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Posts tagged "Child Abuse"

h/t: Derek Penton-Robicheaux at The New Civil Rights Movement

thepoliticalfreakshow:

In a Vanity Fair feature published last year, A. A. Gill wrote extensively about Jimmy Savile, the eccentric BBC personality who died in 2011 and has since been identified as one of the most prolific perverts and predatory criminals in recent memory. Gill reported that, after Savile’s death, “as many as 500 middle-aged women” came forward to allege they had been molested by the media personality. Making the abhorrent crimes even more deplorable is the fact that many of his victims were, according to the same feature, “children in hospitals and terminal wards [and] the abjectly distressed in mental hospitals.”

Thanks to a series of independent investigations that concluded today, we now have even more nightmarish details about Savile’s reign of terror inside the hospitals he frequently visited under the guise of charity. Among the most disturbing findings:

  • Savile molested victims over a nearly 50-year span, from 1962 to 2009. (The New York Times)

  • At one of the roughly 30 hospitals investigated—Leeds General Infirmary—Savile was found to have abused 60 people, male and female, patients and staff members, ranging from the age of five to 75 years old. (The Telegraph)

  • Because of his charitable contributions, Savile had free access to many areas of the hospitals, even the mortuaries, where Savile is believed to [have] sexually assaulted corpses. Per The Guardian, “One former Broadmoor nurse told investigators that Savile claimed to have performed sex acts on bodies and ‘mucked about’ in the mortuary, posing in photographs with the deceased after placing them in lewd positions.” (The Guardian)

  • “Separately, the independent investigation was told that Savile had removed glass eyes from the bodies and used them as jewellery.” (The Guardian)

  • “Savile was said to have been best friends with the chief mortician of Leeds General Infirmary, who is now dead, and had regular unsupervised access to the mortuary from the late 70s until the mid-90s.” (The Guardian)

  • “The investigation panel found that incidents ranged from lewd remarks and inappropriate touching to sexual assault and, in three cases, rape.” (The Telegraph)

  • “Research by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children found that he abused at least 500 victims, the youngest of them was two years old.” (The New York Times)

  • “Savile had a bedroom at Stoke Mandeville [Hospital], where his now-defunct charitable trust was based, as well as an office and living quarters at Broadmoor [psychiatric hospital].” (BBC)

  • “A former patient [at London’s Barnet General Hospital] said that nurses in 1983 told her Savile ‘liked to have sex with dead bodies.’ […] She described having a conversation with the nurses in which they allegedly said they spied on JS when they worked at another hospital and observed him having sex with a dead body.” (The Guardian)

  • “Investigators said while there was no way of proving Savile interfered with the bodies in this way, they concluded that “it is evident his interest in the mortuary was not within accepted boundaries.” (The Telegraph)

In light of these conclusions, the AP reports that “Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt apologized on behalf of the government, saying the country shared a ‘deep sense of revulsion.’ He said he is writing to health officials to ask them to verify patient safety in light of the findings.” (AP)

Related: The Pervert Storm: Why Jimmy Savile and the BBC Scandals Have Hit Britain So Hard

holygoddamnshitballs:

St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson testified last month that he wasn’t sure whether it was illegal for priests to have sex with children while he served as chancellor of the St. Paul and Minneapolis archdiocese.

H/T: Brandie Piper at KSDK.com

thepoliticalfreakshow:

NOTE: To read more about what Nate and his siblings endured at the hands of their late abusive father, controversial bigot Fred Phelps, look below or click here. [TRIGGER WARNING FOR GRAPHIC CONTENT & GRAPHIC DESCRIPTIONS OF PHYSICAL & VERBAL CHILD ABUSE]

Once upon a time some very nice people, Jon Michael Bell along with Joe Taschler and Steve Fry, decided to write a story about Fred Phelps.

On June 29, 1994 Jon Michael Bell, a former reporter hired to investigate Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church by Stauffer Communications, Inc.,filed a lawsuit in Shawnee County District Court in Topeka, Kansas against Stauffer Communications alleging the Topeka Capital-Journal owed him compensation for overtime and to clarify ownership of his notes and work product. The work product in question, “Addicted to Hate” chronicling the life and times of Fred Phelps, was attached to the lawsuit as Exhibit A making it, therefore, a public document. Learning of the suit, members of Topeka’s anti-Phelps underground delivered a certified copy of the lawsuit to a copy shop near the courthouse.

