Karen Campbell’s interview with Lisa Cherry on sex abuse and the Homeschool Movement and how fear is leaving children in harm’s way
The Prevalence of Fear of Government Intrusion in the Homeschool Community
Since writing about my personal experiences of homeschooling, I have written about a cloud of fear among Christian homeschoolers. I went to Christian homeschool conferences in the 80s and 90s and there was always a strong presence of people from Homeschool Legal Defense Association HSLDA, especially using their attorneys as keynote speakers. The keynote speaker event was widely attended, usually with a packed-out crowd (at the conventions I attended). I never attended a Christian homeschool conference in which HSLDA was not present.
Back in the earlier homeschool days, I believe HSLDA perpetuated fear among homeschoolers about any type of government agency. They sent out a list of what to do if a government official came to your door and I taped it to the inside of my cupboard. I remember discussion on e-mail groups and message boards among homeschool moms about not allowing homeschool kids to play outside during normal school hours because a neighbor or someone driving by might report you for truancy. HSLDA told stories of children being yanked from their homes because certain state homeschool laws weren’t good and your child/family could be at risk. Most likely the highlighted cases were legitimate cases where homeschool freedoms were threatened, but the fear that spread among parents led to an overall distrust of the government or any of its agencies: school authorities, social service employees, police, etc.
I had one incident in the late 90s in which my children were playing with a neighbor’s dog behind our house. The dog was left alone all day and would poke his nose through the hole in the fence. My children felt sorry for him and pet him as he poked his nose through the fence. His wagging tail was their reward. However, our neighbors didn’t care for my children’s involvement in their dog’s social life and called the police (rather than coming to let us know personally, ::::sigh::::). The police came to the door and politely asked that we not interact with the neighbor’s dog. On his way out, the police officer asked if the child behind me was my son, and I affirmed that he was. The police officer left, and sadly, I explained the dog situation to my children.
Ten minutes later, the police officer came back to our front door and asked about my son – the same son he inquired of earlier. This son had a pink mark on his face and the police officer asked about it. I realized where he was going with this very quickly. Thankfully, I didn’t react in fear, but calmly told the police officer that my son was born with a port wine stain birthmark on his cheek, that he’s been seen by medical professionals and I asked him if he’d like our pediatrician or dermatologist’s contact information. He told me that was not needed. Whew! My heart was racing like crazy!
I cannot describe the amount of fear that had gone in my mind. I felt like our family could have been the new feature story written up in the Court Report (HSLDA’s newsletter sent out to its members). Because I, too, was living in fear, my mind raced to the worse predicted outcome. Thankfully, my calm and legitimate response showed the police officer that there was nothing for him to be concerned about, my children were safe, and that was the last we saw of him.
My story is a simple one, but exemplifies the fear many of us homeschool moms experienced, either personally, or heard through friends, or friends of friends back in the 80s and 90s. Many of us seemed to live in fear: fear of government intrusion and taking away our homeschooling rights, fear of government intrusion and even taking away our children. There was a universal distrust of the government. There was an us-vs-them mentality. Some homeschool leaders came out right and said that the government was evil, from Satan. Whatever the issue was, we needed to stay as far away from the government as possible – they were not on homeschoolers’ side.
Karen Campbell Interviews Lisa Cherry about Sex Abuse and the Homeschool Community
Karen Campbell, a veteran homeschool mom and blogger recently interviewed Lisa Cherry from Frontline Family Ministries. Part of the interview promoted an event that Lisa Cherry put together, Sexual Abuse Prevention Week For Homeschoolers, which was held during the end of October.
I listened to the second podcast in the series and it raised some alarms for me. I think Karen and Lisa have good intentions. I appreciate that they identified the problem of sex abuse among the homeschool community. But I believe they are amiss in not acknowledging something that a lot of us moms know to be true: the Christian Homeschool Movement has perpetuated fear of the government, law enforcement, and social service agencies.
And here is the point that I want to bring home: this fear that the Homeschool Movement has perpetuated, and continues to perpetuate, is putting children in harm’s way. I will show you more examples of how the fear continues to be perpetuated even in this very recent interview.Both Karen and Lisa are respected moms in the homeschool community and people will listen to and respect their words. I’m asking you to put on your critical thinking skills as we go through the interview.
Christian homeschool parents want to have complete oversight and control of their children - they feel a biblical responsibility for their children and don’t want someone else having that responsibility. I get that. But what if a parent is a perpetrator? What if the perpetrator is someone they know from church, from their homeschool co-op, etc? What, then is their responsibility?
