Opinion Brief

The Texas judge who whipped his daughter: When is spanking child abuse?

A woman reignites a debate over parental discipline by posting a years-old video of her dad, a Texas judge, ferociously whipping her with his belt

The debate over spanking flared up this week, after a 23-year-old Texas woman posted a 7:35 minute video (that has since gone viral on YouTube) showing her father hitting her repeatedly with powerful belt lashes. The video was recorded seven years ago, when Hillary Adams was 16. (Watch the clip here. But be warned: It's quite disturbing.) Adams says her father — William Adams, a Texas judge — was punishing her for illegally downloading music. Adams says she posted the video, captured with a hidden camera, because her father is still abusive, and she wants him to get help. The judge says he was just disciplining his child and did nothing wrong. Plenty of parents still spank their kids — but does this kind of whipping cross the line?

A vicious whipping like that isn't discipline. It's abuse: Experts say if you're going to spank your kids, never do it out of anger "in the heat of the moment," says Theresa Walsh Giarrusso at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That's why so many people were horrified by this video — this father clearly lost his temper and "went beyond what most parents would consider normal spanking." That's not discipline, it's a beating. "All that hitting teaches children is to handle conflict by hitting."
"When does spanking become beating? Does the viral video change your mind?"

This is what a hard spanking looks like: Child abuse results in bodily harm — this kind of whipping doesn't, says Francisca Ortega at The Houston Chronicle. It might not produce "anything more than bruises and welts." And even though the video seems to have sparked a "national outrage," surveys suggest most parents believe a "good, hard spanking" is sometimes warranted. Well, this is what a hard spanking looks like, and in Texas, where corporal punishment is still permitted in schools ("with a paddle, no less"), it happens all the time.
"Texas judge beating daughter video sheds light on corporal punishment"

Let's see what the cops say: The anti-spanking crowd isn't alone in finding this unhinged lashing "absolutely outrageous," says Monica Bielanko at Babble. The local "police are taking the investigation seriously, looking at numerous factors, including the child's age and the statute of limitations." Judge Adams has been temporarily relieved of his duties until the matter is cleared up. We'll soon find out whether the law considers this abuse or discipline.
"Daughter uploads video of dad, who is a judge, whipping her with a belt (video)"

(Watch the video here.)

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