By DR. STACEY PATTON
The digital universe is full of viral videos of adults beating children. I view them warily, alert for triggers that catapult me back into the days of being viciously beaten by my adoptive mother, the wife of Pentecostal preacher with a penchant for sadistic violence in the name of “discipline.”
This latest video of a father, Greg Horn, beating his daughters with a cable cord for sneaking out of the house and for “twerking”—performing a popular sexually suggestive dance—zaps me to my childhood like a time machine. Watching the father heap unthinkable abuse on his own children, young girls in need of dialogue, firm and gentle guidance from a nurturing adult, renders me speechless.
This is how my adoptive mother used to whip me. Sometimes I was naked. “I’m not whipping no clothes,” she’d say. I can still see myself, like the two girls in this video, backed into a corner, small and quaking at the hatred she spewed with her hands and her mouth.
When I watched this horrible video, my fingers found their way to my right cheek, where the scars my adoptive mother inflicted feel like fleshy Braille, conveying coded messages of abuse that I see in the mirror on my face, legs, arms, and back. So many whippings. So many whippings I can’t even count. So many scars. Some of them have faded. Others I’ll die with.
As a young girl, I was not allowed to dance in my adoptive mother’s home–that would have been a reason for a beating. In the Pentecostal religion, dancing and listening to rap and other kinds of music was forbidden, viewed as “worldly” and ungodly.
But beating me with an extension cord until welts formed, until my skin was broken was somehow seen as okay in my home and in the larger black community I belonged to.
For all the people who think that it’s okay to beat a child with a cord, take a look at my scars. Look at them. Look at them real good.
Today I am 35 years old, and these scars have been with me since age 7, when my adoptive mother flailed away at me with a cord, much like the father did in that video. The night she scarred my face is a night that I’ll never forget: the screaming, the pleading, the stinging, the smell of my own flesh burning, the electricity ripping through my body. The sound of that cord cutting the air. Me kicking up my legs to try to block the blows. Me saying, “Stop mommy! I’m sorry mommy! I won’t do it again mommy!” Her grunting, yelling, breathing hard, spitting from her mouth, her voice sounding like a demon.
Every time I got whipped with an extension cord, the one thought that went through my mind was: I cannot survive this.
Why do we do this to our children? Beat them and scar them like slaves? And why do we call this good parenting? Why do we say things like “we need more fathers like Greg Horn?”
Every morning, when I look at my scars, I never say, “I’m glad my mamma whipped me,” or “I’m grateful that she beat me like that,” or “those whoopings kept me out of jail,” or “they made me the good person that I am today.” I don’t look at these scars and think, “This was love. This was discipline. Those beatings kept be from being beaten by the police or killed by some white person,” as I hear so many black folks say as a way to justify such cruelty against their children.
Getting whipped with a cord didn’t make me respect my adoptive mother. They were the ultimate breach of trust. The beatings put distance between us. They made me fear her. Hate her. Want to kill her. They didn’t teach me right from wrong. They taught me not to get caught doing wrong and they taught me early on that violence was the way to solve conflict instead of using critical thinking skills and proper communication. The beatings almost taught me to expect violence and to normalize it.
Ultimately, those beatings drove me to run away from my adoptive parents’ home and into the foster care system like legions of other abused black children who enter care. And far too many are becoming “crossover youth,” foster kids who end up in the juvenile justice and then the adult prison system. So if you think beating a child with a cord is good parenting, then don’t be surprised if your child ends up in one of these systems.
I watch this latest video and wonder what these girls are thinking, what they’re feeling toward their father. I wonder whether he is reacting to the unsettling sight and thought of his young daughters flaunting their budding sexuality, over-reacting horribly to what might be considered a normal source of discomfort. Or is he, like my adoptive mother was, an evil monster who can’t control his own responses, emotions, fears or frustrations?
I don’t know what the girls’ mother is like, but reportedly she saw the video online and called the police on her ex, the father. He has been indicted on charges of corporal punishment, as he should be. I applaud this mother’s actions even as she is being castigated by many people who think that she was wrong for calling the police on yet another black man who will likely do time.
As someone who miraculously managed to survive this kind of torture, I cannot for the life of me understand how anybody can rationalize this kind of behavior. These videos are often trailed by long comments on social media and Facebook threads where many people blame and insult the children. In the case of this “twerking” video, there were so many folk commenting that they were “little whores” and “bitches” that my stomach turned.
And I drew from well of my memories to put myself in those girls’ place. I knew their pain. Understood their jumbled emotions. Tasted their fear. Fingertips dancing over the legacy of hateful abuse that destroyed my childhood and marred my appearance.
No child deserves that kind of torture, regardless of what the parent (or abuser) might say to justify their choices, their lost control, anger management issues, and the unresolved pain and traumas they’re now inflicting on another generation. Children need guidance, not violence. Love, not lashings. Every child needs and deserves to feel safe in their homes. Safe, not scarred like me and Greg Horn’s daughters.