Addicted to Hate, as reproduced here, is the full contents from Addicted to Hate of Exhibit A of the lawsuit filed in Shawnee County District Court in Topeka, Kansas by Jon Michael Bell against Stauffer Communications in June of 1994, Case number 94CV766. It was transcribed into digital form during the course of the lawsuit by persons unknown, and distributed first as pamphlets and then over the internet.

Feel free to copy and distribute this important material. The authors claim no copyright. For additional background and details start with Cover and work your way forward.

Terrie Johnson was 52 years old and ready to die.

She’d known since fourth grade that she was gay, but to the conservative, Southern Baptist community in which she’d been raised, Johnson’s feelings were wrong. She lived much of her adult life in public, speaking on behalf of her church to Christian communities around the country, but she was hiding in plain sight. She’d married a man, had children—choices she doesn’t regret—but she was living a lie. Finally, she reached a point where she could no longer continue the charade. She made a plan to commit suicide. Instead, she came out of the closet.

Not all of Johnson’s family members were supportive of her revelation. Most of them weren’t. But her son, Brad, had her back. His mother’s story reminded him of someone else who had escaped an extreme religious upbringing, one far more dire: Nate Phelps, the son of “Fag”-hating Westboro Baptist Church founder, Fred Phelps. As a Kansas native, Brad had long been familiar with—and fascinated by—the hateful antics of the Topeka-based church. He’d heard about Nate, one of four of the 13 Phelps children who defected from the church, and who was speaking about his new life of LGBT activism. He wanted to tell Nate’s story and, in the process, he thought Nate’s journey could help his mother.

When the Johnsons reached out to Nate Phelps, they weren’t sure whether they’d even receive a response. Now, a little over a year later, they’re more than halfway through filming Not My Father’s Son, a documentary about the abuse that Nate and his siblings suffered at the hands of their father and how Nate finally escaped it. This week, the team created a Kickstarter campaign, with a trailer for the film and a short appeal from Terrie, clad in suspenders and a purple paisley bowtie, for donations.

“We’ve been doing this on our own time and our own dime,” Brad Johnson told The Daily Beast. “Now we’re tapped out.”

Nate Phelps ran away from home on his 18th birthday, but he’s only been speaking publicly about his abusive childhood for four years. In that time, he’s received countless emails, phone calls and letters from people who’ve been inspired by his story to deal with their own issues, be it religious abuse, LGBT equality or physical violence. After a four-hour breakfast with Brad and Terrie Johnson in Lawrence last year, Nate knew the mother-son duo were the right people to help him touch even more lives.

“They had the right frame of mind. They go to the heart of the matter, that’s why I picked them,” Nate told The Daily Beast. “My trademark is, if I can reach people’s hearts then maybe I can change their minds.”

So far, Nate is the only Phelps family member featured in the film, but he expects one of his brothers and a few of the nieces and nephews who’ve also left the church to get involved. Those that still remain involved in Westboro, however, will not be included. “We made a point of saying there is enough” coverage of the church already, Nate said. But that doesn’t mean the family Nate left behind isn’t keeping tabs on him.

Nate said he received an email Thursday night from his youngest brother, Tim, who was believed to be one of the men in line to take control of the church when Fred Phelps passed away this past March. According to Nate, the two brothers haven’t spoken in over a year, which led Nate to suspect that the church got wind of the Kickstarter.

“He called me, ‘an advocate for proud sinners,’ and wrote, ‘to get through some of my days I’m required to patiently dismantle your hypocritical fantasy world,’” Nate said of the email from his brother. “I always lead with the assumption that somehow it’s going to be different this time, but after a few emails I realize it’s not going anywhere. There is no reasoning with them, it’s just the same rhetoric they use in public. So I just let it go.”

Nate Phelps ran away from home on his 18th birthday, but he’s only been speaking publicly about his abusive childhood for four years.

Both Nate and the Johnsons hope to not only finish the film, but to distribute it to middle schools, high schools and universities throughout the country where they can reach young people who may be suffering from hatred or abuse in one form or another.

“No child should have to live through what Nate lived through,” Terrie said. “And no person should ever hate themselves to the point of being ready to die, like I was.”

In the meantime, by pursuing the project, Brad Johnson has already achieved his initial goal: providing help and support to his mother.