In the interview, Karen Campbell (KC) says this:
KC: Now, when we’re talking about sexual abuse, it doesn’t, you don’t have to go very far to find somebody you know in your life who has, has struggled through this. And I will bet most of us can list people that we have known who have shared with us and I’ll bet you very few of those people were homeschooled. I will bet they were mostly, for the most part in public school.
I do not think it is appropriate for Karen to make a blanket statement sexual abuse cases between those who have been homeschooled and those who have gone to public school. This speculation, “I’ll bet,” is not based on fact. If Karen wants to say something like this publicly, it’s important that she back it up, not endorse a long-standing agenda within the Christian homeschool community that public schools are inferior or the problem. Christians, of all people, should be committed to truth, not rhetoric.
Let’s look at some data about sexual abuse:
- An estimated 60% of perpetrators of sexual abuse are known to the child but are not family members, e.g., family friends, babysitters, child care providers, neighbors.
- About 30% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are family members.
- Only about 10% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are strangers to the child. (National Sex Offender Public Website)
While most homeschooling parents would never sexually abuse their children or want to put their child in harm’s way, if their child has been sexually abused, the above statistics indicate that 60% of the perpetrators were known to the child, 30% of the perpetrators were family members, and only 10% were strangers. So, in looking at those statistics, each child who has been sexually abused, whether that child was homeschooled, or sent to public or private school, has a 90% chance of being sexually abused by either someone he/she knows, or a family member. It really doesn’t have to do with homeschool or public school, as Karen seemed to be implying earlier.
Kaylyn, the daughter of Lisa Cherry (LC), was sexually violated by someone the family knew. He was part of the church Kaylyn’s father pastored. Kaylyn was homeschooled, and she was a victim – note, she was part of the 90% of victims whose perpetrator was either part of the family or someone the family knew.
While Lisa Cherry and Karen Campbell are trying to directly address abuse issues, and I applaud them for that, they are missing that the fear perpetrated by the Homeschool Movement has put homeschool families in harm’s way.
Case in point, read some of these words from Lisa Cherry as she is interviewed by Karen Campbell. They are discussing Kaylyn’s story (Cherry’s daughter), and what has been going on in the homeschool community as sexual abuse stories are coming to light. My responses: JA response in black. I bolded for emphasis, Karen Campbell = KC, Lisa Cherry = LC We jump right into the interview as the topic of sex abuse is discussed by Lisa Cherry.
Portions of Transcribed Interview
LC: And I, and I, you know, again, I don’t want to minimize and say we don’t have any problems because we’re people. People in any culture right now will have problems because the devil roams around seeking whom he may devour. It’s a part of the human problem. We’re in an oversexualized culture.
JA response: So first the problem identified, sex abuse, is blamed on Satan – not a human who sinned. This is not an appropriate way to look at sex abuse and is not biblical. Sexual abuse is perpetrated by sinful people. Satan is not the perpetrator. In scripture we read of people committing the sin of sexual immorality, not Satan (1-corinthians 6:12-20).
Lisa Cherry continues:
But as a community, it’s very important that we not ignore where we might be vulnerable. Instead, we become wise. Now I know that there’s some places online that are saying we need the government to step in, we need more regulation, we need to protect our kids, we need to have more rules, we need to have more laws. Karen, I don’t believe that’s the answer.
JA response: Of course not, not when you believe the government is of Satan. This is what we as homeschool parents been taught for years.
JA response: Note that Karen goes along with Lisa. Karen has been in the homeschool community for years and has followed the same fear bandwagon and continues to perpetuate it.
LC: I don’t believe the government will be able to protect from these kinds of very sensitive things.
JA response: This is false. Of course the government is not perfect, but the government can and does remove children from harmful environments. The government can arrest, prosecute and convict offenders and make sure justice is served.
LC: I think, I believe that God placed families together to provide protection for children.
JA response: That’s fine and dandy when it works, but what about when it doesn’t work? What about when a parent is an abuser or fails to properly protect their children, then what?
LC: At the same time, I do think it’s time for us to update our own homes. So I’ve put together an event coming up now the last week of October, October 26-31. A five-day event. And I just decided we need to do something. We’ve seen enough spectacular cases. We’ve seen HSLDA try to help us with them. We’ve seen people writing about it. Let’s just stand up as homeschoolers right now and let’s put a week worth of training together. Let’s find some of the best experts in the country that can teach us what we might need to know so that even though the culture is rolling out of control, we will not be rolling out of control.
