By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator
In this series: Part One, Introduction | Part Two, Kalyn’s Secret | Part Three, Kalyn’s Secret (Continued) | Part Four, Not Open | Part Five, Unmask the Predators | Part Six, Recommended Resources | Part Seven, Conclusion
Part Seven, Conclusion
When it comes to educating people about issues like child abuse and mental health, I truly do not care if you are Christian, atheist, Muslim, conservative, liberal, moderate, gay, straight, bi, or whatever you may be. What I care about is that you actually understand child abuse and mental health. If you’re going to set yourself as an educator and leader about a topic, I expect you to do your homework.
That’s what I care about.
I understand that we live in a diverse world. And I understand that many Christian homeschool communities and organizations are politically and religiously conservative. That’s life. I haven’t even found someone in the HA community that I agree with on everything. I am willing to support and work with people I disagree with on many issues provided that on the issues we all care about — like child abuse and mental health — we are moving forward in productive and helpful ways.
Honestly, I was looking forward to supporting Frontline Family Ministries’s National Sexual Abuse Prevention Week. A national ministry creating a week of awareness for an issue I have cared deeply about for over a decade? What is not to like?
Turns out, a lot.
But I didn’t start from a place of antagonism. In fact, it has made me sick to my stomach over the last few months as I realized just how counter-productive and damaging this ministry’s teachings are. This isn’t what I hoped for. It’s the exact opposite.
Throughout this last week I have explained in great detail why I ended up deciding I couldn’t support Frontline Family Ministries. Some of you may thought it was overkill. But I went into that much detail because I take seriously the decision that I cannot support a National Sexual Abuse Prevention Week for Homeschoolers. And I needed to make as clear as possible why I made that decision. It wasn’t made because Lisa Cherry is a Christian, or conservative, or charismatic, or because she’s a homeschool mom, or any personal reasons. As I said in the very beginning of this series, my heart goes out to her and her family and I wish them nothing but continued hope and healing.
I made the decision because I believe homeschooling communities desperately need to educate themselves about child abuse and mental health — and I believe that education must be done correctly. Not perfectly. But at least correctly. All my life energy, nearly every waking hour, has been invested for over a year and a half to homeschooling issues because I care about homeschooling. I want to see it flourish. I want to see it be a safe and nurturing movement for children everywhere. But until we come to our senses and start taking seriously the tears and cries of the alumni and children of homeschooling, the movement is going to suffer.
The question I wrestled most with, after doing all this research, was this: Can I declare a lack of support for Frontline Family Ministries but still declare support for the National Sexual Abuse Prevention Week?
Ultimately, I decided no. I decided this for two reasons:
First, Frontline Family Ministries is not simply presenting insufficient information. The information they are promoting is actively damaging. It encourages victim-blaming, it sanctions fear-based authoritarian parenting, it sets up abusers’ most vulnerable targets as abusers themselves, it distracts people from who abusers usually are, and it teaches people to guilt and shame those who suffer from abuse and mental illness.
It’s one thing if I simply disagreed with the ministry on political and religious doctrines.
It’s a whole different situation when I know from firsthand experience that the “awareness” they promote are the exact same messages that got the Christian Homeschool Movement into the mess we are in today.
Second, I simply cannot separate supporting the week itself from supporting the ministry. Frontline Family Ministries has been steadily positioning themselves as the new authority on sexual abuse prevention within homeschooling — and some of the most important gatekeepers in Christian homeschooling have fallen for it — hook, line, and sinker. You see the Great Homeschool Conventions, the National Center for Life and Liberty, HEDUA, even an anti-Bill Gothard person like Karen Campbell, all rushing to heap praise upon them.
Yet apparently none of these people or organizations either (1) bothered to read the ministry’s books or (2) find such damaging teachings to be a problem.
This is flagrantly irresponsible. This is, again, exactly the sort of attitude that got the Christian Homeschool Movement into the mess we are in today.
To support this week would be a stamp of approval on the ministry’s positioning as educators and leaders in homeschool sexual abuse prevention. I cannot give that stamp of approval with a good conscience, and it saddens me that others have so quickly decided to give that stamp themselves.
We’re at a moment in the history of the Christian Homeschool Movement where we need to wake up and treat these issues with urgency and sobriety. We do not need any more snake oil. We need to start listening to children and alumni and centering their voices in these conversations.
Until we do that, we’ll just be traveling in circles.
It’s for all these reasons that I cannot support Frontline Family Ministries’ Abuse Prevention Week.