HSLDA’s Michael Farris to Heidi St. John: “We Are Standing With You”

Michael Farris of HSLDA should give up Facebook for his own good. It doesn’t look good for the person running the campaigns for the ‘Parental Rights Amendment’ and against the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to repeatedly defend and promote known child abusers. At some point, the other side – the side I support – is going to take notice and stop inviting him to testify before Senate committees.

Homeschoolers Anonymous


By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Several days ago, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) issued a statement on their involvement (or lack thereof) in allegations about a widespread cover-up of physical and sexual child abuse in the Christian homeschooling community. The child abuse is alleged to have involved the children and a relative of Paul and Gena Suarez, owners of the popular homeschool magazine The Old Schoolhouse.

HSLDA’s statement, which you can view in entirety here, was that “HSLDA does not get involved in conflicts between families or individuals” and their mission is “not to be the police force of the homeschooling movement.” In response, I pointed out that not only does The Old Schoolhouse remain an HSLDA-suggested resource promoted to HSLDA members at a special discounted rate, but HSLDA is currently sponsoring The Old Schoolhouse. In terms of finances, therefore, it’s not difficult…

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The broken car

Imagine that you were a new car. The owner takes that car home and drives it thousands of miles every month, but doesn’t maintain it. No oil changes, no checking the transmission fluid or the treads on the tires. They wash it regularly though, and keep it nicely waxed and detailed. When the car starts to slow down or act a little finicky, the owner kicks the car in the vicinity of where the noise is coming from until it starts up again. If kicking the car doesn’t get it started, they’ll finally take it to their cousin’s garage, who gerry-rigs the cheapest possible solution, and it’s back on the road.

Eventually one day, the car stops working. The owner kicks it, and kicks it, and kicks it. But the car is just too broken to run anymore. Somehow the owner doesn’t get that and is convinced that if they kick enough it will start back up. So they keep kicking the car.

But because this car isn’t really a car, but you: You decide you’re tired of being kicked. And one day the owner wakes up, and the car is gone.

So now your abusive owner is out of your life, and you’ve decided that you’re going to use your car (analogy for your body) for you. Problem is, car is broken down. So you want to get it running again.

You take the car to a repair shop and tell them, ‘my car won’t run’. Repair person looks at the fluid levels and says, ‘problem is, you need to change the oil and transmission fluid. I’ll take care of that for you’. And you’re thrilled, because your car begins to bumble along a bit, and it’s the first time in your life you’re behind the wheel. There are strange noises and bumps and you’re moving along slowly, but you’re too happy to notice any of these things at first.

But the car keeps breaking down and it’s hard to re-start it everytime, and you notice that other people have working brakes (maybe you should, too?) and can accelerate to the speed limit on the highway, etc, and you realize, maybe this car still isn’t performing the way it should. So you bring it in again.

Repair person looks at the fluid levels and says, ‘nope everything looks fine, you have enough oil, you have enough transmission fluid, whatever you’re noticing must be all in your head, you’re just paranoid, go home and be more optimistic.’ You do, but you find that it’s not all in your head, it can’t be. Your friends are all urging you to see a mechanic and pushing their favorites’ names and numbers on you. So you go see a new repair person.

Repair person says ‘oil and transmission fluid looks fine, treads are low, I’ll replace the tires.’ You say, ‘great, thanks, but I did some research on the internet and I think there’s also something wrong with the transmission and brakes’. Repair person says, ‘Your car is too young to have problems with the transmissions or brakes. It looks like it’s in great condition. I’ll replace the tires, and why don’t you try those out for a while and see if that doesn’t clear things up.’

6 months down the road you’ve finally found someone who will take a look at the brakes. He’s surprised to find that they need to be replaced, they’re replaced, and now any repairman you see about the transmission says ‘you already replaced the brakes. There couldn’t be more than one thing wrong with this car. It’s so young and in such great condition. If you’re still having problems, why don’t you go back to the guy who replaced the brakes and see if he did everything right. And I’ll check the oil for you again.’

