Infant Abuse in the Assembly
A Mom Describes Child Training in the Omaha Assembly
Yes, my husband and I were in the Assembly in Omaha, Nebraska for
many years. The reason I'm writing? I'm still plagued with so much
regret and shame for what I did.
The abuse all the parents afflicted on our children hasn't really been
talked about here, has it? The mothers' meetings we had to attend, and
listen to the crazy teachings from Cheryl Zach and Chris Sjogren. The teachings were all based on
fear. Fear that your babies were born depraved sinners and would never
become spiritual unless you beat the sin and self-will out of them -
fear tactics to get you to believe the teachings. We were taught
to start spanking our babies at THREE MONTHS OLD!!! Next time you look
at a baby think of that!
- Lets talk about what went on in the mother's rooms. Remember the
technique of the hand over the mouth? Just hold that child's mouth shut
while they choke and scream and grunt, 'til they stop crying - sometimes up to an hour or more,
just sitting there on the floor holding your child's mouth shut.
- Let's talk about the pinching under the chin. Some parents would
pull their child out the door by the chin, leaving marks.
- Let's talk about wooden spoons and sticks, spanking over and
over, and then telling your child to stop crying or they will get more,
and of course they would get more.
- Let's talk about bruises, bleeding bruises that mothers would
compare. The bruises were horrific that some kids came to the meetings with, and
we all talked about how to cover them if we needed to go for a doctor's
- It was our biggest fear that some visitor would discover what we
were doing to our children, so in the later years the Leading Brothers
said you couldn't spank at the meetings. All the mothers then held their
hands over the mouth under a blanket, one hand ever so tightly over the
mouth and the other hand on their back, holding the child down.
- Chris S. baby-sat my daughter at 6 weeks old. When I came to pick
her up, Chris told me, "She's in the kitchen closet." And
there my sweet baby was, red and covered in sweat from endless crying,
her blanket drenched, in the dark closet.
This treatment of my children is one of my biggest regrets, and causes
me so much heart pain. I still beat myself up for listening to Cheryl and Chris.
Reports from Moms in Other Assemblies
- "There was a mindset mothers were taught about training our children: 1) If I
don't do this well, I will have failed and it says something about me; 2) The
Devil doesn't want me to spank; 3) You have to keep it up until you win. A mom
told me about her three-year-old, 'He's up to 32 whacks now at home.'"
- "Workers would sit in meetings policing everyone's children, glaring at
children to control them - other people's children. Workers were encouraged
to spank other people's children, and brothers in charge of houses were told
to spank children of couples living with them. It was a pervasive thing."
- "There were unrealistic expectations of children. Some Workers "potty
trained" their infants at 6 months, and spanked them for accidents. One
six-month-old was being trained to stay on the mat, and was whacked whenever
he touched the edge of the mat. That went on for over half an hour. An
eighteen-month-old was expected to stay on the mat all morning from 9:30 to
12:30. Another eighteen-month-old went to her own room when she was told to
go to the living room, and was punished for not understanding the
vocabulary. Developmentally disabled children were spanked for things they
weren't able to do, because the Worker felt the child was malingering.
More on Assembly Child Training
Child Training....or Child Abuse? by a
former Assembly member recounts further examples of Assembly practices. Not all infants in the Assembly were treated this
abusively. The harshness of child training methods increased over the years, as the
Pearl method was taught, but
there were differences between Assemblies and families in how the teachings were
applied. The blog post
"Does discipline produce godly character?" critiques Assembly
Child Training for God's Servants by Ginger Geftakys
is one of the official Assembly publications. Ginger carefully avoids any
mention of spanking, pinching, shaming or isolation, using instead the
ambiguous word 'correction'. The teaching on spanking was given verbally,
not committed to print. One of my biggest regrets is that I was responsible
for rearing my own children this way, and teaching it to Assembly parents by
precept and example.
Growing Kids God's Way and
On Becoming Babywise programs developed by Gary and Anne Marie
Ezzo were used to undergird Assembly teaching on children. The Ezzos were
formerly very involved in John MacArthur's Grace Community Church where Gary
was an elder. At some point, the elder board at Grace became alarmed at certain
elements in their teaching and issued a public statement distancing the
church from it. Grace Church now has a
website devoted to the problems with the Ezzo program. In earlier years
the Assembly used
What the Bible Says about Child Training by Richard and Virginia
Fugate. Here are some
readers' comments on the Fugate program. In later years
Michael and Debi Pearl's methods were implemented to a certain extent.