To the administrators of local, state, and federal agencies responsible for protecting children:
Today I read yet another report of child abuse stemming from the issue of hitting children with belts. This particular parent took it too far, got arrested, and therefore made the news. But my concern right now is for the children whose stories never make it to the service agencies that are designed to protect them, and therefore continue on living in such abusive environments.
I was informed not long ago by a Social Services Agent that it is okay to hit children with belts, or other objects, as long as the punishment “does not leave a mark”. I was both astounded and repulsed to learn that this practice is legal.
This is a disgusting and outdated policy that must be terminated immediately.
Hitting a child with a belt, or any other object, is abuse. End of story.
It is obviously incredibly harmful to the physical well-being of the child whether there is a “mark” left on the child or not, as it is a deliberately injurious act against the child. But it is also deeply damaging to the mental and emotional well-being of the child and does nothing but perpetuate the cycle of abuse.
To beat a child with a belt, or any other weapon, requires an inordinate use of force and is without exception, the pre-meditated use of violence against a child. There is a process taken by the parent in every case, in which a) they become angry or upset by the child’s behavior, b) determine the child’s behavior is bad enough to warrant such severe punishment, c) retrieve their weapon-of-choice, d) return to the child, e) force the child into a position that enables the beating, and f) carry out a completely rage-driven beating of the child.
By the time the punishment is inflicted, the child has lived in deep fear for an unnecessary length of time and the adult has had more than ample opportunity to choose a wiser approach to correcting the behavior. Not to mention that such punishment demands the use of the adult’s larger stature and brute force to inflict, which should be clear enough evidence that there is something horribly wrong with it!
And any person who goes so far as to remove the child’s clothing in preparation for such punishment is also committing undeniable sexual abuse on top of the physical abuse.
Children who grow up being beaten with belts too often choose to inflict the exact same method of punishment on their own children, which is only one example of the clear evidence that such practices cause irreparable mental and emotional instability.
Not only do they perpetuate the abuse in their adult lives, but they themselves become completely incapable of understanding the harm they cause due to the false concept that “they turned out just fine”. But no, they did not turn out just fine. Not only are they are emotionally disconnected from their children, and have lost all ability to understand the perspective of a growing child in an adult-oriented world, but they are also so deeply damaged that the only response they have to disappointment or anger is violent aggression. That is an obvious problem!
Beating a child with a belt, or other weapon, does not promote any kind of respect or understanding in the parent-child relationship and instead drives the child into a fear-based existence in which any potential trust of their parent is lost. The child comes to learn that mistakes will be met with the gross infliction of pain and injury, whether there is a”mark” left on their body or not. It conditions the child to believe that any error they make in life will result in a painful loss of comfort and dignity, and therefore causes them to live in fear not only as they are growing up but also in their adulthood. Fortunate indeed are the ones who seek therapy to heal from such traumas, but far too often that is not how the story goes.
This method of punishment is a fear-driven tactic established centuries ago that has long since been proven ineffective and immensely damaging. There have been countless studies done on the effects of corporal punishment, and the fact is absolutely clear that there are exceedingly more effective methods of behavior correction and establishing consequences.
In the interest of summary and ease-of-understanding, I have included an infographic below detailing many such studies, that also links to the original report of same provided by MST Services, which aims to break the cycle of criminal behavior. Note that this infographic primarily addresses studies about corporal punishment and spanking, defined as “a physically non-injurious hit administered with an open hand to the buttocks”. If so much can be learned just from the practice of spanking – as defined above – then it is absolutely blasphemous that the use of anything even more damaging is permissible.
It is high time that these types of practices be criminalized as the abuse for which they are. Parents who undervalue the privilege of raising children so greatly that they physically abuse their children with any sort of tool (i.e. anything other than their own open hand) do not deserve the blessing of raising those children.
Being a parent is just as much a learning experience as being a child, and each day requires a fresh spirit and approach to loving care. It is not my position that children never make mistakes or never need to be corrected, as obviously that idea is ludicrous. But adults make mistakes in life too, and it would be blatant assault if, for example, we made a mistake at work and our employer responded by inflicting any sort of physical harm on us, especially with the use of a weapon or tool. That would be considered unarguably illegal and the employer would be arrested and charged with the crime of assault and battery.
So how on earth is it acceptable to do that to a child???? How can anyone think that it is okay to inflict harm on a child who is growing up and trying to navigate this fast-paced and incredibly demanding thing we call life?? How is it permitted that our physically smaller young people, who seem to have no actual rights of their own, can be battered in any way by the very people who are supposed to love and care for them???
It is time that all parents aim to understand the perspective of their children and guide them into a well-adjusted adulthood by providing a safe, protective, and loving environment. Yes, such an environment will require discipline from time to time, but it never, under any circumstance, should require inflicting pain and irrefutable damage on a child. NEVER!
I plead with you, as organizations whose primary purpose is to protect our children from harm, to criminalize the practice of using belts, paddles, hangers, hairbrushes, or any other tool to inflict any level of harm on a child. You need to remove the stipulation that its acceptable as long as no mark is left on the child, and simply criminalize the behavior for the assault and abuse that it is!
Children are valuable human beings that are living every day of their lives completely dependent on their parents, teachers, and caregivers for all of their needs. They deserve to be loved and treasured, and any parent that finds their child so undeserving of that that they intentionally hurt them, should be removed from the position of provider and prosecuted as the violent offender that they are!!!
Please, put an end to this. It is time to establish these practices as violent criminal behaviors, prosecute accordingly, and protect our young people from all of this unnecessary harm.
I will mail a copy of this letter to all of the agencies that I am aware of but I know I will miss some. So if you are reading this, please sign the petition on Change.org and feel free to print a copy of this letter for your own local agencies.
NO CHILD DESERVES TO BE BEATEN WITH A BELT OR ANY OTHER WEAPON!
© Danielle Hewitt (of Loving A Fit Life) and DanielleHewitt.com (including LovingAFitLife.com) 2011 – 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Danielle Hewitt and DanielleHewitt.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.