I’ve seen some of the research on what long term stress does to a person. And I’ve seen time and time again, in survivors like myself, multiple body systems just aren’t working like they should. But it’s hard to get a doctor to take you seriously because you’re still young and look healthy. They think you’re just trying to get attention or you’re lazy and don’t want to work. On the contrary, as a young person it’s completely devastating to not be able to do the things young people are supposed to do. When other people your age are out there playing sports, raising children, building careers, and you’re stuck in bed in a haze unable to reach the bottle of water by your bed… and no one to restock groceries when you’re unable to leave the house or think clearly enough plan another way to get some…. That’s a life no-one wants to lead, and I have a hard time imagining that anyone is committed enough to ‘getting attention’ to sacrifice that much for it.

When you put a child, then adolescent, under constant high levels of stress, then punish them each time express a need for more rest, sleep, privacy, autonomy, food, or medical treatment than is convenient for you to permit them, things are going to get bad, fast. A few die from your treatment, a few die of suicide, most make it to adulthood with some level of health problems. Finally autonomous, some find that they don’t have a body that can fully live that autonomy. You haven’t just taken from them their childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood; you’ve also taken from them the freedom to live the rest of their adulthood as they choose.

As the number of survivors of the particular form of abuse I survived reaches the millions in America, the consequences of decades-long severe trauma on the health of young people needs to be studied, written about, and treated. We don’t just have PTSD. We have GI disorders, autonomic disorders, endocrine and mitochondrial disorders. Due to our sheer numbers, our disability will have a substantial and long term impact on public health and the strength of our economy, social infrastructure and civic society. Doctors need to take us seriously and our nation at large needs to take a stand against this egregious treatment of our young citizens.

The Elephant In the Santa Barbara Shooting

There have been many excellent articles written on the role of misogynist (and patriarchal) belief systems in the recent massacre. You can read some here, here, here, and here. However, a very important, central matter has been missing from every article I’ve read. Speculation centers around what made Elliot do it – mental illness is always implicated, some hypothetical events of his childhood are sometimes implicated, and the MRA and PUA community are implicated or absolved.

We are asking the wrong question and we’re asking it deliberately, to avoid the most frightening aspect of the situation: a relatable young man, with friendly and likeable social interactions and no known diagnosis of mental illness, chose to slaughter innocent people. That bears repeating: Elliot chose to do what he did. A human being made a conscious decision to kill other humans, but I’ve not seen this fact not mentioned anywhere, even in the most progressive of articles. Even the most progressive of writers appear to feel obligated to say that on top of his being misogynist, ‘of course he was also mentally ill’.

It appears taboo to speak of the frightening possibility that perhaps he was not mentally ill. We know he believed that the women of the world owed him something, and he was frustrated, upset and angry that he didn’t get it. He decided that the thing that would make him happiest would be to take revenge on his enemies. He also decided that the consequences of his actions would be worth that moment of revenge. We need to look square in the face the very real and tenable possibility that he made a calculated, rational choice according to the beliefs and feelings that he had. He didn’t need to be mentally ill. He just had to hold the beliefs that he had and the experiences that led to his feelings.

This reality is frightening because it forces us to confront the fact that Elliot is not that different from any one of us. That our own beliefs can, in fact, have real world, life or death consequences. And it raises that uncomfortable possibility that we ourselves might hold destructive, false beliefs unawares. That some of the decisions we may have made, and may make in the future, were and will be based on false beliefs, and may be very wrong, evil actions though we believe them to be right and justified.

As frightening as it is, it is in our best interest to face this reality head-on. Being consciously aware of the destructive potential of our own beliefs empowers us to choose not to do evil, rather than simply assume that we ourselves, and any actions arising from our current beliefs, cannot possibly be evil. And it tempers our adamance that substantial decisions arising from our beliefs be made unexamined.

I first faced this reality at the age of 18. I was raised in a far-right-wing fundamentalist cult. I had been raised to have absolute certainty in each precept of the set of beliefs I’d been taught, and to not allow myself to question them. That all changed when actions I took in strict adherence to my beliefs on how to show love to my closest friend ended up wounding (metaphorically) her deeply and causing her situation to deteriorate instead of improve. How could deep love, combined with faithful adherence to true beliefs, have such a destructive effect? Perhaps I had believed falsely. Perhaps some of my beliefs were not true. I couldn’t allow false beliefs to drive me to such destructive action ever again. I needed to find out what was really, actually true about myself, God, the world, and my place in it. I needed to suspend some categories of decisions, judgements, and actions until I knew more. I couldn’t afford to make such a mistake ever again. This path has led me to a more nuanced understanding of the world and my place in it.

