The Importance of Proper Child Protection

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CC image courtesy of Flickr, Nadeem Abdulla.
CC image courtesy of Flickr, Nadeem Abdulla.

I recently read an article about efforts churches and homeschool organization are taking to incorporate increased screening processes into their employment policies. While I would normally applaud such efforts, the ones I read about were motivated less by an interest in protecting children and communities and more by insurance companies wanting to protect themselves. As the article notes, “These groups want to know the personal histories of prospective employees in an attempt to protect themselves against liability for potential sex-abuse scandals based on the false belief that victims of sex abuse as children are destined to become abusers as adults.” One could see the wrong motivation manifest in how these churches and homeschool organizations were going about their child protection efforts: they were asking potential child workers about whether they were abused as kids, about whether they were LGBTQ, and about their personal pornography usage. 

While every church and organization has the legal right to ask potential employees and volunteers some of these questions, they are not helpful—in fact, they are counter-productive—with relation to the work of child protection. Take the question asked by Trail Life about being LGBTQ*: “Have you ever been convicted of, accused of or practiced homosexuality?” It is understandable that some conservative Christian organizations might ask this, considering that notable conservative Christian advocates like the Family Research Council have long perpetuated the myth that there is “a disturbing connection” between being LGBTQ and being a child molester.

But here are the facts about child abuse and LGBTQ individuals: LGBTQ individuals have a statistically higher risk of being victims of child abuse, whereas child abusers are statically more likely to identify as heterosexual, even married to a member of the opposite sex. Organizations that screen for child abusers on the basis of LGBTQ* identity, therefore, are not only targeting a population that is less likely to be abusive and more likely to be abused, they are also sending a counterproductive message to their own members: that heterosexual, married individuals should be seen as safer or less likely to be abusers.

Even the question asked by the National Black Home Educators Association—”Have you indulged in any form of pornography in the past 2 years?”—is a red herring. The fact is, child molesters are statistically more likely to be attracted to children, not adults. According to the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, child molesters seek out specific types of pornography, not pornography in general. They seek out either illegal pornography (i.e., child pornography) or legal pornography involving related themes.

So if an organization like the National Black Home Educators Association really wants to ask about pornography usage in the context of child protection, they should be asking about child pornography viewing, not general pornography viewing. Otherwise they are again sending the wrong messages.

Though, to be clear, the idea of a professional organization asking a potential employee or volunteer about pornography usage makes me feel uncomfortable in general. There are so many ways that could go awry or the knowledge obtained could be abused by those in the organization with power. Think, for example, what powerful and now disgraced homeschooling leaders like Bill Gothard or Doug Phillips might have done with such information.

If Christian and homeschool organizations are going to take child abuse seriously, they need to take it both seriously and correctly. They need to look to best practices established by professional child abuse prevention organizations. Continuing to hold onto damaging myths—like child abuse is determined by being abused as a child or by being gay—does not help protect children. Instead, it marginalizes the most vulnerable people in our communities who desperately need that protection.

Additional reading:

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Author: R.L. Stollar

R.L. Stollar is the Executive Director of Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out.


2014 HARO Survey of Homeschool Alumni, Installment Nine: Abuse

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Installment Nine of the 2014 HARO Survey examines respondents’ reports of child abuse, their feelings about spanking, and their understanding of child protective services.

In summary, approximately half of respondents (51%) reported experiencing abuse either within or outside their homeschooling environment, and a further 26% reported knowing another homeschooler who was abused. Within the home, the most common types of abuse reported were emotional/verbal abuse, religious abuse, educational neglect, and physical abuse. Outside of the home, the most common types were religious abuse and emotional/verbal abuse. Among respondents’ homeschooled acquaintances who were abused, the most common types were emotional/verbal abuse and educational neglect. More female respondents reported being abused than males, and only around one-third (35%) of those who reported abuse heard about the survey through the survivor community. With regard to corporal punishment, 44% of respondents reported that their parents used this method of discipline ‘Often’ or ‘Always’; however, only 14% believed corporal punishment was ‘Often’ or ‘Always’ an effective disciplinary method, and only 9% reported that they do or would use corporal punishment to discipline their children ‘Often’ or ‘Always’. Those who were spanked ‘Often’ or ‘Always’ were more likely to consider spanking inherently abusive. Overall, respondents reported that as children they had little knowledge of child protective services and abuse reporting procedures—nearly half experienced fear of child protective services—although more than half believed their caregivers would have been receptive to education in this area.


