In November of 2006 I wrote a blog post entitled I Blame the Patriarchs, Part I: The Truth About Full Quiver Families. I wrote this post in part in response to a horrifying series of events in my area in which Kimberly Forder, who had subscribed to my magazine when I was publishing, had been charged with killing her 8-year-old son, Christopher. The Forders lived about 20 miles away from me on a 2.8 acre farm. They had three adult children and had adopted or were foster parents to eight more. They homeschooled, home churched, gardened, lived and dressed “simply.” Forder had been charged with homicide by abuse and neglect, was jailed and her bail was set at $1 million.
Christopher actually died in 2002 but charges were not filed against Kimberly Forder until 2006. There had not been enough evidence before that time. What changed was, one of the Forders’ adult daughters went to authorities alleging that her brother, the Forders’ grown son, had raped her. This son, Michael V. Forder, was also arrested. In the course of investigating the rape charges, the two adult daughters told authorities their mother abused and neglected Christopher and that she was responsible for his death because she did not seek medical attention for Christopher when he was sick with pneumonia. Rapist Michael Forder’s attorney then cut a deal with the prosecutor in Kimberly Forder’s case: In exchange for recommending a shorter jail sentence for the rapist, the rapist would testify against his mother and would confirm that what his sisters said about her were true.
Michael V. Forder
These events unfolded in 2006. When I read about it, so much about it seemed wrong, wrong, wrong. It wasn’t true that Kimberly Forder had failed to seek medical attention for Christopher; she had sought the attention of alternative medical practitioners instead of M.D.s. Important, to me, was something that had happened after Christopher’s death. The family patriarch, Robert Forder, assembled the family in the living room as the little boy lay dead in his bedroom. On that evening:
…Robert, told his seven children they had a choice: They could bury their brother in the backyard, or call 911 and risk having the state snatch all of the children away because of Christopher’s obvious bruising.
Robert Forder, according to this account, then told the kids the decision was theirs and he went to bed. Later that night, the parents tried unsuccessfully to revive Christopher with CPR, and a son called 911. The Sheriff’s Department investigated as did Child Protective Agencies. Christopher had died of pneumonia. Though Christopher’s body was bruised and he was very small, no conclusive evidence of abuse was found.
At some point after the adult daughter went to authorities to report that she had been raped by her brother, and as the plea bargaining on behalf of the rapist brother was taking place, Kimberly Forder returned home from Liberia to get medical treatment for a debilitating infection. She was then arrested.
Photo of Kimberly Forder from Kitsap Sun.
Kimberly Forder was in jail from August of 2006 until mid-2008. This is what happened during those years of her imprisonment on $1 million bond:
- Her daughters, who had alleged she abused Christoper, gave increasingly conflicting accounts of that abuse. According to Forder’s attorneys, the autopsy found Christopher’s cause of death to be pneumonia, and that he was an otherwise healthy child with “superficial” bruises and no scars on his body.
- Michael Forder, in prison for raping his sister, recanted his own story and rejected the plea bargain his attorney had worked out. He wrote a letter to authorities saying he was guilty of the crimes of which his mother was accused. Newspaper accounts characterize his recanting this way: ‘… Michael Forder’s letter showed the defendant ‘attempting to take responsibility for the crimes that Kimberly Forder is presently charged with and also his intention to not testify truthfully in that matter.’ Michael Forder was sentenced then to 102 months in jail for rape, rather than the three years he would have served had he continued with the plea bargain agreement. Without his testimony, there was no viable homicide by abuse case against his mother.
- Kimberly Forder pled guilty to second-degree manslaughter in February of 2008 and was sentenced to 27 months in prison. Since she had already been in jail for 18 months, however, her latest possible release date would have been November of 2008. All the prosecutors really had at the end was the testimony of her rapist son whose attorney was trying to get him a shorter sentence.
And where was the family patriarch all this time? You know, the priest of the home, the guy who led the Forder’s home church, the one who assembled all the kids that night and told them to either bury their little brother or call 911, it was up to them, either way, he was tired and going to bed. He was these children’s father, after all. Where was he, home-centered dude that he was, when Christopher was being abused all those years? Where was he when his son was deathly ill, other than waiting around for someone else to deal with it? Nobody seems to have cared that for all of those years, Robert Forder was right there in the house and did nothing. Somehow as pertained to him, this was not “neglect.” This was not “abuse.” This was not “murder,” not even “manslaughter,” not even “second-degree manslaughter,” not even being an accessory or negligent. He isn’t even censured. All of it, all of it, all of it falls on the shoulders of his wife.
And why was there no interest in investigating Michael Forder’s recent statement that actually he was responsible for the bruises on Christopher’s body? Why is that dismissed by attorneys and officials as “dishonesty”? The mind boggles. Forder knew if he recanted his earlier statements, he’d do at least twice the amount of jail time. Nevertheless he recanted. Why was that simply blown off? What did he have to gain by recanting?
