Schaffen Frederick, the father who cut off his thirteen-year-old daughter’s hair, was scorned by the internet for his actions. It also led to a police investigation into child abuse and a suspension from his job with the fire department. In the end, he lost his joint custody of his daughter over the incident.
Going viral can be fun for some, especially when belting out sea shanties. But for many, going viral means your name will live on in infamy. Such as the fate of Schaffen Frederick, a father who cut his thirteen-year-old daughter’s hair because “actions have consequences”. While Frederick’s statement is true, he probably didn’t envision that those words were going to apply to himself.
There is an undeniable truth: parents argue. Parental relations are further strained if they are divorced. No child likes to listen to their parents fight. But what is worse is when children are caught in the middle. There are unanswered questions in the run-up to Frederick cutting his daughter’s hair. But what is clear is that he disagreed with his ex-wife’s decision and took it out on the kid.
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Schaffen Frederick: Father Who Cut Off His Daughter’s Hair
When Kelsey Frederick turned thirteen, her mother, Christin Johnson, promised her a mini-makeover. But instead of some new clothes or a different shade of lip gloss, Kelsey wanted to have highlights put in her long brown hair. Christin may have been a bit surprised, nonetheless, she booked an appointment at a local salon in Fostoria, Ohio.
Off the pair went, and Kelsey had honey highlights put in. Her mother took photos of Kelsey’s new look and posted them on Facebook. But Kelsey’s parents have a joint-custody deal, so she was also due to celebrate her birthday with her father, Schaffen Frederick. Thus, Christin dropped her off at her dad’s house, which he shared with his new wife, Sarah Murray.
Kelsey was scheduled to stay a few nights with her dad, so it wasn’t until her daughter returned that Christin discovered her daughter had been given another makeover by Schaffen and Sarah. The pair, without Kelsey’s consent, chopped the young teen’s hair. It was about an inch long on the back and sides, with maybe two inches left on the top.
Kelsey was devastated, and Christin was furious. When Christin confronted her ex as to why he would do such a horrible thing, he told her; “Actions have consequences.”
Had Frederick Told His Daughter Not to Get Highlights?
Nobody knows if Schaffen had already told his daughter not to get highlights, except maybe the people directly involved in the incident. What is known is that Kelsey asked her mother, and the mother agreed.
It could be debated that Christin should have discussed the matter first with the child’s father. But then again, Schaffen should have discussed his idea for punishment with the child’s mother. Instead, it was the child caught in the middle between the parents and the child that suffered the consequences.
What Did the Mom Do After Her Daughter’s Hair Was Cut?
Christin was not satisfied with Schaffen’s excuse for why he and his new wife had chopped their daughter’s locks. Thus, on January 31, 2018, Christin Johnson went on Facebook and posted three photos:
- Her daughter looking happy and sporting her new highlights
- Two shots of her daughter looking devastated and wearing dramatically shorter hair
“This is what my daughter looked like Sunday when I took her home,” wrote Christin, “and the other two pics are what happened today before she was brought to me.”
How Did the Internet Respond to Dad Cutting Daughter’s Hair?
Christin’s post about her daughter’s unwanted short haircut went viral. In one week, her post had been shared more than 25,000 times, and news outlets scrambled to cover the story. People provided their opinions on the matter on various social media platforms, including Twitter. While not everyone agreed, most thought the dad had been cruel.
Did Some Criticize the Mom After Dad Cut Daughter’s Hair?
While almost nobody agreed with the father for cutting his daughter’s hair, not everyone thought the mother was blameless in the incident.
Some people thought Christin, the mom, should have protected her daughter’s identity before posting about the incident. Other people speculated that Christin used the situation to score points against her ex rather than thinking of her daughter’s feelings. Then there were folks who believed Christin should have never let her daughter highlight her hair, believing that thirteen is too young.
Did the Dad Who Cut Daughter’s Hair Face Consequences?
Life certainly became more difficult for Schaffen after he and his wife cut his daughter’s hair without the girl’s consent. By February, local Police Chief Colby Carroll confirmed to the press that a complaint had been filed against Schaffen and his wife, alleging that they’d committed child abuse. The Police Chief declined to name who filed the complaint.
Furthermore, Schaffen and his wife Sarah were put on “administrative leave” by the Middleton Township Fire Department. The couple were both firefighters, but as the Fire Chief Steven Asmus explained, the fire department was simply following Ohio Law during an active investigation.
