Stigmata Scars

By Sarah Braasch

I’m scared to expose myself like this. But, I’m tired of the shame and the guilt and the fear. I have something important to say. And, I want to comfort other victims of religious abuse who feel alone and afraid.

I grew up in an abusive Jehovah’s Witness home. When people ask me what my childhood was like, I usually describe it, in all seriousness, as something like growing up in a war zone. I don’t mean to belittle or demean the experiences of children who actually grow up in literal war zones, but I struggle to find a more apt description.

The sky was always falling. We were constantly under threat of demonic attack. We expected Armageddon to befall us at any moment. As children, these threats of annihilation all around us were all too real. Demons could murder you, rape you and torture you, psychologically or physically or sexually. The desire for the death and destruction of mankind permeated the doctrine. Of course, this theater of horrors was exacerbated and intensified by my father’s abuse and my mother’s deranged denial.

I cried through my entire high school graduation ceremony. It became a joke amongst my classmates. It was the strangest thing. I just couldn’t stop crying. I think I just couldn’t believe that I had made it, that I was free. I was just so overwhelmed with emotion.

My father’s parting words to me were to tell me that I would amount to nothing without him. He told me that I would come crawling back to him on hands and knees, begging him to take me in. I told him to wait for me. And to hold his breath.

It was a battle to finish my undergraduate education. If I hadn’t gone to family court at sixteen to get a restraining order against my father, I wouldn’t have been able to secure the financial aid necessary to continue my studies. I had to present a copy of the order to the university to establish myself as financially independent from my parents.

Also, I was in a tremendously fragile emotional and psychological condition. I had severed all ties with my family. I was socially retarded. I was completely alone. I felt totally disconnected from the university community. Interpersonal interactions were difficult and uncomfortable for me. I had trouble making eye contact. And, I thought demons were stalking me.

Being alone in the university dormitory during school breaks was the hardest. I would sit up all night in the lobby watching TV and chatting with the overnight security guards, and I would sleep all day. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone what was happening to me, and my childhood had been nothing if not a study in secrecy. But, I willed myself to keep it together, to go to class, to work, to do research. I presented as normal a face as possible to the outside world. I gravitated towards other outsiders and social pariahs. The goth transvestite with pet snakes. The bisexual Jamaican dancer.

So, at 22 years old, I had spent five years at the University of Minnesota. I had two summa cum laude engineering degrees, in aerospace and mechanical engineering. I had a French minor. Somehow, some way, I made it through. The world was, seemingly, my oyster.

I decided to continue my education. It just seemed like a good idea. If education was good, then more education was even better. I was racking up prizes and awards and scholarships and fellowships and internships and whatever other honors I could get my hands on. I wanted medals and certificates and esteem. Mostly esteem.

I was fueled by rage and hatred. Hatred and rage. It was driving me forward, relentlessly. But no amount of accomplishments or successes could sate me. I was on a mission for revenge and retribution and justice. But, it was not to be found. I was playing a chess game against my parents, except that I was playing a chess game against no one, because my parents weren’t playing, because they didn’t care.

That was the cruelest lesson of my twenties. I realized that my parents were not sitting up nights worrying about my wellbeing or lack thereof. My parents were not racked with guilt over their mistreatment of me. My mother and my father were continuing their lives as if they didn’t have a care in the world, as if they’d never had a little girl named Sarah.

I couldn’t even hurt them. They didn’t care. My success was not the best revenge or any revenge at all. My success was meaningless to them. They didn’t care. I had to let it go. Their gas-lit alternate reality didn’t include me, or even a notion of me or even the idea of me. My anger and bitterness was going to destroy me and no one would care.

I headed off to grad school at UC Berkeley. The moment I landed, everything came crashing down. Something inside of me snapped. It surprised me. I wouldn’t have thought it would have occurred then. I was further removed from all of my torments, both geographically and temporally. But, all of my demons were still with me — in my head.

I couldn’t sleep. I was terrified of the dark. I spent my nights sitting in the bathtub, searching out the corners of the well-lit bathroom for demons. I would pray to Jehovah throughout the night, in an almost chant-like fashion. I did this to ward off the demons, to call upon Jehovah for protection, and to stop the bad thoughts. If I cursed Jehovah God in my head or asked for Satan, I would scream and cry out to Jehovah to save me. Then, I would begin chanting again. Sometimes, a part of my brain knew that what I was doing was crazy, but I couldn’t stop. And, sometimes, I didn’t know. Sometimes, I knew that there was a demon there, torturing me, trying to hurt me, trying to get me to kill myself.

I stopped going to class. I stopped going to the lab. I stopped bathing. I spent my days either sleeping or writing out rambling tales of demons and demonic possession. I had a complete nervous breakdown.