About the Survey

In 2014, HARO, the parent organization of Homeschoolers Anonymous, conducted a survey of adult alumni of the modern Christian homeschool movement in consultation with the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE). The purpose of this survey was to investigate the life experiences of Christian homeschool alumni by collecting information that past surveys of homeschool alumni had not. The data collected will be used to advocate for the interests of current and future homeschooled children.

The survey, written by HARO Executive Director R.L. Stollar, was developed over a span of 9 months. Work on the survey began on November 24, 2013 and it was opened to the public on August 18, 2014. A set of approximately 90 initial questions were first created. These questions were then tested, modified, and re‐tested repeatedly over a span of 6 months to create the survey questions that were on the final version. The questions were specifically run by a diverse group of people, including Christians and non‐Christians, conservatives, moderates, and liberals, homeschoolers and unschoolers, and so forth. The final version of the survey featured questions on demographics, academic school experiences, non‐academic school experiences, food and health, religion, present and future personal life plans, sexuality, mental health, and abuse.

The survey, conducted online through SurveyMonkey, was estimated to take respondents 30 minutes to complete. It was first promoted through the homeschool abuse survivor community, from which it spread across the country through online social networks (primarily Facebook). Survey respondents were required to affirm that they were 18 years old or older, had been homeschooled for at least 7 years, were homeschooled in an environment which was classifiable as Christian (including Christian‐influenced new religious movements), and were taking the survey through completion for the first time. A total of 6,249 people started the survey; 3,702 respondents completed the survey before it closed on September 15, 2014. Only the completed responses were recorded and analyzed.

Data analysis was generously provided by the amazing team over at the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE). HARO is extraordinarily grateful to CRHE for donating an immense amount of their time and energy to analyzing the survey data.

View and download other installments of the survey here: Installment One | Installment Two | Installment Three | Installment Four | Installment Five | Installment Six | Installment Seven | Installment Eight | Installment Nine.

To download the ninth installment of results from HARO’s survey, click the link below:

A Complex Picture: Results of the 2014 Survey of Adult Alumni of the Modern Christian Homeschool Movement, Installment Nine


Author: The HARO Team


Dean Hunter’s Winning Essay for HARO’s 2016 Scholarship for LGBT+ Alumni

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Our ability to offer these scholarships for homeschool alumni is made possible by our generous donors. If you would like to support Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out, you can do so by shopping at Amazon Smile, using the corporate matching program Benevity, or donating directly via Paypal. Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and donations are tax-deductible. 

Dean Hunter is studying Communications at the University of Wyoming. He hopes to either investigate child abuse for the FBI, or go into nonprofit marketing.

Please describe how being LGBTQ* has impacted your education, both in a conservative Christian home-school environment, as well as the at the post-secondary level.

For an LGBT child in a conservative Christian environment, survival often means faking everything about themselves, including educational choices. For me, a bisexual transgender boy, this was certainly the case.

My parents said that they believed in me, but what they believed in was a farce. My parents, conservative, Bible-believing, believers in Growing Kids God’s Way, believed they were raising a girl, ignoring my uneducated and desperate attempts as a small child to tell them I was a boy. They educated me at home from the time I was learning object permanence to the time I graduated high school with about 500 other homeschoolers from our state.

From an early age, I learned to decode what they wanted to hear and see from me. I pushed the boundaries early on and asked them to call me boy names, and let me wear boy clothes, and expressed aspirations to do “male dominated” careers. I was a woman, they said. I could do anything I wanted – as long as I maintained a feminine appearance, and was prepared for a career that wouldn’t be too “butch.”

