This article was originally posted at She Keeps Bees.
You have probably heard the story by now. Scott and Andrea Bass, the Arizona couple who locked a fourteen year old girl in a bathroom without running water for two months and tortured her to the point of starvation? I’m wondering if this is a homeschooling Quiverfull family–and, if so, why the media has not remarked on it yet?
Let me be very clear here: I am not making this leap based merely on reports that the family homeschools. I recognize that it is impossible to generalize that all homeschoolers are Quiverfull fundamentalists, and that there are many viable reasons for homeschooling that have nothing to do with extremist religious ideology. Even though it is well-established that a large percentage of homeschoolers are Christian conservatives (See, for instance, the US Census statistics here), broad strokes about homeschooling are beside the point.
Mostly, I’m wondering about this because the style of “punishment” seems so parallel to so many of the stories of abuse written by ex-Quiverfull women and children. We know from major media outlets that the Bass child was locked in a small bathroom without running water–a small bathroom roughly the shape of a closet. We also know that the Bill Gothard organization–best known for its homeschooling wing, the Advanced Training Institutes of America (ATIA)–routinely generates survivor stories about people who are locked in what followers call the prayer closet. Besides the prayer closet, it’s well-known that Bill Gothard actively promotes other forms of Bible-based child abuse.
When I was thirteen, some family friends dragged me to a Bill Gothard Seminar in Basic Life Principles, and I remember being terrified by the prospect of the “prayer closet.” Given the horrific stories about how it has been used as a mechanism of abuse, I think my terror was fairly well-justified. Further, it would not surprised me if the Bass family conceived of their torture chamber as an amped up sort of prayer closet.
Beyond this, though, the girl says that part of her torture involved beatings with metal rods. Metal rods could not elude Child Protective Serivices, but Christian Fundamentalist literature abounds with tips about how parents may abuse children without being detected by the police. Debi Pearl, a relatively “mainstream” Quiverfull activist offers this lovely tidbit (h/t Daily Kos):
As a rule, do not use your hand. Hands are for loving and helping. If an adult swings his or her hand fast enough to cause pain to the surface of the skin, there is a danger of damaging bones and joints. The most painful nerves are just under the surface of the skin. A swift swat with a light, flexible instrument will sting without bruising or causing internal damage. Many people are using a section of ¼ inch plumber’s supply line as a spanking instrument. It will fit in your purse or hang around you neck. You can buy them for under $1.00 at Home Depot or any hardware store. They come cheaper by the dozen and can be widely distributed in every room and vehicle. Just the high profile of their accessibility keeps the kids in line.
From the various reading that I’ve done on the subject, I know that beatings with various kinds of rods are not uncommon among Quiverfull families. And, so… I’m still wondering… Are Scott and Andrea Bass isolated cases of the abusive personality? Or are they, rather, adherents of an orthodoxy that seems to systematically lead to certain types of abuse?
It’s possible that my assumptions here have no factual basis in truth. But if this is a Quiverfull family (And several specific facts of this case suggest that it may be.), I think the mainstream media needs to kill its blackout on the subject and name this for what it is: one more case of Quiverfull-encouraged religious abuse. I know that this isn’t a high traffic blog, but I do want to throw the question out there to people who may know more about the subculture than I do: Is the Bass family a Quiverfull family? Do the parallels between their methods of abuse and the Gothard-sanctioned methods seem uncanny to anyone else out there? Anyone?
Update: More clues have surfaced that continue to point, at minimum, to this family’s involvement in Christian fundamentalism. According to Arizona Family, Andrea Bass has a long history of religiously-motivated child abuse:
Court paperwork shows that Andrea Bass, 31, has a history of domestic violence and kidnapping. According to that paperwork, Child Protective Services in California removed children after the alleged exorcism of a child and a child who was kept outside the home for months. Police said Andrea Bass told them she had 15 prior reports with Child Protective Services…
According to court paperwork, this is not the first time the teen has been locked up. She told police that when her family lived in an apartment in Glendale, she was forced to sleep outside on the patio for months. She also said she was locked in a bathroom for a week and in a closet for a week. Police said Andrea Bass admitted to locking the girl in the bathroom and closet at that apartment, as well as locking her outside for a week during the summer.”
In related news, the recent death of a child in California was orchestrated in ways eerily reminiscent of what we are learning about allegations against Scott and Andrea Bass.
(h/t Jennie and dangermom at at the No Longer Quivering Forum)
KM blogs about Christian fundamentalism and various other things that infuriate her as She Keeps Bees.