“Nate is good for my soul,” Terrie said. “To be with him and see the hate he has overcome to be the man that he is today, it gives me so much hope.”

h/t: Matthew Henley at Phoenix New Times

crooksandliars:

Pope Francis said that he felt “compelled to personally take on all the evil” perpetrated by some priests, because “you cannot interfere with children.”

thepoliticalfreakshow:

A Kansas lawmaker made headlines last week for introducing a bill to explicitly permit spanking to the point of “redness or bruising” by parents, as well as teachers given permission by parents. The bill almost immediately died in committee, but not before attracting criticism,defense and outright mockery. The discussion was remarkable — not for what was said, but for what remained unaddressed.

Outside the media industry, corporal punishment in school is noncontroversial, as 80% of parents and 72% of Americans believe that it should not be permitted. The South has the highest level of support, a meager 35%. Despite this widespread public opposition, condemnation by pediatric and childcare experts and a growing international abolition movement, school spanking remains legal in 19 states.

This disconnect is relatively new. A 1977 Supreme Court ruling determined that while corporal punishment violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment,” the clause did not apply to students. Under the majority’s logic, criminals could not receive corporal punishment, but students could — even without their parent’s permission.

The ruling and shifting public opinion prompted state legislation. From 1977 to 1997, 24 states banned corporal punishment in schools. But the pace of change has slowed in recent decades. Since 1997, only five bans have passed. Sometime in the 2000s, legislation and public opinion became out of step.

The explanation may lie in who receives corporal punishment. The most recent Department of Education statistics show that around 216,000 students received corporal punishment in 2009, only a slight decrease from the prior study (223,000 in 2006). The number is high, but it’s far from evenly distributed.

Urban districts often have local bans, so that the majority of school spanking is carried out in rural areas. Disabled students are spanked at a disproportionately high level, despite research suggesting that those with mental handicaps are least capable of understanding why they are being punished. Minorities are also punished at a higher rate. In a particularly egregious example, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction found that while Native American students constituted only 2% of students, they received 35% of the state’s corporal punishment. Across all races, about 80% of those punished are boys. The number of non-disabled white women spanked in the United States in 2009 was considered statistically insignificant by the Department of Education.

The disproportionate effect of these policies on minority and disabled students in rural districts could help explain how school spanking remains in place despite majority opposition. More privileged students with more privileged parents (including the 10% with students in private school) are rarely effected and thus unlikely to give the issue much thought. Those most passionate about changing these policies may lack the political power to influence the legislative or media agenda.

Whatever the cause, school spanking remains lawful in 19 states over the opposition of 80% of American parents, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Education Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and many others. The next time corporal punishment in schools enters the news cycle, think of the issue not as a controversydebate or discussion, but a continuing and pernicious failure of American-style democracy.

thepoliticalfreakshow:

A Democratic lawmaker in Kansas says that her bill allowing teachers, caregivers and parents to beat children to point of leaving bruises is about restoring parental rights, not abusing children.

State Rep. Gail Finney’s (D) bill expands current law, which allows spanking without leaving marks.

According to KCTV, the new legislation would permit teachers, caregivers and parents to strike children up to 10 times, and leave redness or even bruising.

McPherson Deputy County Attorney Britt Colle, who proposed the idea to Finney, told KCTV that the measure actually protected children by defining what parents were not allowed to do.

“This bill basically defines a spanking along with necessary reasonable physical restraint that goes with discipline, all of which has always been legal,” Colle explained. “This bill clarifies what parents can and cannot do. By defining what is legal, it also defines what is not.”

Colle said that the new rules would not allow children to be hit in the head or the body. Using a fist or a switch or a belt would also be against the rules.

But not everyone in Kansas thinks that turning back the clock on child beatings is a great idea.

“Twenty, 30 years ago, we didn’t sit in car seats, and we do now,” pediatric nurse practitioner and child care expert Amy Terreros pointed out. “So maybe they did spank or were spanked as a child, but now we have research that shows it is less effective than time out. It tends to lead to more aggressive behavior with a child.”

If the bill passes, Kansas will be one of the few states to expand spanking rights. Corporal punishment has been banned completely by 30 states.

Finney has vowed to reintroduce the bill next session if House Corrections Committee Chairman John Rubin refuses to bring it up this year.

Watch the video below from KCTV, broadcast Feb. 18, 2014.