Exhausted from fighting them, I constructed a convincing caricature of a daughter they could be proud of. I figured pretending to be who they wanted me to be would take off some of the pressure. I pursued extracurricular activities that they approved of, rehearsing the right things until I almost convinced myself that I was satisfied with the educational and extracurricular pursuits my parents nudged me towards.

It was a game of survival. If I had ever come out to them, and insisted I wasn’t just a tomboy, but really a boy, I knew all hell would break loose. Dealing with undiagnosed depression, anxiety, and gender dysphoria was enough of a battle for me, so I continued to bury and hide my true self. I told my parents I wanted to be a writer because that was where I could construct a world where I could live out my dreams of being comfortable in my skin, and pursuing life without the weighty expectations my conservative Christian parents had. I put off taking classes and activities that would have enhanced my real goals in order to inhabit imaginary worlds where I could finally breathe.

I often wonder now if my parents had sent me to public school, as they later did with some of my siblings, if I would have done even better in school and found that I was not alone, not a freak, not something to be buried under a socially acceptable mask.

My internalized transphobia and biphobia crippled my ability to make good decisions and the pressures that made learning and existing difficult transferred to post-secondary education. Initially I went to community college, and then to Grove City College, to please my parents. My college career was interrupted due to financial difficulties, and then I was married, and then had a child.

The birth of my son set off a chain of internal events that forced me to finally confront the truth: I was bisexual and transgender, and had severe depression and anxiety that needed to be addressed. My ex pushed me to finish school quickly on an online school, to help support his career that was not paying our bills, when I should have been getting help. I turned to drinking, and failed out. We are now in the middle of divorce proceedings. I am in a heated battle to have equal access to my son, fighting bigotry in conservative Virginia courts and in my ex spouse.

This spring semester, I have finally enrolled in classes to finish my degree at the University of Wyoming while living with my parents. I am taking two 18 credit semesters and a two summer courses to finish by December 2016 and minimize the time I’m away from my child. To do that, I picked the degree that had the most appeal and will help me get back to my son as quickly as possible.

Now that I’m fully out as transgender and bisexual, I feel much more confident in my life. While there are still factors causing extreme stress, I am approaching these issues from a place of confidence in knowing who I am. I am able to seek the mental, financial, and academic help I need, whereas before, I was too busy hiding myself in shame to even know where to begin to look for help, or even to think I deserved help. The staff and faculty at the University of Wyoming have been respectful regarding my gender and name preferences, and that has helped me incredibly have the confidence to succeed.

In conclusion, while being LGBT during my earlier education in a Christian, conservative homeschool environment didn’t impact my grades negatively, or hinder me from receiving an education, it certainly influenced me to pursue paths and options and waste time on things my parents approved of, for fear of being found out and ostracized. I wasted years of time trying to survive, when I could have been working towards education and career goals that they deemed too masculine. Even now, I am making educational choices influenced primarily by being transgender in order to jump through legal hoops to have a fair shake at being involved with my son. Being a bisexual and transgender man has profoundly impacted my education.


Author: The HARO Team


Sarah Negri’s Winning Essays for HARO’s 2016 Women in STEM Scholarship

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Our ability to offer these scholarships for homeschool alumni is made possible by our generous donors. If you would like to support Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out, you can do so by shopping at Amazon Smile, using the corporate matching program Benevity, or donating directly via Paypal. Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and donations are tax-deductible. 

Sarah Negri is studying Math and Great Books at Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is considering a career as an actuary.

1. Where did your interest in your discipline/field originate? 

For as far back as I can remember, I have always loved math. Working with numbers came easily to me, and it was also enjoyable because I looked at every problem as a puzzle to be solved, a challenge to be conquered. Even outside of my studies in math, I was into Sudoku and other number puzzles, simply because I loved figuring out how the numbers fit together and formed patterns. The logic and rationality of math really appealed to my left-sided brain even as a child.

