Hitting people is wrong, even if they are children

A colleague e-mailed me an article about corporal punishment the other day and it transported me back to when I worked investigating cases of child abuse. I am still haunted by this experience and I still carry battered little faces and bodies around with me. The physical trauma in some instances was horrific. The bruises fade however; the emotional and psychological trauma is longer lasting. God bless the courageous workers in Children's Services. They are assigned a job that is more difficult than most of us can ever understand.

When one adult hits another, we call it assault. When we hit children, we often call it discipline or corporal punishment. Some say a good swat occasionally will not hurt. I would propose that you find someone that is three to five times bigger than you are and ask them to hit you. You might find that it is not only physically unpleasant; you may become fearful of that person.

There is a considerable body of evidence that hitting children can produce negative outcomes. Not just the savage beatings that people might imagine perpetrated by a maniacal child abuser. Even occasional hitting can provoke emotional difficulties in children.

28 American states and the District of Columbia have banned corporal punishment in schools and internationally. 91 nations have banned corporal punishment. 23 countries have banned corporal punishment at home and at school including Israel, Germany, Sweden, Greece, Italy and many others. The United Nations set a goal of banning all corporal punishment by 2009 and only two nations have refused to sign on, Somalia and the United States.

Banning corporal punishment alone will not save all children from being hit. However, it would set forth a different expectation that often creates fertile ground for change. Forty years ago, smoking was very common and just about anybody could buy cigarettes. Smoking was generally accepted and even viewed as glamorous. Through public education and health marketing campaigns, there was an evolution in thought. Most people condemn smoking. No one would think of holding their baby in their lap while they are driving yet this happened frequently not that many years ago. We now recognize the danger that action created. Banning violence against children coupled with public education and marketing could save many children from violence. Remember, all kids count.

Scot Hurlburt can be reached by e-mail at hurlburt@wildblue.net

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