An Open Letter to My Fellow Homeschool Parents

admin —  May 28, 2014

This is a letter I have written to any of our Frontline Moms subscribers who happen to be homeschool families.

Please share this with your homeschool friends.  Here is a print friendly version.

FLM Homeschool post open letterAn Open Letter to My Fellow Homeschool Parents

by Lisa Cherry

As a homeschool mom of 25 years with ten kids, I am writing today to express my concern for the safety of my fellow homeschooling families, the protection of our freedom to homeschool, and my own personal reputation as a homeschooler. Like many of you, I am both heartbroken and disturbed by the recent alleged sexual scandals involving Vision Forum and Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles.  I join with all those praying for the recovery of those who were affected.

As sexual abuse allegations within these ministries have attracted media attention, I am also greatly concerned about how these scandals could negatively impact all of us in the homeschool community. Please allow me to share with you seven vulnerabilities and nine suggestions for action in light of recent developments. (Since the nightmare of sexual abuse happened to our own family, it’s an issue that’s very close to my heart.)

 

 

 

Potential Vulnerabilities of Home School Families

1.  Misperception That Our Homes and Families Are Immune

After our own 15-year-old daughter was abused by a 46-year-old man in our congregation, we ended up in a jury trial. I still cringe when I remember how the prosecution portrayed our family and Kalyn as being "naive" about these issues. It also shook me to realize that, perhaps, in some ways he was right. We should have been aiming to be as "shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16, NASB). With one in four girls, and one in six boys, being sexually abused in America by the age of eighteen, it was naive to believe we were somehow immune to risk.

2.  Lack of Sexual Abuse Prevention Education

I am the first to admit that while Doug and I thought we had taken all the necessary steps to protect our family from sexual abuse, we were sadly misinformed. We were ignorant, before it happened to us, of the deceptive power of the grooming behaviors employed by abusers; and we believed that our family members—adults and kids alike—were too "smart" to be tricked. In researching how to help our wounded daughter, we discovered important keys that we now use to protect the rest of our kids.

3. Suspicious Behaviors

When people appear to be "hiding" or "protecting" known abusers, they bring suspicion upon themselves. No one wants to ever falsely accuse someone of sexual misconduct. However, once an accusation has been validated, we must establish an environment that encourages truth-telling, if victims are to heal and others are to be protected. If we silence or soften the truth, or  allow leaders  who have fallen into sexual sin to remain in their positions simply because they are good teachers, we contribute—either accidentally or intentionally—to the culture of grooming and lies.

4. Lax Attitudes and Systems

Mandatory reporting and sexual abuse prevention systems are the norm in schools and other institutions now, and rightly so. Because of some very public legal cases, and the increased liability of churches, schools and organizations, sexual abuse policies are much more strictly enforced nowadays. If we, as homeschoolers, do not also deal with this issue in a similarly forthright manner, we could appear to be negligent. This could attract further attention to us in two ways: (1) Child abusers will target our kids as easy marks, and (2) The homeschooling community will be under greater scrutiny in a way that invites regulation.

5. Public Perception

Homeschoolers are frequently viewed as a single group, implying that our community is ripe with such predators. In every article I have read on the ministries mentioned above, the media has emphasized that they are "homeschool leaders." In my experience, most people in education, media, government, and social services do not understand homeschoolers. Recently Michael Farris, president of HSLDA, issued a strong statement clarifying that we’re distinct individuals, and countering these misperceptions. While commenting on his recent interview in World News Daily condemning the actions of Doug Philips, Mr. Farris said on his Facebook page, "I have admitted my errors in failing to speak out....I am convinced that this [patriarchal] movement is harmful to people—children, women, and even men who buy into these deceptive ideas. The freedom of the homeschooling movement is threatened if this kind of dangerous legalism is allowed to become the dominant view. I have tried to distance myself quietly and imperfectly for a long time. I am now convinced that I need to be forthright and say out loud what I have thought for a long time....It would be easy to contend that Doug's sin was separate from his patriarchy views. I am saying the opposite. His views of women were integral to his actions." (April 15)

Mr. Farris's statements are strong and clear. But, sadly, it will be hard to counter the hostile public perceptions created by these scandals.