Dr. Stacey Patton, author of That Mean Old Yesterday – A Memoir, is an adoptee, child abuse survivor and former foster child turned children’s advocate, journalist, historian, college professor, and motivational speaker. She has written for The New York Times,Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Newsday and The Crisis Magazine. She blogs at Spare The Kids, where this piece originally was published.
1. Father Who Beat Daughters With Cable Wire For Twerking Should Be Charged With Child Abuse
2. Videotaped Beatings and Child Abuse Handbook Show Why Hitting Kids Is Dead Wrong
3. A Reformed Spanker Reveals Why She Wishes She Would Have Spared the Rod.
4. Spanking, Time-Outs and the Soul Train Line: Getting To the Discipline That Works For Us
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.
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Every time my mother spanked me as a child, I could feel her getting high off the power over me. For every stroke, I heard in my head “You hate me. This isn’t love. This can’t be love.”
Denene, what’s your take on spanking children?
Thank you for writing this. I hope you have found some peace.
I really like this article. I got upset when I saw the comments too. People said things like “those b*tches deserved it” and stuff. I can’t STAND when people say that stuff about kids!!!!!!!! It makes me sad the way people act/think sometimes esp. black pple.
I agree with you that beating children with cables and extension cords is wrong. I think any hitting of a child with wire should be recognized as child abuse in every state.
I wanted to let you know that the Greg Horn who was arrested in Dayton, Ohio in April 2013 for beating his daughters with the cable from his DVD player, is not the man in the viral “twerking” video. To my knowledge, the man in the viral video has not been identified or arrested yet. See: http://abc22now.com/shared/news/top-stories/stories/wkef_vid_12329.shtml
It’s really not a good parenting. Beating a child will only make them worst and will develop personality problems that could carry on till adulthood. No one deserves to be beaten, especially the children. They need true understanding, patience, care and love. Even some tend to point that beating is a way to discipline, well it’s NOT! So stop
My mother beat the living crap out of me when I was a child. Today I find it takes me alot of energy to stop myself from hitting another person when they get on my nerves. Wether it’s a guy or girl I want to teach them a lesson by smashing their face in- but I don’t only because cops exist! The minute you eliminate police from this world within minutes I would be walking around with a sword or axe and chopping off heads when someone disagrees with me! That is what being hit by my mom taught me!
I was beat with an extension cord, pot, broken golf club. No one did a thing Smh plus my grandma had the fear in us, if we called 911 she’d sworn she’d give us something worse to call for. I lived a life of physical and mental abuse. A lot of times I believed my grandma hated me and was mad because she had to take us. My father was in and out our life due to drugs, but when he was there my grandma used him to be the abuser. She would start crying out of no where and be like oh I just can’t take this girl. Which of course made my dad wanna choke me and he did. Or Either I’d stay away from home as long as possible so I wouldn’t have to deal with it, but soon I got tired and I fought back.. My dad that is. We went fist for fist round for round. I always lost but I was tired of being beat up me and my siblings. So by age 14 I got a joke and moved out and tried not to look back. I had to a few times because I was young but best believe I never return more than a few days or a month. Until I was 25 and he beat me so bad outside his apartment his friends couldn’t get him off. Bleeding from everywhere I ran and call the police and which my grandma told them it was my fault I had no business there and she didn’t see him do anything. Smh that she was had no care for me even the police didn’t believe her. After that I no longer came to help my dad or grandma until the day he died. Now I take care of grandma and yes she is still as mean as she was then. Mean enough to tell me if I had another child with my husband she would sleep in the streets. She doesn’t like kids. But I know God got me through my whole life and because of him I am a much better person than the person who raised me and I will always strive to be. Thanks for the article and for letting me write so much. This story just hit close to home. Stay blessed.
I know this is an old article but I just had to post. My parents whipped me naked with belts and extension cords too many times to count. I’ve got plenty of those looped scars. They would whip me from head to toe, so many lashings. I even have those scars on my labia from when my mom whipped my bare genitals with my legs spread apart. This abuse is so awful. I’ve never recovered from it.
I was whipped timeline :
Age 3: fan belt.. Potty training, slappings
5-6 years old leather belts (reading, two by four sticks (days of the week)
That was my school. At home
7-19 extension cords, high heels shoes, curtain rods, tree branches, pipes, fists. Being force to kneel all night long, stand all night long and kneel in raw rice salt and water and dared to get up. That was their form of discipline from wrong doing. I am forgiving them.. It is not worth wasting your life. It still hurts. But I am 25, I still have the scars from childhood.
Wow. I knew i was not alone. I dont know why this is exceptable in our community either. I remember being “BEATEN” with an extension cord myself. I had my right eye swollen shut, a busted lip , a marked up bleeding back and upper thighs and legs. This has traumatized me since the day it happened it turned out to bethe last of my brutal beatings, and my adoptive father told me how sorry he was and how he needed to stop and how it needed to stop. I had to go to school and say that i got elbowed in the eye playing basketball. Though months later he threatened me and i remember having to practically beg for my life and i was crying and pleading for mercy. And i was a 14 year old boy. I felt so worthless and pathetic. I think it was one of the reasons i became such a knucklehead so that i could feel “tuff” and “brave” again.
