How TikTok Testimonials Forced Authorities to Finally Act on an Allegedly Abusive Christian Boarding School for 'Troubled' Girls

Illustration for article titled How TikTok Testimonials Forced Authorities to Finally Act on an Allegedly Abusive Christian Boarding School for 'Troubled' Girls
Image: Missouri Attorney General’s office (AP)

Last May, Amanda Householder, the daughter of the couple who owns Circle of Hope Girls’ Ranch, a Christian boarding school in Missouri for supposedly “troubled” young girls, created a TikTok account to share stories of the abuse that girls who were forced to attend her parents’ school reportedly endured. For years, parents and other family members had lodged complaints that Boyd and Stephanie Householder, in particular Boyd, had abused their students, including hitting them, physically restraining them as punishment, forcing students to drink their own vomit, and withholding food and medication.

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Last year, one former student sued the Householders, alleging that Boyd had raped her repeatedly. As Amanda told NBC News of her decision to take these stories public, “I told everyone, ‘I can’t be silent anymore. No one can deny us, no one can tell us it wasn’t true anymore.”

Due in large part to Amanda’s TikTok account, law enforcement officials as well as the state’s Department of Social Services began investigating the allegations of abuse, after largely brushing those complaints under the rug in the past. Last August, the state of Missouri removed all of the girls attending the school at the time. And this week, Boyd and Stephanie Householder were arrested and charged with dozens of felony counts, including sexual abuse.

More details, via NBC News:

Court records show Boyd Householder, 71, faces 79 felony counts and one misdemeanor, including charges for child molestation, sodomy, sexual contact with a student and neglect of a child. Stephanie Householder, 55, faces 22 felony charges for abuse or neglect of a child, and endangering the welfare of a child. The alleged incidents occurred from 2017 to 2020.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt told reporters at a news conference Wednesday his office has identified 16 victims “so far,” and that he considers this to be “one of the most widespread cases of sexual, physical and mental abuse patterns against young girls and women in Missouri history.”

“There are no words I can say today to describe the mix of great sadness, horror, disgust and sympathy that I feel about these reports of cruel and almost unbelievable reports of abuse and neglect,” Schmitt said.

The details uncovered by state investigators are harrowing. Again, via NBC News:

Schmitt said witnesses told investigators that the Householders restrained girls with handcuffs and zipties, and stuffed dirty socks in their mouths. One girl said Boyd pushed her down the stairs, and another said he advised her on how to kill herself, according to Schmitt.

Charging documents allege that Boyd slammed two girls’ heads against a wall, kept another girl in a room with no light or sound for “an extended period of time on multiple occasions,” poured hot sauce into a girl’s mouth and used duct tape and socks to prevent a girl from using her hands for “several days.” Stephanie’s charges largely stem from allegations that she assisted Boyd in dangerous restraints and allowed him to continue to interact with the girls after assaulting them, according to charging documents.

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Amanda responded to the news of her parents’ arrest in a TikTok video. “This is a moment that does deserve to be celebrated,” Amanda said. “I am sad because they are my parents, but something my parents would always tell me is, ‘You’ve made your bed, now you have to lie in it.’ Well, my parents made their bed and now they’re going to have to lie in it. And as hard as that is for me, it’s about time.” She added, “It’s something I never, never thought was going to happen.”

Senior reporter, Jezebel

DISCUSSION

robdweiner
TrumpsTinyHands

Christian boarding school?!?

I am trying to recall the verse that says “bring to me the little children, so I can beat, torture, abuse and rape them”. It’s been a while since I was into that book of fairy tales, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t in there.

Did you ever notice that the more someone is devout about their Christianity, the bigger of an asshole they are? That is my Christianity-Assholery Correlation Conjecture. I hope to get a Nobel Prize for my work on the subject.