Monday, September 15, 2014

Adrian Peterson: It’s More Than Just Child Abuse

Since retiring from child protective services in Denver back in 2006, Wally tries not to think about abused children.  But there’s something about the Adrian Peterson case that makes it hard to ignore.   It’s one of those situations where there are no winners and everyone loses.   “Although I feel bad for Adrian, I feel even worse for the kid,” said Wally.  “For the rest of his life, he will feel responsible for whatever happens to both his mother and father.”

Meanwhile, Peterson appears remorseful but Wally wonders if the man truly understands the extent of his damage.  Peterson is quick to point out that he was only disciplining his son the way he was disciplined.  Even Wally admits that back in the day when he and his black friends sans whites, were hanging together, they often would talk with fondness about the “switch.”  As a matter of fact, it often turned into a friendly competition to see who’d come up with the most horrid childhood switch story. 

But while Wally and other African-American adults may remember the switch with fondness, to children it is both traumatic and harmful.  It may even cause PTSD and although the physical scars may eventually heal, the emotional and psychological ones may always, on some level, be with them.

It is said, according to Wally, that the switch actually dates back to the days of American slavery when slave owners used to strip their slaves of clothes and beat them with a whip, often to near-death, for any rule infraction or lack of respect, perceived by the owner or overseer. 

As adults, the switch stories were entertaining, but over time the lifelong results of those whippings started becoming clear.  A violent childhood often leads to a violent adulthood.  Perhaps that is one reason why black on black crime is so high and, “when in doubt swing out,” is often their first option. 

Judging from police photos and the child’s statement, however, Wally says that what happened went way beyond discipline.  If nothing else, it’s obvious that Peterson was out of control.  But if the child’s statement to police is true and Peterson’s rule of thumb was to inflict large amounts of pain and horror, along with his discipline, then might that make dad mentally or emotionally ill?  For sure, it is a sign of his rage, but might that type of parenting also be a symptom of some kind of disease?

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