In high school especially, though, my interest in math became more focused. In my junior year I began correcting homework papers for a local homeschool math tutor, and that not only allowed me to go deeper into my math studies (because you really have to be grounded in knowledge of mathematics to correct homework) but also sparked my consideration of whether I wanted to pursue math as a career. My exposure to the subject was heightened as I began tutoring math students privately, and I never got tired of working the problems with them. Explaining the concepts to them was not only rewarding, but it also showed me how much I liked helping others understand my favorite subject.

When it came time to decide what I wanted to study, it seemed like an obvious choice to me. I really loved math and wanted to work with numbers on a daily basis. I continued working with math through correcting and tutoring until I entered college and declared math as my major. Math continues to be my passion and my preferred field of study.

2. How did your homeschooling impact your study of science, technology, math, and/or engineering? 

I would say that the three main benefits that my homeschooling experience gave me with regard to my math studies were formation, freedom and faith in my abilities. First of all, homeschooling formed me as a person and as a student. I gained discipline through studying on my own and with my siblings, and I learned how to get the most out of the material and really try to understand everything. My parents instilled good values and study habits into me, and taught me to work hard at everything I do, which has been invaluable to my experience in the math field. Homeschooling gave me the time, attention and discipline I needed to truly be grounded in not just math but in all my studies.

Because of the structure of my schooling environment, I had a great deal of freedom in my math studies as well. Since I didn’t have to keep up with a class, I was able to take the time to grasp concepts fully, and if I didn’t understand something, the flexibility of homeschooling allowed me to slow down and really master the concept. I was also able to move on if I grasped the material quickly, instead of becoming bored if a class was going too slowly. This flexibility was especially relevant in high school, when I was able to dip into many different math textbooks and curricula to gain exposure to different methods and outlooks on solving problems. I had the freedom to go through Geometry twice, master Algebra using three different textbooks, and still take Pre-Calculus before I graduated. This greatly contributed to my formation in math, and is, to me, an invaluable benefit of my homeschooling experience.

Finally, homeschooling gave me faith in my own abilities. I learned most of the math I know on my own, studying the concepts and working the problems by myself. I learned what worked for me and what didn’t, and grew in confidence as I grew in knowledge. Self-studying requires self-discipline, but it is very rewarding to be able to say that I, not just my parents or tutors, was an integral instigator to my mastery of the material. Homeschooling gave me the environment, the impetus and the encouragement to make the most of the abilities I was given.

3. Describe your experience being a female in your field, from when you first showed interest until now

As a female with an interest in math from a young age, I can honestly say that my experience has been overwhelmingly positive. I have never been told “No.” My parents were the first to encourage me in my studies. I remember a letter my dad wrote to me in elementary school urging me to “really understand what you’re learning; don’t just focus on getting the right answer.” Particularly relevant to math, his advice was applicable all through high school and up to my present college studies. My mom was also extremely supportive of my love for math; she worked with me individually, helping me find methods of understanding concepts that catered to my learning style, and encouraged me when I began work as a math tutor’s assistant. My parents saw where my interests were and not only allowed me but aided me to move in their direction.

The professor for whom I corrected papers was also highly encouraging to me when I expressed interest in math as a possible career. Speaking as someone with a master’s degree in engineering, she shared with me what to expect from higher-level math studies and asserted that I would excel in the field. My peers as well, though most expressed their distaste at my chosen course of study (math isn’t the most beloved subject in the world) respected me for my decision and never made fun of me for it. Finally, as I entered my college years, I have never been told that “girls can’t do math” or heard any negative comment of that kind. On the contrary, I have received nothing but support in my decision to pursue math, and this encouragement has reinforced my dedication to my studies and my desire to do well. The sky’s the limit!


Author: The HARO Team


Announcing Our 2016 Scholarship Winners!

