Thursday, November 03, 2011
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.