Family, Self

Adrian Peterson And The Problem With How We Handle Child Abuse

Protecting the rights of children is my life's work, so I will not be holding back my expression of outrage against allowing Adrian Peterson to practice and play this week. As I was preparing my thoughts on this topic for this post and for an interview, I saw the latest report that he has another four year old son from another woman to whom he also provided "beatings," leaving scars after a reported incident in a car in which the child injured himself because he wouldn't "sit still" and just take the beating. That mother, too, called Child Protection Services (CPS) but that report was never taken.

Every year, over 3 million calls are made into CPS, of which about one third are considered "founded." Trust me, that number should be a lot higher. More reports should be taken, but because of our failed child protection system (one of the worst in the world) kids in abusive relationships go unprotected and are continuously abused, neglected and tragically die at the hands of their abusers (typically family). Between four and seven children die every day due to neglect and abuse. Two years ago, The Denver Post ran a "Failed to Death" investigative series that highlighted infants and toddlers who died despite sometimes numerous CPS calls that were not followed up on or were "unfounded." It is a tragedy. Our child welfare system is broken, and so is the NFL.

"This is a difficult path to navigate regarding the judgment of how a parent disciplines his child..." says Spieldman, the Vikings general manager. REALLY, it's difficult to decide that an NFL running back who is 6'1 and 217 pounds and is leaving bruises and cuts on a four year old child, who is likely about 3 feet tall and weighs around 40 pounds, is being abusive? Where is the national outrage? Do we really need to get videos and pictures to have anyone in the Vikings organization or the NFL actually take a stand? How many more children or incidents or bruises do we need reported before someone says, "enough is enough, we don't stand for this type of conduct"? The NFL has a "personal conduct" clause but clearly doesn't really stand behind it when it needs to. The Vikings' public statements, lack of leadership and permissive actions continue to send a message that NFL players, making millions of dollars for themselves and their organizations, can say and do whatever they want and no one is going to stop them. Well, when it comes to the welfare of children, we as a country cannot turn a blind eye. That four year old boy cannot defend himself—we all have to defend and protect him and the millions of other children who suffer at the hands of adults. Adults who may have been abused themselves as children, who claim they don't know any better, need to be taught. Adrian Peterson stated today that he understands that after speaking with a psychologist, "there may be alternate forms of disciplining children..." Just that pre scripted, canned, professionally written response is a red flag that he would have no idea, when under stress, how to handle one of his young children who is not listening to him.

And if he was, in fact, raised in a similar way it is going to take a lot more than one meeting with a psychologist to change his patterns of aggression and anger. The only thing I believe out of today's statement is that Peterson does not believe he is an abuser. So it is up to us, the fans, the community, the NFL, concerned human beings, to help him and possibly countless other people, understand that what he did to his children makes him an abuser. That beating your child "with a switch" is not effective, is not just a single incident or something that his children will just spontaneously heal from. It is a form of male dominance and aggression that is traumatizing to his children, both as the recipients as well as the witnesses of the abuse. It does not earn him respect nor help in raising good young men. Adrian Peterson's actions are a sign of low self-esteem, lack of self control, lack of moral conscious, lack of education, overconsumption with oneself and, ultimately, the inability to love his children unconditionally.