TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A single spank doesn’t qualify as domestic violence, an appellate court ruled Friday.
A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal unanimously reversed an injunction for protection against domestic violence.
It cited common law and a 2002 Florida Supreme Court ruling that says reasonable or non-excessive corporal punishment can be used as a defense against child abuse charges.
Circuit Judge Karen Gievers of Tallahassee had issued the injunction against a father identified in the ruling only as “G.C.”
He had been accused by his former wife of spanking their 14-year-old daughter once on the buttocks with his hand.
The father said the teen had been disrespectful and defiant. The girl said she was only being sarcastic.
“We hold that under established Florida law this single spank constituted reasonable and non-excessive parental corporal discipline and, as a matter of law, was not domestic violence,” the appeal judges wrote in an unsigned opinion.
That’s even though the domestic violence law doesn’t explicitly say so.
The judges, though, wrote “neither does it exclude the common law defense” that parents can administer reasonable and non-excessive corporal punishment.
Categories: Child Abuse Laws, Domestic Abuse Laws Tags: appellate court, child abuse, corporal punishment, court, dad, daughter, domestic violence, florida, judge, law 14 year old, mom, one, parents, spank, supreme court, tallahassee
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Child Abuse Victims Abused Again by System
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Children who survive the trauma of sexual abuse are likely to experience a second violation — this time at the hands of the very people intended to protect them, says a University of Arkansas researcher.
Parents, child protection officials, even the system that records and processes sexual abuse cases can unintentionally inflict additional trauma on young victims, states Rebecca Newgent, assistant professor in the department of education leadership, counseling and foundations.
“Not only do these kids endure the sexual assault. They then have to face a whole crowd of strangers — from policemen to medical professionals and lawyers — prodding them, asking them to relive the assault again and again. On top of that, they may return to families who don’t understand what the children went through or how to cope with it,” Newgent said.
These factors not only lead to additional trauma, but they also increase the risk that children will be victimized again, according to Newgent.
In an article titled “The Retraumatization of Child Sexual Abuse: the Second Insult,” published in the most recent issue of the journal Trauma and Loss: Research and Interventions, Newgent identifies the practices and procedures that hurt young victims even as they attempt to help. But she also suggests that parent education as well as minor modifications in the reporting and recording process could greatly reduce subsequent trauma and risk.
In 1997, Child Protective Service agencies received more than three million reports of alleged child maltreatment. Among these reports, 15 percent — representing nearly 480,000 children — indicated some form of sexual abuse. In her article, Newgent lists the potential threats that await children after reporting a sexual assault and offers advice on how to ameliorate those threats or avoid them altogether. Some of these threats include:
THE CHILD PROTECTION SYSTEM:
In the effort to record and process cases of sexual abuse, the very system designed to protect children may submit them to unnecessary, additional trauma, Newgent said.
The most obvious mistake is that the system requires children to retell, and thereby relive, the experience of sexual assault over and over again for a variety of different officials. A child may be questioned by medical doctors during the initial exam, then by social workers and finally attorneys — all trying to gather the evidence they need to perform their role in the child’s case.
Furthermore, the examination and investigation processes are often more invasive than necessary, causing the child greater fear and distress, perhaps even additional feelings of shame.
Newgent recommends that child protection agencies streamline the process and work collaboratively with other officials so that children recount their experiences only once. Facilities should be arranged so that a non-invasive medical examination can be completed and a single interrogation conducted in a child-friendly environment. Use of one-way mirrors would allow all relevant officials to witness these procedures without intimidating the victim, and videotapes of the procedures could provide a record for future reference.
Another common mistake relates to the officials themselves, rather than the system. Newgent cites past studies, which show that cultural and gender biases may skew how counselors and other professionals treat and perceive victims of sexual assault. Their attitudes may be transmitted unknowingly to the child, resulting in greater guilt and self-blame.
To counteract such biases, Newgent emphasizes the importance of proper training and competence among those who interact with sexual assault victims. She notes that an unbiased and supportive environment is particularly crucial in the initial stages of assessment and treatment.
The circumstances of a child’s abuse and the symptoms that a child displays afterward can greatly influence the way parents subsequently relate to their child. Parents may be ashamed of their child’s experience or embarrassed by the hyper-sexuality that many children exhibit after sexual trauma. Alternatively, parents may misperceive the sexual assault as normal interaction or may be overly tolerant of inappropriate sexual behavior following the assault.
Though seemingly opposite, these reactions can lead to similar outcomes: callous attitudes toward the child, greater blame of the child and decreased emotional support. Such family environments not only scar the child, but they also may feed into the cycle of violence that traps many victims. Family dysfunction can lead to deviant behavior, which increases the risk that victims of abuse will one day become abusers.
“It’s not enough to treat the child. Parents have to be educated too. It’s essential that support agencies provide family counseling even if none of the family members were the perpetrator,” Newgent said. “It’s also important that parents take the initiative to inform themselves.”
Education is not just important for the parents of victims, Newgent added. Parents should be doing more to learn about dangers and protect their children before an assault occurs.
“Schools and clinics often have wonderful educational services, but very few parents take advantage of them,” she said. “Every bit of information that you can get to help your kids — that’s certainly not asking too much.”
“The Retraumatization of Child Sexual Abuse: The Second Insult”
Rebecca A. Newgent
University of Arkansas
Lisa K. Fender-Scarr and Jamie L. Bromley
University of Akron
The traumatization of child sexual abuse does not end with the criminal act itself. Young victims’ participation in the multiple systems purporting to assist them can lead to retraumatization, the second insult. Counselors who work with children need to be aware of how variables such as prior child sexual abuse, the male as victim, victim characteristics, caregiver and family characteristics, and whether or not the crime was reported can affect the level of emotional health and recovery for these children. Current literature examines the effects of many of these variables on an individual basis. In order to help reduce the chances of young victims being revictimized counselors need to look at how these variables interact with each other and manifest themselves in the systems helping children. Assisting young victims of abuse includes having an understanding of the theories of child maltreatment. Implications for counselors in regard to the second insult include the development of competency in the realm of child sexual abuse and treatment, collaboration between multiple systems, and implementation of specialized programming. Case vignettes are provided to illustrate the variables of retraumatization.
—University of Arkansas