in anger to a family member.

e,

There are so many bad parents in the world, while many people who would be wonderful parents are unable to have kids. Life is stranger than strange sometimes. I'm glad you stood up to your abusive mother and made a life without her, as she deserved.

Molly,

We had so-called "mixed marriages" in the States, too, referring to spouses of different religions or, more rarely, races.

I remember the requirement that children of half-Catholic unions be raised Catholic, and the non-Catholic party had to convert to be married in the church. I guess historically, most groups fear extinction, which seems like missing the forest for the trees.

the walking man said...

My father was brilliant in his field, went from a HS diploma to a PhD. in chemical engineering with a Masters in pharmacy to put the icing on his cake of intellect in 5 years after his discharge after WWII.

He hit me once...knocked me off a chair, told me I was too stupid to learn so I better learn to work.

Then he realized I was twice his size and after years of his mouth (and the mouths of schoolyard pricks,) that he probably should not hit me again.

He tried one more time but he wound up flat on his ass. That was the last night we ever spoke more than five continuous words to each other until the day he died.

If it had been just his mouth, or just him I may not have spent twenty years fighting my way through every time a chance presented itself.

He was a brilliant chemist and engineer, his inventions and discoveries saved thousands of lives and injuries in car crashes but I was only smart...I never hit my kids and I never made them feel like they were anything but the best things that ever happened to me.

nick said...

I totally agree with you, violence of any kind towards a child is quite wrong, it simply erodes the child's self-confidence and creates resentment. I had no idea of the horrifying way your father treated you. My father never hit me but there was constant tension between him and my mother, which had much the same effect in undermining my self-confidence. I was spanked twice by my primary school headmaster, which only caused anger at such a pointless punishment (it was for not remembering key historical dates).

From what you tell us, the judge should certainly be sacked.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Mark,

My father, too, was considered brilliant by all who knew him. He was a famous criminal defense lawyer who spoke 6 or 7 languages, a concert pianist and made beautiful furniture in his basement workshop. He was extremely well-read and an accomplished artist as well. Unfortunately, he was damaged, and I was his scapegoat. (Unlike you, I never got very big.)

I'm sorry that your relationship with your father was such a bitter one. There are so many stories of parental abuse in these comments that I'm quite shocked, but like you, my children are the best things that ever happened to me, too.

Nick,

I can't believe you were spanked for the "crime" of being a child, basically. Bullies should never be teachers or parents. I agree that emotional discord in the home can have dreadful effects on children, who tend to think everything is their fault anyway.

The judge who beat his daughter, his afflicted daughter yet, should surely be removed from his position. It may be too late under the law to punish him for his treatment of her, but it's likely that losing his job and its status would mean more to him anyway.

lgsquirrel said...

I don't know anything about this Texas judge but I am so sorry to hear about your own experiences of beating from your father.

In my case, it was my mother who would beat me for not getting answers right during my study revision. I certainly think my mother's action was excessive.

Nevertheless, I still believe there is a place for spanking in child discipline but it should be done with the purpose of disciplining and should never be done in anger.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Calvin,

I can see your point in theory; the problem is, most people are incapable of waiting until they cool off AND I think that violent behavior feeds anger as well as the converse.

Apparently many Americans still feel that it's a parent's responsibility to "shape character" with hard spankings, called "pro-social use of violence." But I still feel that it's wrong, no matter how they dress it up in fancy social worker speak because for every thoughtful, caring person like you, there are hundreds of others just waiting for an opportunity to wield power over a smaller, helpless being.

Paula said...

It is really an eye opener for me that so many people have been literally beaten. There is such a difference between spanking and beating. The purpose of spanking is not release of anger or to inflict serious pain. It is to drastically get the attention of a small child for very serious reasons when their reasoning capabilities may not be fully developed yet.

The only time I ever knew of my sister-in-law spanking a child was when we were downtown,walking down the street and a toddler pulled loose from her at the corner and ran into the street without waiting for us. Spanking, not beating, on the spot. In hopes that the next time thoughts of darting into traffic entered her head, she would remember that something unpleasant happens if you do that.

This kind of discipline, in normal families, is pretty rapidly replaced by just talking as the child gains more maturity. I cannot imagine physical punishment being given to anyone over six or seven years old. Certainly not teenaged and older.

