Child Abuse Prevention

"The act of washing a child's mouth out with soap is a slow, careful, deliberate act of abuse. Excuses of losing control do not apply. If you are capable of forcing a lightly toxic (or worse, depending on the soap) substance into your child's mouth, not only can you not claim to respect that child, but you are a cold, calculating abuser. " -- Kimberly Chapman

"Call me a sadist, but I got such pleasure out of doing it." --

(These were the words of a nanny, describing how she felt as she washed a 3 year old child's mouth out with soap).

Forcing a child to ingest noxious substances either as a punishment or as an attempted lesson should be considered intentional poisoning. The old-fashioned practice of washing the child's mouth out with soap to cleanse it of the pollution of forbidden words can cause injury more serious than just an upset stomach. A child died when he aspirated soap into his lungs during such a lesson. Another death from asphyxiation occurred when a mother poured the contents of a pepper shaker down her child's throat. So much pepper went into the his windpipe that he could not breathe. A six-year old boy died of potassium poisoning when his foster father put more than two tablespoons of Morton's Lite Salt on his food "to teach him the taste of salt". The child craved salt and ate large quantities of it after he was placed in the foster home. The foster father apparently thought that if the child got a large enough dose of salt that he would stop craving it. In a small town in Missouri, the principal caught two junior high school boys with cigarettes. His little joke for years for teenage smokers has been "Bend over or eat 'em". This time, the boys took his dare and ate 18 cigarettes between them. Fortunately, they vomited the tobacco before it could poison them; a law suit was filed claiming that one of the boys developed stomach ulcers from this punishment.


by Lesli Taylor, M.D.
Adah Maurer, Ph.D.

Child Abuse Prevention