Carrie A. Minica replies to The Oakland Tribune editorial

Letter to Editor, February 10, 1999

Ms. Stinnett:

In response to your Jan 24, 1999 article concerning spanking, I assure you that Mr. Riak is very well aware of all the laws on this issue, and I do not appreciate your attempts at undermining his credibility. Here are some facts for you:

According to the Institute for the Prevention of Child Abuse, "85% of all cases of physical abuse results from some form of over-discipline through the use of corporal punishment". According to testimony submitted to the House of Representatives (E1032--Congressional Record) March 21, 1991 by Major R. Owens of NY:

"In most cases, fortunately, the physical injuries children experience are relatively minor -- some redness and soreness of the skin -- and do not require medical treatment. But the vulnerability of young children's bodies is such that the potential for causing more severe injuries is great, including hematomas, ruptured blood vessels, massive fat emboli, sciatic nerve damage, muscle damage, and brain hemorrhage. Every year we hear of children across the United States who are seriously injured and even permanently disabled as a result of corporal punishment. As Prof. John R. Cryan of the Association for Childhood Education International noted in a 1987 article:

'Adults plainly underestimate the amount of force they are capable of producing. Sometimes children are injured during even the mildest punishment when they jerk away and the blow lands off target, or when they fall against the sharp edge of some object. Eyes, ears and brains may be permanently damaged as a result of paddling. Whiplash injuries may result from shaking. Injuries from blows to the chest and abdomen are life threatening. Bones are easily fractured and even the slightest whack may produce a jolt to the brain through the bony spinal column and spinal cord, resulting in significant swelling or bleeding."

In addition, according to the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse & Neglect,"...the use of corporal punishment is intrinsically related to child maltreatment. It contributes to a climate of violence, it implies that society approves of the physical violation of children, it establishes an unhealthy norm. Its outright abolition throughout the nation must occur immediately." Finally, more than 40 national organizations favor abolition of corporal punishment. Here are just a few:

American Academy of Pediatrics, American Bar Association, American Medical Association,American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, Child Welfare League of America,National Association of State Boards of Education, National Association of Social Workers, National Education Association and the National PTA.

Now if these organizations state that the damage is occuring due to spankings ("documented cases on file" is the most commonly used term to describe their rationale for this position) I for one, will be inclined to believe them.

I would also like to inform you that even unintentional abuse is still considered abuse when inflicted during the act of corporal punishment -- that is the law. I personally don't need to see the numbers crunched to know that children are being injured everyday by parents who utilize corporal punishment and lose control over their emotions in the process, most days it is on the front page of your newspaper. You may claim that these parents are in total control, and they may well be the model of patience, but also one of my concerns is that you are here supporting a type of punishment for children that, according to these figures, the majority of adults cannot calmly administer. I do hope that you take this into consideration when you write your articles in the future.

Carrie A. Minica

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