Corporal Punishment and The End of The Red Stick

Corporal Punishment and The End of The Red Stick February 19, 2013

by Becoming Worldly

This picture could be anybody’s little sister blindfolded and hitting a piñata at her Dad’s house for another sibling’s birthday. But it isn’t. It’s my little sister. She lives in a different world than I did. One with her own bedroom and court-ordered visitation and Christmas presents from a kind stepmother. She has never been homeschooled. She does not remember a time when our family didn’t celebrate birthdays, or was too poor to buy a piñata, or was too “modest” for her favorite summer clothes to be allowed.

She could be using any stick to hit this piñata but she isn’t. She’s using the “red stick,” the most infamous spanking implement our family had. As far as I know, none of the younger siblings attending this party were ever touched by the red stick and I imagine just a few had been threatened, but the grim knowledge of what it was used for had been passed down.

The red stick had started out as a handle to a child-size broom and then when the broom broke 25 years ago, it became a toy (a walking stick, a bat, a pretend sword) left in the yard until my Dad picked it up off the patio one day, tapped it against his palm a few times and said “this would make a real good spankin’ stick.” Then it became something totally new. An object of fear. It stayed hanging on a nail or propped in a corner in my Dad’s bedroom or office for years except when it was picked up and used to threaten or to leave welts.

“Daddy, please don’t spank me. I’m tender.” No red stick today, only fodder for years of teasing. “Aww, is my little heatherjanes still tender?”

“Do you want a spanking? Don’t make me get the red stick.”

Mom catches one sister padding her underwear with toilet paper in anticipation of a beating. After that, its bare bottomed.

“Pull down your pants. Bend over.” Red stick.

Sitting in the “punish chair” corner ’til sundown, hearing the car crunch gravel in the driveway, shaking, hands going cold. Red stick.

“But I don’t want to try and eat a pickled pig lip out of that jar, Dad. It looks just like a pig’s lip.” “If you don’t try it, you’ll get the red stick. You’d better eat it and like it.” Tears. Gagging. Spitting chunks of pickled pork into the sink. Red stick.

Pain, shame, anger, fear. Yelling. Red stick.

Running, cursing, slipping, falling, being caught and dragged. Red stick.

Grabbing the red stick tightly, just as tall, if not quite as strong as the woman holding it. “Let go,” Mom says.
“No,” I say, “You’re gonna hit me with it.”
“Yes,” she says.
“Well,” I say, “I’d be an idiot to let it go then, wouldn’t I?”

It strikes me that this photo is the only known picture of the red stick. The only official proof of it ever existing or being used is in a pleasant scenario. As it happens, the red stick finally died that happy day, broke while connecting with the piñata and ended up in the garbage.

A sibling sent me a message informing me that the red stick had met it’s end and that when Dad was out of range, they had celebrated it’s demise. I was glad too, glad it was gone and that it did not die the way I had always imagined it would – splintering into pieces over a child’s behind. It would never be used to hurt anyone again and it had broken being used the only way it should have ever been used, in the original spirit it had once had – innocently in child’s play.

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Becoming Worldly blogs at

Becoming Worldly was raised Fundamentalist Evangelical in South Louisiana until she was 13. At that tender age she was introduced to the world at large and starting her journey away from home schooling environment.

Her blog is primarily about Quiverfull lifestyle, homeschooling culture and politics, child welfare, PTSD, education, poverty, big families, gender issues, and maybe a few bits of south Louisiana or New England culture and a recipe or craft project or two thrown in, just for fun.

She is a member of NLQ’s The Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network

The Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce


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  • Tori

    You poor thing,I feel for you. children deserve love and patience, not red sticks! I was regularly beaten as well as a child, it might cheer you a little to know that I swore I would never make my children feel as I did. I have a ten year old, and I have NEVER laid a finger on her. The cycle of abuse stops with me. I refuse to allow it to continue.

  • teratomatastic

    De-lurking to say that this is really powerful. It’s a good end to a horrible thing.

  • Justina

    I grew up being caned till I was 17 with something similar. Made specifically for disciplining children and sold cheap in bundles in many shops.
    I remember grabbing hold of it, not letting go. Remember shielding myself with my hands. Still can’t stand the sight of one.

    The post resonates. A lot.

  • The_L

    This post reminds me of why I still feel weird about belts.

    On the one hand, they look cool and can keep your pants secure.

    On the other hand, they were used to humiliate and punish during my teen years.

  • texcee

    I have memories of bending over my parents’ bed, waiting for the belt — or worse, the razor strap — to connect with my bottom and thighs. Sometimes it was a flyswatter or switch, sometimes just my mother’s hand. It went on until, like you, I was bigger than my mother and declared an END to the physical punishment. My brother, too, who stopped it when he was 15 and six feet tall, daring our mother to hit him again. She never did to either of us.

  • Saraquill

    I read this, and all I can think of is “Why would anyone beat their children?”

  • Karen

    I was never beaten as a child. My dad didn’t see the point in it; I was a biddable child, and once it was explained to me what I’d done wrong and why, I generally apologized and that was the end of it. My mother was seldom beaten as a child, because she was her father’s favorite, but she described in some detail the terror he reigned upon her sibling when he was drunk and they committed some misdemeanor. Her method of disciplining me was to go into a diatribe listing all my faults, and then demanding an apology. I much preferred to be disciplined by Dad.

  • Karen

    That was supposed to be “siblings” plural. Post first, proofread later…

  • Persephone

    My parents stuck to my dad’s belt. My mom was an anger hitter, likely to swat our bare legs with whatever was to hand. Heavy punishment was waiting in the bedroom, bare-bottomed, for my dad to come in with his belt.