As a child, I was a victim of emotional and sexual abuse, as well as several "spankings" at the hands of my father. The spankings would occasionally become sexually abusive in the sense that I could tell he got turned on by hitting me and by having so much power over me. I still have nightmares about my father chasing me down halls or forcing his way through locked doors so he could hit me. I should add that physically my father didn't hit me in a way that most people would consider abusive. He used his hand and seldom left marks. But it was still a traumatic and painful experience for me, and I could tell he enjoyed doing it. (His typical pattern was to call me names and taunt me until I yelled something back at him and then hit me for being rude.)
I've been able to talk to therapists and friends about every aspect of my abuse except the spankings. When I've tried to talk about that, I generally run into responses along the lines of, "Well, I spank my kids and I don't think it hurts them," or "Yeah, but what are you going to do if a kid runs out in traffic? He's too young to understand logic." (My response to the latter argument is, "Look, I work with Alzheimer's victims. Many of them can't understand logic either. That doesn't mean I can hit them. That means as the responsible party, I have to be extra careful about their safety when we're in a potentially dangerous situation. That means WATCHING them, HOLDING hands, giving GENTLE and FREQUENT reminders, and TAKING the person OUT of the situation if I don't think I can guarantee their safety.")
I'm writing this not only to share my experience, but to add my voice to the people who believe there is absolutely no excuse and no "harmless" way to strike a child. Violence hurts. Period. Twenty years after the fact, I still suffer from depression and suicidal impulses. I panic in crowds where my personal space is invaded. I'm a perfectionist, terrified of making a mistake and being "punished" for it. Worse, I am a "cutter," a self-injurer, punishing myself right where my father left off.
I can't understand why the laws against battery and sexual assault offer less protection to children than to adults. I can't understand why even the most intelligent adults I've spoken to--people who have dedicated their lives to ideals like equality and non-violence--still believe spanking is okay. I can't understand why a man who would never dream of hitting his wife would hit his two year old child. Until I came across PTAVE and Project No Spank, I was beginning to believe I was the only adult in the world asking these questions. Your site has given me an enormous sense of support and helped me start to deal with the pain and betrayal I still feel from being hit as a child. Thanks for all you're doing. I'm sorry this message is so long and disjointed, and I hope you'll understand why I can't sign my name.