Michael Farris on Domestic Abuse: “Far Cry from the ‘Battered-Woman Syndrome'”

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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).

10361972_10152495652422761_5505720269752573528_nHe 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:

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4 comments

  • That… is so incredibly sick that he would view the death of a child as a punishment for her divorcing an abusive husband (even if he was trying to reconcile). He doesn’t even try to understand the rest of the possible situation: that bruise might not have been the first time he threatened or scared or hurt her, even if it was the first visible mark. Somehow Farris assumes he knows her better than her own friends, simply because her friends advised her to divorce from a situation that he assumes, despite the evidence, was not abusive. And THEN he blames the child’s death on some sort of sick punishment from god? If a 2-year-old was left completely unattended during a date, then yes, that would be severely negligent. However, I doubt that was the case. Much more likely, there was a babysitter or other person there and, even if the mother had been home, there’s no way to know that she would have been able to prevent it. You can’t be watching your child at every single second, especially when you assume he is safe in his bunk bed. Holy fucking shit, this man is so vile and incapable or unwilling to offer the most basic of human empathy. I am disgusted beyond words. If anyone deserves the Christian idea of hell, it’s men like Farris.

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  • Mr. Farris demonstrates very ‘acceptable’ Christian love in his writings. He is a sick sick father but he follows scripture. Just ask Doug Wilson or any of the other patriarchal scripture team. I for one do find it hard to believe that a separated wife with a child, esp. a two-year old, would begin dating after a few weeks. (Somebody should check the facts here.) Seems to me the trauma of being abused (with bruising being the final straw) would put most people off the idea of dating for a long long time, at least that has been what I have observed many times in the past.
    Farris abused his children by the book. The book is full of shit if it can actually be used this way. Spanking your girls up to 13? Spanking at all is a sad defeat of intimacy and love with your kids but to do it over 13 years! Didn’t work very well, Farris, and for a good reason. Abuse is abuse and abusers always find ways to stick up for men in the club.

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