Paddle maker up against national battle
By Jennifer Reeger TRIBUNE-REVIEW, June 25, 2007

First, Susan Lawrence fought The Rod. Then she battled the Wee Wacker.

Visit Sue Lawrence's
Now the Massachusetts mom and anti-spanking activist has zeroed in on New Kensington, home of Joey Salvati and his Spanking Paddle.

"It's just appalling to me that people would sell things like that to make money and hurt children," said Lawrence, director of Stop the Rod, an anti-spanking group. "I don't think people should hit each other."

Salvati, 44, who owns a home remodeling business and sends free wooden paddles to parents across the country, said he's just doing what God asked him to do four years ago.

"I don't care what people have to say about me," he said. "I've got thick skin."

Salvati, father of two grown children, said his idea to make 2-foot-long paddles and give them away came to him during his normal prayer time in the shower in 2002.

"It came, 'Make paddles. Give them away,'" he said. "I blew it off. The fourth time, it came real hard."

Salvati began giving away paddles locally. Then he turned to the Internet, offering the paddles in exchange for $5.75 shipping.

"I'm not trying to make money on it. I don't care about the money," he said. "I'm just doing what I'm supposed to do."

Salvati's Web site, along with a guide he sends with the paddles, detail paddling rules. He doesn't recommend using the paddle on children younger than 6. He offers a "swat guide" -- one swat for disrespect and five for behavior such as drug and alcohol use. He tells parents to use the paddle on themselves first to test their strength.

Salvati also put together appointment slips so kids and parents can schedule spankings.

"It's so the parents aren't angry when they do it," he said.

He tells parents to hug their children and tell them they love them after a spanking.

"Most of the people I've given it to would tell you it sits in the corner," he said. "They don't need to use it. Or they used it one time and that was it. It's an attention-getter."

He estimated he's sent out 1,200 to 1,300 paddles.

"I've probably given away 150 locally; the rest are all everywhere else. I think I'm in everything but two or three states," he said. "I just sent one to Hawaii a week or so ago."

He's sent another to England. A German man asked for the dimensions so he could make a paddle himself.

On both sides of the 2-foot-long paddles appears a stop sign with the message "Never in Anger." One side says, "Love, Joey" and the other warns, "Joey is not responsible for the misuse of this product."

Lawrence said there is no proper use for such products. Her Stop the Rod group began four years ago when she discovered an advertisement in a home-schooling magazine for "The Rod," a flexible nylon whip with a cushioned handle marketed as a tool to discipline children.

"As a homeschooling mother myself, I just thought why are the homeschooling families advocating this?" she said. "I told some friends about it and we decided to start a campaign and it just kind of grew. And I got more people interested in fighting that one."

After that device was no longer marketed, the group moved on to the "Wee Wacker," another flexible whip-type instrument.

"I ended up ordering one just to see what it was, and it was a really nasty thing that would sting," she said.

That company has since gone out of business.

As far as Lawrence can tell, Salvati is the only person marketing a paddle for children on the Internet. She finds his rules "perverted."

"People get that associated in their minds that love means being hit. That's very dangerous, and that leads to all kinds of perversions," she said. "In my way of thinking, when someone hits you, they do not love you."

So she and her group of 400 activists have been e-mailing Salvati, New Kensington City officials, business groups and state officials demanding he stop sending out paddles.

"We've really tried to get people to put some pressure on Mr. Salvati to stop this," she said.

E-mails have come into New Kensington City Hall over the past couple of months from all over the country, but Mayor Frank Link said there's nothing he can do.

"The issue is: Is he doing anything illegal? But he's not," Link said. "I don't know what they think I can do as a mayor. He's selling paddles. He's not selling guns or whatever. As far as we know, he's abiding by the law."

Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., has proposed legislation that would make it illegal to market or sell devices to be used solely for hitting and whipping children. Markey's office drafted the legislation last year at Lawrence's urging. A spokeswoman said Markey is still looking for a Republican co-sponsor before he introduces the bill.

Salvati said he's ready for a fight against such legislation. If it would pass, he'd continue sending paddles.

"God told me to make them," he said. "God's going to have to tell me to quit."

Jennifer Reeger can be reached at or (724) 836-6155.

See related: FOX Television Stations, Inc. Gives Free Advertising to Maker of Product that Endangers Children



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