In a rare moment of lucidity, I realized that I was either going to drive myself totally and irrevocably insane, or that I was going to drive myself to suicide. I knew it. I had to choose.

There was something alluring about letting the insane parts of my mind just take me, just pull me out to sea and drown me in darkness. I wanted to completely disassociate from reality. Insanity would obviate the need for suicide. Suicide was scary. I had no fear of hell. (Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in hell.) But, I had grown weary of violence. I didn’t really want to inflict more violence upon my poor, tired body. But, I decided that my insanity wouldn’t be a happy or peaceful place. My insanity would be hell, full of pain and anguish. If I had thought that my insane mind would have taken me to a dreamy heaven, full of cotton candy and angels and down-filled cushions, I would have gone.

I wasn’t sure if I could still extract joy from life. I wasn’t sure if I could find meaning in life. I wasn’t sure if I could determine a purpose for my life. But, I decided to try. I decided I needed drugs.

I headed to the student health center on campus. I told the staff psychiatrist how I was feeling about my tenuous grasp on reality, my views on demons and my thoughts of suicide, and he gave me drugs. Lots of drugs.

The drugs worked. I was walking through life in a hazy fog, but I liked it. I could sleep at night. I didn’t think about demons all of the time, but they never left me completely. I went to class. I went to the lab. My productivity left something to be desired. I had been drained of any semblance of a personality. I even spoke really slowly. I gained a lot of weight. I was kind of like the walking dead. But, I was alive. Sort of. And, I could function. Kind of.

I got it in my head that I needed to leave Berkeley. I grew tired of living like a zombie. As often happens, I decided that I didn’t need the drugs anymore. I decided that I just needed a new environment, a change of pace. So, I left. I took the first job offer I could find, and I moved to Los Angeles. Things were going ok for a while. Then, I decided to save my siblings. With tragic consequences.

I basically strong-armed my older sister and my younger brother into moving out to Los Angeles and into moving in with me. I had grandiose visions of bestowing new lives upon them, of blessing them with new horizons, of freeing them from the shackles of our hellish family and childhoods. I would be their savior. (And, I hoped it would irk my parents to no end.)

This ill-formed plan, of course, quickly turned catastrophic. Three emotionally damaged and traumatized adult siblings living in close quarters and grappling with reconstructing their lives and identities is a recipe for disaster. Trust me on this one. Things quickly spiraled out of control.

My sister was the first to abandon ship. She saw the light before I did. When my sister left so did any hope we had of building a functional family out of the shards of our broken lives and psyches. She was the sane one. My brother and I descended into a co-dependent psychodrama hell of childhood trauma revisited.

I became cruel to him. He embodied all of my worst fears. He couldn’t get out of bed. He imploded in on himself. I couldn’t allow that to happen. I forced him to get a job. I forced him to pay rent. I forced him to clean. I was all about the tough love.

He became more and more detached from reality. He would stay out all night, wandering the streets of LA. He would tell me that he had broken into people’s homes. He brought home swords, which I quickly re-gifted. He would tell me that he saw a girl, whom he knew from back home, at the restaurant where he worked. He thought he might have raped her during a drug binge. He told me that she sat at the bar and stared at him without saying a word. He told me that she had come to LA to tell him that she was pregnant. He told me that he could hear the thoughts of the customers at work. He could hear them thinking about him, laughing at him. He told me that the patrons in the restaurant were always talking about him, making fun of him. He told me that he often met and saw demons as he wandered LA in the middle of the night. He told me that he challenged Satan to a fight.

I knew he was schizophrenic, but I thought I could talk him out of it. I know it sounds ridiculous. He would have moments of lucidity. I would try to reason with him, to get him to see the distinction between reality and psychosis, to teach him how to recognize the difference.

Then, one night, my brother snapped. He was asking me pointed questions about whether or not my sister and I had been sexually abused by our father. And, I was giving him pointed answers. He responded violently. I had to call the police. I was never afraid of him until that point. I probably should have been, but I wasn’t. Even when he told me he was hearing voices and seeing demons, even when he brought home swords.

The next day, I kicked him out. I gathered up all of his belongings after he left for work, and I dropped them off at the restaurant. And, I’ve never forgiven myself. But, I was scared. I panicked. I was afraid that he would kill or rape or hurt me if I let him stay. Eventually, he made his way back to the Midwest.

My brother is currently being heavily medicated, so that he does not pose a danger either to himself or to anyone else. I tried to save him, but I drowned him instead.

When I think about my brother, I think about how he held me as I cried out my testimony against my father in family court, about how my words became sobs, about how he put his arm around me. And, I hate myself for abandoning him.

