Theo Wells' letter to Wyoming Governor Geringer, March 16, 2002

Dear Governor Geringer:

I strongly urge you to veto Senate File 74 which allows parents to bruise their children when physically punishing them. I can't believe this is a serious matter in today's supposedly enlightened times about responsible parenting. Unfortunately, many folks of serious religious involvement believe that responsible parenting means "spare the rod and spoil the child." Philip Greven's book, "Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment" gave me insights into why I was so severely punished at a child for behavior that was minor disobedience and mostly behavior normal to an active healthy child. My parents were what we we call "good people," God-fearing pillars of the community and their church and all that -- but my father who did the spankings was himself heavily punished by an immigrant Finnish farmer father who probably was also severely punished. The belt on the wall of the one-room schoolhouse my father attended said it all. That was 1907.

He passed on such attitudes on my behind when I was between the ages of 6 and 13. The dissociation I learned in order to endure the pain kept me out of touch with myself for many years, including years of alcoholism, which is now 22 years in arrest. Have we learned nothing in the last 95 years? Parental and school abuse on children is simply a way to keep our violence going. Children learn violence through that done on them. Worldwide. We are now seeing the results of that on a grand scale. When people are forced to learn to not feel their pain, they likely learn not to feel others' pain. And believe me, it was painful.

I have always thought Wyoming was out in front -- women first got the vote there. But now I have to hope that you do not allow the citizens of Wyoming to legally brutalize their children. Children need some protection -- the Supreme Court does not allow them the constitutional protection of "cruel and unusual punishment" because they thought families are more nurturing than they are (Ingraham v. Wright, 1977). Although this case refers to public school punishments, children feel the pain whoever beats them. It is not possible to "lovingly punish" kids, like some religious folks advocate. Love and beatings are the ingredients of sado-masochistic behavior, which forms much of the pornographic ground. This is hardly Christian by any reading of the Bible. However, such attitudes often prevail among fundamentalist, Pentacostal and evangelical teachings.

If that is what supports this Senate File 74, I ask you to veto the underlying ideas, even though you may not want to veto its advocates. Please take a small risk for the children of Wyoming who cannot yet speak for themselves as their futures are being put to high-risk.

Also, please read the punishment cases -- especially those of girls and the sense of rape it can produce -- on the website And if you have children of your own, think of them and how you punished them. Ask if you might have found other ways if corporal punishment were not available. When people have to stop and think what they are doing (and not let their anger take over), they can find ways to express love to their children even when "kids will be kids" and disobey. After all, they are special individual energies with minds and souls of their own -- which may not always agree with the parents wishes. Did you -- with your parents? Give them a break.

Theodora Wells
Program Development Consultant
to a women's alcohol/drug recovery center.

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