Friday, July 29, 2011

*Sensitive* Another Anonymous Post on Spanking and Siblings

The following is a post from someone who has asked to remain anonymous.  As with previous posts of this nature, any comments will be strictly moderated. *NOTE:  I added the *Sensitive* warning to the title after hearing from several readers that it triggered strong memories for them.  Just as I was stunned and heartbroken by the responses from so many to the letter to the pastor dealing with the sexual side effects of spanking, I have been deeply saddened to read from so many who still experiences nightmares of their siblings being spanked.  :(

*************************

I have started and deleted this several times already, and am choosing to share this anonymously through a blogger who has spoken out against spanking.  I feel compelled to share this, but I am scared.  Secrecy was ingrained for too many years.  And I am scared that some people will read this limited, partial account and not see the full picture (can anyone ever really see the full picture?) and see my dad as a monster.  He is not, and he was not.  In many ways, he was a wonderful father.  And it has been many years since these events, and he and my brother have both changed dramatically and so has their relationship.  But I still have nightmares sometimes.

Growing up, there were a lot of misconceptions about my family.  In many ways, we were the perfect Christian fairy-tale.  My parents divorced when I was small.  Like most little kids, I was heartbroken and desperate for our family to be restored.  I heard the Bible verses about asking something in Jesus name, and that if two or more would agree on it, that it would be done.  I took that literally and never doubted that if I could find two or three people to agree with me in Jesus name, my parents would get back together.  I would even go up to random people in the grocery store while my mom was busy shopping and ask them to agree with me.  Two and a half years after the divorce was finalized, they remarried.

My parents returned to pastoring, and began closely following the teachings of Bill Gothard, which had been instrumental in my dad's change of heart.  One of the tenets of Gothardism is not limiting the number of children you will have.  After many, many miscarriages, my mother carried a miracle baby to term, and my little brother was born.

I only received a handful of spanking growing up.  A few from my mom for fighting with my sister or talking back, mostly when she was at the end of her rope.  They hurt, but they were never the kind that would be considered abusive by most people.  5 or 6 swats, usually with a belt or the cardboard rod from a clothes hanger.  Any red marks were gone within minutes.  I don't believe they ever resulted in any good, but not in terrible harm, either.  I probably got even fewer from my dad, partly because the time when they were divorced was when I would have been most likely to be spanked, and partly because I was a girl, and partly because he was in a healthier state of mind then.  The few I got were with a belt, and he always somehow managed to make it hit in the exact same spot each time, even with my limited attempts at wiggling.  I felt a lot more resentment about these, mainly because I felt that they were not fully deserved.  But if it had ended there, it might not have been that big a deal.

When my brother was born, a perfect storm hit.  He was a boy with very high needs (and almost certainly special needs, although my dad was adamant against ever having him tested).  He was the poster child for a strong will.  And my dad was in a very, very dark place.  He was abused.  He was spanked with a belt for wriggling during diaper changes by the time he could crawl.  Church services, evenings, any time my dad was around were punctuated by marathon spanking sessions, where my dad would insist on compliance that my brother refused to give and became an outlet for my father's depression.  Sometimes he would be hit well over 50 times in one session.  There were welts that would last a day or two.

But no one spoke up.  No one said that this was abuse.  After all, it was just spanking a strong willed little boy.  There were never any broken bones.  He was never hit with anything other than a belt or hand.  He didn't get cut with the buckle.  He was only beaten on the bottom and legs.  Once, and only once, did my dad hit him in the face.  It took us all by surprised because we were in a restaurant, and the only offense was that he didn't want to go to the restroom with my dad.  My brother immediately bit him back enough to draw blood. 

My brother was never one to give up, and he developed a hatred for my dad.  The older he got, the more he began to fight back.  Eventually, my dad was spanking less and less and my brother was attacking him more and more.   When my brother was so little, we watched their confrontations in mostly silent disapproval, but couldn't help but feel that at least sometimes my brother was able to even the score a little bit.  My mom believed that she had to submit to my dad's authority, even when she thought he was being too harsh.  She was too beaten down emotionally and verbally to do much else, although I don't think my dad ever hurt her physically.  I was confused.  Initially, I squashed any doubts by reading all that the religious spanking gurus said, which pretty much said that my brother deserved it.  One of my lifelong regrets is that I participated in it.  The stance then was that anyone taking care of him had the authority to hit him, and I spanked him several times myself, thinking that it would change his behavior if we were consistent.