Robert Forder stayed in Liberia after Christopher’s death, and he’s still there. He got tired of taking care of the seven kids, and dropped them off at a Liberian orphanage. They were returned to Washington and are now in foster homes. According to Kimberly Forder’s father, Joel Park, Robert Forder is ill and may never be back in the U.S.
Which brings me to Kimberly Forder’s father, Joel Park. Park is on the pastoral staff at Harvest Baptist Temple in Medford, Oregon. Harvest Baptist Church is an Independent Baptist Church. Independent Baptists are fundamentalists qua fundamentalists. I noted there was no mention of Joel Park, Forder’s dad and Christopher’s grandfather, in Christopher Forder’s obituary. Her mother and her stepfather are mentioned as Christopher’s “maternal grandparents,” but not her father.
When I read all I could about this three years ago, I came on a comment to a blog entry written by a woman who said that Kimberly Forder had been abused as a child or young woman but had never reported it.
Any number of fundamentalists along the way might have abused her. Most little girls raised in fundamentalist communities are, have been, will be abused. And, more likely than not, Forder never would have gone to authorities, church or civil. As she was groomed to do, as she was taught to do as a little fundamentalist girl, all of her life, she would have “forgiven” her abusers and perpetrators, she would have reminded herself that “Jesus” came first and then “Others,” and only THEN would it be acceptable for her to think about herself, this being the path to godliness and God-fearing Christian womanhood. She would have been taught reverence for church authority — entirely male — and would have been instructed to respect her “authorities”, civil, church and family– even if they were abusing her. If she did somehow, sometime manage to tell someone she had been abused, she might have been blamed for it, told she brought it on herself by her disobedience, or her failure to pray or that God had a reason for her abuse and she should find out what that was. She’d have been told she should forgive. In other words, she would not have had opportunity to make sense of what she’d suffered. She would not have received justice.
All of that and all of the other messages she received as a girl and woman in that community were what brought her to those years in which she took in all of those children, then taught them as she had been taught. I have no doubt she abused and neglected her children by the lights of the mainstream. Most dedicated Quiverfull mothers do. Sometimes they do not recognize that what they are doing — what they have been taught to do, what they understand to be God’s will and mandate, what has been done to them — is, in fact, abuse. Other times what they are doing is cast as “neglect” or even abuse, but it really isn’t, things like avoiding allopathic medical practitioners. Things like keeping children out of schools. Allopathic medical doctors are OFTEN abusive and neglectful, as are schools, school systems, and school officials. When doctors hurt people, though, it’s either cast as an accident or blamed on patients. When schools hurt children, it is also cast as an accident or blamed on students or parents. That doesn’t change the fact that allopathic medicine and traditional educational structures and systems have always been and still are, quite often, both abusive and neglectful themselves. But people go to doctors and hospitals everyday, people send their kids to school everyday, and nobody calls them negligent or abusive and why? Because they are complicit with the system. Because they are behaving as dutiful cogs in the patriarchal machine. Abuses suffered in those institutions are sanctioned by the surrounding culture.
Kimberly Forder paid, at least to some extent, for having abused and neglected her children. Her husband? He walks. No charges were ever brought against him. There he is, free of responsibility for anybody but himself, thousands and thousands of miles away where undoubtedly he is viewed as some great guy because he is a missionary. The rapist son? He is serving time for rape, but evidently, his confession that he abused his brother is going to be ignored as unimportant. Whoever might have abused Kimberly Forder as a child? They’ll never pay. They walk. Those responsible for the abusive teachings, practices and community that groomed Kimberly Forder to be who she was, and to allow and do what she did? They’re going on about their business, living their lives in freedom and relative safety, sending their misogynist, abusive teachings into the world, creating more and more disciples just like themselves, destroying the lives of more and more women and girls, creating more and more patriarchal men out of little boys who, under different circumstances, might not grow up to be quite so patriarchal. These guys will never, ever pay. Heck, they won’t ever even be criticized! The dots, as to them, will NEVER be connected.
It’s just the Kimberly Forders of the world who are going to pay in situations like this one. What the world sees and cares about, what the world denounces, feminists included, the weight of their judgments will always fall on women like Forder, everyone will be outraged and horrified and so on. They will not spend one hot minute considering the reasons and causes and acts and abuses and abject misogyny that resulted in that horrible, horrible night when a sweet little boy died, inexcusably, outrageously, horribly. As Forder’s attorney says, and I believe he may be right, Forder’s only real crime was not calling authorities. Yes, that was a crime. And yes, she should have been called to account for it. But for god’s sake, she should not have been the only one.