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The GEM Debate: When Does A Spanking Become Abuse?

 Wow is this disturbing. A Texas Judge, William Adams was videotaped beating his daughter after she downloaded some music off the Internet. Adams’ daughter, Hillary, uploaded the now seven-year-old video on YouTube where it quickly went viral, no doubt in part to the absolute viciousness of the beating. Here’s the piece that ran on The Today show, and before you watch it, please understand this is a difficult to watch.

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Matt Lauer spoke to Hillary Adams who was literally the picture of poise and confidence, humility and even forgiveness. But, and I may catch hell for this, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of her mother. Hallie was in the video, talking through clenched teeth at her daughter to “take it like a woman”; she even participated in the beating. To Matt Lauer, she claimed she lived in fear of her now ex-husband and did what he told her to do.

I suppose that could be true, after all she was there. But what did come through loud and clear was her remorse for taking part in the brutal beating, something that was lacking in the interview with Judge Adams.

So he question for debate is, what should happen to the judge? The statute of limitations has expired on this so he can’t face criminal charges. But should he keep his job? And the bigger question, when does a spanking cross the line into abuse?

Weigh in now!




  1. Beth @ TheAngelForever

    November 3, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    I need to watch the clip that you have on here from this morning. I only caught part of it this morning. From watching CNN last night, I think what got me the most about Judge Adams is what his job is. He is a family court judge up for reelection. I can not imagine looking at him the same. He abused his daughter and from the sounds of it, his wife. How can someone who has done these horrible things be trusted to help families that go to his family court?

  2. ConnieFoggles

    November 3, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    I hope this terrible situation brings about a change in the statute of limitations for child abuse. Since the judge admitted it was indeed him whipping his daughter, he should be removed from the bench. It frightens me that a man who thinks that what he did was acceptable is a family judge, who makes decisions about children’s lives.

    This was not spanking! This young girls was whipped with a belt numerous times. Using an object to hit your child crosses the line. I can only imagine what other horrible things happened in this family that was not filmed. I’m outraged!

  3. Linda Carmical

    November 3, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    I’m just disgusted with this man. Of course he says he did nothing wrong. An abuser NEVER admits it do they? This strikes a cord for me and I’m especially sensitive to what this girl went through. I’m proud of her for posting the video and I hope he loses everything. The only way this idiot will learn “his lesson” is at rock bottom. Maybe then he’ll truly feel remorse and ask for forgiveness. What a friggin coward…beating on a 16 year old, and with Cerebral Palsy no less.

    What a jerk loser.

  4. ec

    November 3, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    I didn’t watch the video, because I don’t need to. My parents did this to me. And, I can tell you that the statute of limitations on this should never run out….even if I am 41. I hope he goes to H@LL with my parents, after he loses his job.

  5. Cody Williams

    November 3, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    Not nearly as bad as the ‘spankings’ I got with an extension cord, butt naked, coming out of the bathtub. By my mother, no less. And she loved me dearly.

    Only difference is those stopped after we turned 12-years-old.

    Spanking a 16-year-old is a bit weird.

    I don’t think anything should be done to the Judge. While I would never hit my children, corporal punishment is an acceptable form of discipline in many circles. And it generally does not look or sound any different from this.

  6. TechyDad

    November 3, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    What doesn’t get much airplay is why he beat his daughter like that. He caught her using the Internet to download music. Yes, it was illegal but the appropriate response is sitting down with your kid, talking to them about the subject and restricting/removing computer privileges.

    If his response to “downloaded a few MP3s” is to beat her for 7 minutes, I can’t imagine what would happen if he found out she snuck out with her friends or any of the other misbehaving things kids will often do.

    I agree with my wife. I would not want to be in front of this judge, especially if the case involved abuse. Since he thinks that a 7 minute beating session is appropriate for downloading some music, how is he going to rule if a family is in front of him alleging that one of the spouses physically/emotionally abused the other? Will he rule that the abuser was just “trying to keep order” in the family or some such garbage? How many abusers has he let slide because he is an abuser himself.

    He should definitely lose his job. Luckily, it seems that this is an election year and the daughter posted the video because she couldn’t bear the thought of him being reelected given what happened. Hopefully, the voters will kick him to the curb (if he doesn’t get kicked out automatically).

  7. Doyle

    November 3, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    This was a beating. I personally think parents should never hit their children. But if they do, I think one swapt of the hand on the behind is enough. There are a lot of other ways to discipline children without using hitting.