Lastly, Christin challenged the joint custody agreement. When the case finally came to court, there were five hours of testimony, each parent providing evidence and their side of the story. In the end, the magistrate awarded Christin full physical custody of Kelsey. Thus, Schaffen no longer had the right to insist his daughter spend time at his home or be in his care.
Did The Police Find Schaffen Guilty of Child Abuse?
It is unclear if the local police ever pursued charges against Schaffen for child abuse after he and his wife Sara cut off Kelsey’s hair without consent. But as mentioned earlier, he did lose custody of Kelsey after the incident.
Is It Abuse to Force Someone to Cut Their Hair?
“It’s just hair,” is a common dismissive phrase to any drama over locks. But as Chris Rock’s infamous joke proved at the 2022 Oscars, hair can be a deeply emotive subject. The internet felt the same when Schaffen Frederick forcibly cut off his daughter’s hair back in 2018. The practice is so emotive that it has actually been used as a war tactic.
Forcibly cutting a woman’s hair was a war tactic in the Irish War of Independence, the Spanish Civil War, and World War II. Countries such as China have also used it to punish criminals. The Germans cut off Jewish prisoner’s hair as part of their dehumanization tactics, during the Holocaust. Studies have shown that punishing a child with a bad haircut doesn’t teach them any lessons and causes damage.
Forcibly cutting somebody’s hair goes beyond invading someone’s bodily autonomy. The “bad” haircut is done to “other” the person, single them out, and bring shame. Thus, psychologists warn parents, backed by research, that such a punishment could damage the parent-child relationship and create long-term mental health consequences.
History Of Cutting Hair as Punishment
Forcibly cutting a person’s hair as punishment dates back thousands of years. Its aims are different than typical punishments, which restrict freedom of movement or cost money, such as a fine. Instead, its role is to crush the spirit through humiliation and dishonor. It also sets to mark a person in society, opening them up to bullying.
Forced Hair Cutting in China
In 650 B.C, the Chinese would have a person’s hair cut to mark them as somebody who’d committed a public disturbance. As long hair remained the norm (it was illegal to cut your hair before the Qing dynasty), the short hair marked the transgressor in the community: the “scarlet letter” of its time.
In The Bible, A Woman’s Shaved Head Is a Disgrace
In 1 Corinthians 11, a woman’s uncovered head is said to be dishonorable. But it adds that “it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved.”
It Was a War Tactic to Shave Women’s Heads
Shaving women’s heads in times of war is a common tactic. It is used to both humiliate the woman and suggest she has no morals. In the era of the Spanish Civil War, a woman’s shaved head was associated with prostitution. Thus, shaving an “enemy” woman’s head was to associate her with the sex trade while also dehumanizing her. After the deed was done, she would be forced to walk through town to be mocked. This was famously portrayed in the “Shame” scene, featuring Cersei on Game of Thrones on HBO.
The French also used this tactic during World War II to mark women who were believed to help the Germans or at least have had sexual relations with a member of the German army. Again, this was equated with prostitution and loose morals. Again, like the Spanish, the women, known as “Les femmes tondues” (the shorn women), would be paraded around, considered “ugly,” and shunned by society.
The British commonly used forced head-shaving during the Irish War of Independence. At night, the British would forcibly enter the home of a woman believed to be helping the IRA. She’d be dragged out in the street in her nightclothes, ensuring she felt vulnerable and suggesting threats of an incredibly intimate nature (which sometimes did occur), and her head would be shorn.
The practice effectively kept women in a constant state of anxiety, never feeling safe in their homes. Moreover, even women who were not actively aiding a cause might have their homes raided to “punish” their brothers or fathers who were IRA members in hiding.
The collective female trauma of the conflict was widened when the IRA adapted this practice and did the same to women they deemed as traitors. Thus, like with the French, a woman didn’t even have to be “helping” the British but just seen as someone with romantic interests of a British soldier. In a highly Catholic nation like Ireland, the marking of being a “loose woman” was a severe humiliation.
Celebrities Proving Hair Is a Socially Emotional Subject
Celebrities have been proving hair is a socially emotional subject long before Chris Rock made his infamous joke about Jada Pinkett Smith. In fact, in 2009, Chris Rock himself previously made a documentary Good Hair, that explored the historical, social, and emotional issues surrounding Black women’s hair. He not only looked into how much it cost women in money and time to reach these “standards” of beauty but also the social implications.
