“Why isn’t mummy here?”
This is a question that often comes from the tiny lips of four-year-old Danielle Ramsoomair.
A video gone viral of a mother beating her 12-year-old daughter, which was posted on Facebook, was yesterday described as not being the first of its kind. However, the mother is now facing varying forms of public criticism for the punishment she meted out to her child. “I have seen other parents do something similar about a year ago,” said behavioural therapist Wendell de Leon, who is worried it may become a trend in T&T. He is not in support of corporal punishment of that nature.
“People are seeking to humiliate others in the public domain rather than in the privacy of their homes. They are using the social network as a medium of punishment.”
The six-minute video shows the mother administering some 63 lashes to her daughter with a belt on mostly her arms and back while scolding her about trying to send out an indecent picture of herself on the Internet. The words of the mother are not all completely clear, however, and some web viewers thought the girl was being punished for sending her underwear to a male friend. “This is a nice show,” the mother says in one segment of the video, looking into the web camera set up in the kitchen.
She said the video was to show people her daughter was not a big woman, and that she (the mother) was the big woman. She pauses occasionally in the video to call out to mostly unseen family members for certain information. In one instance, she wants to know how the picture would have been sent and what her daughter posted on her Facebook page. “I don’t know about these things,” the mother is heard telling her other children.
The voice replied that the girl, who had been sent to school, said she actually went to the mall that day. “What you going to school for?” the mother shouted, throwing more belts on the girl. “For book,” the sobbing daughter replied, while trying to dodge the major impact of several of the blows. The mother wanted information about a singer the daughter listens to. “What is the boy name? Justin?” When she found out it was US singer/songwriter Justin Timberlake, she puts a fresh beating on her daughter.
There is no information on when and from where the video was posted, who did it and the names of the mother and daughter. But up to yesterday, there were 636 shares and 122 comments. There were mixed comments, some describing it as abuse and others saying the girl “looked for that”. Several people the T&T Guardian spoke to had similar responses. Asked if he thought it was abuse, de Leon said the aim of punishment for wrongdoing should be to change undesirable behaviour.
Corporal punishment at a particular point in a child’s life does not effectively promote behaviour change, he said. This “point” would be between the ages of 11 and 13 and beating someone around this age can only foster resentment, defiance and fear, he said.
De Leon, also the president of the National Institute for Promoting Responsible Fathers, said inflicting corporal on someone, and highlighting it on Facebook can only cause embarrassment and humiliation. He said “deeper issues” may have caused the 12-year old to want to advertise herself in that manner on Facebook. “She may be seeking some kind of attention she is not getting.”
Single dad of two young sons, Dennis Allen, who hosts the television show On the Record!” for WI Sports, had a different take on the video. “I can’t say whether the child is being abused. It is a six-minute video of one isolated incident.” Allen said he also found the licks looked “cosmetic”. He added, “As a parent, I wonder what message she is trying to get across to her child but I don’t think public shaming is the most effective way to do this.
“We don’t know what went on before the beating. I don’t know if the mother had made other attempts to get the message across. “But things had reached the stage where the child had to get a public cut tail.” Allen said he saw a Texas parent shooting his daughter’s laptop and another rolling his car over his child’s Ipad in other instances of parents reacting to children abusing social media.
The Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development said yesterday it is concerned about the beating of the 12-year girl by her mother. “The Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development has noted with concern the viral video of a mother beating her young daughter for allegedly posting inappropriate photos of herself on the popular social media site Facebook,” a release from the ministry said.
“The ministry wishes to advise parents there are different forms of discipline which should be considered when dealing with children. “The ministry strongly advocates the use of non-physical forms of discipline. Physical forms of discipline can lead to harm and unintended consequences, including serious injury, poor mental health or even death.”
The release said the ministry also recognises that during adolescent years, many children face challenges which may lead to inappropriate behaviour such as the posting of unsuitable images on social media.
“This may be a sign of deeper issues which need to be addressed. Parents are also encouraged to monitor their children’s use of social media and other information technologies, especially as these relate to the posting of inappropriate photographs and videos. This can have serious consequences for the child’s reputation and character.”
The ministry, through its National Family Services, provides free guidance and counselling services to members of the public on a 24-hour basis, seven days a week, to those needing help in dealing with life’s challenges. Those wishing to utilise the services offered can call 627-1163 ext 2005; 2032; 2053 or 2046.