For years, one of the many points of contention in debates across the United States has been whether hitting a child is ever justified. Some believe that any type of physical punishment is wrong, while others think that a mild spanking can be a form of correction – while some parents feel that it is their right and their duty to whip their children for misbehaving. Falling into this latter camp is William Adams, a Texas judge who was caught on film beating his daughter with a belt.
Judge Adams' daughter Hillary put a video clip on YouTube this week that shows her father abusing her while her mother looks on. Hillary, who has cerebral palsy, set up a hidden camera to capture this footage, which suggests that these beatings were a regular occurrence. The judge's reasoning for harming his daughter was that she needed to be punished for illegally downloading music. A statement released by Judge Adams' lawyer can be found here, released a few days after he was quoted as saying "It happened years ago.. I apologized. It’s not as bad as it looks on tape."
As blogger Amanda Marcotte has pointed out, this kind of corporal punishment seems to line up with the kind of child-rearing practices promoted by fundamentalist Christians. The judge hasn't identified himself as a Christian (fundamentalist or otherwise), but he has run for election on a Republican platform, which on the more conservative end has a great deal of overlap with evangelical Christianity. Books by prominent evangelicals like James Dobson encourage parents to hit their children, sometimes with objects, to "correct" their behavior. Conservative Christianity also likes to remind wives and children that it is their duty to "submit" to the man in a household. This submissiveness all too often leads to unchecked patriarchal power and creates situations where a father feels well within his rights to beat his children. Hillary Adams, being both young and female, was doubly victimized by these beliefs.
Though there are many rational arguments over whether children should be spanked or not, any decent human being can agree that beating and whipping a girl is child abuse, especially if that girl is disabled. It's sad that a culture exists where this type of parenting is tolerated and even celebrated and encouraged, but this is the natural result of an extreme patriarchy. By bringing this viciousness to light, I hope that Hillary Adams and other victims like her can show just how dangerous corporal punishment can be for children.
The video that Hillary Adams uploaded can be seen here, but be warned that it is incredibly violent and highly disturbing.
Girl Museum Inc.