JA response: Ok, so Lisa touches on the reality that there are some real problems. She has to, her daughter was a victim, and she is using her daughter’s story as a platform within the homeschool community. But pay attention to what she says about the government. It’s the same anti-government mantra. It seems she is saying, “So we know there’s a problem, but we can’t go to the government for help, we have to do it ourselves and that’s why I’ve put together this new conference to put these important issues on the table.” We’ll see this thought continue.
Further in the interview:
KC: And we have temptations and we have vulnerabilities. In some ways more vulnerability because we tend to not want anybody to know we have a problem. And so…
JA response: Why do we not want anyone to know? Because of fear – the same fear that we’ve been exposed to for years in the homeschool movement.
LC: Yeah, Karen, let me, let me speak a word on that because, um, you know, when this happened to us, it became my worst nightmare. Because never in my life did we need more help because we had a very serious situation going on here with a child that was in a dangerous condition. I was afraid that people would, um, would blame our homeschooling. I was afraid, in some sense, I was afraid that, uh, maybe the social service would misconstrue what my daughter was saying and that we would be blamed. You know, as homeschoolers we can have a lot of fear.
JA response: Let’s look at the underscored sentence. She was afraid that if she reported, people would blame her homeschooling?
When you call authorities because your daughter was sexually violated and think “they” are going to be concerned about what method your daughter is educated? That’s your first thought? Where is that coming from? I believe that’s coming from the fear perpetuated in the homeschool movement that getting the government involved in our families could threaten our collective rights to homeschool our children. In other words, your actions (even legitimate actions) could have an effect on the rights of other parents to homeschool if things go wrong.
When your daughter is sexually violated, a parent’s first concern should be safety of their child and other children - that a sexual predator is on the loose. The first thought should not be, “I’m afraid they are going to take away my right to homeschool my children.” [updated this section for clarification]
KC: Oh yeah.
JA response: Ok, here we go, look at this underlying fear and how it affected this family during their crisis. The Cherry family had to trust someone in order to get their daughter help. Well, even God’s Word talks about submitting to governing authorities and if Christians would do what God’s Word says, the government is God’s vehicle by which sexual perpetrators can be tried, convicted, and punished. God endorses this system, yet we read so many homeschoolers turning away from it and calling it an enemy of God. Ok, which one is it? Either these verses are in the Bible or they are not. Is God’s Word truth, or is it not? If it is not, does HSLDA and their ilk have a special anti-government Bible translation, or what? What does God’s word say about civil authorities? Are they good or evil?
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. Romans 13:1-5
Back to the interview:
LC: You know. What, what’s gonna happen? What if I reach out and it doesn’t go well? And we hear all these stories of, of, you know, maybe the social service people coming to your front door. And so that put more pressure on us. And here’s what I’d have to say about that.
JA response: Ironically, my friend, Boz Tchividjian, founder of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) was a speaker at the above-referenced conference. I can guarantee you that he did not paint the government and social services out to be evil. He encourages people to first report to authorities if there are concerns about sex abuse. I sure hope Boz’s sessions were well attended. He does not buy into these kinds of fears.
LC: You know, we serve a heavenly Father who loves us and in the middle of our deepest pain, He opened a path for help in front of us.
JA response: Yes, He did, it’s all written out for you in Romans 13- use the civil authorities when there is just cause to do so. That’s why they are there.
LC: My path won’t be your path. He has plans that can get us out of this mess. But, being willing, under wise counsel, to bring problems to light and to get help is wisdom.
Trying to bury problems, pretend they’re not there, cooperate with the one who works in darkness, and that won’t bring healing. And so though it, it may feel. Now we need wisdom in the way we do it. I can’t just recommend that you just run right out to anybody and start pouring your soul out. You, you need to have wise counsel. You need to know where you’re going for your help. But, you know, if the first person isn’t able to help ya, pick yourself back up and go and look for somebody else.
LC: You know, because I had to go several places before we could get some help. But there are people in the body of Christ who will listen, who’ve been there, and uh, and they will support us in prayer.
JA response: I urge people, once again, when there is suspected sexual abuse, report it to civil authorities, as God’s ordained authority in the civil world, to get perpetrators brought to justice. Then, after civil authorities are called, go to friends and counsel for spiritual guidance and support. The first response is so important so that trained professionals can investigate and make sure the perpetrator is investigated and the victim is no longer in harm’s way.
Late edit: This tweet came in after I sent the link to this article on Twitter:
Special thanks to Kathi for transcribing the podcast and sharing it with me.