Tom Johnson's letter to the Austin Chronicle
September 17, 2010

Need To Be Concerned With 'Sexually Abusive Spanking'

Dear Editor,

Your story ["Sex Offenders Exposed," News, Sept. 10] on the indiscriminate nature of sex offender registries was eye-opening and will hopefully spur sensible reforms of this important crime-fighting tool. At the same time, however, the law has a serious blind spot when it comes to protecting minors: sexually abusive spanking.

Looking at documented cases of this type of abuse, you find that the overwhelming majority involve nonparental authority figures spanking children or teens for sexual motives under the guise of discipline. Just last week in the UK, former school headmaster Derek Slade was convicted of systematically exploiting students this way during his tenure. The legal boundaries of corporal punishment are so lax and vague, unfortunately, as to embolden would-be users of this particular modus operandi, while leaving victims and concerned parties unsure of their rights and often without redress. Especially problematic are situations where a victim's custodial parent knows about the spanking and is naively on board with it, perhaps citing or hoping for improvements in their child's behavior, which serves to amplify the abuser's in loco parentis status.

As long as this loophole for accessing unrelated minors' "bathing suit area" goes unscrutinized, kids will be easier targets for sexual violation.

Tom Johnson
Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education


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