Why I Cannot Support Frontline Family Ministries’ Abuse Prevention Week: Part Seven, Conclusion
By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator
In this series: Part One, Introduction | Part Two, Kalyn’s Secret | Part Three, Kalyn’s Secret (Continued) | Part Four, Not Open | Part Five, Unmask the Predators | Part Six, Recommended Resources | Part Seven, Conclusion
Part Seven, Conclusion
When it comes to educating people about issues like child abuse and mental health, I truly do not care if you are Christian, atheist, Muslim, conservative, liberal, moderate, gay, straight, bi, or whatever you may be. What I care about is that you actually understand child abuse and mental health. If you’re going to set yourself as an educator and leader about a topic, I expect you to do your homework.
That’s what I care about.
I understand that we live in a diverse world. And I understand that many Christian homeschool communities and organizations are politically and religiously conservative. That’s life. I haven’t even found someone in the HA community that I agree with on everything. I am willing to support and work with people I disagree with on many issues provided that on the issues we all care about — like child abuse and mental health — we are moving forward in productive and helpful ways.
Honestly, I was looking forward to supporting Frontline Family Ministries’s National Sexual Abuse Prevention Week. A national ministry creating a week of awareness for an issue I have cared deeply about for over a decade? What is not to like?
Turns out, a lot.
But I didn’t start from a place of antagonism. In fact, it has made me sick to my stomach over the last few months as I realized just how counter-productive and damaging this ministry’s teachings are. This isn’t what I hoped for. It’s the exact opposite.
Throughout this last week I have explained in great detail why I ended up deciding I couldn’t support Frontline Family Ministries. Some of you may thought it was overkill. But I went into that much detail because I take seriously the decision that I cannot support a National Sexual Abuse Prevention Week for Homeschoolers. And I needed to make as clear as possible why I made that decision. It wasn’t made because Lisa Cherry is a Christian, or conservative, or charismatic, or because she’s a homeschool mom, or any personal reasons. As I said in the very beginning of this series, my heart goes out to her and her family and I wish them nothing but continued hope and healing.
I made the decision because I believe homeschooling communities desperately need to educate themselves about child abuse and mental health — and I believe that education must be done correctly. Not perfectly. But at least correctly. All my life energy, nearly every waking hour, has been invested for over a year and a half to homeschooling issues because I care about homeschooling. I want to see it flourish. I want to see it be a safe and nurturing movement for children everywhere. But until we come to our senses and start taking seriously the tears and cries of the alumni and children of homeschooling, the movement is going to suffer.
The question I wrestled most with, after doing all this research, was this: Can I declare a lack of support for Frontline Family Ministries but still declare support for the National Sexual Abuse Prevention Week?
Ultimately, I decided no. I decided this for two reasons:
First, Frontline Family Ministries is not simply presenting insufficient information. The information they are promoting is actively damaging. It encourages victim-blaming, it sanctions fear-based authoritarian parenting, it sets up abusers’ most vulnerable targets as abusers themselves, it distracts people from who abusers usually are, and it teaches people to guilt and shame those who suffer from abuse and mental illness.
It’s one thing if I simply disagreed with the ministry on political and religious doctrines.
It’s a whole different situation when I know from firsthand experience that the “awareness” they promote are the exact same messages that got the Christian Homeschool Movement into the mess we are in today.
Second, I simply cannot separate supporting the week itself from supporting the ministry. Frontline Family Ministries has been steadily positioning themselves as the new authority on sexual abuse prevention within homeschooling — and some of the most important gatekeepers in Christian homeschooling have fallen for it — hook, line, and sinker. You see the Great Homeschool Conventions, the National Center for Life and Liberty, HEDUA, even an anti-Bill Gothard person like Karen Campbell, all rushing to heap praise upon them.
Yet apparently none of these people or organizations either (1) bothered to read the ministry’s books or (2) find such damaging teachings to be a problem.
This is flagrantly irresponsible. This is, again, exactly the sort of attitude that got the Christian Homeschool Movement into the mess we are in today.
To support this week would be a stamp of approval on the ministry’s positioning as educators and leaders in homeschool sexual abuse prevention. I cannot give that stamp of approval with a good conscience, and it saddens me that others have so quickly decided to give that stamp themselves.
We’re at a moment in the history of the Christian Homeschool Movement where we need to wake up and treat these issues with urgency and sobriety. We do not need any more snake oil. We need to start listening to children and alumni and centering their voices in these conversations.
Until we do that, we’ll just be traveling in circles.
It’s for all these reasons that I cannot support Frontline Family Ministries’ Abuse Prevention Week.
Pingback: Why I Cannot Support Frontline Family Ministries’ Abuse Prevention Week: Part One, Introduction | Homeschoolers Anonymous
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Pingback: Why I Cannot Support Frontline Family Ministries’ Abuse Prevention Week: Part Five, Unmask the Predators | Homeschoolers Anonymous
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What about the people like Boz from G.R.A.C.E who are speaking there? Should they be warned that they are the only qualified people in a sea of speakers who are giving out damaging information?
