There’s not but one acceptable standard for abuse: guest opinion


Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson warms up for an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis in 2012. The Vikings benched Peterson for Sunday’s game after his attorney said he had been indicted by a Texas grand jury on a charge of child abuse. Attorney Rusty Hardin says the charge accuses Peterson of using a branch, or switch, to spank his son. He says Peterson has cooperated with authorities and “used his judgment as a parent to discipline his son.” Hardin says Peterson regrets the incident but never intended to harm the boy.

The NFL doesn’t have a problem with domestic violence and child abuse – our nation does.

According to the Department of Justice, domestic violence accounted for 21 percent of all violent victimizations during the period from 2003 to 2012.  In the state of Alabama, in 2012 there were 9,573 child abuse victims.

Zero tolerance. That should be the standard for domestic violence and child abuse. We need tough penalties for abusers, we need to increase awareness of what victimization looks like and how to respond, and finally, we need to create an atmosphere here victims aren’t afraid to seek help and the community is prepared to offer that help through a non-profit support system.

The only way to protect the vulnerable is to create and maintain this standard.

In recent days, national headlines have centered on NFL players who have had their abuse gain national attention through photos and videos. As gut wrenching as those are, it’s important that we don’t make “splashed on the front page” the standard for outrage. Every case should spark outrage and every victim should receive the support of their families and/or community to escape future violence.

In the Ray Rice situation, the original video and reports offered convincing evidence that he had knocked out the woman who is now his wife. But it wasn’t until the video of him actually doing so surfaced that tougher sanctions were taken.

That’s not soon enough, because too often violence happens behind closed doors, where there are no cameras.

The new photos involving another NFL runningback, Adrian Peterson, have parents and experts discussing and debating the lines between discipline and abuse. (Warning graphic photos)  There is no doubt after reading the stories and looking at the photos that even if the intent was to discipline, the action was abusive.

Again, this is not a NFL problem. Here in Alabama, the trial has just begun for the grandmother who ran her 9-year old granddaughter to death for eating a candy bar. There is a distinct line between discipline and abuse, and a zero tolerance policy and public education campaign should be launched to make sure it’s understood.

On a recent Facebook discussion on the Adrian Peterson case, I couldn’t believe my eyes that anyone could defend parents who harm their child, offering excuses such as, “Maybe he didn’t know his own strength,” or “He probably didn’t mean to” and my favorite, “Maybe he got carried away.”

A few even said that all the hoopla was an “overreaction.”

He’s not just a grown man but a paid athlete. The burden of proof shouldn’t be to expect he meant well or didn’t know his own strength, it should be whatever is in the child’s best interest.

I’m not a fan of overreacting in general but we’re talking about child abuse or domestic violence – OVERREACT people. It may mean the difference between a life saved or not.

It is our job as a community to pay attention to those around us and to speak out when we suspect abuse or neglect. A conversation or a phone call could save a life.

For more resources visit the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence here.

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Apryl Marie Fogel is a conservative political activist who lives in Birmingham.