6.   Unnoticed Actions

The alleged immoral acts within these ministries appear to have gone unchecked for years. Surely someone saw something that caused concern.  But in their “trust” of the ministry leaders, most did what is all too common: they ignored or discounted what they saw. (Or perhaps they were ill-equipped to interpret what they observed.) This is truly unfortunate. The protective systems within these ministries were either inadequate, or they simply failed.

7.  Hostility toward the Homeschool Community Is Increasing

Online responses to these stories are flying—especially by those hostile to homeschooling. Honestly, I had not paid any attention to these anti-homeschooling voices until I saw them chiming in during the aftermath of these ministry scandals. But they are very real and very vocal. The implication that we, as homeschoolers, might need to be "watched more closely" is alarming. I do not want to dignify these comments further by providing a link, but I have seen them on several sites, and it is frightening. The hostile momentum that’s building—driven by those who would love to stop homeschooling or deeply regulate it—could be devastating to us all.

 

So what can we do, in the face of these challenges?

 

 

 

 

9 Suggestions that I Believe Are Critical

1.  Pull Our Heads Out of the Sand

We can’t ignore this issue any longer. We must address it, both personally and publicly. The problem of sexual abuse crosses all segments of society. We are not statistically at greater risk; but neither are we immune. (I have heard the stories from other affected homeschool families myself!) We must be willing to understand and confront our own unique set of risks.

2. Intentionally Include Sexual Abuse Training in Our Homeschools

The best abuse prevention for children is well-informed, alert adults. Parents must make the effort to study sexual issues that are prevalent in our society and dangerous to our kids. Read our story to see how we were tricked. Then do what it takes to launch your own protective strategy.  (Click here to find resources to help.)

3. Address the Issue of Sexual Abuse with Your Homeschool                   Co-op/Support Group

 

I suggest we launch a strategic effort to educate our families. It would not be that difficult. (Click here for recommended materials.) Homeschool group meetings on this topic could prevent a great deal of pain. At the same time, our homeschool co-ops need to review their own policies. Just as wise churches screen their own children's and youth workers, we should also. A good system of prevention is one of the best deterrents to abuse. Let's improve our own accountability so we are always above reproach.

4. Be Clear in Labeling Abuse as Abuse

We must call sexual abuse by its real name. Abuse is not limited to just rape or molestation. Here is an official definition from a reputable Christian book on the topic:

"Sexual abuse is any contact or interaction (visual, verbal, or psychological) between a child/adolescent and an adult (or older teen) when the child/adolescent is used for the sexual stimulation of the perpetrator or another person." (Dan Allender, The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse)

 

Let's face it: the term sexual abuse is loaded and ugly. So often people try to mislabel abuse as "inappropriate behavior" or an “indiscretion" or "immorality" to help remove its stigma.  But renaming something just confuses the issue at hand and prevents us from dealing with the reality of its dangers. Children and youth who have been damaged by abuse—even if the abuse seems "minor" to us—will often live their lives through the lens of that experience; and frequently make poor relationship and spiritual choices as they mature. They need our help for recovery.

5.  Support Organizations Fighting To Protect Us

We believe it is vital for homeschool families to stand together in this difficult hour, as we respond wisely to policies and laws that could challenge our freedoms. We must actively support those who stand up for our families. But while the legal teams have been wonderfully responsive to our homeschool community needs over the years, we must also recognize that they are only able to help us collectively when we choose to take personal responsibility. In other words, sometimes we need to take the initiative to police ourselves in private.....before they must represent us in public.

6. Permanently Remove from Your Group Or Sphere of Acquaintances Any Sexual Offenders

 

It seems like this would go without saying, but it does not. In the world's eyes, sexual offenders are considered "non-reformable," due to the nature of their problems. As believers in Jesus Christ, we know that God can deliver people from very complex problems. So, often, in our efforts to show mercy to these perpetrators, we give people the benefit of the doubt. We allow them second chances. Unfortunately, this has proven disastrous in many cases.

 

I propose that anyone who is truly repentant and reformed of sexually abusing a child should have no problem being under accountability, limits, and supervision. They would acknowledge their own risk for relapse, and not put themselves in a position where they could be even falsely accused.

 

Just as wise leaders would never send a former alcoholic into bars to do ministry, former abusers should never be entrusted with children alone. (This applies to families, as well as ministries.)