KCTV5

(Cross-Posted from Daily Kos
dailykos

thepoliticalfreakshow:

The BBC will be plunged into a major crisis with the publication of a damning review, expected next month, that will reveal its staff turned a blind eye to the rape and sexual assault of up to 1,000 girls and boys byJimmy Savile in the corporation’s changing rooms and studios.

Dame Janet Smith, a former court of appeal judge, who previously led the inquiry into the murders by Dr Harold Shipman, will say in her report that the true number of victims of Savile’s sexual proclivities may never be known but that his behaviour had been recognised by BBC executives who took no action.

Smith’s investigations, which followed the Pollard inquiry into why the BBC shelved a Newsnight programme about Savile, will send shockwaves through the corporation.

A source close to the inquiry told the Observer: “The numbers are shocking. Many hundreds and potentially up to 1,000 people were victims of Savile when he was representing the corporation. The report will overshadow Pollard. It will go right to the heart of how Savile was able to get away with the most heinous of crimes under the very noses of BBC staff for more than 40 years.”

The sheer scale of victims’ testimonies being examined has delayed the publication of Smith’s report by a month.

Peter Saunders, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac), which has been consulted by Smith’s inquiry, said: “In Savile’s lifetime I wouldn’t doubt [that 1,000 people had been abused by him on BBC property]. The other thing I have found extraordinary, and very sad, is the number of people I have spoken to connected to the BBC, and that is a lot of people, who said: ‘Oh yes, we all knew about him.’

"I was talking to someone at BBC Manchester in Salford who said ‘we knew about Stuart Hall. He had a room where he would take women and young people’. You think: ‘Oh my God, these people were offending almost in open sight and no one thought to intervene.’"

Liz Dux, a lawyer representing 74 of Savile’s victims, said Smith had been forensic in her examination of witnesses and her report was likely to cause serious concerns for those at the top of the organisation. She said: “Every single opportunity Savile took it. He never had a quiet day basically so these numbers wouldn’t at all surprise me.

"Dame Janet is very widely respected and I am confident she won’t leave any stones unturned. The clients who gave evidence said that they felt they were listened to very sensitively and sympathetically and were able to give their evidence in a lot of detail. This will not be a what-the-BBC-want sort of report."

A second report on the scale of Savile’s abuse within the NHS has also been delayed due to the number of places in which Savile committed crimes and it is not expected until June.

Smith has used a similar methodology to that employed during the Shipman inquiry, which found the GP had killed hundreds of patients, not just the 15 for which he received life sentences before taking his own life in his prison cell.

Her team sent letters to every member of BBC staff past and present asking whether they had witnessed criminal acts by Savile in order to piece together his pattern of behaviour and establish an understanding of the scale of his crimes.

In three known cases, one of which involved a BBC cameraman who has since died, Savile carried out his abuse with others connected to the corporation, the review has heard.

The report will, however, express frustration that some of those closest to Savile or culpable for allowing him to go unchallenged have refused to co-operate. His criminality peaked in the 1960s and 1970s, when he was middle-aged and at the height of his career at the corporation, but continued right up until the last filming of Top of the Pops in 2006 when at the age of 79 he groped a girl aged between 13 and 16. Smith’s review has been in contact with more than 1,000 witnesses and victims, including the 138 who are pursuing civil claims for compensation, but the scale of those affected by Savile’s crimes dwarfs the number who have so far come forward.

The Observer understands the BBC has provided more than £10,000 in funding, and the assistance of a business consultant, to Napac to allow it to increase its helpline services. Further money is expected to be made available when the review is published.

Lord Hall, the BBC’s director general, met the charity’s chief executive shortly before Christmas and asked for his support when the Smith report is launched.

Dux hopes the BBC will respond to Smith’s findings by offering further support to the victims, who are due to receive limited compensation through a scheme being agreed with the corporation, the NHS and the Jimmy Savile Charitable Trust. Those raped by Savile are unlikely to receive more than £50,000 in compensation.

Dux, head of abuse cases at Slater & Gordon, said: “What I hope doesn’t happen is that the BBC goes into some sort of navel-gazing period. Rather than look internally, look at how they are behaving and accept some corporate responsibility, which is not what they have done so far.

"I have asked for counselling for my clients who have given statements but the BBC have done nothing; my clients have been left absolutely high and dry."

