Monday, 29 April 2013
Concealing the abuse of children by home educating them
There is an endearing naivety about many home educators when it comes to assessing the drawbacks and disadvantages of their chosen lifestyle. Well, I hope it is naivety, because otherwise I would have to conclude that an awful lot of home educating parents are willfully obtuse, which would not be a pleasant thought. Take the assertion frequently made by those who send their children to school; that this provides an element of protection for children which is missing in those kept at home full time. The usual response to this by home educators is to claim that home educated children are not kept at home and are in fact seen by many different people. They then typically list all the places their own children go; ballet, yoga, aromatherapy classes and so on. It is as though these predominantly middle class parents are incapable of understanding that there are any number of wicked and mad people out there for whom home education would provide the perfect setting for domestic abuse.
Before I go any further, I should make it clear that I am not saying that no schoolchildren are abused at home. Indeed they are and in some cases the abuse carries on undetected for years. What I am saying is that if I wanted to mistreat a child and subject her to cruel or mad treatment; then home education would be an ideal way of keeping this from becoming generally known. This does not mean that home educated children are more likely to be abused; merely that it would be easier for their carers to abuse them than if they were to be attending school.
I posted a link yesterday to a story in the Guardian and somebody commenting later gave us a link to the original court case. Here it is:
For those who do not wish to plough through the whole thing, the story is simple. A mother, who was by the sound of it very weird, adopted three children from various foreign countries. She then wanted a forth adopted child and was denied permission because of concerns about the way she treated those she already had. She then hit upon the ingenious scheme of getting her fourteen year-old adopted daughter pregnant by artificial insemination. The child, who was a virgin, was compelled to rinse out her vagina with vinegar and lemon juice before each procedure; a painful process. This was because the mother wanted only a girl and believed that the acidic environment would favour this. She then made the girl inject syringes of donated semen into herself.
The point about this whole business that interests me is that the mother educated her children at home. Needless to say, she refused visits and rejected any monitoring. She insisted that all contact with the local authority should be by email. At several times, social services were notified of concerns, but did not speak to the children. This was because the mother was articulate and forceful and managed to deflect any attention. The lifestyle was bizarre; for example the curtains were always kept drawn, even during the day. The family had no dealings with the neighbours, one of whom eventually contacted social services with concerns. The problem was that the mother was very well informed of her ‘rights’ and not only refused to allow visits from the council, she also managed to get rid of social services. This can be done if, as in this case, the allegations amounted only to the suggestion that she shouted and swore a lot. The children were not seen or spoken to and this too is a ‘right’ of the parents, unless there is clear evidence of cruelty or neglect. In short, the woman behaved like many a home educating parent who was fully aware of her ’rights’!
Would matters have been any different if the children had been at school? Probably they would have been. The girl who was subjected to this degrading treatment had no friends of her own age, nor did she mix with anybody other than the people chosen by her adoptive mother. The mother was thus able to control who her children saw and to keep a watch on what was said. I have an idea that if the child had been at school, then she might well have mentioned, either to classmates or an adult, such circumstances as having her vagina flushed out with vinegar. It is far less likely that this sort of thing would have remained secret. It is probably the case too that had the local authority been popping in from time to time to chat to the mother and children, that things might have taken a different turn. Here was a family which had managed to isolate the children almost completely from ordinary society. They did not live in a remote rural area, but in a nice suburban street, with a teacher living on one side and a GP on the other.
I have not the least doubt that I shall now be accused of suggesting that all families are regularly checked for signs of child abuse. I dare say that others will ask why we are not checking children during the holidays or before they reach the age of five and start school. The fact is that quite literally everybody to whom I have ever spoken, apart from home educators, can see the nature of the problem here. It may be stated very simply. When children are kept at home and not sent to school, it is much easier to conceal any abusive behaviour to which they are being subjected.