I want to provide my heartfelt endorsement of your site and support the much-needed work you have undertaken. It takes great courage to face the issues of spanking, especially spanking as sexual abuse. Our culture tries so hard to ignore the needs of children for respect, safety, kindness and acceptance. Thank you for standing up to society’s norms on behalf of abused and mis-used children locally, nationally and internationally. I have read a great deal about abuse – physical, emotional and sexual – but the nospank web site is the first place outside my therapy that the sexual aspect of physical violence associated with “spanking” is acknowledged. Thank you for allowing me this venue to share my story with you, Pam, Ben and other visitors to your site.
Dear Pam and Ben,
From personal experience I can validate the reality of spanking as sexual abuse. I know I was spanked many more times than I actually remember, because my memory of childhood events has gaps. But my body readily remembers how it feels to get hit – with a hand, a belt, a stick, etc. If I see someone being hurt or even just read about it happening to others, my body immediately responds to the specific pain of being hit with the described object. I know what it feels like to be so scared and hurt that you wet yourself. And how the urine stings the skin as it runs down the legs. The longest-standing memories I have are hearing those awful words – “Pull your pants down! All the way down! Bend over! Now! Further!” My father would hold me down by the back of my neck if I tried to run away or cover my buttocks with my hands. “Move your hands!” Any struggling or complaining, hiding or running would only make the punishment worse, so I must have learned to accept the inevitable when I was very young. The burning humiliation of being forced to undress while someone is watching intently, or worse, being forcibly undressed, will never leave my mind. Even as I write these words a searing hot blush of shame overwhelms me.
It took years for me to recognize that the embarrassment and humiliation of being spanked were burned into my soul – and the brand was one of being sexually violated. This was so strongly imprinted so early on in my life that I can only achieve orgasm through a vivid fantasy of being stripped, held down, and variously punished. I have felt great self-disgust at this “need” for as long as I can remember going back to when I was 4. Even now I find it very difficult to reconcile my outer persona as an educated professional and mother of four, with this inner unwanted and shameful need.
My therapist has helped me to look back at myself as a child, from the perspective of my own mothering practices of attachment parenting and never hitting any of my children. There is only one way to explain the development of such a perversion. It derives from being spanked frequently, probably from a young age, naked from the waist down, while being told, “You deserve what you get, and more, for being such a bad girl.” I can’t imagine my children doing anything that would justify hitting or shaming them. How could my mother stay aloof from it all and not answer her child’s cries for help? How could my father justify the violence and be so cold and calculating while beating me?
The long-term consequence of spanking is a life-long struggle with depression, dissociation, and self-injury. Nothing can elicit a greater fear in me, ironically, accompanied by sexual excitement, than the sight of a belt being un-buckled. It makes me feel physically ill and sends me into a state of panic. Just viewing a belt stops my breathing, turns my insides into knots, triggers my muscles to contract, and the skin on my neck, lower back, buttocks, legs and genitals to crawl. Yet the abuse remains necessary as part of my sexual fantasies. I feel fortunate that I have never acted out these fantasies as an adult but I certainly have an understanding of those that do so.
I have been reading Lenore Terr’s Too Scared to Cry (1990) describing children’s “post-traumatic play” after traumatic experiences: “The everyday play of childhood is free and easy. It is bubbly and light-spirited; whereas the play that follows from trauma is grim and monotonous ... it may not change much over time. Post-traumatic play is obsessively repeated. It is grim. It repeats parts of the trauma. Further more, it requires a certain set of conditions in order to proceed … the steps are rigidly followed in every re-enactment.”
Does that sound familiar? Is that not what those of us struggling with our traumas of abuse do? We re-enact the original traumas over and over again, in fantasy and in reality: a ritual re-experiencing of the original traumas in an effort to purge them from our bodies. When I would no longer cooperate with my father’s ritual spankings (that were frequently a result of my mother’s complaints about something I had or had not done) I began the re-enactment of the punishments by “punishing” myself for doing or thinking “bad” things. I now believe that this is how I started self-injuring. The only emotional release from intense feelings that I could find was that brought about by hurting myself. Of course as the physical abuse lessened the psychological abuse continued on. One of my mother’s favourite comments to me when she was mad at me was, “I hope that when you have kids they will be as bad as you and then you’ll be sorry!” What a positively horrid thing to say to a child!
As Terr notes, reliving the trauma alone cannot bring true relief or closure. The pain of sexual abuse is a life sentence. Therapy, medication and an understanding of what, how and why we are the way we are, might bring some small measure of relief, but it will never completely go away. We must fight against the perpetuation of these tortures of children! The generation-to-generation heritage of these appalling behaviours must be curtailed. The chain must be broken. The only way to heal the world is to respect and honour all people – and children are people too.
Tiina, 13 September 2002
“People are not for hitting – children are people too!” www.nospank.net/valusek.htm