If the BBC really cared about these people then they would have contacted them as soon as they have given evidence and said: ‘We accept that you have gone through an awful ordeal and whatever the outcome of the report we have made facilities to let you go and see this counsellor.’”

She added: “Whether these cases are resolved by settlement scheme or by court the amount of damages the victims of the BBC will get is absolutely tiny compared to what they have spent on their own legal fees, the Pollard inquiry and their own staff. The damages for compensation in civil law for rape is rarely over £50,000 and that is something that is life-changing and hideous. They are actually getting an insulting amount”.

A spokesman for Smith’s review declined to comment.

thepoliticalfreakshow:

LostProphets Former Frontman Singer/Rapist Sentenced To 29 Years In Prison For Multiple Rapes Including An Attempted Rape Of An Infant (Yes, You Read That Correctly), Claims That The Infant Rape Was “Mega Lolz” [TW: Graphic Descriptions of Rape and Sexual Assault, Rape, Sexual Assault, Child Sex Abuse, Child Sexual Assault, Child Rape, Child Abuse, Pedophilia]

Lostprophets frontman Ian Watkins was sentenced today to serve 29 years behind bars and another six under “strict probation,” for, among other horrifying things, the attempted rape of a baby.

Watkins, 36, pleaded guilty last month to three counts of sexual assault involving children and six counts involving taking, making or possessing indecent images of children.

Watkins also admitted to the attempted rape of an 11-month-old baby boy, footage of which was shown in court.

Two unnamed female co-defendants, one of whom is the mother of the child Watkins assaulted, were also sentenced to 14 and 17 years.

"Those who have appeared in these courts over many years, see here a large number of horrific cases," said the Cardiff Crown Court judge during sentencing. “This case breaks new ground.”

Though he didn’t speak in court today, Watkins did have a prison phone conversation with a fan after pleading guilty on November 26, in which he denied being a pedophile.

"I’m going to put out a statement on the 18th just to say it was mega lolz," Watkins told the female fan. “I do not know what everybody is getting so freaked out about.”

According to the Guardian, “mega lolz” was a phrase commonly found on Lostprophets merchandise a few years ago.

"Today’s sentence does not mark the end of our investigations," said Detective Chief Inspector Peter Doyle.

The South Wales Police have joined forces with Interpol, German police, and the US’s Homeland Security to determine if Watkins had abused children in other countries as well.

[mug shot via BBC News]

RELATEDRock Star Pleads Guilty to Attempted Rape of a Baby [Same Trigger Warnings As Above Article]

Brutal offshore Christian reform school exposed in new documentary (via Raw Story )

“Kidnapped for Christ” is a new documentary that tells the story of teenagers sent to an evangelical Christian boarding school outside the U.S. where school personnel attempt to rid them of feelings of same sex attraction or other “ungodly”…



 

At 10 P.M.on a Sunday night in May, Lauren and John,* a young couple in the Washington, D.C., area, started an emergency 14-hour drive to the state where Lauren grew up in a strict fundamentalist household. Earlier that day, Lauren’s younger sister, Jennifer, who had recently graduated from homeschooling high school, had called her in tears: “I need you to get me out of this place.” The day, Jennifer said, had started with another fight with her parents, after she declined to sing hymns in church. Her slight speech impediment made her self-conscious about singing in public, but to her parents, her refusal to sing or recite scripture was more evidence that she wasn’t saved. It didn’t help that she was a vegan animal-rights enthusiast.

After the family returned home from church, Jennifer’s parents discovered that she had recently been posting about animal rights on Facebook, which they had forbidden. They took away Jennifer’s graduation presents and computer, she told Lauren. More disturbing, they said that if she didn’t eat meat for dinner she’d wake up to find one of the pets she babied gone. 

To most people, it would have sounded like overreaction to innocuous forms of teenage rebellion. But Lauren, who’d cut ties with her family the previous year, knew it was more. The sisters grew up, with two brothers, in a family that was almost completely isolated, they say, held captive by their mother’s extreme anxiety and explosive anger. “I was basically raised by someone with a mental disorder and told you have to obey her or God’s going to send you to hell,” Lauren says. “Her anxiety disorder meant that she had to control every little thing, and homeschooling and her religious beliefs gave her the justification for it.”

