Tanya Cassingham's letter to Dr. Owens
August 27, 2001

Dear Dr. Owens,

Thanks for your reply. I know this is an emotionally charged issue. I must admit that I have absolutely no scientific authority in this area; thus, I will forward a statement from Dr. Straus which cites several references that may be of interest.

A little background: I have lived in the Deep South all my life and grew up in a typical middle-class neighborhood. Many of my friends were spanked when we were kids. The lower the parent's educational background, the more likely they were to be spanked. (I was lucky to have college-educated parents.) While this is totally anecdotal, I have definitely seen a correlation between those kids I knew who were spanked and those who weren't: the spanked kids were much, much more likely to be into drugs, have lower earnings and lower self-esteem, and use violence as a means of expression. I know this is not scientific, but there it is.

I have seen tiny children being slapped in the face, whacked on the butt and every other part of their little bodies, have their arms yanked to the point of dislocation (yes, I saw this happen in a mall); all these events took place in public in broad daylight in the city of Atlanta or New Orleans. Not one person intervened. Every single one of those incidents I witnessed were by non-whites: either Latina or African American. So when this study (of 100 middle-class white families) is published, all most of us see is the banner headline "Spanking is OK after all!" And that's why this behavior goes on and on, in public, without any shame or consequence, and no one intervenes. Because the experts say it is OK.

Once in a mall I stood up to a 300 lb Cuban man who had just back-handed his 25 lb daughter across the face; while his wife cowered in the background I strode up and challenged his right to strike the child in such a manner. His reply: it was none of my f***ing business and until there was a law against it he would spank his child in any damn way he saw fit. His stinking mouth was so close to mine when he screamed this at me, he actually spit in my nostrils. Although I shook for an hour afterward, I will never forget the look of amazement on that child's face, that anyone had stood up for her.

I have never known any parent who calmed down and later spanked the child without anger. It is always done in anger and frustration. And I think that is a very, very sad thing to teach our children. And a very unfortunate thing to condone.

Tanya Cassingham

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