This morning an alarming article was shared in one of my local homeschool Facebook groups. I clicked on it not quite knowing what I was in for, and I ended up suffering the rest of my day from reading it.
I, like many survivors, experience physical and emotional symptoms when triggered. Triggers vary from person to person, but a common trigger is to read or hear details of another’s abuse. I am not angry that the person who shared the article did not put a trigger warning on it. I was glad to have read the article despite the state I was in upon finishing it.
That said, I am going to advise those reading this that the following paragraphs and the article I link to may be triggering. If when you finish reading you intend to share this post, as I hope you will, then please let those you share it with also know that this could be triggering.
I have written before about the idea that just because a family homeschools does not mean they abuse their children. I have also written about my fear of Child Protective Services (CPS) overstepping their bounds in situations where abuse is not present.
We walk a difficult path. Our system is a flawed one in which many innocent children do not receive the help they need in order to escape abuse and also in which many innocent adults are accused of abuse.
I believe part of the problem is the unclear line of what constitutes abuse and what doesn’t. What some consider normal and loving parenting, others consider cruel and strange. Whether the topic is spanking or extended breastfeeding, someone disagrees with it, and our laws on these subjects are vague at best.
There is however, one particular topic which I believe we can all agree on: the sexual abuse of children is unacceptable.
I shouldn’t have to say that. It should go without saying. However there have been so many people who have turned a blind eye to sexual abuse of children in their families and in their communities, for whatever reason, and it is time for this ridiculousness to stop.
How do you know if a child has been sexually abused?
If a child has not confided their abuse to you then you might suspect abuse for a variety of reasons. Red flags for abuse (such as, but not limited to, change in personality, change in diet, change in sleep, change in behavior, and/or sexual behaviors) don’t always mean that abuse has taken place BUT it is better to er on the side of caution. Do not dismiss it if you suspect that sexual abuse has taken place! Pay attention to those red flags!
If a child has confided their abuse to you then take them seriously! Tell them you believe them. Don’t dismiss them. Tell them that it isn’t their fault. Don’t blame them. Most importantly, call for help. Your local police would probably be a great place to start. After that, then the child’s parents (assuming the parents were not part of the abuse) and/or Child Protective Services (especially if the parents were part of the abuse).
There are a lot of reasons that a person might turn the other way when a child is sexually abused. None of these reasons are justifiable. There is no excuse for turning your back on a child who has been sexually abused.
Many times the abuser is someone loved. A spouse, a sibling, a child. When this is the case, people often want to protect them. This is wrong.
When the abuser is protected, the victim is condemned. When the abuser is protected, the list of victims grows longer. When the abuser is protected, they hurt everyone around them- including themselves.
It takes true mental illness to see a child in a sexual way.
Mental illness is not to be ignored, it is to be treated.
There are some who realize they suffer from this and who actively choose to seek help. There have been documented cases of people who, while they have never victimized a child, do struggle with the thoughts and the urges to do so. They fight their illness, they seek treatment, and they do not hurt children.
I say this not to defend them but to prove the point that it is possible to not act on these urges. It is possible to seek treatment and live life in such a way that no one is hurt by mental illness.
The moment that a person goes from having an urge to acting on their urge is when they forfeit all rights to sympathy and protection. The act that changes a mentally ill person into an abuser is a choice that they do not have to make.
The victim doesn’t get a choice in the matter, and the victim is the one who should be protected.
It is unfortunate that most people who have these thoughts and urges do not seek treatment. It is unfortunate that most people who have this mental illness make the active decision to become abusers. It is especially unfortunate that there are many opportunities for an abuser to find victims in the homeschooling community.
We homeschoolers read these news articles every other week about yet another public school teacher who had sex with a student and we feel disgust, we feel anger, we feel sadness. But do we ever stop to think about all the opportunities for abuse to take place within our own community?
Homeschoolers are statistically more likely to take part in extra curricular activities. A soccer team, a book club.
Homeschoolers network with other families. Children frequently spend time together based on common interests rather than common age.
There is ample access to our homeschooled children by other parents, community volunteers, older friends, older siblings of friends, etc.. We can not turn a blind eye to sexual abuse of children just because the abuser is charismatic. We can not turn a blind eye to sexual abuse of children just because the abuser is a pillar in our community. We can not turn a blind eye to sexual abuse of children for any reason.
We must have a zero tolerance policy for sexual abuse in our homeschool community. For the safety and well-being of our children. For the safety and well-being of our neighbor’s children. For the safety and well-being of every homeschooled child, we must speak out when we know that sexual abuse has occurred.
As I mentioned above, this post was inspired by an article I read earlier today on Homeschoolers Anonymous. This article details how some of the biggest names in the Christian homeschooling community have turned their back on victims and allowed abusers to continue having access to children. While I am a secular homeschooler and I do my best to keep my content secular, I strongly believe that this is a problem that effects the entire homeschool community not just the Christian homeschoolers. The risk for sexual abuse is something we all need to be aware of and it is something we all need to be on guard for.
Now I am going to supply a link to the original article and I am again warning all of you that it could be triggering. There are screen shots of emails and letters, direct quotes from some very surprising people. If you choose to read this then please brace yourself, the content is shocking at best.
When Homeschool Leaders Looked Away: The Old Schoolhouse Cover-Up