Michael Farris on Domestic Abuse: “Far Cry from the ‘Battered-Woman Syndrome'”
By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator
The following excerpt is from HSLDA founder Michael Farris’s 1996 book How A Man Prepares His Daughters For Life. Farris has his patriarchal beliefs on full display in this book, including such passages as: “I am very supportive of the concept of the authority of fathers in their home…It’s important to be right…It is appropriate to simply say to your daughter, ‘Because I’m the dad, that’s why‘” (page 21); “a woman should be submissive to her husband” (page 96); and “husbands are ultimately responsible for family decisions” (page 101).
He defends “a very traditional view about the role of women in churches” (page 27) and later explains that he means “a doctrinal position of male-only elders” (page 55). Farris says he is “a firm believer in—dare I say it?—spanking,” that fathers “should be in charge of all discipline,” and boasts that he spanked his daughters until they were 13 (page 30). He even dedicates an entire chapter to straw-manning feminism (Chapter Seven, “Solving the Feminist Paradox”), featuring lines like “Lesbianism is considered by many to be the apex of feminism” (page 96) and “Feminists prey on daughters of under-appreciated mothers” (page 105).
But what stood out the most to me was the following 3 paragraphs with which Farris begins Chapter 5, “Guiding Your Daughter Toward Positive Friendships.” The tone-deafness, minimization, and victim-blaming Farris engages in regarding this very clear situation of domestic abuse — and the fact that he provided legal defense for a domestic abuser — goes to show that child abuse is not the only type of abuse Farris does not seem to take seriously. (For those unaware, a quarter-size bruise is a serious indicator of abuse, both for child abuse as well as domestic violence cases.) From page 77:
When I was a very young lawyer in Spokane, Washington, I was assigned to defend a case in which two professing Christians, “Steve” and “Lana,” were getting a divorce. Lana was seeking a divorce because of the advice of her “friends.” She and Steve, my client, got into an argument one evening and he grabbed her by the arm and squeezed. He left a bruise on her arm about the size of a quarter. He was ashamed of the action—as he should have been—and he apologized. But it was a far cry from the “battered-woman syndrome.” Lana was told by her friends, however, that she was a victim of wife abuse and she should seek a divorce. Believe it or not, she did.
A few weeks later her friends advised Lana that she should start dating, even though Steve was actively seeking to reconcile the marriage. One night when Lana was out on a date, their two-year old son fell behind the bunk bed and died from strangulation.
Lana knew what God expected of her regarding forgiveness and reconciliation, but she listened to her friends instead. She paid a terrible price for the wrong advice from the wrong kind of friends.
Here’s an image from the book of the passage: