To give you some background, I was the first of three children: my parents became christians when I was three, and became slowly more and more involved with the more fundamentalist side of christianity. We believed in modest dressing, homeschooling (We used for the most part Rod and Staff), the use of the 'rod' to discipline children (in this case, a fibreglass rod made by my father) and that the Bible was "truth alone". Whilst not classing ourselves as quiverfull (my mother had a hysterectomy before joining the movement), we were part of a church that practiced that way of living, as well as the things I have mentioned before. To the outsider, we were the ideal, albeit a little eccentric, family: we had all the boxes ticked.
The truth? We didn't. Just like many other families in our church, we were a family that clung to their beliefs to hide the reality of the family life. And that reality sadly involved abuse: physically, sexually and emotionally. In our particular family, the main abuser was my father. In later years it would be revealed that he was a serial pedophile, with a penchant for bestiality. Unfortunately, it was the same for so many other families: a number of girls around my age all experienced some form of abuse: this was something that was systematically carried out by a number of prominent church members, including deacons. To this day, it is unclear whether these men knew about the others' wrong doings, but it is clear that the minister at least knew something of my father's indiscretions (according to my father later, he had partially confessed to him): and yet chose to do nothing. My father at various points, also felt led to take a second wife, but thankfully, and ironically, in direct opposition to the 'submissive wife' doctrine, my mother denied him that opportunity.
After some falling out with various churches we were involved in (mostly over doctrine and personal disputes) and we moved to a rural area, we began vaguely drifting from the strict religious standings we once had: I was able to attend a small public school in the area, even though I was removed from classes that were classed as dangerous or Satanic (eg, when Emily Rodda or Harry Potter books were read). Ironically, I myself was still so indoctrinated, I wrote a whole speech for a speech contest about the evils of yoga and meditation: I was only 12 at the time. Even at that young age I truly believed that evolution was a big lie, that those books/music/yoga/meditation were of the devil and perhaps more scarily,I could tell you precisely why.
However the more time I spent at school, the more I began to question my beliefs. The things, people and places that I had been told were so awful, evil and bad: weren't.
It was without a doubt, this questioning of the facts that led me to finally report my father when I was 15. It was the most terrifying thing I have ever done. For it to be acomplished, I had to lie to my family: a huge deal for someone whom had been severely punished for such a sin years before (spanked with the rod by my father so hard that I had bruises, marks, and pain for several days afterwards: I was only around 10 at the time). Unfortunately, due to Department of Child Safety mistakes and ignorance, I was left in the home until I finally left aged 17. The trauma of being left behind was huge, and set me far back in my healing/recovery process: you imagine being told you were a liar, that you had set it all up with your friend (whom had also reported my father) to split the family because you were rebelling, and that you had gotten it all from a book? The trauma of that alone, still haunts me, even though I know the truth now. If only it was all as pretty as the explanations and defences.
I wrote on my blog:
The events after that (the denial by my father, the subsequent decision of my mother to believe him) shut me down emotionally: I put my happy face on: I didn't want to destroy my family. I remember reading my bible over and over again, trying to work out why God had made my father like the person he was, and why I couldn't forgive my father honestly, truly and deeply the way I was supposed to. How I had been taught to (and was being told to), more importantly. So I shut down, and tried to make everyone happy.
During my final few years at home, I never mourned what was happening to my family. I chose survival, I think. Shutting down, was to me anyway, was the only way I knew how to deal with it. Mum often called me cold (particularly to her), and yes, I believe I was. I think the huge impact her initial decision has made on our relationship is irreversible, even though I still call her mother, consider her a close friend, and admire and love her deeply for her decisions since then.
My parents were finally divorced after further troubling revelations about my father were made and the true extent of his depravity was revealed (he was then arrested), the year after I had left home.
The long term effects of growing up in such an environment are many and varied. Just in the girls that I am aware of (including myself), depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, and varying mental illnesses, are all shared 'watermarks' of this past that we share. All have had varying relationship issues and struggled (and still do at times) with learning how to relate to a world we were told for so many years to have nothing to do with. I call the 'leavers' "quiverfull/fundamentalist refugees": because that is what it is like for these second (sometimes first) generations whom have left and now have nothing: and know nothing about intergrating back into "normal" society: and whom struggle to do so for years to come. True, some have managed to find some form of middle ground, but the trauma of leaving haunts every one of us in each of our own ways. The impact is undeniable.
When my mother was divorced, she struggled also. For a time she remained judgemental and critical, particularly of my lifestyle choices (I was living out of wedlock with my now-husband at the time). She has since drifted into a more conventional form of christianity, a move speeded along by the departure of my father from her life. Now she is a hip, pants wearing, bubbly and bright person whom is very self-contained and self-confident.
As for my father, he served approximately 3.5 years of a 8 year sentence (for 116 charges), and was recently released on parole. He has never accepted my mother divorcing him and still sends letters to her explaining the biblical reasons why they shouldn't be divorced, even though she has requested no contact.
The story continues. As for me, I am now married, attend university: appear to do all the "normal" things: but as I once wrote:
Perhaps it was all a dream. A dream lasting 21 years. I smile at the irony. Whereas many of my peers are more concerned about passing university and living it up on the weekends, in my world, I worry about lawyers and court dates: and about how to best appear at least semi functioning to the world. I occupy a world full of dark, lurking corners and momentary flashes of brightness, boldness and beauty.
I see the world differently too. I can spot a fundamentalist family anywhere, and I can quote to you grim statistic after statistic of childhood sexual abuse. I can tell you how paedophiles work, and how that they aren’t much different in appearance to you. I can tell you about the long-term repercussions that come from growing up in a fundamentalist community, and what it is like to wear only dresses for a great deal of your childhood. I can tell you about destroyed families and divorce. I can give you examples too, of how the child protection system is failing those that need it most.
How and why do I know these things? Because I grew up in such a community, my father is convicted paedophile: and I was one of his many victims: victims he abused over a thirty year period. And I was left behind by the child protection services: people that are supposed to protect us, the child victims, but in my case at least, chose to protect the monster behind the mask.
Ah yes, this is my reality.