About the author: Kathi is a Bible-belt midwest transplant to the beautiful Pacific northwest. After homeschooling her kids for 10 years (she decided that high school math and science were not her strongest subjects), both kids are in public school. She is a former church goer and finds herself in that unstudied demographic of middle-aged Nones. She has a B.A. in Urban Ministry and a M.S.W. (Master of Social Work). Her goal is to work with children who have been abused or are in foster care. She loves to knit, cook and read (not in any particular order). The following was originally published on Kathi’s blog Moving Beyond Absolutes on November 4, 2014 and is reprinted with permission. Also by Kathi on HA: “Kevin Swanson, Child Abuse, and Dead Little Bunnies”.
I first heard of Lisa Cherry when R.L. Stollar at Homeschoolers Anonymous did a series about Lisa Cherry’s Frontline Family Ministry’s Child Abuse Prevention Week. While reading this series, I happened upon thatmom.com, Karen Campbell’s, first podcast with Lisa Cherry. I thought this first podcast was decent. It mostly addressed Cherry’s experience with her daughter when she was lured into a sexual abuse situation with an older man at church. She also addressed that homeschoolers face some distinctive vulnerabilities when it comes to abuse. The kicker, though, was that she did not address the fact that homeschooled kids may be abused by their parents until the end of the conversation.
This is my main frustration with homeschooling leaders.
I have yet to hear from one homeschool leader that homeschooled kids can be abused by their homeschooling parents. Karen Campbell’s second podcast with Lisa Cherry lived up to this.
Karen starts off her podcast by saying:
“The protection of homeschooling children from the ravages of sexual abuse is one of the hot topics within homeschooling circles, and for good reason. As much as we would love to be able to say this never happens in homeschooling families, sometimes it does.”
Okay. Good start. At least she’s admitting that “sometimes” child abuse happens in homeschooling families. However, further on in her podcast, Karen states:
“One of the concerns that I have had is that there seems to be an agenda on the part of some people that the parents are the perpetrators of abuse towards children. Now you and I both know that there are times when that is true. We watched in horror the reports of what happened with people who had used the Pearl’s “To Train Up a Child” book. We have heard these abusive stories, we’re talking about physical abuse. We’ve, we’ve seen and I’ve heard and I know people personally who have been through very spiritually abusive homes where legalism rules and there is no desire for relationship with children. So we know those kind of things do happen. But I do not believe that parents for the most part are the perpetrators of this kind of situation with their children. And I also believe that sometimes when those things have happened it is not because you have parents who desire to be abusive, it’s because they have been subjected to teaching that tells them that this is the only Godly way.”
This is the point at which I think I spit my coffee out on my laptop. Really, “But I do not believe that parents for the most part are the perpetrators of this kind of situation with their children.” And this “agenda?” Really?
And, even later:
“And I’m not convinced what they think is a problem actually is a problem.”
Let’s look at some facts from Children’s Bureau, an Office of the Administration of Children and Families. Every year they post child abuse statistics. The most current listing regarding child maltreatment is for the year 2012.
- Four-fifths (80.3%) of perpetrators were parents
- 6.1% of perpetrators were relatives other than parents
- 4.2% of perpetrators were unmarried partners of parents
- 4.6% of perpetrators were an other relationship to the victim
- 3.1% of perpetrators were an “unknown” relationship to the victim
These statistics are consistent with all of the statistics that I have ever read about child abuse. When it comes to child abuse, the only grace that I will give Karen Campbell and Lisa Cherry is that in the area of child sexual abuse, it is difficult to find information regarding the breakdown of the relationship of the perpetrator to the victim. Most statistics note that a “very high percentage” of victims of child sexual abuse “know” the perpetrator.
Lisa Cherry continues the train of thought:
“To think, to think that, you know, we’ve got a few cases here in homeschooling. Well, I open my, my email feed just constantly and I find, you know, the, the two women that went after the teenage boy in the high school just a few weeks ago. You know, you find just case after case after case.”
It’s as though child sexual abuse is committed by the bogeyman or some other government sponsored officials.
The continued denial of child abuse happening within Christian homeschooling families does not help victims. It is time for Christian homeschooling leaders to tear down the pedestal of the perfect Christian homeschooling family and admit that child abuse does happen.
The other point which stood out to me was this part of the conversation:
Lisa: “Now I know that there’s some places online that are saying we need the government to step in, we need more regulation, we need to protect our kids, we need to have more rules, we need to have more laws. Karen, I don’t believe that’s the answer.”
Lisa: “I don’t believe the government will be able to protect from these kinds of very sensitive things. I think, I believe that God placed families together to provide protection for children.”
I would agree that the government is not the best parent of a child. I have been working with a kid in the foster care system due to child abuse and it is frustrating to get her the help that she needs. However, I believe that DHS is an avenue that attempts to help kids who have been abused. And to say that God provided families to protect kids? What about the kids who are being abused by their family members? Who is protecting them?
As far as Lisa’s concern about government’s regulation over homeschooling, I would agree with “some places online” that think there should be some regulation. Having been a homeschooler for 10 years and interacted with some in my state’s Christian homeschool association, I understand the concern for having more regulation to protect children. Campbell and Cherry’s defense that the government does not help protect public schooled kids is not helpful. First of all, let’s consider the fact that there are far more children schooled in the public school setting than in the homeschool or private school setting. Secondly, consider the fact that at least public schooled kids have mandated reporters that are able to see any potential child abuse problems and report them. Homeschooled children do not have this extra attention from mandated reporters who may advocate on their behalf.
But it was this additional statement that made me almost spew my coffee a second time:
“We’ve seen HSLDA try to help us with them.”
HSLDA? Honestly, I have not seen much by them for supporting victims of abuse. ThinkProgress.org has a good article about how HSLDA has lobbied for laws against making “false reports.” It is my opinion that HSLDA’s main goal is to protect the rights of homeschooling and parental rights. While HSLDA does not condone child abuse, I think that they really do not know how to handle a case of an abusing homeschooling parent unless it directly relates to homeschooling. In that case, I think that HSLDA will fight for the right of the parent to homeschool and not for the child victim.
All in all, this second podcast by Karen Campbell with Lisa Cherry left me very angry and frustrated. It seems that we will continue to wait for homeschool leaders to admit the fact that child abuse does in fact happen within homeschooling families. Until they are willing to accept this fact, child abuse “may” happen in homeschool families, but most likely it will be perpetrated by someone outside of the family.
Darn that elusive bogeyman.