I recently came upon a blog post about a podcast by homeschool mothers Karen “That Mom” Campbell and Lisa Cherry. Cherry, you will remember, heads Frontline Ministries, which carried out the National Sexual Abuse Prevention Week for Homeschoolers. I was struck by some of Karen Campbell’s quotes.
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.
So far, so good.
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.
. . . yeah.
There is no “agenda.” According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, roughly 80% of perpetrators of child maltreatment are parents. What about sexual abuse specifically? In roughly 50% of cases, the perpetrator of sexual abuse is a parent, stepparent, or foster parent. There is no “agenda” that parents are the perpetrators of abuse toward children. Parents usually are the perpetrators of abuse toward children.
Campbell goes on:
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.
At least she admits that parents can abuse their children?
But I do not believe that parents for the most part are the perpetrators of this kind of situation with their children.
Uh. No. No, no, and no. A full 80% of perpetrators of child maltreatment are parents, and in 50% of cases the perpetrator of sexual abuse is the parent, stepparent, or foster parent. What Campbell “believes” is irrelevant. And yet, what she says here is incredibly important, because it will lead her followers and readers to be less likely to recognize or report child abuse when it happens within the family.
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.”
While true, this isn’t exactly relevant. Abuse is not less damaging because it is done out of a desire to follow God’s plan. And honestly, abusers usually find excuses for their abuse. They convince themselves they’re making sure their children are “tough,” or some such nonsense.
Of course, Lisa Cherry’s contributions to the podcast aren’t any better.
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.
This is a derailing tactic. Imagine if every time I brought up hunger in the U.S., someone pointed to hunger in Africa. It is possible to care about and work to solve more than one problem at the same time.
Here is what Cherry said when government efforts to decrease child abuse came up:
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.
And here, too, we see why it matters that Campbell (and Cherry, too, it seems) sees child maltreatment as something committed by those other than parents. If you believe child maltreatment is committed by someone else, someone out there, empowering parents looks like the most effective way to prevent child maltreatment. But this requires one to ignore the man behind the curtain—the fact that 80% of child maltreatment is committed by children’s parents.
We’ve been talking about child abuse in homeschooling settings off and on for a long time now. As a homeschool alumna, this is an issue I care about. The more I hear homeschooling parents in positions of leadership—people like Campbell and Cherry—talk about child abuse and how to prevent it, the more concerned I become.