Letter of support from Benny Wasserman, February 5, 1999
Dear City Council Members:

I am the father of three grown sons who were fortunate to have been reared in a violence-free environment. That meant no hitting or humiliation of any kind. It was the beginning of breaking the cycle of violence in my own family history.

I am writing now in support of Jordan Riak's proposed "NO SPANKING ZONE" resolution.

First, I would like to respond to a statement attributed to Mayor Brown in the Los Angels Times, on January 24th. He says, "Child-rearing practices are the fundamental prerogative of the family. Other than to vigorously enforce laws against child abuse, governmental entities have no business passing resolutions restricting some disciplinary practices over others." To this, I would first say that children of all ages have the fundamental right not to be hit. And the State of California already has laws restricting parents from committing severe child abuse. The Mayor obviously agrees with the present laws.

At best the present law is vague and extremely difficult to enforce. The law states that "age appropriate" spanking is O.K. In effect it is saying that it is O.K. to hit a child no matter what age. It should never be appropriate to hit spank, slap or swat a child, especially a baby. To allow any kind of hitting opens the door to more severe, physical child abuse, not to speak of the potential long term emotional damage.

Once upon a time we had slavery. It is now illegal. Once upon a time husbands had full control over their wives to the point of beating them at will. It was a "family affair" and nobody else's business. Right? But today a wife can bring felony charges against her husband if he hits her. There are no "age-appropriate" loopholes when it comes to adults hitting other adults. Well, children are people too, but unprotected. It shouldn't take a rocket scientist to see that spanking equals hitting which equals battery.

Instead of dragging parents into court, supporters of this resolution wish to make more parents AWARE that there are other ways to teach children than by hitting them.

This may be news to some people, but the Scandinavian countries like Finland, Norway and Sweden have had Anti-Spnking and Anti-Humiliation laws for many years--Sweden, since 1978. The intent of those laws was not to punish, but to offer help to those parents who needed it. If it is true that violence breeds violence, than there is no better place to stop that violence than in our homes with our children. If it's wrong for adults to hit other adults, than it must be wrong for adults to hit children.

As a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) I helped monitor foster homes and group homes for further abuse of children in their care. I came to realize that both situations--remaining in an abusive home or being placed in an abusive foster home-- were equally intolerable for a child. It is my firm belief that we must do whatever we can to help make homes more stable and supportive places for children. Instead of spending millions of dollars for new prisons, we could achieve much more at far less cost by focusing on prevention. Parents who only know how to manage their children by hitting them, should be counseled and guided so that they develop better, safer, more appropriate parenting skills. The "NO SPANKING" resolution speaks to this need.

Thank you very much,

Benny Wasserman

Return to Events in Oakland