7.  Pray

The battle of sexual abuse is part of the spiritual warfare being waged against this generation. Pornography has simply taken that fight to a new level. As believers, we recognize that we are not wrestling with flesh and blood here, but with powers and principalities and rulers of wickedness in high places (see Ephesians 6:12). The battle over protecting our children, and leading them to purity amidst a perverse generation, will be won or lost on our knees. Pray for your kids. Pray for all our kids. Maintain holy alertness in accordance with Ephesians 6:18. Intercede for your leaders. Receive from the Lord the wisdom you will need in this hour. And most importantly, please pray for the healing of families who have already been affected by abuse.

8.  Support Your Local Church Leaders

It is amazing to me when I hear church members complaining about protection policies implemented by local church leaders. Sure, I long for the "good ole days" when we didn't have to be so careful. But those days are truly gone, and it is time we adapt. Extra staffing and volunteers will be needed. Are we willing to sacrifice our time to serve? Our pastors and leaders deserve our support as they do their best to protect our families.

9. Pass This Letter On to a Homeschooling Friend

Together, we can take the steps necessary to protect our families...but only if enough of us are on board. Would you consider forwarding this article to 10 of your homeschooling friends? Would you consider sharing it on your social media site, posting it on your blog (link available at www.FrontlineMoms.com) passing it on to your homeschool group? Let's stand together as a community and continue to make homeschooling the safest option for our kids!

Related post: Why We Called the Police and Why You Should Also

Update: Almost 30,000 homeschool families have seen An Open Letter to My Fellow Homeschooling Families: Sexual Predator Accusations Among Homeschoolers?  Lisa will be doing further updates on this topic.

To receive updates by email, go to Frontline Moms and Dads

Click on the link on the side bar that says:

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cherry family ch_ 12

Lisa & Doug Cherry are speakers who travels across the nation addressing parents, teens, and Christian leaders on the growing spiritual culture war. They are the parents of ten, grandparents of four and have enjoyed homeschooling their family for the last twenty-six years. Lisa is also the author of Not Open: Win the Spiritual Culture War and Unmask the Predators.  Her articles have appeared in The Christian Post, World Net Daily, cbn.com, and more. For additional information about Lisa, go to www.frontlinefamilies.org; and find her on her Facebook page.

Lisa will be a featured speaker at the following upcoming events:

June 12-14
Alabama Homeschool Expo
Montgomery, Alabama
Toll-Free: 1-888-553-8914

July 24-26, 2014
Southeast Homeschool Expo
Cobb Galleria Centre
Roswell, Georgia
Atlanta Area: 770-594-1266
Toll-Free: 1-888-264-7763

 

 

  • Blake Short

    Let's get our heads out of the sand is probably the best advice in this excellent article. I will also add that in some homeschooling communities, there is the equivalent of the "thin blue line" , a code of silence that even the mafia envy us. My children have been home-schooled, and they came across not one, not two, but three predators, in different church and homeschooling coop. One was the leader of the coop, the one that actually took the kids in field trips, until the day he ended up on the front page of our city, a large metro area in the South. Years of molesting activity came to light, many victims started to speak up. The guy was so bold he actually had a rented apartment that even his own wife knew absolutely nothing about, and that is where he took his victims, all very young girls. The other predator, the one that actually raped my then 10 years old girl, is the one that brought us to home-school. Leader in a very conservative church in town, medical health professional, he waited for years for the moment to strike. He groomed us for years, and after the rape ( that inexplicably my daughter did not disclose for years, and we , more inexplicably than ever, did not realized it happened. he hang around the family for 8 more years, until my daughter, recovered her memory of the fact. What followed was hell on earth for 4 years. In both cases, the home-school community was very fast to backpedal,, whitewash, sweep under the rug, you name it... It became almost as it was the victim's fault, and as if talking about it openly, one would undermine the holiness of homeschooling. There is a mantra in our homeschooling communities, and that mantra is "we ARE perfect, our choice is the only good choice, and nothing ever bad happens among us, because if it did, that would expose our weakness." That is more or less what we were actually told by our home-school coop leaders, So, yes, it's time we open up and face the reality. We are no better or worse than the outside world, and it is also time we teach our kids this.

    • http://www.frontlinefamilies.org/ Lisa Cherry

      I am so saddened to hear of your family's challenges. I will be praying for a full recovery for all of you. It is so true that it is not the victim's fault. I am praying that as we talk about this issue we will find healing for those who have been affected.