It hadn’t started that way. Her parents began homeschooling Lauren when she struggled to learn to read in the first grade. They were Christians, but not devout. Soon, though, the choice to homeschool morphed into rigid fundamentalism. The sisters were forbidden to wear clothes that might “shame” their father or brothers. Disobedience wasn’t just bad behavior but a sin against God. Both parents spanked the children with a belt. Her mother, Jennifer says, hit her for small things, like dawdling while trying on clothes.

The family’s isolation made it worse. The children couldn’t date—that was a given—but they also weren’t allowed to develop friendships. Between ages 10 and 12, Lauren says she only got to see friends once a week at Sunday school, increasing to twice a week in her teens when her parents let her participate in mock trial, a popular activity for Christian homeschoolers. Their parents wanted them naïve and sheltered, Lauren says: “18 going on 12.” 

Mixed with the control was a lack of academic supervision. Lauren says she didn’t have a teacher after she was 11; her parents handed her textbooks at the start of a semester and checked her work a few months later. She graded herself, she says, and rarely wrote papers. Nevertheless, Lauren was offered a full-ride scholarship to Patrick Henry College in Virginia, which was founded in 2000 as a destination for fundamentalist homeschoolers. At first her parents refused to let her matriculate, insisting that she spend another year with the family. During that year, Lauren got her first job, but her parents limited the number of hours she could work. 

Even conservative Patrick Henry felt like a bright new reality. While much about the college confirmed the worldview Lauren grew up in, small freedoms like going out for an unplanned coffee came as a revelation. She describes it as “a sudden sense of being able to say yes to things, when your entire life is no.” 

Family ties began to fray after she met John, a fellow student who’d had a more positive homeschooling experience growing up; he took her swing dancing and taught her how to order at Starbucks, and they fell in love. Her parents tried to break the couple up—at one point even asking the college to expel Lauren or take away her scholarship for disobeying them. Their efforts backfired; soon after her graduation, Lauren married John and entered law school.

For Jennifer, matters grew worse in the six years after Lauren left home. She rarely went out on her own except to walk the dog or attend a co-op class taught by other homeschooling parents. When she would ask to go to a friend’s house, she says, her mother would begin to cry; after a while, Jennifer stopped asking. She never had a key to the house. Tensions escalated after she went vegan. Animal-rights activists were communists and terrorists, her parents told her, and the Bible said she should eat meat. 

By the time Jennifer made her call in May, Lauren and John had discussed that she might eventually have to come live with them. Jennifer wasn’t often able to phone her older sister, because their parents closely monitored cell use. But Jennifer kept a secret e-mail account, which she used to write to Lauren. After the fight that Sunday, she hid her phone as her parents were confiscating her computer, then sneaked an SOS call. Lauren phoned around their hometown, trying to find family friends to take in Jennifer and her pets. She asked the family pastor to check on her sister. But the friends seemed scared to intervene, and the pastor refused, saying he didn’t believe Lauren because she was estranged from her parents. So the couple started driving, switching off through the night, to meet Jennifer after her co-op class the next day. “I wasn’t even sure she still had the resolve to go through with it,” Lauren says, “but we thought, even if she doesn’t want to leave, she still needs to know that her big sister is going to drive 14 hours for her if it gets to that point.” 

Jennifer was ready, though. The plan was to gather her things while their mother was out shopping and their father was at work. Instead, their mother pulled into the driveway while the sisters were loading Jennifer’s dog into the car. As their mother lunged for Jennifer, Lauren says she tried to stop her by grabbing her in a bear hug. Her mother wrestled free, slapped Lauren hard in the face, screaming that she was trying to kidnap Jennifer and destroy the family. She pulled the dog away from the girls so hard that Jennifer feared he would choke. Lauren called the police, and her mother summoned her father home.

“I was so scared I had a hard time breathing,” Jennifer says. Her father told police that John had brainwashed Lauren and that Jennifer had “the mind of a 12-year-old” and was too immature to be trusted. Because she was an adult, however, the police allowed her to leave—but only with some clothes and toiletries, which she piled into trash bags as her father trailed her through the house, yelling. The rest of Jennifer’s stuff-—her computer and her pets—had to be left behind, since she had no proof of ownership to show the officers.

On the long ride back, Lauren and Jennifer were stunned by what they’d done. They tried to think about pragmatics: What now? How would they handle college applications without parental involvement or get Jennifer insured or find her a job? Lauren called extended family members, trying to stay ahead of the story their parents would tell. She and Jennifer didn’t want to lose everybody. “I was on the phone for hours,” she says, trying to explain to relatives who hadn’t witnessed the family’s abusive dynamics and had a hard time believing her—especially after years of hearing how Lauren had been corrupted by her husband and turned her back on her family.

