Open letter to Focus on the Family
By Tom Johnson, July 22, 1996

July 22, 1996

Focus on the Family
Colorado Springs, CO 80995

Dear Focus on the Family:

While this letter is in response to Kent Yinger's letter of June 24 (copy enclosed), it is addressed to all concerned members and associates of your ministry.

Thank you for your last correspondence. I am reassured to know that Dr. [James] Dobson is in fact aware that spanking can be a form of sexual abuse. I now submit to you that Dr. Dobson would do future generations of children a tremendous service by sharing this awareness with the vast multi-media audience he commands.

It cannot be disputed that public ignorance about this type of cloaked sexual abuse is greatly encouraging, if not enabling, to the abusers. Nor can it be denied that the victims, however statistically marginal they may be, stand to endure lifelong mental suffering and spiritual devastation. You are familiar, I trust, with the traumatic nature of any kind of sexual abuse, especially when it is done repeatedly and coercively. Just imagine how this trauma must be compounded for the victims who are told--not only by the abuser but also by general society--that such degradation is what they get for being "naughty" and that they should be glad someone loves them enough to provide this essential "discipline" in accordance with God's will ("applied where intended," no less). How likely do you suppose it is that these children will receive the protection and healing comfort that are availiable to victims of abuse which takes less ambiguous, widely acknowledged forms?

I hope it will not seem that I am unfairly singling out Dr. Dobson with this critical exhortation, for he is hardly alone in his silence. It is chiefly because of his prominence as an advocate of spanking that I feel he has a particular responsibility to address this related pathology (which he may well have seen illustrated while serving on the Meese Commission), just as he confronts the simpler issue of physical abuse in corporal punishment (any form). Moreover, despite all that I find objectionable in his philosophy, Dr. Dobson does come across to me on balance as someone with genuine concern for children and a sense of integrity. I can only think it would be a blessing indeed if he could bring those virtues to bear against this age-old abomination of perverse and moralistic child abuse.

Tom Johnson

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