I felt increasingly guilty, and stopped.  I was more and more scared by how much my dad was hitting him.  Later, I tried to intervene more by heading off tense situations and even speaking up from time to time.  The day that my dad hit him in the face, I said the most calculatingly hurtful thing that I could, and told him that I was sorry that he was our dad.  I could tell that it hit home, because we had always been so close.  He responded with a choked voice that God heard me say that.  I shot back, "And God saw what you did."

There were times, especially if the welts lasted more than a few hours, where I wanted to call the authorities.  But it was ingrained into us to not dishonor God and our father by cracking the facade.  I believed they would split up our family, and that my siblings and I would be separated.  Would that really be better than what we had now?  It couldn't really be abuse--my dad was just following what Gothard and all the other Christians taught about spanking.  The doubts would chase each other until I was exhausted.

Gothard talks a lot about taking up offenses.  He insists that only the individual who is directly wronged received grace to handle the situation.  I don't know.  Over the years, things gradually began to improve between my dad and brother.  As my dad came out of his depression, he was less angry and began to try to repair the relationship.  If anything, he wound up going to the opposite extreme in an effort to deflect the rage that had built up inside of my brother.  My brother is an adult now, and while the relationship between him and my dad has its scars, things are actually pretty good between them. 

But even years after the last time there was any physical violence towards him, I still have nightmares of my dad hitting my brother.  In some of them, I am the one hitting him.  I wake up in a cold sweat, stomach churning and acid rising up.  I choke back the sick feeling and remind myself that it was a long time ago and that things are better now.

All along, I heard lies and misconceptions.  So many people thought we were the perfect family.  I never heard any Christian speak out against what was happening to my brother when he was tiny.  All I head was the constant repetition of pro-spanking dogma.  Don't hit in anger (which my dad claimed he was following.  His underlying anger was obvious to me and others, but I don't think my dad really saw it in himself then.  Most of the time, he was cool, in control and sometimes even lightly joking about it.)   He was only hitting in approved places, with approved instruments, and he wasn't doing things that are obvious abuse like broken bones. He followed the right formulas.  But it hurt our family far beyond the physical pain that my brother endured.

I decided to share this because I desperately wish that someone had spoken up for my little brother years ago.  Instead, all we heard was encouragement to spank more until his will was broken.  Would it have made a difference to my dad if someone had spoken up?  Probably not.  But it would have made a difference to me.  It might have made a difference to my mom or my brother.  Please, speak up if you know of someone who is spanking too much, too hard, or too often.  And even if you agree with spanking, please, please don't encourage others to do it.  No matter how well you think you know the family, you don't really know what is going on. 

9 comments:

Vickie said...

Thank you for being brave enough to speak out. It must be a terrible thing to re-live in your brain and on paper. No children should have to go through what you and your brother (and your father) did. Keep spreading the word and someday this horrible practice will end. I have faith in that.

Thanks Dulce for giving these brave people a platform to share their stories.

Staci said...

(((hugs)))Anonymous. I pray that someday the nightmares will end and you will no long feel the guilt you do. And thank you for speaking out for those who can't or won't.

Pippi said...

That whole breaking the child's will idea really angers me. Nowhere does the Bible imply that God breaks our will or that parents should break their child's will. The responsibility is ALWAYS placed on the individual in Scripture to submit and control their own will. Spanking of that nature only interferes with this. So often I've said of my nephew that he will never learn self-control because he is never permitted to have any control whatsoever. And my family might look at him and his siblings and revel in their respectful behavior and facade of obedience, but I think my boys will be better equipped to handle life once they grow up. Trying to make a 6-year-old into a 15-year-old is just asking for trouble.
I have a little boy who is very defiant. And while it's hard to deal with the embarrassment when he hits me in public, or runs away in the store, and scary when he tries to take off in a parking lot, yet I feel comforted on another level knowing he is less subject to manipulation. If someone hurts him, he fights back. If they try to bribe him when he's angry, he spurns their advances, even a favorite toy or candy. If he's mad at someone, he tells me. Usually it turns out to be nothing, but I try to never let him think I'm upset with him for telling. He just has to learn a better way to handle it himself if possible.
Anyway, that was a bit long. I'm just saying I'd never want to break his will; God made him this way and if he learns to control it, he has a huge asset in it. Thankyou for your post.