BTW my body also pretty marked up if these scars could talk man…. I remember it started out being spatulas and i had the choice some times between a belt and a spatula and i dont know why but i would always choose belt when given the choice so that mf spatula must have really hurt. But sometimes it would be house shoes extension cords really anything around at the moment
And the sorry ass excuse that its “punishment” or “discipline” in complete and total bs. I could and still to this day can see and remember that power crazed wild eyed look he would get. He beat me for the sole purpose of getting his anger and frustration out and i could tell it felt good to him and that he enjoyed it
And the thing was until i was around the age of 13 I honestly didnt realize that what was being inflicted upon me was indeed abuse. I remember some of my counselors at my summer camp were talking about child hood whuppins and how this and that happened. So you know going through what i had been through i was thinking man do i have some stories for them. So i start off like “mann you know youre getting a bad whuppin when you start bleeding” And they just got real quiet and look at me like wtf is he talkin bout and these were fellow african americans mind you, and one was just like ” uhh Marcus ima need you to stop talkin before I have to report your people to CPS or sum man” And all i could think of was man i thought this was a black thing i thought all of us were going through this. I walked over to my brother and i was like J***** were being abused and i explained the conversation i just had, and i was like we dont have to put up with this , because you know we thought it was just you know average american punishment, i couldnt believe it i think i cried and we were out in public too.
My God, Marcus, I’m so sorry this happened to you, brother. Truly. No human being should have to endure that kind of pain and anger, especially not a beautiful Black boy. Sending lots of love and light your way in hopes that you are taking the steps to heal; it’s been a while, but the pain, obviously, is still there. It is a perfectly acceptable response to see help with processing it all and making sure that the memories of your abuse don’t hold you stagnant—don’t allow you to move forward. I’m praying, too, that when you become a father (if you aren’t already), that you remember how awful it was to be on the receiving end of that torture and find more constructive ways to discipline your children without abusing them physically, mentally or emotionally. Babies need your love. Lots and lots of love. Peace to you, brother.
I can’t even imagine getting beat more than once with a cord. This happened to me once when I was 5 years old at the hands of my mother. Afterwards when she saw the marks that she left she told me to lie and say a cat scratched me. I went to school and told them what “really” happened. That was 1959 and nobody was reporting child abuse at that time. I never received an apology from her till the day she died. As a result I have suffered from hypervigilence, anxiety and panic attacks. When I was 15 years old she came after me because I said the s word. I pushed her away from me and told her never to hit me again. It was a turning point in our relationship and she never hit me again. I forgave her a long time ago to help me heal.
Your article brought a floodgates of tears from my eyes. I’m so happy you survived this horrific abuse. I hope she went to jail. Not that this part matters but I’m white and my dad was a doctor. I’m only saying this to say that this kind of thing happens in all cultures and unfortunately until the perpetrators get caught, do time or somehow get help it will most likely continue….thank you so much for bringing this to light.
Reading these notes from fellow survivors mirrored my own childhood beatings with extension cords administered by my mother, between ages 9-12. I’m in my 50s now and I sometimes experience flashbacks when touching extension cords. I have suffered PTSD, I know, due to my childhood experience. Once, several years ago, I asked my mother why she beat me like that and she wasn’t remorseful at all and said it made her feel good when she did it. We don’t have much of a relationship because I wasn’t willing to pretend that the beatings were just discipline. I know something must have happened to her as a child to make her think this kind of thing was okay, but its not, this is DEAD WRONG and never should have happened. I’m better these days. I have a loving husband and we have 3 wonderful adult-children that we loved and talked to a LOT, gave them time-outs when they were younger, or made them “sit in the corner”. There are so many other, better ways to discipline a child, other than hitting. I believe parents who abuse their children with cords, switches, belts or other objects that inflict injury and scars, are just taking the easiest, quickest, careless way of disciplining. I’ve had a wonderful therapist, read many self-help books, exercise everyday and try to stay positive. Some days I still experience pain and, yes, I’ll admit it – even anger, I know, I know – I must forgive my abuser so that I can remember WITHOUT anger. I plan on seeing her again and having this closer soon. I know I’ll live with the memories for the rest of my life, but I WONT LET THEM RULE ME. So, fellow survivors, I understand and hope we all of us find peace and strength. I Love You!!!!
My mom’s specialty was whipping my bare penis. She used belts, straps, extension cords and whips. It was agony, and she whipped my penis just as hard as she’d whip my butt. I was almost always whipped completely naked. This went on until I was bigger than her and could fight her off. This left my with physical and mental scars. Remembering the incredible pain just brings back hateful memories, so I try to block it out. I can forgive her but I can never forget. I don’t think I’ll ever be over it.
William, I’m so sorry this happened to you. You did not deserve this. No breathing being deserves this. My prayer is that you seek help that will get you closer to whole.