Lashes and Legacies: Understanding the Truth About Whoopings | VALID | #TWIBnation

Lashes and Legacies: Understanding the Truth About Whoopings

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young shane crop

For a long time I hated Nina Simone. For me her voice was a portent of sadness. If upon coming home from school I heard her music as I walked up the stairs to our house I knew what kind of day it had been. My mother would either be locked in her bedroom or defiantly sitting in the living room smoking a cigarette amid the aftermath. Broken glass, flowerpots, and whatever else was unfortunate enough to have been in the way of another argument.  I have seen my mother bruised and bloody. I have seen her shaken, slapped, and punched by my father’s hand.

I also remember the belt rack. It sat beside my mother’s side of the bed. It held an assortment of twenty or so belts. There were nylon ones, metal ones, thin and thick. There was also an old weightlifter’s belt. That rack was the symbol of my abuse, though the beatings from my mother were not limited to belts. I remember wooden hangers and yard sticks along with open hands and closed fists. Most vivid was getting beat out of my sleep because I forgot to go to the bodega and buy my mother a pack of cigarettes. For years, if my wife woke me from my sleep I would snap upright with a closed fist.

It would be easy to paint my parents as horrible people and to rundown the horrors of my childhood. Much the same way I could write about how the discipline made me a better man and that without the belt I wouldn’t enjoy the life I have today because clearly those are the only two options.

My parents love me and they love each other. They were just really bad at it. They have battled demons their entire lives, namely with alcoholism. There are plenty of instances where they weren’t kind to each other or to me. Trickle down violence is a real thing; and while I was at the bottom of it all I was still loved and encouraged to be the best me possible, even despite them.

Like many folks, the news of Adrian Peterson taking a switch to his four year old son wasn’t terribly surprising. Neither was the immediate reaction on Twitter, most notably the “My parents whooped me and I’m fine” argument. Like most things in this world “normal” is relative to personal experience. Much the same way anecdotal evidence does not prove an argument. Simply put, just because you were screwed doesn’t mean screwed is acceptable and just because you survived it doesn’t mean that others do.

Violence in my family is generational. I didn’t know it then but as a child I was being handed a legacy filled with switches and belts and in the extremes a hot iron and other incredibly damaging means of “discipline.” It’s a legacy I don’t relish or one I plan to pass along. I am not better for having been abused. I am who I am despite of what I endured. Issues with anger, self-confidence, and lack of follow through have been huge hurdles in my life. They are ones I battle in one form or another to this day, but the fact that I’m happily married with a beautiful son in a Brooklyn home that I love doesn’t make me the rule. It makes me the exception.

The stats on child abuse are very simple:

  • More than four children die every day as a result of child abuse.
  • Approximately 70 percent of children that die from abuse are under the age of 4.
  • About 30 percent of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse.
  • In at least one study, about 80 percent of 21 year olds that were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.
  • 14 percent of all men in prison and 36 percent of women in prison in the USA were abused as children, about twice the frequency seen in the general population.
  • Children who experience child abuse  and neglect are about 9 times more likely to become involved in criminal activity.

Child abuse is learned.  In some cases it’s cultural. What it has never been is right. It doesn’t make stronger men and women. It creates generations of broken individuals who, to varying degrees, learn how to function with dysfunction. I, like other abused children, am the man I am today because of the abuse I have seen and endured. Instead of praising what we are because of abuse maybe we should be asking how much more we might have been without it.

Shane Paul Neil

Shane is a freelance writer who has contributed to The Huffington Post, Technorati and Social Media Today. He is a regular on the Sportsball podcast and a frequent guest on #TWiBPrime. Freelance inquiries can be sent to

View all contributions by Shane Paul Neil


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  1. Chris Cunningham September 15, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    Brilliant writing, amazing insight.

  2. Joy September 15, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    The best commentary I have read on this issue following Adrian Peterson’s ‘unintentional abuse’. I agree that ‘my mother did worse than that’ is not a healed, holy, or appropriate response from a community who is fighting to be treated respectfully from law enforcement, the courts, and our government. We have to accept cultural changes if we expect the same from our fellow Americans. We HAVE TO QUESTION our own faults and flaws to receive this same consideration from others.

  3. Don Buley (@DonBuley) September 15, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    I’m just now diving into this story but I don’t think I’ll read another article that moves me as much as this did. So much of this mirrors my childhood. And I almost shared to Facebook before I caught myself… because my abusers are on there. And we’ve yet to even acknowledge that what I experienced was not discipline but abuse.

    • Shane Paul Neil September 15, 2014 at 7:38 pm

      Thank you for the compliment. I understand your dilemma. My parents aren’t on social media but some of their friends are. And even though we have pretty well unpacked the past I’m not wholly sure they were/are ready to have the issue be this public.

