Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment October 15, 2012

by Mari

I’ve been procrastinating about telling this part of the story.

In the previous chapter of the story, I talked about having nightmares about death. That story was the whitewashed version. I’m not saying that what was written isn’t true. It is. But for me, the experience was a lot worse than it probably sounded in the previous chapter. When I was in college several years ago, I wrote several autobiographical stories, and most of what I posted in the previous chapter was one of the stories I wrote. At that time, I wasn’t in a place where I could expose what really happened.

I’m not sure if I’m currently in a place to talk about it either.

But I’m going to try.

Those years of my life are kind of confusing for me because I don’t remember explicit or exact details. I hope that everyone is able to keep that in mind as they read. I’m going to say here and now that the things I’m about to say are NOT clear in my memory, and I only remember them because of the pain, anger, confusion, insecurity, etc., that these incidents caused. Because of the emotion attached to the incidents, I’m sure my mind has warped my memory of these incidents, causing me to remember them differently than anyone else involved does.

Several times, when I woke up from a nightmare, I would go to my parents’ room, wake them up and they would “spank” me and put me back in bed, without taking the time to figure out why I was awake in the first place.

“Spank” was the term that my parents used to describe their form of punishment.

According to the Collins English Dictionary (10th ed.), to spank is “to slap or smack with an open hand, especially on the buttocks.”

My parents had two wooden spanking sticks (just in case one broke or got lost, I suppose) that were about an inch wide and a quarter inch thick.

Considering that it was never done with anything but a stick, a more proper verb to use would be “beat.” According to, to beat is to “strike violently or forcefully and repeatedly.”

That definition is an accurate description of what would happen.

I would wake up in the middle of the night, scared out of my mind that I was going to die, I’d seek comfort and would instead receive a beating with a stick.

I don’t know how often it happened. I do know that on at least one occasion, the next day my tush and hips were bruised a deep purple.

During that time, no one really slept at my house. My screams no doubt woke up all of my brothers, plus the renters upstairs.

There were times when I was manipulated into silence. I was always told that if someone outside of the family heard me screaming, it would be MY fault if I or my brothers were taken away.

And, I was often reminded that the school system, CPS, the police and the government were out to get us and their goal was to remove me (especially me) and my brothers from the home. I was conditioned to be very paranoid about this and in addition to being terrified of death, I was also terrified of what was “out there” in the big, bad world, where I would inevitably be placed once someone heard me screaming in pain and anger from another beating.

But, nighttime wasn’t the only time these beatings occurred.

I remember a specific time when I was in maybe second or third grade. I was having a hard time understanding something in school. I was beaten and when I screamed and cried, my parent covered my mouth and nose and held me down so I couldn’t move or breathe. I struggled until I got my mouth uncovered just enough to holler “I CAN’T BREATHE,” to which the parent in question replied, “You don’t deserve to breathe.”

Another time, when I didn’t understand something in school, after being beaten, when I cried and protested that this wasn’t fair and didn’t even make sense, I was made to read aloud excerpts from Proverbs for Parenting. This book informed me that if a child lacks understanding (specifically, if he or she gets an answer wrong in his or her studies), or if they are being “foolish” (stupid), they are to be beaten. I don’t remember anything else specific from that book, but that was the day that I began to seriously question the meaning of “the rod” in the Bible. (Today, my understanding of the term “rod” in the Bible is that a shepherd used a rod. He didn’t use it to beat his sheep into submission, but rather, to guide them to safety, health and security. I believe the Bible means that if someone in authority confronts rebellious or foolish behavior and seeks to teach and guide the rebellious/foolish person, the behavior won’t get progressively worse, like it would if you just ignored it. Ok, so maybe I’m terribly liberal in my interpretation, but I can’t see Jesus beating someone, and if Jesus didn’t do something, then we shouldn’t either.)

At any rate, the punishments were rather bizarre and over-the-top on a lot of occasions.

Beginning in about 5th grade, I was horrible at Math. Looking back, I can honestly say that it wasn’t so much that my brain wasn’t oriented toward math. My problem was that the math curriculum we used (Saxon) was simplified to the point where I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how one lesson was any different than the one before. They broke everything down into minute details and taught one little part each day. I learned nothing because the way my brain works is that I have to see it from start to finish and then review it several times and I’ll understand and remember it. I have to be able to make connections — and if it’s broken down into itty-bitty details, I can’t make the connection, so I’ll never remember it.

The last 7 or so years of home school were an absolute nightmare for me. I lacked understanding and I was “foolish” when it came to math, so I had a lot of beatings and there was a lot of yelling and screaming going on.