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Thanks to our generous donors, this year Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out (HARO) was able to offer two $500 scholarships for homeschool alumni, one for women in STEM fields and one for LGBT+ alumni. These scholarships are provided by homeschool alumni, for homeschool alumni, and our scholarship selection committee is comprised entirely of homeschool alumni. To learn more about the scholarships, click here. To read about our scholarship selection committee, click here.

Today, we are excited to announce the winners of these scholarships.

Women in STEM winner: Sarah Negri

Sarah attends Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she is double majoring in Math and Great Books.

LGBT+ winner: Dean Hunter

Dean attends the University of Wyoming where he is majoring in Communications.

Congratulations Sarah and Dean! We will be posting their winning essays over the next couple of days.

Interested in donating to the HARO scholarship fund? Here are three ways to donate:

  1. Shop via Amazon Smile. Set up “Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out” as your charity.
  2. Through Benevity, a corporate matching program (only available if your employer uses this program)
  3. Donate directly via Paypal. All donations are tax-deductible, as HARO is a registered 501(c)(3).


Author: The HARO Team


Five Things Homeschool Moms Should Know About Abusive Marriages

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CC image courtesy of Flickr, Gonzale.
CC image courtesy of Flickr, Gonzale.

When our family started the homeschooling journey about 25 years ago, I envisioned my comrades in the movement as the ideal examples of healthy marriage and parenting. I have learned much along the way about educating and nurturing my own ten children, and I am seeing this legacy continue with my six grandchildren.

However, as the years have gone by, I have had to lay aside my cute little rose-colored glasses and acknowledge that there can also be a dark side. Abuse, whether it is against a child or a spouse, is a tragic reality in far too many homeschooling families. Because I write frequently on the topics of domestic violence and other forms of family dysfunction, HARO has asked me to share five things that homeschool moms should know about abusive marriages.


1. Homeschool moms are not immune from abusive marriages.

How many of us started out thinking that homeschooling would guarantee us harmonious families? Educating at home can help this effort in many ways, but it is not a magic potion. There are even facets of homeschooling, such as greater responsibility and stretched resources, which put families at increased risk of stress. We must never justify abuse due to these factors, but they can bring latent harmful tendencies to the surface and then compound them.

Worse yet, homeschooling often attracts fathers who already feel a high need for psychological control over others. (Yes, women can be this way too, but that is beyond the scope of this article.) Fathers may try to exert this control with intentions of raising superior children, but it backfires because good fruit does not come from the bad root of a domineering personality. Common homeschool movement teachings about authority, child training, and gender roles can enable these unhealthy control issues, which can in turn fuel abusive behavior. A man who craves power can easily become a tyrant and a bully against his wife and children, while justifying it by twisting Scripture.

A mother has the moral and legal obligation to shield her children from abuse. Though right and necessary, this puts her at risk of injury. He may shove her out of his way, which could bruise her or cause her to fall and break a bone. She may suffer joint or muscle damage while trying to pull him away from or off of a child. He may impulsively hurt her in retaliation without thinking much about what he is doing. These are forms of domestic violence against his wife, even if he is not intentionally beating her up, and even if she does not have noticeable or lasting injuries. Beyond that, a homeschool dad may purposely and maliciously hurt his wife – physically or emotionally – as a way of dominating her or “punishing” her for her supposed shortcomings.  

If a homeschool mom feels she must defer to her husband in everything, or she is trying to protect her family’s Christian reputation, or if she has no financial resources or current job skills to support her family, then she can feel she has little recourse when the marriage turns toxic. If she protests or even offers an alternative opinion, she is often labeled as rebellious, told she will ruin her children, and intimidated with threats. This shaming and fear is often reinforced by her church leaders and homeschool friends who do not fully understand the dynamics of abusive relationships. If she has been conditioned to distrust or even fear government or community resources, she is at a further disadvantage.

I cannot even begin to tell you how many Christian homeschool moms I know who have been in abusive marriages for far too long, and feel like they have no choice but to put up with it. This has to stop.  Even if you don’t think domestic violence personally affects you, please read these articles and the others I have linked later:


2. Abuse in marriage is not just physical.

Physical violence is not the only way a man can abuse his wife.