  • Kay Hiramine

    Excellent article! Thank you for writing it! My wife has ministry that empowers and trains parents globally, many in the Homeschool world. We have seen over the years ministering to them the need to get out of denial that it is happening within their own ranks big time. God bless you!

    • http://www.frontlinefamilies.org/ Lisa Cherry

      I am praying we can help families step out of fear and denial. Being equipped to protect our children is vital in this very dangerous hour! So glad we connected here. God bless your ministry to families.

      • Kay Hiramine

        Thank you Lisa! Please keep up the great work for the Lord too! Can you please tell me where we can get your books to review as we sell thousands of books annually through our website?

        • http://www.frontlinefamilies.org/ Lisa Cherry

          Kay, we would love to share review copies with you! I will have my son contact you. Could you email me your address? I am at lisacherry9@aol.com. Thanks

  • John3:16

    Great article! Thank you for being bold and sharing this much needed information. I am a victim of childhood abuse (public schooled) by my step-father. I do not have my head in the sand and always council friends in our homeschool group about what is not appropriate. I have 5 girls so the statistic of 1 in 4 girls being abused is definitely a motivating factor for my speaking out and training my children to be wary of everyone! You never know who is lurking in your midst. Predators, unfortunately, are everywhere. Never leave your children alone with anyone. Sexual predators can be a father, grandfather, uncle, son, neighbor, pastor, nursery worker, youth group leader, camp director/counselor, and policemen! It never fails to amaze me the trust families place in sending their children to summer camps! If I am not there to hover and gaurd over them, then they do not go! Period. Mothers gaurd your most precious possession and yes be wise as serpents and train your children to be the same! You may say I am being over-protective, but I can assure you I had rather keep my children safe and not be sorry that I did not do everything within my power to keep their precious innocence intact and their childhood free from the trauma of abuse!

    • http://www.frontlinefamilies.org/ Lisa Cherry

      Taking the time and effort to protect our children is a great act of love. And you are so right about the profile of predators being tricky! Thank you for sharing your story. And may God bless you and your family.

  • http://www.frontlinefamilies.org/ Lisa Cherry

    Lisa, I am so sorry to hear what happened to your precious daughter. Our prayers are with you and your family. In a couple days I am going to post more information about how to protect our children in these type of settings where your daughter was abused. I would value your input if you can read the post. I am getting a lot of questions from moms ....

    • http://luvsiesous.com/ el_guero2000

      Lisa,

      I pray for your daughter's recovery.

      This shows the importance to always use multiple people ministering with children.

      And video cameras help.

      Wayne
      Luvsiesous.com

  • http://www.frontlinefamilies.org/ Lisa Cherry

    We unfortunately hear many stories of leaders not seeming to know how to help families face the challenge of abuse. Denial and hiding is never the answer. I am so sorry for what happened but glad to hear of your recovery! Let's pray we can raise awareness of these issues and spare families this pain. God bless you and your family.

  • Evie

    I can say with some degree of confidence that sexual abuse happens between husband and wife as well. I will spare the details. On another note, we visited a church a few times and when meeting a Sunday school teacher for my son's 6th grade class, I got a weird vibe from him. It was creepy. Later when I asked my son how class was, he said fine, except he was pretty sure the teacher was a "child molester." I almost stopped breathing. He wore a suit and tie, clean cut, but we both saw something beyond that.

    • http://www.frontlinefamilies.org/ Lisa Cherry

      It is hard to know a book by the cover, but I always encourage people to follow that "check" when they get it. We do not want to falsely accuse anyone. But when in doubt.....back up! Good you did not take a risk when you were both uneasy. Blessings to your family.

  • http://www.frontlinefamilies.org/ Lisa Cherry

    Michelle, you are so right that the problem is everywhere! I am so glad you are taking the effort to educate yourself and the people you care about. After studying the issue, I truly believe we can reduce our odds dramatically when we are well educated and maintain alert spirits! I am posting more in this series over the next several days. I would love to hear your comments as you have obviously already been studying this issue. Have you seen our book yet called Unmask the Predators? Amazon or on our site frontlinefamilies.org. Blessings!

    • Michelle

      I have not read the book...I am going to be ordering it.

