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March 2, 2014
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March 24, 2014

Trauma From Childhood “Spanking”

Warning for this post: talk about rape, abuse, and intimate body parts.

When I was a child, I was beaten on my ass, most of all by my father. The word used was “spanking”, but I consider that a euphemism, so I will call it being “hit” or “beaten” here.

It’s hard to describe how horrible this was for me. Though I’ve never been raped, I think it must be a similar sensation; the feeling of having all your bodily autonomy taken from you, the feeling of someone affirming that you are an object and that he does what he likes with you. Incidentally the anus is a sexual area, and being hit there did cause unwanted sexual stimulation, so in that way I guess it could be considered some kind of rape.

I’m speaking rather clinically about this because to go into the actual emotions of my beatings would be too much to handle at the moment. For my young mind they were impossible, impossible. So horrible I couldn’t fit it into my head. I tried my best to black it all out. That’s all I can say, and I’ll leave you to try and fill in the details in your imagination.

The trauma from this has lasted until the present, though I’ve done a lot of work to try and shift it. I still have horrible dreams where my father attacks me in this way, or where we are physically fighting. When I was small I fantasised about hurting him back in some way, doing something to make me feel less powerless. And so in my dreams I’m sometimes fighting with him physically. Sometimes he’s winning, sometimes I’m winning, but he never seems to react to the hurt I deal him, and I still feel powerless and horrible.

For a very long time, I would have an acute feeling of discomfort in my butt whenever I felt shame. That seemed to mostly go away as I began to heal some of my worst feelings of self-hatred. But still, I notice that my sphincter still tightens reflexively when I feel shame. One time I was meditating, and very aware of what was going on in my thoughts and my body. In this state, I saw a shameful thought flit across my mind, and as an instant reaction to that thought, I noticed my sphincter tighten.

Actually, I think my sphincter is pretty much tight all the time. I think so because I can cause it to relax if I focus. But as soon as I don’t focus, it tightens up again.

I suspect that this constant tension was probably a cause of my long term illness, diagnosed as Crohn’s disease. The disease affected my intestines, not too far away from the part of my body I was constantly straining away at.

Interestingly, when you look at Crohn’s sufferers you can see a pattern of people who had some serious emotional issues stemming from childhood. I would be curious to see statistics on how many Crohn’s sufferers had been beaten as children.

The moral of this story? Don’t beat your children, and don’t “spank” them thinking that that is any different. It has taken me years of work to become functional after the way I was treated as a child, and it may take many more years of work for me to fully get over it… if I ever do.

I know some people try to argue that there is some kind of need to hit children, or some benefit in doing so. I know these people are more common in the UK and USA, where it is still legal to hit children, and are vanishingly few in countries where it is illegal. But no matter how hard they argue, my trauma remains.


Spanking (updated)


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  1. Helen says:

    Congratulations on being able to write this and on the healing path you’ve clearly already walked. 🙂

  2. Albalida says:

    Thank you for this. Corporal punishment is still culturally acceptable here where I grew up, although the perpetrator would say that was the last resort if I couldn’t listen to words–it was the first resort if I had the misfortune to be there when the other person was in a bad mood. I didn’t learn anything except that it was okay for bigger people to hit smaller people when angry.

    Something I read about love languages–how some people are more receptive to acts of service than others, who might be more receptive to words, or physical touch–that saying, “I’m disappointed in you” would make any empathic child feel bad but is devastating to a child whose natural language of love is actual language with words. Hitting a child is detrimental to any child, but it’s devastating to a child whose natural language of love is physical touch.

    This explains to me those odd individuals who express the sentiment that their parents engaging in corporal punishment, had taught them proper conduct effectively and they would surely do the same with their own children.

    They’re lucky, I suppose. But I think it’s also wrong for the very specific reason that parents don’t know who they’re dealing with yet. That child can be susceptible to trauma that can last for several decades, or lifetimes.

    I’m still struggling to find my own language in a positive sense. The only way I can think to rank them is like this: I’d be devastated at physical bodily harm, but I’d be morose at being called a hurtful name. I’m not yet in a condition to think how much I’d enjoy holding hands, or glow in a compliment. I don’t trust either gesture.

    • Sophia Gubb says:

      I tend more to believe that those who defend hitting children are experiencing some kind of stockholm syndrome. It can be psychologically more comfortable to believe that your parents were doing good than to have to face up to the fact that you have years of abuse to recover from.

      I guess also if you’re not a rebellious personality and manage to fully submit to your punishments, then it could prepare you well for a life in an authoritarian organisation where submissiveness and following the rules is valued. However, I don’t believe that is healthy in any way. Krishnamurti: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

    • Sophia Gubb says:

      Re: “I’d be devastated at physical bodily harm, but I’d be morose at being called a hurtful name.” — I think that is the same for anyone: physical violence is a level stronger than verbal violence.

  3. Albalida says:

    I’m not to sure about that, actually…just for an example, I have a friend who knows how to hold her own in tackle fistfights with her brothers, but make a reference to the promiscuity (that she doesn’t have) and she’ll shut down and lock herself up for days. I can believe that words mean worlds more for her than anything physicalized.

  4. DC says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. I had a similar experience, although it wasn’t nearly as severe or frequent as yours sounds–once was more than enough, and having to live in a house where that kind of threat was taken for granted as normal and healthy was way too much for child-me to handle. I wish so much that I could have spoken up at the time, so now I go around having arguments in my head about what I SHOULD have said and done to make it stop…but seeing someone else say “Yes, this happened, no, I wasn’t at fault, yes, it mattered” makes a huge difference.

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