  8. Smarty P. Jones

    November 3, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    I am sure I am in the minority here, but, I don’t see abuse. All we have is this video and her version of the back story. I caught WAY worse than this and for them to feel the need to whoop her at 16 tells me that the download of the music was not all that happened.

    My Smarty senses are tingling on this one and there are way too many unanswered questions to just go condemning this man. This whole thing stinks to high heaven and I suspect we’ll never hear the truth.

    I’m not saying there isn’t a fine line between discipline and abuse, I say he didn’t even toe that line. I won’t hash it out here but I did post about it, too. Feel free to stroll on over!

    Good post!

  9. Camila

    November 3, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    Hey Smarty P. Jones, that’s exactly how I see it! I got worse in my house!!!!!!!!!! I mean I didnt get bodily injuries after it just hurt in the moment (I dont bruise easily). It’s pretty normal in my family I know there’s a fine line when it makes abuse, but it didnt look like abuse to me.

  10. Rene Syler

    November 3, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    @Camila and Smarty: So you guys were whipped for 7 minutes straight? Berated and humiliated for 7 MINUTES? Oh and do either of you have cerebral palsy? Come on, just because it happened int he past does not make it right. In this case, the punishment did NOT fit the crime.

  11. Phrankie

    November 3, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    I now we do not know the whole story and I feel bad for all involved. However, I have been at the point where I wanted to spank my very disobedient teenager. And this was after many talks about appropriate behavior and consequences.
    I was not opposed to spanking when my children were younger, but I believe that when spanking does not change behavior it is not working and it becomes abusive. I also, believe that spanking should stop when my children get older. I do not want the situation to get out of hand and we are actually fighting. That would not be good for anyone.

  12. Smarty P. Jones

    November 3, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    IDK how long it was, I was never bold enough to record it. Spankings are ugly, they’re supposed to be. I am aware my feelings are not shared, my opinion is there was no abuse there. All we see is a snippet of something that she likely could have edited before posting.

    As for the cerebral palsy, I am NOT downplaying her condition, I’m just not sure what that has to do with anything here. She was well enough to get up and turn the camera off that she started a half hour before the spanking. And excuse me, her dancing and dodging that belt is NOT a seven-minute beating.

    There are WAY too many unanswered questions here. And yes again, GEM, I caught it with a belt, a switch, a hand… And guesss what, I am better for it. My mother did indeed whip me into shape. No whoopins, no Smarty.

  13. dianthe

    November 4, 2011 at 12:22 am

    my number one pet peeve about spanking is the people who think it’s okay to spank because they were spanked and “turned out fine” – i can give you a LONG list of idiot things i’ve done and “turned out fine” – that doesn’t make them right – in my experience, the majority of people who were spanked/beaten/whipped/etc. and “turned out fine” think it’s okay to “spank” their kids because it happened to them and they “deserved it” or it “kept them in line” – who’s to say that those same people wouldn’t have turned out exactly the same with a different type of discipline? i hear people say all the time “that kid needs a good whippin'” when really what they need is discipline PERIOD.

    my other issue is that there are no rules about “spanking” – for the most part, unless children are being battered and bruised, it’s difficult to prove abuse – one parent’s spanking is another parent’s beating – as proved by the discussion here

    i was spanked and i “turned out fine” – but i still think spanking is stupid – i think you can enforce discipline without hitting and i think spanking is contrary to everything we teach our kids (at least what i’m teaching mine) – i’ll never understand why once a person hits a certain age (no pun intended), we decide it’s no longer appropriate to hit them – don’t get me wrong, if i’m trying to get my child’s attention i don’t mind giving them a quick swat to get their attention – but i do the same thing to my husband – lol! in my world, one quick swat and hitting repeatedly with the intention of inflicting pain are 2 COMPLETELY different animals

    there is no question in my mind that what is in this video is abusive – and in my opinion, anyone who got “just as bad or worse” growing up was also abused – they just lived to tell the tale

  14. Tim

    November 4, 2011 at 8:39 am

    So if I spank or whip my child and it shows no submission then I just contuine spanking her or give her a second spanking after the first one? What if she cry to loud or scream then I contuine spanking her harder and longer when crying can be a sign of a rebellion act. If she cry to long after a spanking I spank(whip) her again. What if spank her with “the greatest amount of pain” with out damage? If she complain after the spanking how painfully it is to sit or etc then I will give her a warning then spank her again even more painfully or give her a new set of sore red marks. What do you draw the line between spanking and abuse? You see my point here? What I and you difine spanking can be a very grey zone. Thats why many as banned spanking or whipping children. The law is unclear. (Sorry my english).