“Children in these situations are taught that if you talk badly about your parents, that’s a sin, and you’re going to hell,” Lauren says. “So when they finally get the courage and determination to say something, no one believes them, because they didn’t say anything all those years. You end up having to find an entirely new support network of people who actually believe you.”

In Washington, that new support network immediately kicked in. Through an informal group of young women who broke away from fundamentalist families, Lauren had become friends with Hännah Ettinger, who writes “Wine & Marble,” a blog about transitioning out of fundamentalist culture. When Lauren told her the story of Jennifer’s rescue, Ettinger posted a brief account. She asked readers to chip in to defray Jennifer’s costs of starting over: buying a computer, acquiring normal clothes, applying for community college. Within the first day, the blog’s readers donated almost $500. Then a new website, run by another former homeschooler, linked to Ettinger’s appeal, and within a few days, close to $11,000 had been donated. 

It was a surprise, but it was hardly a fluke. Jennifer’s rescue coincided with the emergence of a coalition of young former fundamentalists who are coming out publicly, telling their stories, and challenging the Christian homeschooling movement. The website that linked to Jennifer’s story wasHomeschoolers Anonymous, launched in March by two homeschool graduates, Ryan Stollar and Nicholas Ducote. Their goal was to show what goes on behind closed doors in some Christian homeschooling families—to share, as one blogger puts it, “the stories we were never allowed to talk about as children.” 

As of October, Homeschoolers Anonymous had published nearly 200 personal accounts and attracted more than 600,000 page views. For those outside the homeschooling movement, and for many inside it, the stories are revelatory and often shocking. The milder ones detail the haphazard education received from parents who, with little state oversight, prioritize obedience and religious training over learning. Some focus on women living under strict patriarchal regimes. Others chronicle appalling abuse that lasted for years.

They want to show what goes on behind closed doors in some Christian homeschooling families, to share “the stories we were never allowed to talk about as children.”

Growing up in California and Oregon, Stollar wasn’t abused, but he met many other homeschoolers who were. His parents led state homeschooling associations and started a debate club in San Jose. The emphasis on debate in fundamentalist homeschooling was the brainchild of Michael Farris, the founder of Patrick Henry College, and his daughter Christy Shipe. Farris believed debate competitions would create a new generation of culture warriors with the skills to “engage the culture for Christ.” “You teach the kids what to think, you keep them isolated from everyone else, you give them the right answers, and you keep them pure,” Stollar explains. “And now you train them how to argue and speak publicly, so they can go out to do what they’re supposed to do”—spread the faith and promote God’s patriarchy.

[…]

The timing was propitious. For several years, mothers and daughters who had escaped from Quiverfull families had blogged about their experiences and organized to help others get out on sites like No Longer Quivering. “Survivor” blogs written by former fundamentalists were also proliferating online. The bloggers doubtless inspired one another, but an additional factor was at work: Children from the first great wave of Christian homeschooling, in the 1980s and 1990s, were coming of age, and many were questioning the way they were raised.

Homeschooling leaders had dubbed them the “Joshua Generation.” Just as Joshua completed Moses’s mission by slaughtering the inhabitants of the Promised Land, “GenJ” would carry the fundamentalist banner forward and redeem America as a Christian nation. But now, instead, the children were revolting.

[…]

Homeschooling didn’t begin as a fundamentalist movement. In the 1960s, liberal author and educator John Holt advocated a child-directed form of learning that became “unschooling”—homeschooling without a fixed curriculum. The concept was picked up in the 1970s by education researcher Raymond Moore, a Seventh-Day Adventist, who argued that schooling children too early—before fourth grade—was developmentally harmful. Moore’s message came at a time when many conservative Christians were looking for alternatives to public schools. 

Moore’s work reached a massive audience when Focus on the Family founder and Christian parenting icon James Dobson invited him onto his radio show for the first time in 1982. Dobson would become the most persuasive champion of homeschooling, encouraging followers to withdraw their children from public schools to escape a “godless and immoral curriculum.” For conservative Christian parents, endorsements didn’t come any stronger than that.

