This is What Child Abusers Look Like in Homeschooling Communities
By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator
We like to think that we know what child abusers look like. That we can pick them out of the crowd based on their creepy mustaches, darkly-tinted cargo vans, or their giant, thick-rimmed glasses.
But those stereotypes are just that: stereotypes.
And like all stereotypes, they fall tragically short. The fact is, child abusers are not Others. They do not walk around with signs that say, “Monster.” They are able to violate our trust — and children’s lives and bodies and minds — because we trust them. Which means they have our trust, because they are a part of our community. They are friends and family and teachers and loved ones. Boz Tchividjian from G.R.A.C.E. (Godly Response to Abuse in Christian Environments) is spot-on when he says,
“Those who pose the greatest risk to our children are within our families, churches, and circle of friends.”
A month ago, news broke that demonstrates just how true this is. A homeschooling family — the Jackson family from North Carolina — was revealed to have hidden child sexual abuse for over a decade. Homeschooling’s Invisible Children reports,
A 16-year-old girl was repeatedly raped and sexually abused by the six Jackson brothers (Eric, 27; Jon, 25; Matthew, 23; Nathaniel, 21; Benjamin, 19; and Aaron, 18) from the time she was 4 until she was 14. Though the girl was not identified, it appears that she was the brothers’ younger sister. The boys’ parents, John and Nita Jackson, knew about the abuse and did nothing to prevent it.
You can read the original news report from WTKR here, which notes that “the Jackson brothers’ parents were charged in this case because they witnessed the abuse.” Furthermore, as Julie Anne Smith at Spiritual Sounding Board has pointed out, “At the time of the alleged abuse, they were living in North Carolina and two of the brothers were reportedly members of Scott Brown’s church, Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, North Carolina.” This would be the same Scott Brown who has “very close ties with the now defunct Vision Forum Ministries and recently fallen Christian Patriarchal leader, Doug Phillips. Brown also heads up National Centers for Family-Integrated Churches.”
I was intrigued to find out that the Jackson brothers still had their Facebook pages active. So I decided to go look at their pages and see what their public lives had looked like. I was interested — but not surprised — to find out that the Jackson brothers had mutual Facebook friends with me. Several brothers actually had quite a few. So these kids (some now adults) clearly had somewhat social lives. They weren’t growing up in a stereotypical compound in the middle of nowhere. They existed within groups — like homeschool speech and debate — that I used to exist in. And yet no one seemed to have any idea what was going on. No one, including some people I myself know.
But here’s the thing: their Facebook pages look normal. They look like the Facebook pages of conservative Christian homeschool students and graduates. And that is exactly the point here. If this case wasn’t being criminally prosecuted, how many people do you think would be defending these people as “godly” and “upstanding” men who would “never do something like that” because they “love Jesus”?
To make this point more salient, let’s look at what the average Facebook posts by the Jackson brothers look like. Because this will tell you what child abusers look like in homeschooling communities.
What Child Abusers “Like” on Facebook:
What Books Child Abusers Read
What Movies Child Abusers Watch
What Child Abusers Post About on Facebook:
Obviously one can “like” any of the above sites, people, books, or movies and not be a child abuser. One can post pictures of sunsets and attach Bible verses to them and not be a child abuser. But it’s the opposite mindset we need to focus on, isn’t it?
— The mindset that assumes people who love the Bible and share its wisdom and love respected homeschool leaders are somehow safe, or safer to “ungodly” people.
— The mindset that “good Christian boys” would never abuse anyone.
— The mindset that homeschooling will make better, more holy, children.
We will not be able to fight child abuse in homeschooling communities until we realize that the child abusers among us effortlessly blend right in. They might be our respected leaders (in fact, sometimes they have been our respected leaders, like Bill Gothard and Doug Phillips); they might be a homeschool celebrity that HSLDA publicly calls a “hero” (like Michael Gravelle); they might be the owners of our beloved companies or those owners’ children (like the son of Paul and Gena Suarez, owners of The Old Schoolhouse); they might even be some of the people claiming to be allies of abuse survivors. There is no magic formula.
This means we must constantly be on our guard. It means we must know the warning signs and know how to report abuse to law enforcement and we must actually report the abuse. We cannot sweep it under the rug or turn a blind eye. We cannot shame those trying to bring it to light. We must start taking a stand, we must start raising a ruckus, and we must demand that our leaders and communities do so as well.
We must demand that our leaders and communities do more than write blog posts about not looking away and actually do the hard work of not looking away.
“Nowhere do we tempt so successfully as at the very foot of the altar!”
Or their geeky looks and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic swag. Local morning drive-time coverage of the first BronyCon in New York kept going back to a refrain “Grown Men into a Cartoon for Six-Year-Old Girls!” followed by a stage whisper of “(pedophiles…)”. Over and over.
And even before Bronies, I heard stories from animated cartoon fans of mundanes looking suspicious at them because they were fans of something generally associated with children. (stage whisper….)
Successful sociopaths are masters at camouflaging what they are and redirecting the suspicion on someone else. If they weren’t, they’d have been exposed and caught long ago. We only hear about the ones who were dumb enough to get caught.
What do you think Jesus was commenting on about how “Satan himself can transform himself into an Angel of Light”?
We have met the enemy and they are us.
And the moral of this story is “Trust No One”.
It is true – not only within the homeschooling community, but every community we are in period. That is what is so horrifying. That is why we must listen to our kids and teach them to follow instincts and strange feelings. To teach about good and bad touch. I am afraid that no matter what community one is part of these people hide. And not about of oversight can get these find these people without victims standing up and standing strong and loud. As a public school kid I never had the guts to say anything and didn’t really know a lot of stuff was wrong.
I am not trying to be negative- but the situation is quite grave and large.
I was sexually harassed by my older brother from the time I was 4 till 18. Homeschooled. 7 siblings. Very strict, uptight family. Couldn’t tell anyone about the abuse because he was adored by my mom,and I didn’t think anyone would believe me. Plus, ANYTHING to do with sex was absolutely taboo and unspeakable.( my parents never even told me about sex or my period etc. etc.) So I felt so so dirty, so shameful and that it was my fault for my entire childhood. My parents and siblings still don’t know… My brother has since apologized (because my husband made him-my husband was the only one I’ve ever told) but the damage has been done. My parents still think they did such an amazing job, and I know if I told them, they would be so shocked- probably wouldn’t believe me. I just wish people knew that Homeschooling is not going to fix the world. Only Jesus does that. And thank God I found the real Jesus! Not an angry God who is shaking his head at me in disappointment at everything I do (which my parents taught me about) oh how my heart goes out to the sheltered brain washed little homeschoolers out their…also my mother was mentally and physically abusive, my dad worked ALL the time (cause heaven forbid we cannot use government help- that’s for welfare rats-we are better than that!) I suffer from low self esteem and lack of confidence, not surprisingly. But I have a wonderful life and I am recovering, discovering Gods love has been a miracle cure for me! There is hope!
I’m sorry to hear about what you’ve suffered and glad you’re on the road to recovery, Yelema petra. Don’t these people realise they damage real human beings?
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