The Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice stories starkly reveal an inherent contradiction about family violence and the treatment of our children. Ray Rice was arrested for hitting his girlfriend -- he violated the rule of law that says, absent acting in self-defense, a man cannot hit a woman (or any other adult or child for that matter) for any reason. The law is clear and unequivocal here.
Peterson on the other hand was not indicted for striking his little boy, but rather for hitting his child, in in the words of the local DA in an 'unreasonable' manner, i.e., he caused bruises, cuts etc. Peterson violated the rule of law that says an adult acting as a parent can whoop his child as he sees fit, but cannot leave a bruise or other obvious physical injury.
What this all means is that parents for all intents and purposes are exempted from the laws of assault and battery that applies to every other citizen when it comes to their children. And the reality in this nation is that absent horrific abuse like burning a child with a cigarette or scalding the child in hot water, most all forms of physical discipline -- even where marks are left -- go unreported and unpunished. Despite our child abuse laws, the prevailing wisdom is that parents should have virtually free reign when it comes to disciplining their children. And lest anyone think that Texas is leading the child protection charge because it indicted Peterson, the state is one of 19 where teachers still can use corporal punishment -- including paddling - to 'discipline' disobedient students. The Peterson and Rice cases demonstrate the need for a serious national dialogue on ending all forms of physical punishment of children. Physical punishment serves no useful purpose, and worst of all, teaches the wrong lessons to its helpless victims.
Paul Mones is a children's rights attorney who represents victims of sexual abuse.