Abuse also includes threats, ridicule, coercion, manipulation, intimidating body language, playing mind games like gaslighting, humiliating her in front of others, isolating her from friends and family, denying access to resources (finances, medical care, transportation, information, counseling), neglecting to follow through on promises and responsibilities, blocking her exit from a room, damaging her possessions, blaming her for the abuse, alienating her from her children, and more. You can see this by looking at the Power and Control Wheel.

Again, a wife is particularly susceptible to these forms of relational abuse if she believes that she must comply with her husband’s demands for authority. Because her husband has not physically injured her, she may not realize that he is still abusive. She may acknowledge that something is wrong, but think that she herself is the problem. She may attempt to work on marital intimacy, a more cheerful and submissive attitude, better child training, a cleaner house, and everything else she can think so that her husband will treat her better. What she needs to realize is that she is being abused, and that the necessary response is much different. The marriage is not just difficult or dysfunctional, but destructive and dangerous.

Recognizing abuse can be particularly confusing because it often occurs in unpredictable cycles of repeating phases: tension building (increased frustration, conflict, withdrawal, mood swings, pressure to comply), acute explosion (aggressive crisis incident that may either “come out of nowhere” or be intentionally escalated by the abuser), honeymoon (active attempts by the abuser to rebuild trust through apologies, compliments, promises, gifts, favors, spiritual activity, counseling, etc.), and calm (settling down, forgetting, minimizing, relief, normalcy). It is important to realize that even in the lull after an explosive incident, the husband is most likely still emotionally abusing her through other means, whether she realizes it or not. Again, it is important to recognize the many forms of abuse in order to realize the continued gravity of the situation.

Here are some more resources to read about recognizing the forms of marital abuse, and realizing why so many women stay.


3. Children are at risk of lasting damage when abuse is present in a marriage.

While you started homeschooling to nurture and care for your children, if your marriage is abusive, they are not in a safe and healthy environment. Most states consider it child abuse when children witness abuse between their parents. In extreme cases, you can be held liable and lose your children if you do not take appropriate action to protect them from the consequences of their other parent’s abuse. Think carefully about all of this if you are “staying together for the sake of the children.” You may be doing more harm than good.

At the most basic level, the stress of seeing abusive behavior in their parents’ marriage can create emotional disturbance which will also affect physical health. Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, bedwetting, self-harming, and defiance are common side effects. Children often internalize parental conflict and blame themselves. Or they can turn their anger and aggression against other people and become bullies themselves. If your children have been affected in any way by abuse in the home, please seek medical help and mental health therapy for them and yourself as soon as possible. If you don’t think you can afford this, call a community mental health or child protective organization for assistance.

A child is at additional risk for physical injury as an innocent bystander to domestic violence, especially if the child attempts to protect the mother, or if the father hurts the child as a way of causing extra distress to his wife. No child is safe if the father is throwing things, shoving his wife, slamming doors, or other manifestations of rage. In addition, a mother who is being abused can in turn blame her children, and then treat them in harsh and injurious ways.

While the mother is dealing with the distress in her marriage, she can easily be distracted from providing an adequate education for her children. They can also be too stressed out to focus on their assignments. While there are certainly times to lay aside formal academics to deal with family issues, if they cannot regularly attend to homeschooling because of this, then something needs to change.

Finally, marital abuse exposes children to a powerfully toxic example of a dysfunctional relationship which they may normalize (see as the usual) and then carry forward into their own romantic and parental relationships. Depending on how they process the experience, they may be more likely to tolerate or perpetrate abusive dating or marriage relationships, as well as perpetuate abusive practices with their own children. It is important for them to understand what is happening, know that it is wrong, and develop strategies to keep themselves safe for their present and future.

