Have you been following the story of Rep. Justin Harris, the Arkansas Republican who adopted two girls before ‘re-homing’ (ie abandoning) them with one of his friends just six months later? You haven’t? You should. It’s a doozie.
By which I mean it’s the most gut-turningly sickening thing I’ve heard this year.
It turns out that ‘re-homing’ children in this way is legal in Arkansas. Despite all the checks and vetting processes required to adopt children legally, the adopters can then unceremoniously dump the children on anyone without penalty. Harris dumped his two girls on Eric Cameron Francis, who had been a teacher at Harris’s Christian nursery, Growing God’s Kingdom Preschool. Francis then raped the older of the two girls.
As if this wasn’t heartbreaking enough, it turns out that the girls had a history of sexual abuse. Harris, who was supposed to be giving these girls a stable home after their traumatic start to life, abandoned them to a child rapist. When news of the rape became public in 2014, it wasn’t known that the girl was Harris’s legally adopted daughter. This fact only came to light recently. At the time of the news, Harris seemingly made out that he hadn’t had much to do with Francis. The Arkansas Times reports:
Harris, who said he was “devastated and sickened” by news of the abuse, told the Arkansas Times in April 2014 that Francis had been in his employ only about three months, from November 2013 to January 2014, before being fired for poor work attendance.
But once it came to light that Harris had in fact handed his daughter over to her future rapist, there was a change in tone, as evidenced by this statement the Harrises issued via their lawyer. In it, they declared that they had suffered a severe injustice. Not their daughters, please note. They, Mr and Mrs Harris, had suffered the injustice. Just in case you still thought there was a possibility they might be decent human beings underneath it all.
Rep. and Mrs. Harris have suffered a severe injustice. Due to threats of possible abandonment charges, they were unable to reach out to DHS for help with children who presented a serious risk of harm to other children in their home. Upon the advice of both a psychiatrist and a pediatrician, they were forced to move the children to the home of trusted friends, who had a lot of experience with children with reactive attachment disorder. Rep. and Mrs. Harris are devastated about the outcome of that decision, but faced with no good option, they did the best that they knew how.
Having given you all that background, I can now come to the substance of my post. Apparently the Harrises were surprised when their daughters—who had a history of neglect, violent abuse, and sexual molestation—turned out to have some behavioural difficulties. Multiple witnesses say that Justin Harris said the girls were demon possessed.
Chelsey Goldsborough, who regularly babysat for the Harrises, said Mary was kept isolated from Annie and from the rest of the family. She was often confined for hours to her room, where she was monitored by a video camera. The reason: The Harrises believed the girls were possessed by demons and could communicate telepathically, Goldsborough said. Harris and his wife once hired specialists to perform an “exorcism” on the two sisters while she waited outside the house with the boys, she said. Multiple sources who interacted with the family confirmed Goldsborough’s account that the Harrises believed the children were possessed, and another source close to the family said that Marsha Harris spoke openly about the supposed demonic possession.
I haven’t written about the student I’ve interviewed in the course of my PhD who attended an ACE school in England in the 1990s. He described having exorcisms performed on him “three or four times”. He described being pinned down by his stepfather while one of the school staff beat him with a paddle. And while he was describing this to me, I found myself thinking of another friend of mine, Daniel, who went to an ACE school in Canada in the 1980s. Different continent, different decade, and an eerily similar story:
Then instead of tutoring me, the instructors told my mother that I had demons in my head that torment me and distract me from learning. Which I believe would be called A.D.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder by Demons)
My mother, the naive Christian woman that she was, believed them and allowed them to put me through a series of exorcisms where the pastor, principal, instructors and elders of the church would attempt to force me to throw up these demons by placing their hands on my head and speaking in tongues.
Of course, they weren’t successful, I never vomited any red or green demons… or even blue ones. So being 10-years-old, and completely brainwashed and indoctrinated in this Pentecostal cult, I believed that I was possessed and eventually began acting like it.
They were also very adamant about discouraging me to be artistic. I would draw a lot instead of doing my work, and at a young age had a lot of talent. Instead of encouragement and support, I was punished, not only with demerits and detentions, but humiliation. The monitors or supervisors would tell all of the students to come to my cubical to criticize my drawings. Then lecture us on how important it is that we need to study our “science” books that didn’t teach science at all instead of “doodling nonsense”.
When I didn’t stop I would get suspended, and when my art evolved to carving demon faces on my desk I was expelled.
In the 6 impressionable years I went to this school, going through each ridiculous PACE booklet after another. In which the only thing they really teach you to become or tell you you can be is a missionary. I do not remember one piece of solid information that held educational value, I can however, recite you all the books of the bible in order… which is super impressive at job interviews.
I really only learned how to manipulate trust, to cheat on tests, to lie, and to take advantage of the system. Luckily, I learned how to read and write at a different establishment, because if that weren’t the case, I doubt very much that I would even be able to process my opinions and thoughts and convert them to text in what I am writing to you now.
So when I read the Harrises’ babysitter’s story, I’m reminded of the other children I knew who were told they were demon possessed. In some cases, I was the one telling them they were demon possessed. And we can pass all kinds of laws about child safety, but children will only be completely safe from this particular menace when the superstition of belief in demon possession is gone forever. The problem needs to be pulled out at the root. Once this belief takes hold in someone’s mind, it can be almost impossible to shake off. The real hope is always with the next generation. This is why it’s not OK for children to be indoctrinated in schools.