Samuel Martin said...

"Sometimes he would be hit well over 50 times in one session. There were welts that would last a day or two."

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for your post. Please share more. Someone who reads your post might just renew their mind and see that the direction they are taking is not the best.

Keep finding those people to agree with you. I am praying for you and yours and the Bill Gothard's of the world and for dear people like you who still suffer from what you have experienced.

God bless,

Samuel Martin
www.biblechild.com

Faye said...

I have to say those were not spankings honey they were beatings. There is a difference, I pop my children.... one time, I get on their level, explain why they can't do so and so after I pop ONE time. They're young and when they get older to understand verbally I will not have to "spank". I grew up with hickory switches and belts and I swore I'd never do that to my kids. Yes they can get on your nerves but don't we get on their nerves I mean we're all human beings trying to survive on this planet. Spare the rod, spoil the child, shouldn't be taken literally, I'm sorry he had to go through that and I'm sorry that you had to witness such horror. Thank you for sharing.

Chantilly Patiño said...

Wow, this took my breath away. We had a lot of abuse in our home and unfortunately, it was part of both of my parents' childhoods. I also had a cousin who was special needs and was beaten constantly growing up. My sensitivity is further amplified my the fact that I married a man with low level special needs who was abused in childhood...spanked, slapped in the face frequently, beaten by his father to the point where they would have fist fights when he became old enough to defend himself. I hear where you're coming from and for both of us, I wish someone had spoken up. I wish they had reached out to us somehow, but too few people take action in these situations and that is truly a shame. I also understand that fear and confusion about taking a stand as a child. It takes a lot of discoveries before you get to the point where you can take a stand against your parents. Let me just say this though...none of that was your fault. It's not your fault that you didn't protect your brother, what could you have done? But, you're doing something important to help others and by asking people to speak up. I know it's hard not to feel guilty, I still do at times for not defending my siblings more. I did as much as I could get away with, but still I wasn't able to stop the abuse and that haunts me to this day. I just want you to know that it wasn't your fault. <3 Thank you for sharing your story with us.

Claire in Tasmania said...

"They hurt, but they were never the kind that would be considered abusive by most people. 5 or 6 swats, usually with a belt or the cardboard rod from a clothes hanger. Any red marks were gone within minutes."
The thing is, to me this does sound abusive. I was spanked growing up, very occasionally and with either a flat hand or a plastic spoon. The idea of a belt is sickening from my perspective.
Then one day I realised that children brought up in gentle discipline homes feel exactly the same way about *any* hitting of a child. I realised that the spankings I received were abuse (I don't hold that against my parents - I don't *feel* abused, and I know they were doing their sincere best) and that hitting and yelling and shaming my children is abuse. I'm still learning not to yell and shame, and sometimes I'm too rough physically as well. But by being honest I'm a step closer to freeing my family from this cycle of 'loving' abuse.

dulce de leche said...

Thank you all so very much for your comments and for making a difference! <3 <3 <3

Faye, I appreciate your comment and do not mean this as an attack, but want to say that you do not have to 'pop' your children at all, even once. If they are too young for you to reason with, then they are too young to reason out how their actions result in a spanking or to have the impulse control to resist. There are many positive ways to teach little ones that do not involve popping or hitting in any way. One of my favorite links is http://hippiehousewife.blogspot.com/2010/11/hows-of-discipline.html

:)

Melissa @ Permission to Live said...

I have many younger siblings. There were multiple spankings happening every single day. I have the nightmares and guilt too. Thank you for speaking out.