Texas Judge - When Does Discipline Become Assault?

Most people are ashamed of family violence.  Ashamed that it happens in our communities, ashamed to be victims, ashamed to be perpetrators. 



So naturally, with all this shame silencing everyone, it’s hard to know what family violence really is. 


Lack of concrete details of the events that occur behind closed doors makes it easy to dismiss a vague charge of abuse as a slap or a spank instead of a vicious, calculated form of control over weaker family members.


Well, thanks to a 23-year-old from Rockport, Texas, over six million people now know exactly what domestic violence looks and sounds like.


When she was 16, Hillary Adams - who has cerebral palsy - was terrified of her abusive father.  She thought few authorities would believe her word against his, since he is a white Texas family law judge who defies the stereotypes about domestic violence perpetrators.  To get proof she set up a small video recorder in her bedroom where most of the beatings took place.


The resulting 7½ minute YouTube video captured a brutal physical and verbal attack, “justified” because Hillary had used her computer to download music and play video games when she was allowed to use the computer only for schoolwork.


Here’s the sequence of events captured on the video:


William Adams tells wife: “Get the belt, the big one, now.”

Mother calmly gets the belt.

Father threatens to belt his daughter in the face if she doesn’t roll over on her stomach to expose her back, buttocks and legs to the belt.

Father whips his daughter with the belt over 20 times.

Father screams obscenities at his daughter over 20 times.

The whole time, his daughter is sobbing, crying, and begging for him to stop.


During the beating, his obscenities and verbal messages make clear that his ultimate goal is to dominate, frighten and shame his daughter:

“Do you like it?  Are you happy now?”

“I’m going to beat you into submission.”

“You used to be such a nice obedient little girl, what happened to you?”

“You don’t deserve to be in this house.”

“If you look at me wrong, I’ll wear your ass out with this belt.”

“This is all your fault.”


It’s an incredibly painful, disturbing documentation of child abuse. I cried and sobbed myself watching it.  I had to cover my eyes for much of the video.


In part this is because I have been a victim of abuse myself.


In part it is because as a mom, I cannot bear to see children hurt and betrayed, especially by their parents.


However, I’m sure it’s not the most disturbing case of child abuse on record.  What makes this so chilling is that we see it firsthand.  There’s no denying the abuse.  No minimizing (as William Adams has done in public statements) the event as “just a spanking.”  No way to argue that Hillary deserved it or could have stopped it.



What is truly frightening is that there are supporters of spanking, parents who follow the preaching (and book) of Michael Pearl who encourages parents to use plumbing equipment, withholding food, and leaving children outside in the cold--all in the name of teaching discipline. Pearl's book has over 600,000 copies in print...with three known deaths among children of his followers. For more details, see: Is Spanking Okay for Disciplining Children? at Psychology Today-http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/singletons/201111/is-spanking-okay-disciplining-children


This is a great article (even though I can't bring myself to look at the video). Thanks for being so open and honest about your own experiences -- they certainly resonate with me, especially being the wife of a husband who has anger management issues. (He's not physically abusive, but has been verbally abusive on occasion.) So much research shows that the more stress and conflict children encounter in their homes, the more likely they are to abuse drugs, act out sexually (for girls), be depressed and consider suicide. Family harmony and non-abusive discipline goes a long way toward raising healthy and well-adjusted children.