Riak's testimony to the Public Safety Committee, Oakland, California, January 26, 1999
I assume everyone has read the resolution. If anyone hasn't and needs a copy, I've printed a supply and brought them with me.

In order to make best use of the few minutes I've been given for this testimony, I'll limit myself to discussion of the effects of my proposed resolution on juvenile crime--a matter of concern to us all, I am sure.

Over the course of the past 6 decades, beginning with the work of Sheldon and Eleanore Glueck in 1940, juvenile crime has been the subject of serious scientific study. In the Gluecks' survey, various parenting styles were observed and documented and, as the babies in those various households grew to adolescence, their progress was assessed. The Gluecks discovered that the first signs of delinquent behavior became apparent between the ages of 3 and 6 -- long before the children were old enough to come under influences outside the home. They found that the more a family relied of physical punishment, the more pronounced the anti-social behavior of the child. Conversely, they found that the lowest incidence of delinquency and anti-social behavior occurred in families that were non-punitive, attentive and respectful toward their children.

And psychologists Ronald Slaby and Wendy Roedell, in their paper "The Development and Regulation of Aggression in Young Children," claimed that "one of the most reliable predictors of children's level of aggression is the heavy use by parents of harsh, punitive discipline and physical punishment."

Time and time again, in study after study, from the Gluecks' to Slaby and Roedell, to, the most recent published work of Dr. Murray Straus, who heads the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire, these facts emerge: assaultive behavior by parents is the principal contributor to assaultive behavior by their children. The more aggressive is the parents' treatment of the child, the more aggressive is the child's treatment of others.

There is no credible support for the theory of a "violence gene" or the age-old notion that children are born evil and have to be civilized by spanking.

All the evidence points to a different conclusion: That every child comes into the world innocent, and needing warm, tender nurturance from its caretaker. The skin of the child is designed as a receptor for the gentle, protective touch of the parent. Not the sting pain.

Hit a child and you betray a child. You may command obedience by virtue of your superior size and strength, but only temporarily. When the child has grown bigger than the parent, then what? California Youth Authority? Boot camp? Prison?

Or maybe none of the above. Maybe the child copes by becoming docile and overeager to please, with all her anger turned inward, resulting in poor health, depression, chemical dependency and eating disorders.

Hit now, pay later.

Sometimes solutions to major problems are so simple that we fail to notice them. In the case at hand, we have only to look at our cousins across the Atlantic.

In 1978, Sweden gave children the same protection against assault and battery that is enjoyed by adults. Since then, a whole generation of Swedish children has grown up without the dubious benefits of corporal punishment. How has the experiment been working? Well, since 78, 8 countries have joined Sweden: Norway, Finland, Denmark, Austria, Italy, Cyprus, Croatia and Latvia. And this year, 2 more are likely to join the club: Germany and Belgium, where anti-spanking legislation is now under serious consideration. Nowhere is there any call to return to the old ways. The experiment seems to be working for everyone who tries it.

And developing nations are taking notice: Ethiopian Speaker of the House of Federation, Almaz Meko, addressing the Ethiopian Psychologists' Association on January 15th of this year, urged the parents of her country to refrain from spanking.

In closing, I would like to remind you that you can do for the United States what Sweden, 21 years ago, did for Europe. Oakland can set a standard that will be imitated in other cities and towns across the country. Seize this opportunity and you will remember this day with pride and satisfaction.

But if you decide that this is just too hot a potato to handle -- as many people are predicting -- then, rest assured some other city will do it. The No-Spanking Resolution has already been shown to the City Council of Houston, Texas. And I have been contacted by people in Los Angeles and Sunnyvale who would like to do the same in their cities. Perhaps Philadelphia should be the next candidate for the no-spanking proposal. Only two weeks ago in Philadelphia a grown man spanked a four-year-old boy to death.

Make no mistake: this reform is WILL happen. 20 years from today, we are going to look back with astonishment and ask ourselves: "What was all the fuss? Why didn't we act immediately to defend our children and reap the benefits?"

Thank you for listening

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