Religious abuse exists. Religious abuse is real. Who knows how many unacknowledged walking wounded limp through early adult life, struggling to put themselves back together again. Of course, there are varying degrees and types of religious abuse, just as there are varying degrees and types of sexual and physical abuse. Religious abuse is a form of psychological abuse. As a society, we are loath to acknowledge this fact. We are loath to acknowledge that raising children in religion is abusive.

We are sending millions of young persons out into the world handicapped by religious childhood traumas and indoctrination and social retardation, including religious idiocy, delusion and hatred. For the greater part, these psychological and emotional pains remain unaddressed by our mental health profession. Religion is not addressed as the prime mover.

I am not an aberration. I am your high school friend. I am your co-worker. I am your law school classmate.

I am not unintelligent. I am not crazy. I have two engineering degrees and a law degree. I have traveled the world. I am well educated and well read. I am a human rights activist. I am a writer.

I am an adult survivor of childhood religious abuse. And, so are you.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Sarah

    Oh, how moving, and how much courage it must have taken for you to write that.

    Have you seen redheaded Skeptic’s blog? She writes about much of the same thing. I bet you would get a lot out of it. http://www.redheadedskeptic.com

  • http://anadder.com MichaelF

    I can’t really do this post justice with a comment, all I can say is thankyou for your bravery and eloquence.

  • http://theorangesashford.moonfruit.com Steve Bowen

    Sarah, There is no comment I can make that would not sound trivial in the extreme compared to this post. It seems to me that you are a survivor, and that you will continue to survive and hopefully thrive. I hope that someday you can resolve the issues with your siblings, just because your first attempt failed does not mean that with more time and experience you won’t find a way to help them. In the meantime the work you do with Ni Putes Ni Soumises seems so worthwhile and your writing is awesome. Good luck!

  • LindaJoy

    Sarah- I remember reading an article by you in the Freethought Today newspaper from FFRF a couple of years ago, and was so impressed by it that I emailed them in Madison. Annie Laurie Gaylor replied and said you were in Europe at the time, but she would forward all the compliments she had been receiving to you. I hope you got them. I also hope that you can continue to move forward in your walk away from your childhood nightmare and that your siblings are also able to find a sense of inner peace and freedom.

  • http://www.superhappyjen.blogspot.com SuperHappyJen

    I’m with Steve, all comments seem trivial compared to your experience. You’re a strong person, Sarah. Both for living through this and for having the courage to share it.

  • TheMightyThor

    What an awesome and tragic tale; all the more so for being real. Anything that I say would be trivial, but I did want to make a comment. I was not religiously abused as a child. I was indoctrinated with Christianity, but not so intensely. Religion permeated the air so much that it was never examined or questioned–much like the presumed superiority of the White people whom we were exhorted as children to emulate. No, I was religiously abused as an adult, ironically, by marrying into a family of Church of Christ(ians). Fortunately, I survived, and my savior was the Bible. Reading it one final time without the requisite rose colored glasses of “faith”, I was able to see it in all of its naked glory! And the God of the OT was horrendous! (I had previously been discouraged from reading the OT and to write off the horrors when I did, chalking it up to those people living in a different “dispensation”. That confused me, of course, because, God, being eternal, knew then what he knows now, so why would they have had a different set of laws? Especially ones which required the death penalty for breaking them. Disobedience (to parent) = death! Really? And God is LOVE?!!

    Anyway, thanks for sharing.

  • LindaJoy

    TheMightyThor- If “God is Love”, then anyone who loves is a god-right?

  • TheMightyThor

    @ LindaJoy: You will get in trouble bring logic and math to the mix. In religion, the mathematical concept, if a=b, then b=a does NOT APPLY! I found LOTS of math and logic did not apply to religious beliefs, lol!

  • http://www.1in7billion.com Bechamel

    Sarah,
    As someone who was also religiously abused as a child (not nearly to the same degree you were, but badly enough that I’m still working to recover from it), I just want to say thank you for writing this.

  • keddaw

    Wow, and, er, wow.

    Tragic and yet full of hope.

    Fiction or truth, doesn’t matter, there are enough examples of this for us to all feel the emotion, pain, suffering and catharticism from this.

    As someone who has had life stupidly easy it is good to be reminded of the struggle people often have in their family and personal lives. What I take for granted others have had to fight tooth and nail for, the ideas that I see as self evident have been obfuscated for others by people they trusted, the security I (falsely) think I have has been destroyed for some by those who are supposed to protect them.

    Best of luck with what follows and doubly so for your siblings who may not be as free as (I hope) you are. [Not that I beleive in luck, but it seems somewhat callous to say so in light of the seriousness of this article... yet I did anyway]

  • Rick M

    I am not an aberration. I am your high school friend. I am your co-worker. I am your law school classmate.