My dad was fiercely protective of my mom, so if I did anything that made her mad when he was around, I was severely punished. I got too big to manhandle, so on one occasion, he knocked me to the ground and stood on my hair for several minutes. I don’t know how long this lasted, but it seemed like forever. I laid on the floor, held down by my hair, kicking and screaming and trying to get free. Finally, my brother came home and when he saw what was going on, he ordered my dad to let me go. The only thing I stuck around to hear or see after that was my brother told my dad he had just lost the last little bit of respect he had for him. My dad let me go and turned on my brother, hitting him in the face.

For several days after that, when I would make attempts at brushing/combing my hair, big chunks of hair would fall out. My head was so tender and painful for a long time after that.

After that incident, I refused to do any schoolwork when my dad was around. Dad worked nights, so I was up doing schoolwork until 3 or 4 in the morning a lot of times. I was required to be up by 9 am every day (and often earlier), so I didn’t get much sleep during that time — and neither did my mom.

Honestly, most parts of my childhood were an absolute nightmare.

| Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4| Part 5|

| Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 |

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  • Mari, I read this on your blog and wanted to comment, but the settings wouldn’t let me do so from my blog or anonymously. This post really breaks my heart….it’s very brave of you to share it. I was a very sensitive child and very prone to nightmares as well (and still am, actually), and although I was always sent straight back to bed, at least I was never beaten for my fear! I can’t even imagine how damaging that would be!!!

    My parents were more focused on the negative emotions of anger, frustration, and all disagreement–I got punished for “rebellious” facial expressions or “rebellious” breathing patterns (aka sighing) a lot, even when I was actively trying to control myself. But at least I was allowed to feel afraid!

  • Saraquill

    I don’t know how adults could treat children like that and call themselves parents. They would be better off collecting punching bags.

  • SAO

    So if you don’t understand math, a beating is going to magically instill comprehension? Maybe if you get beaten enough you’ll become a genius?

    Most kids think better when well-rested and free from stress. I can’t think of a better recipe for turning a perfectly intelligent kid into an idiot than keeping them up well after midnight and beating them for failure.

  • You’d think that a parent would ask themselves, “Why does my child actually prefer a spanking to being alone in her bed?”

  • wanderer

    This is horrendous treatment….I’m so sorry…

  • alfaretta

    Mari —
    I am so angry on your behalf! I don’t believe in corporal punishment, except for people like the Pearls and your parents.

  • The_L

    That would require you to consider motivations your child would have other than “rebellion.” If you’re constantly told that anything short of The Perfect Child is “rebellion,” eventually you start to believe it without question. Or as Hitler once put it (and demonstrated himself though the horrors of the Holocaust), “If you tell a lie, and tell it big enough, and tell it long enough, the people will believe it.”

  • The_L

    When I saw that picture at the beginning of the article, I thought the man was holding a belt. And I felt rather unpleasant, just from my own memories of the belt.

    But then I saw that he was holding a metal ruler. And I actually flinched. All I could think of was how much pain that would inflict, and the bruises that it would undoubtedly create.

    The “spanking sticks” sound even worse. I’m so sorry that you went through any of that.

    I consider my upbringing to have been unusually harsh, but coming here reminds me that it could have been so much worse. No child deserves to be beaten with wooden sticks. No child deserves to be restrained by his or her hair. No child, ever, deserves to live in terror of his or her own parents.

  • It’s the “you don’t deserve to breathe” that horrifies me most. That’s like your parents telling you you don’t deserve to live. And yes– no child deserves to be beaten with wooden sticks– but beating a child with a wooden stick for needing comfort or for not understanding math — I am beyond words.

  • madame

    I know this was hard to write for you. I’m really sorry your childhood was so horrible!
    Like you, I was afraid of hell. I was afraid of never living up to God’s standards, and never really trusted God or Jesus to be “good”.
    My parents beat us a lot, and also had spanking sticks that were pulled out whenever they felt one (or more) of us needed a spanking, but we were never spanked for coming to their bed if we had a nightmare.
    Once I had a nightmare involving my sister and spanking. My mom was wearing a certain pair of pants in that nightmare which she then wore to church. While we were singing a song (that had to do with choosing the right path and not the wrong), I remembered the nightmare and had to clench my fists and teeth while I fought back tears. Every time anyone wanted that song for bedtime, I had to put my head under my pillow and blanket and think about something else so I could drown out my mother’s voice singing that song. Whenever she wore those pants I also had flashbacks of that dream.
    Anyway… children are sensitive, and while all parents make mistakes with them, I think it’s time to reassess what one’s doing if a child is not responding the way we are told they should.