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To New Bethany and back: One woman’s journey to report the man she says sexually abused her

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.

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Christian reform homes: An introduction

There’s a trend I’ve long noticed on this blog: Articles which involve creationism and/or fundamentalists being hiliarious get a lot of hits. Posts about child abuse get nothing by comparison. This blog is about to take a turn that may lose me some readers. I can understand this. Some of you read this blog for entertainment; these posts will not be entertaining. They will, however, be extremely important. There is now strong evidence that children have been abused in “Christian” reform homes for decades. Despite this, the victims’ voices have barely been heard. The perpetrators have rarely seen any kind of justice, and the public is largely oblivious. I have a platform on this blog, and I am determined to help give these victims a voice.

It will take a lot of posts to alert you to the scale of the problem. To begin with, these will mostly be reposts and links to existing material online. You may not have time to read them all, or you may find them too distressing; virtually all of it needs to come with a trigger warning. I don’t expect you to read every word (even I haven’t managed that); I just want you to see enough to recognise the patterns and themes in victims’ testimonies, the way multiple independent witnesses corroborate each other.

Most of the material has been written from the standpoint of deep sympathy for the victims. As a result, sometimes the evidence provided is not as rigorous as it might need to be to stand up in court, or even to go on Wikipedia without a [citation needed] tag. This is a problem, and when I have time I hope to provide more concrete evidence. I understand the victims are in possession of this type of evidence, in the form of court documents and school records. Some are in the process of giving witness statements to local sheriff’s departments. They deserve justice, and I want to help them get it. In the meantime, you will see that the sheer quantity of evidence means that, although we can’t always be sure of the details of what happened, it is beyond reasonable doubt that these homes are abusive. This abuse is not peripheral, or just by a few bad apples. It is endemic.

I became aware of these schools because so many of them use Accelerated Christian Education. ACE’s relationship to these schools is interesting and complex, but, as we’ll see later, ACE specifically praises them in at least one of its own PACEs.

Please stay with me on this. I might post more typical, fun creationist stuff in between to keep you all on side.

You may remember Cat Givens’ story about her time in one of these schools. This is an indicator of what’s to come:

Off to a girls’ home in Louisiana for me! New Bethany Home for Wayward Girls. I was to be there for a year.

Surely, this would save my soul and make me a compliant teenager. At this girls’ home, the same type of hellfire and brimstone attitude prevailed. I was not allowed to wear pants, as that was a sin. I could not listen to any music besides gospel, as that was a sin. I could not talk about my past, as I had no past. I had to be called by my first and middle name because I was to become a new person.

There was an evangelical preacher who ran the place, Rev. Mac Ford. He and his wife, Thelma founded the home, and they took in rebellious teens from all over the country and also took in the unwanted girls who would just be abandoned there. We were all to comply with every rule or get whipped with a belt. That was the easy punishment. If a girl acted out, often she would be forced, after lights out, to stand in the hallway on her tip toes with eggs or tomatoes under her heels. If she slipped and squished one, she’d get a whipping or get hit with the switch. Runaways from the home were usually caught and then, after a sound whipping with the belt from Bro. Mac, she’d be handcuffed to her bed and a ‘trusted girl” would have the key. All meals were served her at her bed, and only was she uncuffed for bathroom and shower breaks. Once Bro Mac determined she had repented, she was off the cuffs.