After years of frustrated attempts, of being ignored by the press, dismissed by law enforcement, and disbelieved by the adults that should have protected them, the heroic women of New Bethany have finally achieved a breakthrough. This week, Louisiana’s Times-Picayune is serialising the story of their journey back to New Bethany to report Mack Ford, New Bethany’s preacher-owner, for rape.
This story should not have been necessary. The reason it became necessary is because of negligence.
I spent some of 2013 collecting information about ‘troubled teen’ reform homes. These are usually compounds surrounded by barbed wire, where at-risk teens are sent ostensibly for a godly education. They have always been surrounded by shocking allegations of abuse and torture.
Many of them use the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum. Those are the ones I’ve come across in the course of my other research, so they’re the ones I’m writing about here, but they are by no means the only ones. My emphasis on ACE is not meant to imply that they are the worst or that the others are less important. If anyone has information on the others or can share a survivor story, I will gladly post it here.
In meantime, here’s a compilation of my findings so far. I trust this will be a useful resource for people seeking to raise awareness about these places or to get justice for the survivors.
They were raised to carry the fundamentalist banner forward and redeem America. But now the Joshua Generation is rebelling.
“Children in these situations are taught that if you talk badly about your parents, that’s a sin, and you’re going to hell,” Lauren says. “So when they finally get the courage and determination to say something, no one believes them, because they didn’t say anything all those years. You end up having to find an entirely new support network of people who actually believe you.”
Most of the Christians that read this blog seem to get it. They know that when someone has been abused by Christians, that is not the time for evangelism. It is the time for supporting victims and standing up against injustice. But sometimes we get a reader who is more concerned about the image of Christianity™ than they are about caring for people. Or someone who thinks that a victim might be low-hanging fruit for conversion. Evangelicalism: Spreading itself by preying on the weak.
Typically, the critic will take offence and claim that the blog suggests all Christians are abusive (which it never does). Why have I not specifically mentioned in every post that not all Christians are like this? How could I attack Christianity like that? To which my response is: What the hell is wrong with you? You can read a blog post about a girl being raped, and your first concern is that it might make your religion look bad. You know what actually makes religion look bad? Covering up rape, you morally bankrupt fuck.
I’ve blogged before (more than once) about how ACE’s policies put children at risk of abuse. By teaching children to obey no matter what, and by not educating children properly about when (or how) to say no, they leave children vulnerable. I’ve discovered evidence that this is a bigger problem than I previously thought. We’ve already heard from Christopher and Anaïs that sexual abuse is a reality for some ACE students. The company should be doing more to equip students against it. Instead, their staff training instructs ACE supervisors to view children as unreliable, and to ask their parents to treat them the same way. Read the rest of this entry
Trigger warning in this post for rape and victim blaming.
In 1997, a Baptist church deacon, Ernie Willis (38), raped Tina Anderson, then 15. As a result, Anderson became pregnant. The church pastor, Chuck Phelps, covered up this rape, and had Anderson relocated to another state (with a plane ticket paid for by her rapist). She was home schooled, and not allowed contact with her peers until after she had given the baby up for adoption. Willis had even confessed his guilt to the pastor, conceding that he was the “aggressor”. Anderson’s relocation effectively shut down the police investigation into the matter. There is some disagreement as to whether the authorities were informed at the time; roughly, Phelps says they were, and everyone else says they weren’t. Read the rest of this entry
Since I started this blog, I’ve been hoping that the parents of an ACE homeschooler would contact me to share their views. Recently, I’ve gained quite probably the best correspondent I could possibly hope for on this blog. She wishes to remain anonymous, with good reason, so I will simply refer to her as Ms. Awesome.
Ms. Awesome’s epic rants about ACE and Christian Education Europe have graced my inbox on three occasions so far, and each time they’ve been absolute gold. Frankly, she should have her own blog. So I hereby present, with her blessing, the edited highlights of her demolition of ACE. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.