Illustration: J. Riak

A letter from a victim


I would like to relate a most disturbing incident that I experienced when I was a senior in high school in Florida in May of 1984. I had been a runner-up in several local beauty pageants and always considered myself attractive. However, I never felt so ugly and sullied than after this experience, which only now do I find the courage to share.

I had been late three times to school and was sent to the referral center, where I had to explain myself to a male administrative assistant. The teacher who sent me told me that I would be given a choice of three "swats" or three days suspension. On my way to the center I started to feel sick to my stomach, and my knees were starting to get weak. If I took the three days suspension, I would miss out on all of my school work and get zeros for those days in all of my subjects. This would affect my chances of attending college the next year. On the other hand, the idea of bending over and letting them paddle me was a terrible thought. I knew from other students that they make you spread your legs and lie flat on a desk for the paddling. Then they rear back and whack you really hard. Other girls told me that they left the room crying. My mind was racing and my anxiety was building. To make matters worse it had been very warm and I was wearing a mini-skirt that day. Picturing myself in that obscene position with a male administrator and a witness leering at me was a very frightening thought. I became nauseated and went to the school rest room, where I vomited.

After composing myself I proceeded to the referral center, where the male administrator greeted me and very matter-of-factly led me into his office. He looked over my record and the three documented latenesses. Then my worst fears were realized as he asked me whether I wanted three days suspension or three "swats" with a paddle. I thought I would be sick again. I knew I had no choice but to take the paddling. My heart started pounding in my ears, and my knees were shaking as I told him that I would take the "swats". He indifferently stepped out of his office and called another male administrator to act as a witness. I was really starting to get panicky. The "witness" took a position behind me as the administrator returned to his desk. He opened his drawer and pulled out a paddle. It was about six inches wide, one and a half feet long and about half inch thick. It had several holes drilled in it and I could see the word "OUCH" written on the face. I guess that was some kind of a joke, which only served to make the whole thing that much more disturbing. He proceeded to move a few thing from his desk and spoke to the "witness" as if I weren't there. He said he would be "giving her three swats for being late". At this point I was holding onto the desk for support since I was becoming weak with fear. I remember praying, "Oh God, don't make me bend over for these guys!" I felt so vulnerable in that mini-skirt. Before I knew it the words I dreaded were being said: "I want you to bend over and lie flat on the desk, feet wide apart". In trembling voice on the verge of tears I mustered the courage to ask to keep my legs together since I was in a skirt. He responded that this was standard school procedure and I should have thought of that before. I then asked if I could have a female administrator administer the paddling, but he told me that there were none available today (how convenient!). So, reluctantly I bent over the desk trying to maintain as much modesty as possible. I can still hear his next command: "feet wider apart". I obeyed as I wanted this to be over with as soon as possible. At this time I started to cry. He half-jokingly said, "I haven't even paddled you yet." I turned to see both of them staring at my upturned buttocks but was told to look at the picture on the wall in front of me. I felt the paddle touch my buttocks with a rubbing motion before he drew back to swing. I heard the paddle whistle slightly as he swung. The "swat" landed and seemed to fill the room with a loud POP. I felt the most incredible pain I had ever experienced and felt myself lifted to my toes from the impact. I tried not to move or cry out to give them any additional satisfaction. I felt totally exposed since I was sure my backside was visible. He drew back for the second swat and hit me again almost immediately. Again, I was lifted to my toes and driven toward the desk. I couldn't take the pain, so I turned around and asked him to wait a minute. He told me to "get back into position right now." I was openly crying and said I would rather have the suspension. He told me that the school didn't "mix and match" punishments and that I would get a fourth "swat" if I did not bend over. I couldn't believe how childish I was made to feel. Here I was, a 17-year-old women crying like a baby while this strange man spanked me and another man was enjoying it. I bent back over and opened my legs so I would not have to be told. The last swat was the worst yet and I saw stars through my tears. I got up and shifted my weight from side to side to defuse the pain. I did not want to give them the satisfaction of rubbing myself in front of them. He then told me not to be late anymore and asked me to sign the paddle. I refused and he said I could go. I passed the "witness" on my way out, and he looked as if he were blushing. I looked down in embarrassment and shame.

The bruises lasted three weeks, and I had to be careful not to let anyone see them. I was terribly embarrassed and humiliated, and I resolved to keep this experience to myself. I am now married with a child, and I have still never told anyone about this. I only know that this experience was the closest thing to a rape as I can imagine, and I pray that the time will soon come when no one will have to suffer this form of punishment-masked sadism again.

[Name withheld]

See OPEN LETTER TO KIM GANDY, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN (NOW) From Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education, February 1, 2002

See An analysis and assessment of Rape: Lesson No. 1: How abusers betray themselves through predictable patterns of behaviour, by Tim Field

The following letter was sent on August 14, 1997 to the chief education officers in each of the 23 states that permit corporal punishment of students. (Names and mailing addresses are listed in the file, "Danger Zones.") Their responses follow.
[On PTAVE stationery]

August 1997

Dear [Superintendent],

Please find enclosed a copy of a letter this organization recently received from a woman who had attended high school in a state that permits corporal punishment of students. Though she describes an event that took place in Seabreeze High School, Daytona Beach, Florida, in 1984, we have no reason to believe that conditions have changed to the extent that such incidents are not occurring now, not occurring frequently, and will not continue to occur in any state that allows students to be subjected to disciplinary beatings.

Please read the enclosed letter.

For your information, female students receive only slightly less than 1/2 of all school paddlings, but approximately 9/10 of those who inflict the punishments are male. Furthermore, it cannot be denied that the view of a female student, who has assumed the usual position for such punishment, seen from the perspective of the adult male about to deliver that punishment, has more to do with sadomasochism than with education. A photograph of it published, say, in the school yearbook or school newspaper would provoke immediate public outrage and universal condemnation. The sale of such a photograph to a minor would constitute a violation of obscenity laws.

We are writing to inquire what, if any, precautions are taken in your state, and at what level, to assure that male sexual sadists are not entering the teaching profession where, under the guise of administering punishments, they can obtain sexual titillation at the expense of nonconsenting, underage female students.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Jordan Riak,
Executive Director,
Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education (PTAVE)

Paddling states' responses to the above mailing
Absence of link indicates no response to date.

New Mexico
North Carolina
South Carolina

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