See also:


4. Decisive action is necessary, and sometimes it has to be drastic.

Unfortunately, abuse does not just go away on its own. A mother must take decisive action to ensure safety and sanity for herself and her children. Here are several things she might do, starting out with the basics and ramping it up as necessary:

  • assess the situation to acknowledge exactly what has happened in the past and what the current and future risk is
  • strengthen her confidence and resolve to move forward into a safe and healthy family life
  • educate herself on the dynamics of abuse, which will involve reading and focused research
  • break the silence and share her story with a supportive network of friends, family, and trustworthy on-line forums
  • seek appropriate professional help (more on that in the next section)
  • set and enforce firm boundaries with specific consequences
  • determine her optimal alternatives if those boundaries are not respected
  • make safety/exit/escape plans and preparations in case the situation escalates
  • separate from the abuser, which may entail persuading him to leave the home, having him removed from the home, or moving out with her children
  • go “no contact” to prevent harassment by phone, texts, messaging, e-mail  
  • file a restraining order to keep the abuser away from the family and home
  • as necessary, file for divorce as an increased legal protection against continued abuse

Please note that while each of these steps can lead to more clarity and progress, none of them will guarantee an end to the abuse. In fact, the risk of retaliation can increase each time a woman takes initiative to distance herself further from her abuser. This should not dissuade her from taking action, but at all points she needs to be extra vigilant and not let her guard down as she moves forward to safety and dignity.

Depending on the severity of the situation, it may be necessary for the children to transition into other formats of education so that their mother can focus on the actions necessary to protect and provide for the family. This could involve homeschooling with outside assistance (hybrid school, co-op, online programs, grandparents) or enrolling some or all of the children in traditional full-time schools. This doesn’t have to happen immediately. A mother might set a goal of preparing her children for the change within a certain time period as she simultaneously works through her own future options. If a woman’s identity is wrapped around mothering and homeschooling, any of these transitions can be an uncomfortable sacrifice for her. She will appreciate compassionate understanding and support from her network of homeschool friends. She can know that she is doing her best to nurture her children, even if this was not part of her ideal plan.

Here are some other articles about taking action against abuse in marriage:


5. Help is available, but you have to know where to look.

Taking action in a domestic violence situation can be confusing and intimidating. A woman’s access to solid help in the form of reliable information and practical assistance can make a huge difference in how she is able to proceed.

Often, her first step is reaching out for advice and emotional support from family, friends, and religious leaders whom she already personally knows. How they respond is crucial. They can either move her toward safety and healing, or send her back into the lion’s den. Will they believe her story? Not always. Many domestic violence survivors are accused of misunderstanding, exaggerating, or worse yet, lying about their circumstances. Even if they are believed, they are often advised to forgive their offender, patch things up, and work on their own problems without setting appropriate boundaries or separating from the abuser. Yikes! At this point, a woman may give up trying to change the situation and just keep muddling and agonizing, questioning her own perception of reality. However, if she keeps talking about it or or finds someone else who will listen to her, she will hopefully find some support in her own personal network.

This facetious list by a domestic violence survivor and (former) homeschool mother of 12 can help others know how to best respond:

The reaction of a woman’s pastors and elders is also key, but this can get confusing, too. They may know and trust her husband, and be reluctant to acknowledge a serious problem if he seems like a normal, caring human being. Or they may be so fixated on preserving marriages in the congregation that they are unwilling to entertain the potential necessity of a separation or divorce. Or they may not have professional training in the area of domestic violence, and counsel the couple as if they had a difficult marriage instead of a dangerous and destructive one. If they use a nouthetic or so-called “Biblical” approach to counseling, they may blame the wife and tell her to deal with her own sins in the marriage. Or they may say something to the husband about the alleged abuse that embarrasses him, and he in turn takes it out on his wife. On the other hand, think of the good that would result if pastors sought professional level skills in crisis counseling, and took a broader and deeper view toward God’s heart for families. At the very least, a pastor should be able and willing to refer domestic violence victims to professional counselors in the community who are educated and experienced in this specialty, as well as gain a basic understanding of the issues. He or she can find out more at these links:

One very important thing to know is that couples counseling – whether pastoral or professional – is not at all recommended when the dynamics of abuse exist in a relationship. This is rarely (if ever) effective and puts a wife at additional risk of abuse and retaliation. Both parties do need counseling, but it should be individual. If they use the same counselor, there must be an absolute guarantee of confidentiality.

