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An Interview with Jordan Riak on Corporal Punishment - Part 2

Project No Spank Details The Forms Of Abuse


How do you define corporal punishment? What forms are the most prevalent?

There never has been, and probably never will be, a definition of corporal punishment that doesn't stir debate. The American College Dictionary, 1953 Edition, defines corporal punishment as "physical injury inflicted on the body of one convicted of a crime, and including the death penalty, flogging, sentence to a term of years, etc." The California Education Code, 1990 Compact Edition, Section 49001 defines it as "the willful infliction, or willfully causing the infliction of physical pain on a pupil."

Proponents of corporal punishment typically define the practice in personal terms, i.e., what they experienced when they were children, and what they now do to their children. Query any spanker on what it means to corporally punish a child and you will hear autobiography.

When one attempts to distinguishing corporal punishment from child abuse, the confusion deepens. Lawmakers, as a rule, duck this conundrum. When it is forced on them, they act as though they are walking on eggs as they grope for language doesn't cramp the style of child punishers. That's why legal definitions of child abuse are models of vagueness--an heroic accomplishment for those trained in the art of exactitude--and a boon to lawyers who defend abusers.

School corporal punishment in schools United States typically involves requiring the student to bend forward as far as possible thus making the protruding posterior a convenient target for the punisher. That target is then struck one or more times with a flat board called a "paddle." This causes sharp upward jolts to the spinal column accompanied by bruising, soreness and discoloration of the buttocks. Since the locus of impact is close to the anus and genitals, the sexual component of the act is unarguable. Nevertheless, possible adverse effects on the developing sexuality of young victims are ignored. Furthermore, the possibility that certain punishers are using the act as a pretext for gratifying their own perverse sexual appetites is also ignored. When these risk factors are cited, corporal punishment apologists typically dismiss the suggestion with derisive laughter and retorts such as, "Oh, com'on, please! Gi'me a break!"

Forced exercise is one of several unacknowledged forms of corporal punishment. Though the practice is unequivocally condemned by physical education experts, it is widely used, even in states that ban corporal punishment. It is a staple of locked facilities where troubled youth are corralled ostensibly for the purpose of being reformed.

Not allowing children to void bodily waste when the need arises is another form of corporal punishment. It is physically and psychologically dangerous in the extreme, but its use against schoolchildren of all ages is ubiquitous.

Punitive restriction of movement also qualifies as corporal punishment. When done to incarcerated adults, it is deemed a violation of human rights. When done to schoolchildren, it's called "discipline."

In school environments where buttocks beating is key to student management and discipline, all the myriad lesser insults to which children are prey such as ear twisting, cheek squeezing, finger jabbing, arm grabbing, slamming against the wall and general manhandling are apt to pass unchronicled and unrecognized for what they really are.

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