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Adrian Peterson Indicted for Child Abuse


The spotlight is certainly on the NFL and how it treats its players accused of domestic violence. Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was released from the team and suspended indefinitely from the league after video surfaced of him punching his then-fiance, now-wife so hard he knocked her out before dragging her limp body out of an elevator. Prior to the release of the video, Rice was subject to a two-game suspension.

However, a picture is worth a thousand words, as they say, and after people saw for themselves the violence with which Rice struck the woman, a two-game suspension was deemed too weak. The outcry against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in the aftermath of the video's release has caused the league to launch an investigation headed by a former FBI director Robert Mueller. Some lawmakers are calling for a congressional investigation of the NFL and its handling of domestic violence cases.

If you are an NFL player, it's not a good time to be accused of domestic abuse. Unfortunately for former University of Oklahoma Sooners running back, and current Minnesota Viking, Adrian Peterson, now is right about the time he chose to discipline his 4-year-old son with a "switch."

Peterson was indicted in Texas after an investigation into child abuse claims due to the visible bruises and cuts his son sustained after the switching. Peterson turned himself in to police, was booked into jail, and released on $15,000 bond. Peterson's attorney says that the man is a loving father who disciplined his child in a way that he himself had been disciplined, and that he never intended to harm the child. He says that Peterson has been open and cooperative throughout the investigation.

Peterson's charge has polarized fans and critics. His supporters say that "switching," or striking a child on the legs with a slender branch, is a traditional and normal way to discipline children; it is simply another form of spanking. On the other side are those who say that even normal spanking is child abuse and that it is never okay to hit a child. Some observers of the case are torn; on the one hand, they believe spanking is reasonable force in disciplining a child, but using implements such as a switch or leaving visible injuries is child abuse.

I fall somewhere in the middle. I consider myself somewhat of a "discipline connoisseur"...growing up, I received whoopins' with just about anything you can imagine. Hell, I was paddled at school on more than one occasion. Still, times have changed, and I can't say my parents or teachers ever left any cuts or open wounds on me after they were finished.

In Peterson's case, much like Rice's, seeing is believing, and the pictures of Peterson's child's injuries may significantly bias public opinion.

Texas law exempts "reasonable discipline" as child abuse. Chapter 261 of the Texas Family Code defines child abuse, in part, as "physical injury that results in substantial harm to the child, or the genuine threat of substantial harm from physical injury to the child, including an injury that is at variance with the history or explanation given and excluding an accident or reasonable discipline by a parent, guardian, or managing or possessory conservator that does not expose the child to a substantial risk of harm." In other words, if the injury is from "reasonable discipline" that does not cause "substantial risk of harm," the law does not consider that to be child abuse. However, courts generally see physical injury as signs of abuse.

Similarly, Oklahoma has a law that allows "ordinary force" in disciplining a child. Title 21 Section 844 of the Oklahoma Statutes is entitled "Ordinary Force as Means of Discipline Not Prohibited," and it reads as follows:

"Provided, however, that nothing contained in this Act shall prohibit any parent, teacher or other person from using ordinary force as a means of discipline, including but not limited to spanking, switching or paddling."

Oklahoma law specifically allows using implements of corporal punishment (switches, paddles) and considers spanking, switching, and paddling to be lawful when used with "ordinary force as a means of discipline. However, this statute does not give parents carte blanche to abuse their children under the guise of spanking or switching. If a parent or caregiver leaves visible injuries, bruises, cuts, or welts in disciplining a child, he or she will likely be subject to DHS investigation and possibly criminal prosecution.

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