Thursday, March 18, 2010

Have You Ever Been on Either Side of Child Abuse?

Last weekend, after a frustrated A. started cursing out his Internet service provider, I wondered if he'd ever physically hurt me in a fit of rage. And after he quickly squashed that idea, he asked, "Were you ever hit as a child?"

Oh was I.

I think I was a good kid, but that didn't really matter. If you so much as rubbed Mom the wrong way, made too much noise, a mess, or God forbid broke something, you were hit - hard. And with a family of five living in a one-bedroom apartment, her fuse was unbelievably short. There was constant yelling, fighting and punishing. My Latin mom never had a cute little "naughty corner." There were no time outs. Grounded? What's that? You simply got the crap beat out of you, cried your eyes out, maybe fell asleep from the exhaustion and then life continued.

If I ask her now she'd probably say I'm exaggerating, that she never treated us that harshly. She'd laugh it off and say, "¡Ay, Dorkys, please!" I know because I've asked and have come to the conclusion that she will never remember things as I do.

Crazy thing is my friends, siblings, cousins and I can all exchange war stories and laugh about it now. Most of us have suffered under the wrath of a mom wielding la correa (belt), la chancleta (house slippers), the remote or just about anything she can grab and throw. And they get creative, too. My most memorable punishment was kneeling on a cheese grater for what felt like forever. I can't remember the lesson or what I even did to deserve that. Maybe I broke another plate while trying to wash the dishes, ¿quien sabe?

I don't know what makes a parent totally lose it and hit her child mercilessly until her hand hurts...and then hitting the child because he made her hand hurt. What I do know is that I'm terrified of doing the same with my own and perpetuating a cycle that's generations old because when you grow up under physical, mental and emotional abuse, the tendency to do so is unbelievably strong. I'm scared that one little spank will be the gateway drug that unleashes some sleeping monster within and that once he's out it'll be a hell of a fight to tuck him back in.


  1. i'm the oldest of 12, and we were all abused. it sucks, and perpetuating the cycle is something i've been pretty afraid of... BUT, I really think i can break the cycle. :) i'm 29, have a good head on my shoulders and have decided to wait to have kids until I'm ready. i've thought long and hard about how i'm going to do the exact opposite my parents did. i really do think it's possible to stop the cycle - i just think you have to make a conscious choice to do so.

    great post!

  2. When I was little, I had a friend who-- looking back on things-- was terribly abused as a child. Her mother would beat her until she begged for mercy in the next room. She (the mom) was babysitting me, and never laid a finger on me. I never said anything to my mother because, at five, I just assumed this other girl was a bad kid and that's what bad kids got. Eventually it stopped happening.

    I found out years later that my mother caught onto what was going on in the house and threatened to call CPS if it didn't stop. Apparently, being outed as an offender was all this woman needed to shame her into being a better parent. Unfortunately, other kids aren't so lucky.

  3. Stopping in from SITS... I think we all are afraid of becoming some variation on our parents, of forcing on our children the worst parts of our childhood... Knowing that this is something that you don't want to inflict on your children is half the battle.

  4. Growing up in an abusive house I've often wondered how I'd treat my own kids and I still can't honestly say because I have yet to birth any, but my eyes have opened so WIDE working with kids.

    Sometimes I'll look at them and wonder how anyone could ever do harm to them. They're so precious, innocent and deserve a fair start. There's no way I'd ever want to hinder their progression in life.

    In fact, I want to work my hardest to ensure they do have goodness, happiness and love to look forward to even if they don't get it at home. Knowing I can provide that for 8 hours a day rocks my world!

  5. I also grew up in an emotionally and physically abusive home and am currently undergoing counseling for a different type of child abuse too difficult to say.

    Your mom sounds much like mine.

    I know it's the main reason I did not want to have children. I had no intention of having kids. I have heard that if you were abused, you were more likely to abuse your own and it terrified me.

    I have a 17-month-old, and I can honestly say that I'm obsessed with NOT repeating any type of abuse. I'm careful with my tone, I choose my words carefully, and resist the desire to slap his little hand after he's touched the outlet for the 15th time and I want to scream my head off. I don't do these things because it's so vitally important to me not to.

    We will never spank in my house partly because I'm afraid I won't know how much is too much or how hard is too hard. We will use other means, such as time outs, privileges, restrictions, etc. and continuously change them as needed.

    It is so hard to let go of what we learned and experienced, but I honestly believe that we have the ability to change.

