Adrian Peterson admitted to “whooping” his four-year-old son with a switch. A switch is a tree branch with the leaves removed. Peterson removed the child’s clothes and then commenced the “whooping.”
When news of Peterson beating his child with a switch broke, immediate and decisive battle lines were etched all across America. On one side were those who recognized what Peterson did as abuse. On the other were those who tweeted out things like this:
Just because it happened to you doesn’t mean it’s not abuse.
And the “It happened to me but I turned out alright” posture is incredibly myopic and carries absolutely no weight. I’ve seen children severely beaten and/or sexually abused turn out all right—that doesn’t mean what they went through is okay or should be condoned. It’s not, and it shouldn’t.
And to be clear, I don’t think what Peterson did to his child constitutes “severe” abuse. I’ve seen the aftermath of severe abuse—it’ll make you physically ill to witness it. It leaves kids with dozens of fractured bones, a broken spirit or worse.
But make no mistake: Peterson’s “whooping” is child abuse, even if not severe in a global sense.
There were 11 to 14 lacerations to a 4-year-old child who stands about 3’4” and weighs about 40 pounds from a man who is 6’1” and 220 pounds of pure muscle. And the wounds, delivered to the child’s back, butt, legs, hands, scrotum and arms, were still visible a week after being delivered. If you don’t feel this is child abuse, it’s time you redefine child abuse.
[Take a look at the images of Peterson's son a week after Peterson beat him.]
What you’re thinking about is called corporal punishment. And there is a marked difference between child abuse and corporal punishment.
So to say there is now a debate between spanking your child versus not spanking your child is wrong. That’s not the debate here. That’s the debate going on in the 19 states that still permit a school to lawfully administer corporal punishment to students.
If Peterson swatted his child on the butt with an open hand over the child’s clothes and Peterson was arrested for that, then there’s a debate regarding corporal punishment. But if your child came home from school looking like Peterson’s child after his “whooping,” I can guess which side of the “debate” I’d find you on.
I highly doubt you’d just say, “Welp, I guess the school just corporally punishment my child.” No. You’d go from the school, to the hospital, to a lawyer’s office—the whole time screaming how the school abused your child and you want someone fired. That's what fans are saying about Peterson.
Simply put, if you’re debating whether what Peterson did was passable as parenting, then you’re debating whether a parent has the right to abuse their child, not to spank them.
What Peterson did (I normally say “allegedly” but he already admitted he hit the child) not only amounts to child abuse, but is also domestic violence and should be reviewed as such.
If Roger Goodell is serious about addressing domestic violence and implementing the new domestic violence policy, Peterson won’t suit up for quite some time.
Under the terms of the new domestic violence policy, first-time offenders ride the pine for six games. The policy makes clear, however, more significant penalties will be imposed if children are involved.
The beating Peterson delivered to his child resulted in substantial injuries to the child. Not only was a child involved, a child was ruthlessly and relentlessly injured at Peterson’s hand. If you don’t think so, then go get a switch and hit a tree trunk 14 times. By the sixth or seventh swing, you’ll feel differently. Or the next time the dog pees on the carpet, hit the dog 14 times with a switch and tell me that’s okay.
Peterson has given Goodell a chance at redemption. That’s not to say Goodell should punish Peterson more harshly than he would’ve pre-Rice days. But Peterson’s case provides Goodell the much-needed opportunity to demonstrate he is capable of conducting a thorough and competent investigation and rendering a fair and just punishment, whatever that may be.
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