Is there someone who knows them and con contact them and direct them to some of these reviews?
We sent a link to this series to Boz. He and G.R.A.C.E. are super busy with their BJU report, so I do not know if he’s had time to read the series yet.
I think it’s important to be careful about associations. Because Boz is speaking at this event does not necessarily mean he endorses/agrees with everyone else presenting there (or the event coordinators). I highly respect Boz and his work. I hope many were able to hear him speak.
oops – that was supposed to go under Warbler’s comment. Sorry!
Has there been any discussion of an awareness event that could be organized to offer real support and help for abuse victims, and information on abuse prevention?
Thank you for this. I know HA believes we need to do more towards prevention. Would you be willing to share which evangelical Christian leaders/authors you do support/recommend? Thank you!
Honestly, the only evangelical Christian organization I feel confident in recommending at the moment is G.R.A.C.E. (Godly Response to Abuse in Christian Environments) — especially Boz Tchividjian. GRACE’s website is http://netgrace.org. And Boz Tchividjian’s personal writings can be found at Rhymes with Religion, http://boz.religionnews.com.
Another good resource is Child Friendly Faith. This isn’t an evangelical organization, but it is an inclusive and ecumenical organization with many evangelical Christians involved. Its website is http://childfriendlyfaith.org.
Other Christian writers that understand the dynamics of abuse are Julie Anne Smith (she’s also a homeschool mom) at Spiritual Sounding Board (http://spiritualsoundingboard.com) and Cindy Kunsman at Under Much Grace (http://undermuchgrace.blogspot.com). I’ve also found helpful thoughts at A Cry for Justice (http://cryingoutforjustice.com).
i.e. Double Down and Scream Louder.
I can’t thank you enough for doing this series, and for doing it so well and thoroughly. I had been skimming through the emails FFM was sending me, and as a homeschooling mom and survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I was interested in what they had to say. I knew I needed to research what perspective they were coming from before I dove in, but just kept putting it off, though I felt like something was off – I had read a short version Kalyn’s experience and found the way her parents characterized her behavior all too familiar. I knew just how Kalyn was feeling as a 14 year old, and I’d heard such similar BS from my own parents. I spent most of my childhood trying to extricate myself from my parents’ faulty Word of Faith lifestyle and then my parents tried so hard to plunge me back into that world when they discovered the abuse. I understand that my mom was just grasping at whatever she could, trying to “fix” our broken family, but she still can’t understand why it was so hurtful to me – maybe if I can get her to read this series, she can begin to understand how she screwed up.
Then years later, as I started attending a small Christian school in the midwest, once again they started trying to run this program of Neil Anderson and cutting soul ties on me. I ended up leaving the school, to make a long story short. This deeply damaging approach to dealing with abuse within the Church HAS to be dealt with head-on. It matters deeply that you’re standing against it, and calling out those who would claim it as a biblical approach.
I just wanted to express my appreciation for your choices regarding the FFM activities, books and beliefs. I’m sure it was a difficult decision and undertaking, but worth every minute and keystroke.
I always appreciate the perspectives I find here at HA. What I’ve learned from you and your contributors has changed the way I homeschool my children. I wasn’t all the way into abusive patriarchal practices, but we were hovering dangerously close to that crap as our older two headed into the teen years, (It’s hard to see your “babies” move towards independence!) but I was able to see how I could make changes that would really improve both their lives right now and their transition to adult life – I hope – based on what I’ve read here. Thank you!
I listened to Tchividjian’s session at the Abuse Prevention Week’s site. We are so blessed to have him speaking out on this issue from a heart of compassion and a desire for justice. Here’s what he said about working together with people we may not agree with totally, “If we all are on the same page about wanting to protect kids, if that’s the #1 objective, we don’t need to agree with each other on anything else… We need to come together and say ‘but we do agree that children need to be protected and survivors need to be protected and loved.’ …We may not all agree on how to do it, but if we can come together and at least focus our energies on that, I think all communities… will be much safer places for children,” at about 1:00:35 in the talk. His message was very strong in urging people to get qualified help to deal with CSA, to not be afraid of social services, to call the authorities and report abuse rather than handle it within the religious community.
So let’s provide a second option and create curriculum for a more helpful and hopeful “Sexual Abuse Awareness and Prevention Week”. I’m more than ready and overly willing to put in the time and effort that is desperately needed to educate students, parents, community leaders, and any other interested parties on how best to present this information and provide healthy ways to both discuss this issue and help victims and survivors recover and flourish from these terrifying and traumatizing abuses.
Thank you for this series, and for all the work you have done for people like me who, at 37 years old, still asks myself daily if I’ll ever feel “normal” after my homeschooled upbringing.