Celebrity culture has spotlighted that a woman’s hair is rarely considered her own. In 1999 Keri Russell chopped her famous curls at the request of the showrunners J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves. The act nearly tanked her career and slashed the show’s ratings. But society at large felt betrayed, so much so that people sent Russell death threats. In short, Russell’s hair was not her own to do with as she wished.
Flash forward to 2007, and Britney Spears shaves her head, labeled “the most shocking moment of her career.” Given all the shenanigans Hollywood celebrities get up to, it can feel odd that a woman cutting her own hair is such big news. Yet, nearly two decades later, the story persists, and the moment continues to be analyzed and speculated upon.
Why Experts Say Not to Give Your Child a Bad Haircut
Experts have been wary of labeling actions like Schaffen Frederick’s as abuse, although it falls under the classification of emotional abuse. However, the majority of experts, such as child psychologists, are vocal in their belief that it is damaging to use humiliation as a form of punishment.
The debate is becoming louder due to social media amplifying the humiliation. Christin Johnson used social media to bring together the public to judge her ex-husband and, later, fundraise to help her daughter buy new possessions after many of her belongings were trapped in her dad’s house. But criticism was directed toward Christin for revealing her daughter’s name and face to the public.
While Kelsey’s story has an apparently happy end, with people coming together to give her wigs and support, not all such stories end well. In 2015, a father in Tacoma, Washington, videoed his thirteen-year-old daughter after forcibly cutting her hair. The video made it online, and the daughter committed suicide shortly after.
The police were clear on their stance on the matter: “[S]he didn’t have to kill herself.” But experts such as Andy Grogan-Kaylor have pointed out that degrading punishments are linked to anxiety, aggression, and depression.
Humiliating Children Ruins Parent-Child Relationship
Not every child shamed by their parents goes on to kill themselves. However, experts do caution that it will negatively impact the parent-child relationship. Schaffen Frederick may have lost custody of Kelsey through the courts, but the damage to their relationship was evident even before the law was involved. His daughter was so distrustful of him that she wouldn’t even return to fetch her things.
Humiliating Children Results in Giving in to Peer Pressure
Studies have also shown that kids who are humiliated and shamed by their parents as a form of punishment are more likely to give in to peer pressure. In addition, the loss of autonomy from being humiliated feeds into their loss of self. Thus, they are less likely to make positive choices for themselves and simply give in to what those around them want.
Humiliating Children Can Lead to Bullying
When punishments degrade a child, such as subjecting a child to a bad haircut, it opens the child to bullying. The shame goes beyond what the parent does and carries on wherever they go, including at school. Many studies have examined the adverse effects of bullying. These include putting them at risk of:
- Negative self-esteem
Publicly Humiliating Children Can Follow Them for Life
Thanks to the internet, an event from childhood can follow children for the rest of their lives. Putting Kelsey’s name into a search engine brings up her punishment at the hands of her father. The hits are pages long. She is known for her father’s negative actions and not for her love of softball or her other typical teenage hobbies, interests, and accomplishments.
It is increasingly common for employers to go on the internet and look up job applicants. Thus, these acts of punishment follow a child long after the transgression. No longer can people just go to college or move to another town to restart their life. Unless somebody legally changes their name, these humiliating punishments outlast bad haircuts or being forced to wear signs or “bad” clothing. It creates trauma, damage, and awkwardness for the rest of the child’s life.
Humiliation Is Classified as Emotional Abuse
While laws and even the public continue to debate if forcibly cutting a child’s hair is abusive, the definition of emotional abuse is clearer. The act of humiliating a child is considered emotionally abusive. History has demonstrated that forcibly cutting a person’s hair, especially women’s, is a tactic meant to degrade, desexualize, and cause the person to be publicly singled out.
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Schaffen Frederick suffered the consequences for forcibly cutting his daughter’s hair against her will. His attempts to humiliate and shame his daughter backfired. The act resulted in him losing custody of his daughter, permanently altering their relationship, and jeopardizing his and his new wife’s futures as firefighters. While the gravity of his actions is debated, they follow a long and ugly history of degrading women by attacking their hair.