  • http://www.frontlinefamilies.org/ Lisa Cherry

    I love your comment about how it is the "decent thing to do." Somehow the church has been so slow in helping victims...and it is hard to understand. But so many times the problem is swept under the carpet! I believe this is the day to shine our lights on it while we still have the chance. Perversion is moving the boundaries so quickly....

  • http://www.frontlinefamilies.org/ Lisa Cherry

    I am disturbed at the problem also. And yet it is as old as the Old Testament! Sin when allowed to hide is soooo dangerous. Thank you for standing up and caring for righteousness.

  • http://www.frontlinefamilies.org/ Lisa Cherry

    The situation you described is so common. Known problems are observed but people want to minimize them and explain them away. However, when sexual boundaries in a relationship are crossed inappropriately, children are confused and damaged. I am so glad you stood against the tide and did the protective thing. It was not easy. But you will never regret protecting your children.

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  • Julie Anne

    Good for you, Terri. I applaud your strength amidst a church community that did not do due diligence in supporting you during the time you and your children needed it most. I suspect all of your children will "rise up and call you blessed" knowing the sacrifices you made for them.

  • Landy Man

    We are homeschooling parents whose sons are now in college. Although we are finished with our boys education, we are still involved in our local Friday Home school class. A topic like this hits home because as a man and not a parent to any of these young people I have to make sure I am cognizant of what is going on around and not have my testimony impugned. I make sure I am never in closed environments with any student and maintain a professional distance when dealing with our high-schoolers. We have developed a reputation as being sought after teachers for different subjects and I will not allow that to be ruined by even a suggestion of impropriety.

    • http://www.frontlinefamilies.org/ Lisa Cherry

      Sir, I honor your integrity so much! Thank you for caring enough to follow prudent guidelines. I pray God uses you powerfully to mentor this next generation....and that others will follow your wisdom!

  • lhs1971

    And....report /prosecute to the fullest extent! We need to protect potential future victims as well.

  • Kendra Husband

    I'm just wondering why the predator in your family's case is working for a Christian organization currently and no one is naming names or calling him out? In light of all the recent scandals within the Evangelical Community: Bill Gothard (ATI), Doug Philips (Vision Forum), Sovereign Grace Ministries, Tom White (Voice of the Martrys). Is there a reason that you cannot make this information public and protect other possible future victims?

    • http://www.frontlinefamilies.org/ Lisa Cherry

      Hi Kendra. Please allow me to clarify. The man is in a technical career not a ministry leadership position at his workplace. We did call his workplace when it happened and they initially removed him. We reported to the police. We went to all the hearings to make sure he would be noted as dangerous. His name was in the paper and on the local news. But when the case was sent into conflict, he went and told everyone in his new Christian world that he was innocent and he gathered a new crowd of supporters. I guess the new people believed him. I wonder if they even did their homework? and we ended up on the other end of someone's prayers with a group of them in the courtroom! ..people praying he would get released!
      The whole thing makes your head swim.
      I spent a season angry. But that does no good. So we have warned those we knew to warn. And now it's been 10 years. He has no legal case against him to "prove" anything we say. Sad. And maddening.
      So, we have turned to helping as many other people as we know how by writing the book and speaking where can. Kalyn does a great job showing people the inside story of how these type relationships can go unnoticed.
      I pray that what we are able to do is making a difference!

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  • http://luvsiesous.com/ el_guero2000

    Lisa Cherry,

    I have been attacked by many 'true Christians,' because I advocate similar standards to yours.

    Sadly, Satan deceives many adults as he seeks to destroy our children.

    Wayne

    Luvsiesous.com

  • Mike Pickle

    Brothers and sisters, please remember that until the facts are established, some of these are allegations and we "Christians" are the first to jump to judge someone guilty based on allegations. The guilt need to answer for their crimes; but we need to be quite careful. When a well known preacher/pastor was caught with his hand in the cookie jar 28 yrs ago, many in my particular circle were quick to judge and condemn. They turned to ask me what I thought, having remained silent, I said, the Lord has showed me that without His grace, I could do the same thing. The conversation ended. We can fall as far and as quickly as any other believer. Just saying . . .

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  • Melissa

    I agree with Allender's definition, but it is not complete. Abuse can also come from one's peers. Unfortunately our family has lived it.

    Thank you so much for speaking out on this topic.