Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How can you hurt someone you love?

I am a 36 year old disabled woman who has been variously labeled "fat", "crazy", and "a hippie weirdo." I now try to embrace labels that others use in an attempt to "shame" me into being someone more "acceptable". I am passionate about issues of race/racism, criminal (in)justice, fat acceptance, and mental health advocacy. I blog at My Name Is JuJuBe and I am on the team at The Intersection of Madness and Reality
Trigger warning for discussion of violence against children
I always cherished dinner time with my family. My parents, my sisters and I would all gather around the table for a home cooked meal, discuss our day, play games and laugh. But once or twice a month we would go out to dinner. And I DREADED it! Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed a nice restaurant meal with a fun family atmosphere. But the part I hated was that my aunt and uncle used to always accompany us, along with their two children. And inevitably, whenever I spent time with my cousins, the younger one, would always get beaten for some infraction. My aunt would even drive with one hand on the steering wheel and use the other to reach into the back seat deliver the blows.

While at home, a wooden spoon was her weapon of choice (I think that must be an Italian thing) She used that spoon on a regular basis until my cousin got wise and hid it from her. Of course, that didn't stop the beatings... she knew how to improvise.  When we used to go to their house to play board games, it was almost guaranteed that my cousin would first "be given something to cry about" and THEN be told to "wait until your father gets home" When his father walked in the door, he would pull my cousin into his bedroom and we would hear banging on the walls, yelling and crying. And I always would have an almost  suffocating feeling of anxiety.

When my cousin entered school he had behavioral problems... kicking, pinching, hitting and biting. My aunt and uncle could not understand where he learned this behavior from (gee I wonder what made him think violence was an answer). So, they tried to beat it out of him. He was the angriest child I ever met in my life! He used to draw pictures of himself blowing up crowds of people. I seriously feared he was going to grow up to be a serial killer. As he got older he began to become a recluse. He would spend hours and hours in front of his computer instead of in the company of other human beings. I think he was trying to make sure he didn't do anything that would result in yet another beating.

I can't comprehend having a child and then hurting my child for the slightest infraction.  A little whack on the butt or legs immediately following inappropriate behavior is one thing (not that I would do even that, but in my opinion it is not necessarily abusive). But relentlessly beating a child at the slightest provocation? I just don't get that! THEN, to turn around and beat them some more because they got physically violent with another child? Makes no sense.

We talk all the time about how men should not beat women because females are usually at a disadvantage according to size and strength, but then we accept the idea of parents beating their children, who, by and large, are far smaller and weaker than any woman I know.

I do not think physical abuse makes a child more obedient. As I said before, an occasional spanking is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if a child is doing something dangerous. But, using fists on a child? Or a belt? A wooden spoon? Those are weapons, and I refuse to use weapons on ANYONE, let alone someone who is young, small, and depending on me for love and guidance. And I could never imagine disrespecting a child by striking them in the face.

Then again, I am the type of person who abhors violence completely. I could not even bring myself to punch a man who had just hit me, and he was insisting that I do it. I have never been in a physical fight in my life, and when I do see any kind of physical altercation, I almost get to the point of having a panic attack. I could never see the appeal of watching someone receive a beat down. Somehow though, in our culture we seem to be taught that "might is right" and that the most effective way to control another human being, INCLUDING A CHILD is to "beat some sense into them".

Everyone I knew when I was younger used to make fun of me for being a "hippie" because I was always talking about peace, love and understanding. But I always subscribed to the idea: Make love, not war.