  6. I was lucky because my parents did not believe in hitting, but I spent a lot of time grounded.

    When I was real young, I had a friend who I played with. Her stepdad beat the heck of her all the time. It was the 70's and CPS was unheard of.

    As I got older, I wondered why my mom never did anything and my much older sister just said "that was what people did then - nothing". Sad, but true.

  7. I've never been physically abused, but I'm actually doing a training tonight on identifying abuse and neglect as part of my job.

    I'm so sorry you went through that. I truly think that because you are thoughtful enough to be concerned about perpetuating the cycle, that's a good sign that you WON'T!

  8. Yup, it's all about breaking the cycle my friend, breaking the cycle.

    I think many of us come from generation where parents use "spanking" as a form of decipline. I told myself I would never ever hit or "spank" my children because I hated it when my dad used to spank me... One of my closest friends believe in spanking, but actually she's more like hitting the kid... It breaks my heart.

    Great post!


  9. People used to think it was necessary to "spank" adult members of the community, military trainees, and prisoners. In some countries they still do. In our country, it is considered sexual battery if a person over the age of 18 is "spanked", but only if over the age of 18.

    For one thing, because the buttocks are so close to the genitals and so multiply linked to sexual nerve centers, striking them can trigger powerful and involuntary sexual stimulus in some people. There are numerous physiological ways in which it can be sexually abusive, but I won't list them all here. One can use the resources I've posted if they want to learn more. All materials listed may be accessed at the website of Parents and Teachers Against Violence In Education at

    Child buttock-battering vs. DISCIPLINE:

    Child buttock-battering (euphemistically labeled "spanking","swatting","switching","smacking", "paddling",or other cute-sounding names) for the purpose of gaining compliance is nothing more than an inherited bad habit.

    Its a good idea for people to take a look at what they are doing, and learn how to DISCIPLINE instead of hit.

    I think the reason why television shows like "Supernanny" and "Dr. Phil" are so popular is because that is precisely what many (not all) people are trying to do.

    There are several reasons why child bottom-slapping isn't a good idea. Here are some good, quick reads recommended by professionals:

    Plain Talk About Spanking
    by Jordan Riak,

    The Sexual Dangers of Spanking Children
    by Tom Johnson,

    by Lesli Taylor M.D. and Adah Maurer Ph.D.

    Most compelling of all reasons to abandon this worst of all bad habits is the fact that buttock-battering can be unintentional sexual abuse for some children. There is an abundance of educational resources, testimony, documentation, etc available on the subject that can easily be found by doing a little research with the recommended reads-visit the website of Parents and Teachers Against Violence In Education at

    Just a handful of those helping to raise awareness of why child bottom-slapping isn't a good idea:

    American Academy of Pediatrics,
    American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
    American Psychological Association,
    Center For Effective Discipline,
    Churches' Network For Non-Violence,
    Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
    Parenting In Jesus' Footsteps,
    Global Initiative To End All Corporal Punishment of Children,
    United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    In 26 countries, child corporal punishment is prohibited by law (with more in process). In fact, the US was the only UN member that did not ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

  10. The best way to avoid continuing the cycle is to simply make sure you use alternative punishments to smacking when you come to have kids.

  11. after reading the book series "IT" i really dont think what our parents did was abusive...granted im not saying it was right...but there is a difference between trying to discipline their kids and keep the respect from u that they deserve, and actually hating u so much that they make u eat shit or use acid on u and other harmful things. feel that our parents just didnt know any better...thats how they were raised so they figured thats how they should mom once told me a story of how her teacher made her kneel on gravel and hold her hands out extendd to her side with her books on top of them...and she couldnt let her books that time in their country this was normal. and now that we our raising a child in our household once again i see how a lot has changed...maybe not everything...because i still see that theyll go on and on with their never ending verbal lashings but this kid has it good compared to how my brother and i were treated when we did something in retrospect we look back and think wow my parent couldve gotten arrested for what they did to us...but really they didnt know it was wrong...and i dont think they did it to hurt us..but to teach us a lesson...(disclaimer- im speaking to dorkys here, because her mom and my mom are sisters and grew up in the same household and i know personally what she speaks of. im am in no way trying to speak of others experiences and what they mightve gone through in life...everybodys situation is just trying to analyze what i felt went on with my family)

  12. correction...the book series "a child called it"

  13. I worked for Child Protective Services as a permanency worker, I tried to help parents keep their kids if possible or get some place good and permanent for the kids. I know for the parents who had abused we had a no spanking policy. If they had crossed the line before they just were not allowed to even spank as it would be way to easy to cross the line again

  14. Just replace "child" with "wife" or "dog" or "old person" and you see how hitting a child is no sane thing to do. My dad used to take his belt out for me on the rare occasion that I pissed him off. This only happened a couple times, but he doesn't remember ever doing it.