I realize that my views are shaped by the fact that I had very loving parents, and that those of many of you have been shaped by having been beaten. Those are two very different things. Like lgsquirrel, I believe there is a middle ground here.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Paula,

The only time I can imagine a light smack on a toddler's butt being justified is the scenario you described. But the "wait 'til your father comes home - he'll teach you a lesson" kind of thing reeks of premeditated terror inflicted on a child.

I also recognize that there's a huge difference between beating someone with or w/o a weapon, and a spanking in which the parent is also suitably disciplined not to inflict injury or lasting emotional trauma. I just preferred not to do it at all for any reason, and my children turned out just fine. I have no doubt that your niece did, too.

Paula said...

Susan, that business of "just wait until your father gets home" is so awful. It paints the man out to be the heavy, makes his homecoming an unpleasant time. So unfair to the father and children both. There is no excuse for a mother not taking care of discipline when she is the one with the children. Hearing a woman say that make my husband cringe.

One of my spankings was much the same scenario as the one I witnessed. We lived far back from the road, with woods in between. I had been told not to ride my tricycle to the highway, as they could not see or hear me if I went so far. My mother came outside just in time to catch me pedaling my way back from the highway. I wasn't old enough to understand the danger, but I sure understood that doing it caused me trouble.

My thoughts have been disturbed all day by the things some of you described. It is a sad, sad thing.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Paula,

I agree completely. Making the father the heavy was never fair and surely precluded most fathers from having warm and trusting relationships with their children.

When I posted this story, hesitantly, I was amazed at the tales of woe it elicited. Apparently, violence toward children in the name of discipline is far more common than I realized, and that is very sad and depressing.

Tanya Brown said...

Jesus Christ. I am so sorry. So sorry.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Amen to your perspective of the unruly judge.

As far as your parents... how I wish you had been raised in a different home. Between the boating incident and this horrible experience, it is enough to tell me that there was a great deal more between the lines than what has been shown.

I'm so sorry it happened at all.
I'm so glad that you came out of it strong and unbeatable.

*enormous hugs*

Scarlett

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Tanya,

I think that very few people have idyllic childhoods, sadly.

Scarlett,

I'm not sure I'm unbeatable, but we all grow stronger with adversity. While it might have been nice to be a cherished princess, I probably would have become someone else entirely so I can't regret too much.

Sextant said...

I have always felt that a crack across the ass on a young child was sort of like power steering, takes the kinks out and gets them headed in the right direction with little effort. My wife felt differently and I respected her wishes. But I am talking about a single swat delivered for humiliation rather than pain on a young child.

I got plenty of those as a child and sometimes more that was excessive but not abusive for the times (the 50s). However once a kid is in high school they are no longer children that you can crack their ass once. They are adults and should be treated as such with guidance but not physical punishment and certainly not abuse.

Hearts I feel very bad for you and agree that this should have never happened. Your mother's actions are indefensible as well. My wife got me on notice very early in the game. Hands off the kid. She was right. It is cruel to be so terribly maltreated by people who love you.

What is doubly tragic about this is that you were not doing anything wrong other than disobeying their wishes. Their wishes were not valid, and as far as I am concerned you had no obligation to obey them. I can understand if you were going with a drug dealer or gangster. They should disapprove relationships that would be harmful. But again disapprove, but no physical punishments.

But a Jewish, Catholic ... working class? What did you violate? Only their pride and that is a bunch of shit, and that sort of thing really hacks me. Like some sort of Old Testament daughter you were treated as something far less than a human being...you were treated as a possession that was violating the the wishes of father. Not far from an honor killing when you think about it. Your parents should have been ashamed! My deepest sorrows to you.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Sextant,

I learned civil disobedience at home, of necessity. When the rules seemed unreasonable, I saw no reason other than fear of punishment to obey them. My parents' enlisting my boyfriend's parents felt like betrayal as well.

You state that it is "cruel to be so terribly maltreated by people who love you." With all respect, I think you are making an assumption that parents automatically love their children, while for me, the unavoidable conclusion was that they did not because love would have precluded such behavior. And that is even worse.

There was definitely an Old Testament father as God of wrath quality to my upbringing. I felt like chattel, and have also made the comparison with honor killings, although I knew nothing of them as a teen.

As for religion, I believe that anything which encourages people to treat each other well is good, although I would prefer that they do so not out of fear of punishment, but because it's right. The problem with most religions is that they are so competitive, convinced that they have the only Way and everyone else is going straight to hell. I try to be more inclusive of those with different backgrounds than religious practice would allow.

blackwatertown said...

Terribly sad story.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

blackwater,

Thank you for your visit!