Celebrities. Activists. World leaders. Athletes. These are just some of the many types of people that we look up to as role models — individuals that set exemplary standards for how we should live our lives to make this world a better place to live in.
On This Sunday, we learned that there are some within one of those categories that failed us all — athletes. More specifically, I’m talking about NFL players Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.
In a nutshell, video surfaced this week of Ray Rice beating his then-fiancee in an elevator at an Atlantic City casino in February while Adrian Peterson is indicted for child abuse charges against his young son.
While I’m not much of a sports fan, I’m sure Rice and Peterson are talented athletes in their own right. They are admired by many football fans young and old, poor and wealthy, black and white among other attributes. There probably are young children that aspire to be just like them someday.
These incidences of domestic violence — which we all know happened with Rice — and child abuse — which is alleged with Peterson — do a great deal of harm to their reputations as the exemplary figures they are supposed to be to young children.
It is heartbreaking to see that these individuals would inflict the kind of physical harm against the very people that they supposedly love — the same harm these players should be protecting their loved ones from by others. Trust is broken. Fear is instilled. Psychological scars emerge. These are the byproducts of abuse by their lovers and parents that should have never happened in the first place.
I know that feeling too. I was physically abused as a child by my father.
I lived with my father for the first 13 years of my life before I entered the foster care system. I remember, as a young child, often fearing that my father will go off on me for any reason just about every day. Sometimes, there was no reason or involved reasons that had nothing to do with me. Often times when such physical abuse occurred, he had been drinking like he did on a near-daily basis. He often promised that he would protect me from others that may try to inflict harm toward me. While no one else ever tried nor did they have any reason to do so, my father was the only person in my life that did the very thing he promised to protect me from.
To this day, he refuses to apologize for hurting me in the most undeserving way imaginable and I don’t expect he ever will. He has betrayed my trust to the point that any potential efforts on his part to show remorse or regret for his actions cannot be taken seriously. I have not had any contact with him since May 2007. Frankly, I prefer to keep it that way for as long as he lives.
A few people in my life since have suggested that just because I believe child abuse is morally and legally wrong that I also oppose corporal punishment such as spanking. One foster parent I lived with even attempted to justify child abuse as a practice by pointing me to a magazine feature story of a Korean pop star who credits the harsh physical punishment she sustained from her parents for becoming successful in life and being the upstanding citizen she supposedly is. Others, including individuals commenting on stories about the two NFL players, suggested that the woman and child were deserving of such abuse due to perceived lack of adequate discipline among children these days or that men are still superior enough to women that they feel entitled to mistreat and degrade women all they want.
All of this upsets me. Child abuse is not the same thing as corporal punishment. If it leaves bruises and cuts on the victims, that’s not corporal punishment. That’s abuse. If a victim bleeds as a result and to any extent, that’s not corporal punishment. That’s abuse. If you’re having crumpled papers being shoved into your mouth — which once happened to me as a child– that’s not corporal punishment. That’s abuse.
Domestic violence and child abuse should not be equated to spanking as it is not the same thing. Abuse toward women and children are illegal, immoral and reprehensible acts that no human being ever deserves to be put through, no matter what the nature or the extent of their alleged misdeeds are. There is absolutely no justification whatsoever for abuse.
If you beat a child or a significant other, you do not love them. Instead, you are the problem. You are the one that needs help and lots of it. Remember that this isn’t all about you. This is about the people that you supposedly love — spouse, fiancee, life partner, significant other, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends among many others. For years, I have personally witnessed what the actions of one man will do to his relationships with family and friends — it sets off a destructive chain reaction that impacts everyone that ever crossed paths with him. Don’t be that person. You’re better than that.
The only thing role models should be hitting is the field for each game, not their loved ones.