  15. Wow hun. No child should go through those types of things. I was over protected and hated it. I need to rethink that...

    Realizing it was wrong is the first step in not repeating the cycle. Hugs!


  16. I think being aware of the cycle and remembering what it felt like as a kid will help keep you from perpetuating it.

    I've been there, too, and I've been around a lot of kids. There have been a few that have driven me way past crazy, but I have never had the urge to hurt a single one of them because I know that there is nothing a child could ever do to deserve it.

    Plus you always have to worry about those damn nanny cams...


  17. It's a difficult road. A difficult place to be, mentally. I was spanked as a child, but I wouldn't say I was abused. I don't recall having things thrown at me or having harsh punishments aside from an occasional butt whooping.

    I do know, however, that as a parent you need to stop. Refresh. Put things in perspective. It's so easy to get so busy and lose site of perspective. You expect action A out of your child, and when you don't get start to think they're purposely acting out. Keeping in mind that they have their OWN minds and will react differently than other children, even their siblings, is a lesson I'm learning right now.

    Frustration can cause you to LOSE YOUR MIND. Honestly. I've been very close to teetering, several times, over the past two years. If you try and try and try to get the results you want and it STILL doesn't work? You get frustrated, and if it involves other people (the children), you get angry. Frustrated and angry, you lash out. Some with words, some with physical release.

    We all hope we can contain our anger. We all hope we can reel it back in and find perspective. It's a goal of those who stop and analyze, but some parents are so overrun and strung out, they don't have the energy, inclination, or resolve to do what's right.

    Cycles can be broken. My husband is a product of a different type of cycle and he's breaking his as we speak. :) Together, he and I are hoping to break yet a different type of cycle. Knowledge is power, and it's more than half the battle. If you recognize what you don't want, it's that much easier to figure out what you DO want. :)

  18. I and my 4 younger siblings are survivors of physical, emotioanl, sexual and psychological abuse, and this post really rang with me. Only one of my family has kids, a little girl, and my sister is constantly terrified of turning into our mum - in fact the worst thing you can say to any of us is 'you sound like your mum'.

    There is hope though, my SO is also a survivor, he had an even worse start than me, but he is one of the best parents I ever met. He has a son who he raised alone, who is now in college, a smart articulate young man who treats his dad like his best friend, and a 5-year-old daughter. The relationship between them speaks volumes about how well he has broken the cycle.

    I don't have any kids, but I teach under-fives, and the hardest thing is looking at the size of them and wondering how anybody human could wilfully hurt such little defenceless things.

  19. Hi ... stopping by from SITS. Congruatlations on your SITS day.
    This post really touched me ... especially that haunting picture of the little boy. It just broke my heart. Because I've seen that same look on my own 4 year old's face. I didn't grow up in a family that spanked and I've never hit my son, but I have felt the blind anger and frustration that could lead someone with less self-control to hit. What I have done is yelled. A lot. And there's some research to suggest that yelling can be just as damaging to a child as spanking. So when my son crawled into my lap, buried his face in my neck and whimpered, "Mommy, you're always yelling at me," I knew I needed some help diffusing my anger so he wouldn't be on the receiving end of it. I checked in with my therapist to get some anger management strategies and enlisted my husband to help get our son ready for school in the mornings , which was a major flashpoint for yelling whenever we would run late. And I'm happy to say that in the last week, there have been fewer tears and more smiles all the way around. He's only 4, so I know he's going to continue to push my buttons and piss me off -- after all, we haven't even hit adolescence yet -- so I'm working on lowering my boiling point so I don't lose my cool.
    Thanks for a great post ... lots to think about.

  20. Dorkys, I've had similar struggles and when I became a parent I was overwhelmed with realizing that I have no idea what a healthy relationship parent/child relationship looks like. Completely terrified I had to set up some boundaries for myself. As time has gone on I've changed how I discipline my children and now practice a no-hit, non-violent, non-punitive parenting. This was a journey for me. I wrote about that in two different guest blog posts here: and here:

  21. This cycle can totally be changed. I grew up in a family that hit first, talked later. I waited until I was in my late 30's to have my chilren and can count on one hand the times I have ever touched my kids. At that, it was a single swat on the bottom for a major infraction. I would however, give myself time out's if I was tempted to take anger out on them. They're both in college now and talk about having had "dream childhoods."


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