I’m sure by now you’ve read about and/or saw the video of a father, Greg Horn who walked in on two of his daughters, age 12 and 14 who were “twerking on camera”,(i.e. gyrating of the lower body in a lascivious manner, similar to dance moves usually performed by strippers: For those of you who are visual learners, see an example here) for a video camera. Consequently, this father immediately began “whipping” them with a cable cord. The entire whipping incident was caught on video. Of course the video (WARNING: it’s a bit graphic) went viral and as a result, the father has been charged with child abuse, child endangerment, and more.

There have been very strong, mixed, reactions to the incident. On one hand, you have those who believe the father’s actions were entirely inappropriate and abusive. On the other hand, you have those who believe the father was justified in disciplining his daughters considering their behavior.

So I’m sure most, if not all of you have heard about the recent William Adams incident that’s been covered in internet, newspapers,
and every other form of news media, in almost every state this past week. However, for those who are like me and rarely pay attention to news stories these days, here’s a summary:

Hillary Adams,  a 23-year-old,  posted a disturbing video on YouTube and appeared on the Today Show last week to talk about the video content.  The video was filmed in 2004 and contained graphic footage of her dad, William Adams, beating her with a belt as punishment for improperly using the internet. Although she caught the incident on video 7 years ago, she waited to post the video on YouTube last week because she had feared the possible consequences she would face if she revealed the footage while she was  still a minor; reports state that this was not the first incident of this nature that occurred and that she posted the video in hopes that her father, who happens to be a Judge who handles child-abuse cases, would get some help.

Times have changed significantly when it comes to how a parent (or anyone for that matter) may lawfully discipline their child; back in the day, getting “whoopings” or “spankings” was very common.  Not only did parents discipline their children via corporal punishment, but so did close friends, family, and neighbors. Parents used belts, switches (from trees), and paddles when children were out of control.  When I was in middle school, I remember the principal used to “paddle” children who were frequently in trouble (with parent permission).   All of the above was generally considered normal back then; rarely did one give such discipline the side-eye or consider it “abuse.” It was just the way things were handled. As a result, in the long-run, children seemed to have better manners, respect, and behavior and the crime rates were significantly lower (coincidence?). It wasn’t until recent years that this sort of discipline became frowned upon,  and in some cases, considered “abuse.”

Recently, there have been frequent reports of police becoming involved with parents who discipline their out of control children, especially when the discipline takes place in public.  So, naturally when I first heard about the Adams video, my thoughts were “Oh great, another parent is being criticized for disciplining their disobedient child.” However, once I watched the video, I could definitely understand why viewers would consider it “abuse.” It’s not so much of the child being hit with the belt that disturbed me when watching it; it was the tone, demeanor, and language that accompanied the “punishment;” he seemed so angry. For those who have not seen the video, I will first warn that it’s a graphic in nature and explicit, you can view it by clicking here.

This video has sparked controversy across the country and has many wondering: “At what point it discipline considered abuse?”, “What actions actually qualify as child-abuse?”

The defining lines that differentiate child-abuse and acceptable discipline vary across the country. Some states consider actions such as “yelling” at a child abuse while others don’t deem an action as abuse unless there are bruises and/or other serious damage caused.

California defines child-abuse as the “willful infliction of a cruel or inhuman corporal punishment or any injury that results in a “traumatic condition”.  In other words, you may be guilty of child-abuse if you cause a wound or injury to the child.

Parents do have the right to physically discipline their children so long as they are reasonable, don’t cause bodily injury.  Accordingly, “spanking” a child is usually excluded from California child abuse law. “Spanking” your child with your hand or an object, for disciplinary purposes is not considered child abuse under California law unless it becomes unreasonable or excessive.