Author Question: Tawse Hand Injuries

Anonymous Asks:

I’m really glad I found your blog! I don’t know whether this is the sort of question you’ll answer on the blog, since it’s “injury to order”, but I very much hope so as I try to be scrupulous about my research and want to get this right.

I have a male character in his mid-30s. He’s right-handed, and his left hand is permanently damaged. It can be either a birth defect or something that occurred when he was young (before the age of ten). I’m completely open to what the injury is— I would like him to have at least limited use of his hand, and it would be a bonus to have a childhood surgery and/or to have him use a splint or brace in adulthood (even only occasionally), but none of this is required.
However, what’s fixed is that he believes the injury was caused by parental abuse— specifically, being whipped across the palm with a leather strap known as a tawse.
Because he’s mentally conflating his actual injury with the abuse, those two things don’t have to match up. It might even be better if someone in his adult life said “could being hit with a strap really cause that damage?”, but I do want to know exactly what the issue is so I can depict it accurately.

Many thanks for anything you can suggest!

Jordyn Says:

Thanks for sending me your question.

I love “injuries to order”. Sometimes it’s easier to fit an injury into what the writer wants than framing the writing to a particular injury the author wants to write about.

I’ve never heard of a tawse and its use in corporal punishment. For readers, a tawse is a piece of leather with split end. You can find some representative images by following here. Just reading about this device being used– it would easily cause soft tissue damage– bruising (even though they were seemingly designed to not bruise), swelling, and if used with enough force– fractures. I think continued, persistent use could potentially even cause nerve damage. I looked specifically for articles dealing with “tawse hand injuries” and really didn’t have much luck.

The reason I list these potential injuries is so that you can “pick your own” injury within these guidelines. I’m including a couple of links to websites that list several congenital malformations of the hand. Read through them and see if any connect with you and the goals of your story.

http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1285233

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/plastic_surgery/congenital_hand_deformities_85,P01120

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/congenital-hand

Hope this helps and best of luck with your story.

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