“The Means Prescribed By God” – In an undated photo from an article on Boston.com, Susan Lawrence displays “The Rod”, a $5 whipping tool marketed exclusively to Christian parents.
Yates County, NY – “Spoons are for cooking, belts are for holding up pants, hands are for loving, and rods are for chastening,” read an advertisement for THE ROD, encountered by homeschooling mother Susan Lawrence in the pages of Home School Digest.
A competing device, marketed by Child Training Resources of Bakersfield, California was sold alongside controversial parenting books To Train up a Child, by Michael Pearl, and What the Bible Says About Child Training, by Richard Fugate. Pearl’s book has been linked to at least three child abuse deaths, while Fugate’s book was once the subject of a Justice Department alert, as well as having been “used in court cases in a number of states as a defense of those accused of child abuse,” both according to an article by Diane Divoky in the Sacramento Bee. Child Training Resources even went so far as to offer free samples of their whipping device to “leaders of child training classes with 15 or more people.”
Shocked, Susan Lawrence began a national campaign to ban the marketing of child-whipping devices in the United States. Facing mounting media scrutiny and a public backlash, THE ROD and its 9″ long plastic competitor were both voluntarily taken off the market–however, the devices were not recalled and at least one parent has since been arrested for allegedly abusing a child using a nylon whipping stick.
On December 1, 2010, Rocville.com reported that Terry Nesbit, 44, was arrested for endangering the welfare of a child, following an investigation into possible excessive corporal punishment. According to the news report, police said the child suffered bruising to the buttocks and legs after being spanked with the nylon rod. Nesbit was arraigned in Town of Benton Court. A 2014 request made under the state’s Freedom of Information Act failed to locate a record of the case’s final disposition.
Nicholas Ducote, now 25, recalled being punished with THE ROD. “My parents got one when I was ten or eleven. It was a ‘thing’ for awhile; all the fundamentalist homeschool moms in New Orleans were getting one.” THE ROD quickly became his parents’ implement of choice. “Usually on my naked ass.” Asked to describe the punishment, Ducote said, “It was all about the flick of the wrist – they could make it hurt like [expletive] if they flipped it just right.” Ducote’s younger sister got the same treatment. “I don’t remember exactly when they introduced it, but it was before her second birthday.”
“It sat on the fireplace mantle in the den, as a visual reminder of pain. They used it on my sister almost exclusively. They had her trained like a dog – absolute obedience.”
Asked what he would say, if he were able to speak to the marketers of THE ROD and similar products, Ducote said, “What can you tell someone who thinks it’s OK to profit from a tool used to inflict invisible beatings on children?”