  4. R H Stokes September 15, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    Excellent writing- I just happened across this. I raised 4 children- 3 biological and I adopted as a teenager. We were foster parents for about 15 years, primarily teens. I saw first hand the results of all types of abuse, “physical correction”, verbal assaults, contradictory parenting. This was probably the best way to describe the experience of most of the children I fostered; “My parents love me and they love each other. They were just really bad at it. ” You are so extremely perceptive to have realized this and put it into words. Loving a child and parenting a child are 2 very different things. All the love in the world can’t make a person with bad parenting skills a good parent. But it also does not negate the feelings that may be present either as far as the love for the child. I respect and applaud the fact that you can separate out the different issues and have broken this cycle.

    • Shane Paul Neil September 16, 2014 at 6:53 am

      Thank you for your words. I was also fortunate that for all their flaws my parents did in fact love me. Sadly that is not the case for many abused children. Also kudos to you for opening your home to a child who needed the experience of a real family.

  5. Terry Gilmour September 15, 2014 at 11:03 pm

    There are millions of stories out there . Some that should be told in this public forum and some that should not . It will be hard for some to tell and easy for others . Mine is not insignifigant but most likely very common. My father was career Air force , WW II vet , and had been raised in a home of six children by a father who used corporal punishment . I was the third of four children .Our mother never laid a hand on us and gave the gift of unconditional love to her death at age 96 . When my father punished us it was with a belt or a piece of kindling . He would always send us to our room first so that he could calm down and administer a thoughtful controlled level of punishment that fit the deed .I can only remember a few of those incidents and never felt I was “beaten” only punished . I never felt , to this day , that I was emotionally damaged by this . I have three children and all are responsible , happy , successfull young adults now . I spanked my daughter once when she was six . It hurt me more than it did her but the lesson was learned . So as unremarkable as my story is I feel it points to one clear fact . We all try to do a better job than our parents did but the only way we have done that is through educating ourselves , keeping an open mind , and listening to all of the advice and making sound decisions .

  6. Theresa September 16, 2014 at 5:39 am

    “My parents love me and they love each other. They were just really bad at it. ” That just about sums up my childhood as well. It was difficult for me, but I had to stop that legacy so as not to have it repeated over and over again. My kids have no idea what getting ‘the belt’ or wooden spoon or the back of someone’s hand means. If I accomplished nothing else in life, that would be enough.

    • Shane Paul Neil September 16, 2014 at 7:02 am

      There are so many things my son will never know in his life, but even then there is sort of a legacy paranoia. I don’t ever want him to go through what I went through but i don’t know exactly what that kind of childhood looks like or the kind of person it produces. It’s clearly just junk in my head but it’s there.

  7. franjyan September 16, 2014 at 6:56 am

    Both physical and mental abuse – I feel “separated” emotionally most times from the experience – but realise that the drinking, drugs and fractured relationships I had as an adult were just an extension – they weren’t around to beat up on me anymore so I did it for them to myself – in fact, I do believe that for decades I entered into situations and relationships where the “beat up” was bound to occur – it’s over, it’s past, but never forgotten – love can be toxic or healthy – somehow we just have to work out for ourselves which way to go;. I eventually chose “healthy” as it appears you have done too, Shane.

  8. Shane Paul Neil September 16, 2014 at 7:13 am

    I’m glad you found your way out of the forest. It’s hard to tell victims of abuse that certain things are choices but there is truth in it. I knew early on that I would never be the kind of my parent my parents were.It takes work but once you live and let go life can be wonderful.

  9. Mom September 16, 2014 at 9:27 am

    “My parents love me and they love each other. They were just really bad at it. ” What an awesome statement. As a child I swore I would not “discipline” like my parents. When I had my children I justified it by saying “This is nothing compared to what I got” Now I see my children doing the same to their children and it breaks my heart. When I try to say something I get “You did it to us and we survived”
    The cycle needs to be broken and it can be done. This article was right on point and I loved it. Really felt it in my heart. Stirred up many emotions. Thank you Shane Paul and good for you!

  10. N. Demytt September 19, 2014 at 9:37 am

    Dear Shane: thnak you for sharing your past with us. As you know, you are not alone…while I was never switched, and my parents only used an open hand in spankings, the emotional trauma is still the same. Just as we have discovered that Rape is not about sex, but about power and control, I believe the same to be true about corporal discipline on children, on anyone. It’s NOT about discipline, it’s about power and control and does not belong in a civilized society. We must do better by our children and ourselves….and with people like you, we can begin. Thank you for your heart and your strength. Live in the sunshine, you deserve those rays of warmth.

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