  15. Amber

    November 4, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    My thoughts:
    I was whipped as a child. My sibling were whipped. And I choose to whip my child.

    My son is 5; we talk about the rules of our home and we talk about the consequences. He gets warnings, he is reprimanded, he is punished from things he likes (i.e. playing the Wii). But he is fully aware that if he continues doing an action after the discussion, after the warning, after the punishment, then yes, he DOES get 4 licks with the belt. My son is fully capable of explaining to you what he did wrong and why he did it (he is highly intelligent & he fully comprehends what we discuss). My point being – the whipping is not the first punishment applied, it’s the last point. It doesn’t happen often, b/c I feel it is applied correctly.

    In this case, I understand the daughter has cerebal palsy (and I do not make light of her condition), but her CP did not stop her from downloading illegal music. A judge’s daughter was, in essence, STEALING in his own home!

    How can he go into court and sentence a juvenile offender for theft, and not do anything about his own child doing so?

    I do think 16 is a tad old to still be “whipping”… I think I received my last tap when I was 14… but we don’t know the circumstances in the moments before the video began. She may have shouted out “I’m 16, I’m a grown woman”… WE DON’T KNOW.

    I find it extremely odd that she waits SEVEN years to release this video. And for what? To destroy her father publicly?? Sounds like more family drama is lurking behind the scenes.

    Just my $.02

  16. DQ

    November 4, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    I have mixed emotions about the video. I don’t have a problem with the judges use of the belt. But it evolves from discipline to domestic terrorism, when he not only hits her with the belt, but curses at her and jerks her by her hair. For me, that’s when it becomes “a bridge too far”. It becomes impossible for me to sell this as “just” discipline. It looks, it sounds, and indeed probably felt like a lot more. My parents never cursed at me when I was getting a whooping. Not once.

    That all said, we know how the mother and father acted when they thought no one was looking, it would be interesting to see how the daughter would have acted if she didn’t know she was being filmed. Would she have continued to defy his command to turn over on the bed (which seemed to only prolong and intensify the confrontation?) Would the whooping have gone that long? Would he have cursed her? Things I wonder.

  17. m.e. johnson

    November 6, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    You know what getting a beating taught me? How to take a beating.

    Most (not all) of the people who say “I turned out just fine” haven’t heard the opinion of anyone else.

  18. charli

    November 7, 2011 at 3:13 am

    I want to add my 2 cents worth for what it’s worth. I couldn’t watch the clip, but having experienced a degree of abuse and as a mother I think the line is drawn in most cases where the punishment is done in anger. Anger always over steps the boundaries and having experienced the abuse until the age of 18 when I lost it and fought back I have avoided physical punishment with my kids unless it was when they were putting themselves in danger (eg trying to run out on a busy Rd or touching a hot pot on the stove). Once my kids were old enough to reason with and obey “stop” instantly I needed to stop physical punishment as I think the line is really fine and anger can push you over the edge no matter who you are. My mother is a lovely woman, admired and loved by many, and no one bar our neighbours I’m sure (who heard the screams and the yells on a weekly basis) would suspect what she was capable of in a session of punishment mixed with anger . So all I can say is be careful if you go down the physical punishment route.

  19. Jeremiah Doctson

    November 9, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    Smarty – Could you define what you would categorize as abuse? Would a closed fist to the face be abuse? Assuming you hopefully do see it as such, how exactly do you distinguish that from a belt or other objects to the rib cage?
    How can the two be different in your view?

    Furthermore, how can you justify the physical beating of children? To say you’re better for being beat seems to be a case of placing the target where the bullet hit. You’re identifying yourself as you are now as the person you’d like to be (with beatings), but you’d know doubt be saying you value yourself to the utmost as well had you not been beat as a child as well. It seems like people who were beat as children often say they were “better for it” in order to justify their parents abuse, but you never hear anyone say “Man, I tell you what, I really wish my mom would have taken a frying pan and hit me in the ribs with it a few times, I’d sure be a better person!”.
    I’m not sure what to think of your accusations of foul play by the girl based upon zero evidence to indicate it so I’ll just leave them at that.

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