Beyond a woman’s existing personal circle of friends and family, there is much help available in the community. She can research information and participate in support groups on the Internet, check out books at the library, call a domestic violence crisis line, seek help at a women’s shelter, get professional counseling (can be faith-based and may be covered by insurance), apply for government financial and medical assistance, and find a referral for affordable (maybe subsidized) legal help.  Here are some links for these community resources:

This is a lot of information to process right now. If you or someone you know is affected by domestic violence, please read more and come back to it again, even if it is just a little at a time. Let it sink in. Think about what you need to do next for yourself or someone else, and start taking steps in that direction. What you know, what you say, and what you do about domestic violence can make a difference not only now, but for generations to come. Let me know if you need help.

knowlesGuest Author: Virginia Knowles

Virginia Knowles writes about spiritual abuse, child abuse, and domestic violence at Watch the Shepherd. Knowles is the mother of 10 children. She has been a Christian since 1976 and attended a variety of churches since then. Some of her former churches have been associated with allegations of spiritual abuse, mostly notably within Sovereign Grace Ministries. She is now a member of a small PCA (Presbyterian Church of America) congregation near Orlando. Knowles has home schooled for nearly 25 years, though some of her children have dual enrolled in college while in high school, and some have also attended public school.

Meet Our 2016 Scholarship Selection Committee

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We are excited to introduce you to the individuals who will be selecting our 2016 scholarship winners. All three are homeschool alumni; one is returning from last year’s committee, and two are brand new to the committee this year.

Don’t forget that the deadline for this year’s scholarship applications is coming up on February 29. If you would like to apply for one or both scholarships, you can find all the information here.

Jessica Heebner

Jessica HeebnerJessica Heebner grew up in Alabama where she was homeschooled through 12th grade.

She graduated from the University of Alabama in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. Currently, Jessica works as a veterinary oncology nurse at one of the largest specialty practices in the North East. Through her work as an oncology nurse, Jessica has discovered a passion for cancer research and in 2017 will be pursuing a Master’s degree in Biochemistry with a focus on cancer biology research.

In her free time, Jessica enjoys playing video games with her husband, hiking and volunteering at a wildlife rescue organization.



Lana Martin

Lana MartinLana Martin grew up in Texas, where she was homeschooled 5th through 12th grade.

She recently received her PhD from UCLA after finishing a dissertation on the archaeology of ancient farming, foraging, and hunting practices in Caribbean Panama. She also has an MA in Anthropology from UCLA, for which her master’s thesis was Reconstructing Paleoenvironmental Instability and Plant Resource Availability on Santa Cruz Island using Macrobotanical Analysis. Lana’s field experience includes archaeological excavation, survey, and mapping in Texas, New Mexico, California, and Panamá.

When she isn’t teaching or writing, Lana enjoys cruising the streets of Los Angeles by bike, hiking the mountains of Southern California, playing with her cat, and cooking dishes with maximum garlic content.

Josh Powell

Josh PowellJosh Powell grew up in rural Virginia, where he was homeschooled under the state’s religious exemption statute with his eleven younger siblings. He identifies as queer and has been out to his family friends since the age of sixteen, and has been involved with homeschool advocacy work to varying extents since a Washington Post article was published about his family’s home school experiences in 2013.

After graduating Georgetown University with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology, he taught middle school English in Denver, CO as a part of Teach for America. He is currently working in Nanjing, China as a college counselor to Chinese high school students who desire to attend university in the United States.

When not reading and commenting on application essays, he enjoys traveling and trying foods with names he cannot pronounce.