Real Love Doesn’t Hurt

Over the past few weeks two NFL players have been suspended for domestic violence. Ray Rice, for abusing his then fiancé, and Adrain Peterson for abusing -not disciplining- his four year old son.

When it came out that Rice had beaten his fiancé and been caught on camera a year ago, there was an immediate backlash. Rice apologized, calling his actions inexcusable. Hashtags popped up all over twitter condemning violence against women.

Personally the first thing that came to my mind when I read the Rice story was that he had probably had a violent childhood himself, that he never learned how to solve conflict or deal with strong emotions using words, he learned to deal with these things using his hands. I thought that he and his now wife should see a therapist and seek healing. That’s not to excuse in any way what he did, but abusive situations aren’t black and white. I don’t believe that anyone is born abusive, I believe that abuse is a learned behavior. Every abuser was once a victim. Abuse is a vicious cycle.

I think Adrian Peterson’s story is a perfect example of where this viscous cycle begins. I can’t think of anything that makes me angrier than child abuse. It’s disgusting beyond words the way Adrian Peterson’s case has been handled.

First of all, there has been no apology just a statement thinly veiled as an apology to defend his abuse as “discipline”.

Unfortunately Peterson wasnt the only one defending his actions. Running back Reggie Bush issued this statement “I most definitely discipline my daughter. I have an almost one year old daughter. I definitely will try to not leave bruises but I definitely will discipline her harshly depending on the situation”. Peterson’s mother said, “whipping is not abuse but about love.”

Seeing statements like those should have been shocking. They weren’t. They’re statements I’ve heard over and over again out of the mouths of countless people. That’s how deeply embedded violence against children is in our society, especially in the south.

Reggie Bush’s statement was particularly chilling. Disciplining an almost one year old? That is a baby!! A BABY! I can’t even put into words how ridiculous that is. All I have to say about that first sentence is that Reggie seriously needs to read up on child development. The fact that he said he would try to not leave bruises but would most definitely discipline her harshly?

Try to not leave bruises? Like sometimes bruises are just accidental and they happen, no big deal. He proudly announced that he will discipline his daughter harshly. The dictionary definition of harsh is this, “ungentle or unpleasant in action or effect” with these words next to it “grim, severe, stern, cruel, austere” Those are not the words that should describe a father.

The rationale here is bruises on Ray Rice’s girlfriend are a deplorable example of domestic violence, but bruises on a little girl, inflicted by her own father, the most important man in her life who’s top priority is to protect and care for her, that’s not domestic violence at all!! No, no, no that’s different, that’s discipline. Accidents happen. How else would she learn?

In fact, Adrian Peterson’s mother already explained it perfectly when she said that whipping isn’t abuse, it’s about love.

When a man loves a woman, sometimes he hits her, to teach her a lesson, to teach her how to behave. She deserves it anyway. After all, he really loves her. Now replace man with parent and woman with child and we have the pro spanking rationale.

Except I left out the excuse that every generation of parents has done it and all their kids “turned out alright”. I read an article in time magazine on why spanking is never ok, and the authors response to the cliche “I turned out ok” was that as a child she was molested, yet she turned out ok. You see, children turn out ok despite spanking, not because of it. The mere fact that someone is defending the person who hit them shows that they’re not ok. How did everyone react when Ray Rices wife defended him and said that she had a role in the beating? Exactly. There is no difference between women and children, except that children are the current second class citizens with no rights and no way to defend themselves. No one deserves to be hit.

Before I continue, let me share this article on the effects spanking has on girls. The findings on the release of oxytocin(a love hormone) to combat cortisol (a stress hormone) are especially telling.

Aside from the research citied in this article, (and I have provided only one study compared to the mountains of research done over several decades that all conclude corporal punishment is an unhealthy practice) I have a problem with a grown man laying a hand on a small child and calling that love. How hypocritical is it to teach a little girl that her father hitting her is “love” and that she “deserves” it, yet if her partner “loves” her and she “deserves” it, it isn’t love at all, it’s abuse.

Like I said, abuse is a vicious cycle. I would bet that Ray Rice was “disciplined” in the same manner as Peterson’s son and he repeated what he learned on his fiancé. We know that Peterson was physically punished as a child because he praised it in his statement. The cycle repeated itself on his four year old son. The victim became the abuser.

All physical punishment is abuse, because it is all intended to cause fear and pain. As a Christian mother, I don’t want to teach my children anything through fear and pain because that’s not how Jesus taught. Jesus taught with gentleness, compassion, and grace. Can you imagine Jesus hitting a child? I can’t. The bible says that love is patient, kind, not easily angered, it doesn’t say anything about sometimes love is hitting a child.

My husband will never physically punish our daughters because girls look to their fathers for an example of what their husbands should be like. I will never let my girls believe that any man, in any situation has the right to touch them in any way that they don’t approve of. I will never let them believe that men hit women or children no matter what the situation is, no matter how socially acceptable others allow it to be. We will never call it spanking in our home, because that word is a cover up for hitting. We cannot expect women to embrace bodily autonomy as adults if they are taught as children that someone else has so much power over their bodies that they have the right to hit them when they see fit. We cannot model to our children that it is ever ok to hit for any reason.

There is a ministry whose page I follow. A few days ago they posted an exert of a journal entry from a girl who had been abused. One line stood out to me, she said love is good and doesn’t hurt.

I don’t care what the reasoning is, I don’t care if it was just one hit that didn’t leave a mark, or several slaps that did leave marks. Hitting a child hurts them, and love is good and doesn’t hurt. Even dogs can be taught without hitting, so why couldn’t a child be taught without hitting.

The stories of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson are at the heart of the domestic violence problem we have in America where every nine seconds a woman is assaulted. Violence in adulthood comes from violence in childhood.

This isn’t to say that every parent who has used physical punishment is a child abuser. Like I said, it’s something that is deeply embedded in our culture. When my oldest daughter was born, I knew I never wanted to hit her for any reason. I knew I wanted to teach her without punishment, but I didn’t know how. I didn’t even know if anyone parented that way. I definitely didn’t know much at all about child development or what reasonable expectations looked like. I think there are a lot of parents out there like that.

Parenting can be done peacefully, without violence. If you want to parent differently, but don’t know how, there are links on this blog, there are Facebook pages and support groups (peaceful parenting, respected children for respected futures, gentle discipline support group) to help you get started and learn alternative ways to parent.

Let’s break the cycle and teach our children to solve conflict with their words and not their hands. Let’s teach them through our own behavior by using our words and not our hands when conflicts arise in our own homes.