The reality that beliefs can kill must inform our decisions as a culture and as a nation. Can we admit, as a nation, that we have been wrong? Can we open our minds to the possibility that some of our embedded cultural beliefs could be incorrect, even destructive?

The Santa Barbara shooting is not the first time misogyny has killed. Misogyny kills and injures daily in the form of domestic violence. It systematically disempowers women in the workplace. It deprives us of political representation. We need to face the fact that misogyny isn’t simply the whining of a few ugly women with bunched up panties. It’s a systemic, destructive force that pervades American culture and law.

The champions of patriarchy are coming out of the woodwork in the aftermath of the shooting. Patriarchy has been exposed for what it is. This revelation threatens to weaken the freedom of men to use lesser amounts of violence to control and oppress women in their daily lives. Every time an individual ridicules the idea of a rape culture, or ridicules the idea that American culture is patriarchal and misogynistic, they are choosing to defend a system they like. They are choosing to defend systematic misogyny – that is, to protect their freedom to use overt and covert force against and upon women.

To reflect on, evaluate, and modify our beliefs is not a weakness, but a strength. Let’s face, head-on, our own potential to hold incorrect and dangerous beliefs. If you don’t think misogyny exists or that America has a rape culture or that our nation is structured with inherent patriarchy, this is your opportunity to examine, research, and re-evaluate those beliefs. For the rest of us, let’s not think of ourselves as immune or as having ‘arrived’. An attitude of conscious questioning of the potential of our own beliefs empowers us to grow and lead. And, ironically, it also gives us a degree of compassion and understanding for perpetrators of violence. Their choices are not okay, their beliefs are not okay, but maybe, as Norway has proven, they can be helped via appropriate rehabilitation. If we, as a culture, recognize our own capacity for individual and societal evil, we will be rewarded with a safer world with less evil in it.

Note: do not defend kyriarchy in this comment thread. Any and all violating comments will be deleted.

Lourdes, Lifeboats, and Bounded Choice: Part III (Raised in a Totalist Institution)

This excellent post by Cindy K explains how Second Generation Adults (SGAs) in ‘total institutions’ (such as the Christian homeschooling movement) do not have a ‘Realistic Right of Exit’. SGAs do not have the opportunity to experience the psychological, educational, and social development necessary to thrive in the outside world.

I find this concept – SGAs not having a ‘realistic right of exit’ – fascinating because it is something both SGAs and their perpetrators can, and do, agree with.

SGAs know how challenging it is to survive outside the ‘total institution’ – for many it is in fact impossible and literally their only opportunity for survival is to stay within the abusive community.

The perpetrators, however – (Christian) homeschool leaders, homeschool convention speakers, homeschool support groups, homeschool pastors, and even homeschool parents, openly discuss how essential it is to condition SGAs one has power over (i.e. daughters, sons) to not leave the movement, and to not permit SGAs to develop skills that could lead to ‘independence’ (another word they openly despise).

When a ‘Quivering Daughter’ / SGA leaves the fundamentalist movement, she is a victim of severe, long term trauma. But our culture has failed to provide a social safety net for these survivors, who are not yet officially recognized as survivors of domestic abuse or human trafficking, and whose perpetrators are rarely even prosecuted, let alone convicted, of any crime. And yet, not only did their perpetrators remove the SGA’s realistic right of exit *in effect*, they also did so knowingly, purposely, and with intent.

As we continue to raise awareness of the SGA homeschooler problem, it is my hope that access to social and legal resources will be opened to survivors.

Homeschoolers Anonymous

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Julie Anne Smith’s blog Spiritual Sounding Board. It was originally published on March 17, 2013.


“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” ~ Proverbs 22:6

You see that verse?  Probably every homeschool parent heard that verse too many times to count throughout their homeschooling years.  It was engrained in us.  We did not want our children to depart from “the way they should go” and the solution was to “train” our children.  At least that’s what they told us.

Ever since my spiritual abuse journey, I have been trying to figure out what led our family to that spiritually abusive church and pastor who sued us in an attempt to discover who our primary influencers were over the years. I found that the…

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