By now, more than two and a half million people around the world have watched the video posted on YouTube of a sixteen-year-old disabled girl, Hillary Adams, being beaten by her father for nearly eight harrowing minutes. William Adams has admitted that he was indeed the person in the video who took a leather belt and savagely whipped his daughter for illegally downloading music off the internet, threatening to hit her in the face as well, screaming obscenities while beating her "into submission," incensed by her "disobedience," the sort of terminology rarely heard in everyday conversation. After several minutes of whipping the girl, the father leaves, but is heard to say, "I never got my licks in," and returns to beat her with an even bigger leather belt while his daughter screams and begs him to stop. Sickeningly, William Adams is the Aransas County Court-at-law Judge, presiding over Family Court, and has made 349 legal decisions regarding family cases in the last year alone, many of them child abuse cases.
Judge Adams, during an on-camera interview with KZTV Corpus Christi television station a few days ago, tried to downplay his behavior, saying the footage is years old, he’d already apologized for "losing his temper," but remains completely unrepentant, saying the beating "looks worse than it is" and he still could see nothing wrong in disciplining his daughter. He has apparently disciplined her over and over and over again, it seems, as Hillary Adams told an interviewer on NBC’s Today that father regularly beat her over a long period of time. She made the tape, she said, knowing the beating was coming – hiding a camera under a scarf on her dresser to make a record of the abuse. At one point, the girl’s mother chimes in, saying rather tellingly, "turn over like a sixteen-year-old and take it! Like a grown woman!" Like a grown woman? What grown woman thinks it’s normal to have the living snot beaten out of her by a violent, abusive man? It seems his daughter might not have been the only woman in his house on the receiving end of a leather strap.
So deeply ingrained was this family’s fear of this man that Hillary Adams waited seven years before releasing it. "Back then I was still a minor and living under his roof and releasing it then… I don’t know what would have happened to me or my mother or little sister… If this had blown up when I was a minor who knows where I would be. I wouldn’t be able to escape." Nor did the good judge’s abuse stop with his divorce, his wife leaving him four years ago. "I am praying for my daughters and me and my family to heal in all ways from emotional and physical abuse," Hallie Adams wrote on Facebook, "for the current and continuing abuse of my children and me that has been ongoing to end." Adams shares joint custody of his now 14-year-old younger daughter with his ex-wife.
But it’s not only Adams’s ex-wife who was conditioned into believing this level of violence is "normal." Apparently, so does the State of Texas.
William Adams will not face any legal prosecution. Police Chief Tim Jayroe of Rockport, Texas, has said that he believed there was a criminal offense involved and substantial evidence to indicate that, and under normal circumstances a charge could have been made. But the district attorney had determined he could not bring charges. Not only does Texas have a five-year statute of limitations on child physical abuse charges, "By state law, a person has the right to discipline their children, to a point, but not to the point that you cause serious bodily injury to a child." Austin family law attorney Jimmy Evans has said what Judge Adams did could be perfectly legal in Texas. Parents can use corporal punishment on their children, if it is "reasonable" and the parent believed it was being done to "promote the child’s welfare."
The question then becomes, what is considered reasonable? After so many years, authorities will not be able to find anything "substantial" – injuries, signs of bruising, cuts or broken bones – except from what can be viewed on the video. Judge Adams himself has decided what can be considered "reasonable" and in a child’s welfare in many of his own court cases; in a court judgment last October regarding a severely abused six-year-old boy, Judge Adams said that a child's statements "amounted to no evidence" despite the fact the child’s account had been confirmed by third party witnesses and recorded on video several times. The boy had also been interviewed by a child psychologist who believed the boy’s story. Judge Adams agreed with the lawyer who claimed all children are "fantasizers" and their testimony should be ignored.
So Judge William Adams was right when he dared his daughter to post the video; other than public outrage, he’s facing no punishment for his crimes. And it seems an appalling number of people in this country aren’t troubled in the least by that.
"Get over it," says one poster. "It’s not like he punched her… You’ll be welt/bruise-free in less than a week… I would hit my kids with belts, too."
"Perhaps she wouldn’t have been 'whipped like a dog' if she would have obeyed her father and bent over the bed like he repeatedly told her!" said another. "She would have probably gotten 10 whacks and it would have been over. I would have probably done the same."
And, of course, in it’s usual "fair and balanced" manner, Fox News has been quick to offer the judge’s starkly different explanation as to why his daughter posted the clip:
"Just prior to the YouTube upload, a concerned father shared with his 23-year-old daughter that he was unwilling to continue to work hard and be her primary source of financial support, if she was going to simply `drop out,' and strive to achieve no more in life than to work part time at a video game store," Adams' statement said. "Hillary warned her father if he reduced her financial support, and took away her Mercedes automobile, which her father had provided, he would live to regret it."
This indifference toward domestic violence shouldn’t surprise anyone, though. Our country has tacitly condoned domestic violence for decades. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States, more than all car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. One woman is beaten by her partner or husband ever fifteen seconds in the United States, three to four million women every year. A quarter of all American women will experience domestic violence sometime in their lives. Police are more likely to respond within five minutes if a woman is attacked by a stranger than if she is by someone she knows. Leaving an abusive partner doesn’t stop the violence – over 70% of women injured in domestic violence are separated from their partners. The average prison sentence for a man who kills his female partner is two to six years; the average prison sentence for a woman who kills her male partner is fifteen years. Domestic Violence is escalating as the economy worsens, job loss, unsuccessful employment searches, the foreclosure crisis and other economic factors are limiting escape options for survivors of abuse.
But domestic violence is still not being regarded as being a "serious" enough crime, far too many counties deeming it a "misdemeanor" rather than a felony assault. Recently, Topeka, Kansas decided not to even bother prosecuting at all in order to save money on the city’s budget. So while we, as a nation, are busily heaping scorn on so-called barbaric countries like the United Arab Emirates who recently handed down a court ruling that a man has the right to beat his wife and children under Islamic sharia law, so long as he doesn’t leave any marks on her body, or the child in question in not a legal adult, calling it ‘moral depravity inherent in sharia law and Islam’ and "a reminder of the primitive and barbaric nature of all religions spawned by the God of Abraham," let’s just take a moment to remind ourselves just how primitive and backward we – in the 21st century, in the United States of America – still are ourselves while we sit and chuckle over old sexist ads and Ricky smacking Lucy as if that sort of thing doesn’t happen anymore, and look the other way when it does.
I sincerely hope Hillary Adam’s gut-wrenching video becomes the catalyst we need to shock us out of that complacency to look long and hard at our own morally corrupt legal system that allows violent, sadist men like Judge William Adams to walk away from his crimes scot-free.