Over the next two decades, homeschooling boomed. Today, perhaps as many as two million children are homeschooled. (An accurate count is difficult to conduct, because many homeschoolers are not required to register with their states.) Homeschooling families come from varied backgrounds—there are secular liberals as well as Christians, along with an increasing number of Muslims and African Americans—but researchers estimate that between two-thirds and three-fourths are fundamentalists.

Among Moore and Dobson’s listeners during that landmark broadcast was a pair of young lawyers, Michael Farris and Michael Smith, who the following year would found the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). With Moore’s imprimatur and Dobson’s backing, Farris and Smith started out defending homeschooling families at a time when the practice was effectively illegal in 30 states. As Christians withdrew their children from public school, often without requesting permission, truancy charges resulted. The HSLDA used them as test cases, challenging school districts and state laws in court while lobbying state legislators to establish a legal right to homeschool. By 1993, just ten years after the association’s founding, homeschooling was legal in all 50 states.

What many lawmakers and parents failed to recognize were the extremist roots of fundamentalist homeschooling. The movement’s other patriarch was R.J. Rushdoony, founder of the radical theology of Christian Reconstructionism, which aims to turn the United States into an Old Testament theocracy, complete with stonings for children who strike their parents. Rushdoony, who argued that democracy was “heresy” and Southern slavery was “benevolent,” was too extreme for most conservative Christians, but he inspired a generation of religious-right leaders including Dobson, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson. He also provided expert testimony in early cases brought by the HSLDA. Rushdoony saw homeschooling as not just providing the biblical model for education but also a way to bleed the secular state dry.

With support from national leaders, Christian homeschoolers established state-level groups across the country and took over the infrastructure of the movement. Today, when parents indicate an interest in homeschooling, they find themselves on the mailing lists of fundamentalist catalogs. When they go to state homeschooling conventions to browse curriculum options, they hear keynote speeches about biblical gender roles and creationism and find that textbooks are sold alongside ideological manifestos on modest dressing, proper Christian “courtship,” and the concept of “stay-at-home daughters” who forsake college to remain with their families until marriage.

HSLDA is now one of the most powerful Christian-right groups in the country, with nearly 85,000 dues-paying members who send annual checks of $120. The group publicizes a steady stream of stories about persecuted homeschoolers and distributes tip sheets about what to do if social workers come knocking. Thanks to the group’s lawsuits and lobbying, though, that doesn’t happen often. Homeschooling now exists in a virtual legal void; parents have near-total authority over what their children learn and how they are disciplined. Not only are parents in 26 states not required to have their children tested but in 11 states, they don’t have to inform local schools when they’re withdrawing them. The states that require testing and registration often offer religious exemptions.

The emphasis on discipline has given rise to a cottage industry promoting harsh parenting techniques as godly. Books like To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl promise that parents can snuff out rebellious behavior with a spanking regimen that starts when infants are a few months old. The Pearls claim to have sold nearly 700,000 copies of their book, most through bulk orders from church and homeschooling groups. The combination of those disciplinary techniques with unregulated homeschooling has spawned a growing number of horror stories now being circulated by the ex-homeschoolers—including that of Calista Springer, a 16-year-old in Michigan who died in a house fire while tied to her bed after her parents removed her from public school, or Hana Williams, an Ethiopian adoptee whose Washington state parents were convicted in September of killing her with starvation and abuse in a Pearl-style system. Materials from HSLDA were found in the home of Williams’s parents. 

h/t: Kathryn Joyce at AlterNet, via The American Prospect

(via Daily Kos: AFA Radio host Bryan Fischer supports allowing corporal punishment in schools)

Ahh. AFA Radio host Bryan Fischer is on a roll of stupidity, and on today’s edition of Focal Point, he strongly defended spanking as an “effective discipline method for children,” when reputableresearch on this subject shows it’s the exact opposite.

He also trotted out the lie that the lack of corporal punishment in schools (even in the 19 states that still permit this practice) is causing the quality of education to drop and behavior problems to rise.

Right Wing Watch:

Bryan Fischer spent a large portion of his radio program today hailing the effectiveness of spanking as a biblically-approved form of discipline and cackling as he recounted how he and his wife used a wooden spoon to spank their own children on their bare bottoms because “the bottom is just designed by God for that.”

Eventually, Fischer got around to calling for the use of corporal punishment in public schools, saying failure to allow teachers to physically discipline children is why there are so many behavioral problems in school and why children today are getting such a poor education.