    Thank you for reminding me that people around me who have suffered or are suffering from religious indoctrination deserve my compassion. It is sometimes too easy for me to dismiss them as “religious nuts” or intellectually immature. Never again. Thank you.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    Whoa. Awesome testimony, Sarah. I am humbled and moved. I can relate, of course. CUT was nowhere near as bad as JW, but at times it came close. Certainly the cruel and lurid fantasies of demonic possession were equivalent.

    While my siblings are all out of the church, we are all also scarred. And I’m the only atheist. The others unfortunately cling to some form of spirituality. We mostly get along.

    When you indoctrinate children, you’re literally shaping their brains. The abuse stays with them for life. Which is why I consider religious indoctrination to be a crime every bit as serious as sexual abuse. Parents have no right to do this to their children. It’s the one tenet of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights I strongly disagree with:

    Article 26, Section 3: “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

    When it comes to religious indoctrination, they most certainly do NOT. This story should amply demonstrate why.

  • http://1939to1945.blogspot.com NoAstronomer

    “I told him to wait for me. And to hold his breath.”

    Cute.

  • http://thechapel.wordpress.com the chaplain

    Thanks for a brave and honest post.

  • http://www.loreleiarmstrong.com Lorelei

    Wow. Thank you for sharing your story. I recently had the chance to thank my parents for raising me and my sister with no faith and no religion. I think I will thank them again.

  • Rex

    I followed Sarah’s comment to her blog: http://www.redheadedskeptic.com. I read for quite a while: the four part story, and how she became an atheist. I’d like to note here a statement she made in her blog that rings so true on de-conversion

    I think there are three factors that led to my de-conversion: Humility, misery, and knowledge.

    Oh how true! I recall my own deconversion at age 10 (1955) or so. My own abandonment of religions was probably influenced more by knowledge and misery than humility, but her statement rings true today.

  • Zietlos

    Thank you. I am touched by your past. Horrified, and touched deeply. I have been blessed, to use a contrary term, to be raised in an agnostic household. However I have met some that have been deeply tainted by religion. I hope they are not as hurt as yourself, and I thank you for sharing this, reaffirming the dangers of indoctrination. Silence is never golden.

  • KShep

    Wow. Just….wow. Sarah, you really should think about putting your story in book form for all to read and to learn from. I realize that this is a difficult proposition for you to consider (if you haven’t already done so), but your story needs to be told, if you’re up to it. There is clearly so much more that you left out.

    Not that I’m eager to get inside your head, I hope you understand, but your life is obviously quite interesting and your experiences are valuable as lessons for all to heed.

    I also just love your writing. I’d buy that book.

  • Caiphen

    This is the worst case of indoctrination I’ve red. Much worse than mine. I’m so happy to now be an atheist.

  • JJohnston

    Thank you for making me not feel so alone.

  • http://www.neosnowqueen.wordpress.com neosnowqueen

    I made you a response, but I eated it.

    Other people say it better.

  • http://www.otroagosto.blogspot.com Elizabeth

    Sarah, I left a long response to your post about smurfs… now I just want to say it is really good to know that i am not alone,

  • Sarah Braasch

    Thank you so much for all the comments and support.

    I always wonder about the people whom I used to know who may stumble across this and think, “Oh, now everything makes a little more sense.”

    I love the redheaded skeptic. What was so funny to me was that she posted something yesterday about her writing making her feel naked, but that she forced herself to put it out there, so that others will know that they are not alone.

    I love that. That is the most important thing. To everyone else out there going thru this: you are not alone.

    Also, we have to make it socially unacceptable to treat children in this way. And to turn away from abuse in the name of freedom of religion.

  • http://godlizard.com godlizard

    I agree with KShep – these experiences would make a great book, and one that would help so many people. Thank you for your honesty and openness, I know this wasn’t an easy post to write.

  • Jim Baerg

    I think I should thank my parents for giving me a faith-free childhood.

  • Peter White

    I have some relatives who are long time members of the JW cult. I think their psychological abuse has been fairly mild but I can still see signs of it.

    I read an article a while ago that stated the incidence of schizophrenia among JWs was 4x what it is in the general population and the incidence of paranoid schizophrenia was 6x. At the time I wasn’t sure if cults just attracted people with mental health issues of if they caused them. After reading some of your posts I think I lean more toward religions being the cause.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Sharmin

    Sarah,
    I’m sorry about what you went through. Like several of the other people who wrote comments, I can’t quite find the words to express my reaction.

    I am not an aberration. I am your high school friend. I am your co-worker. I am your law school classmate.

    I am not unintelligent. I am not crazy. I have two engineering degrees and a law degree. I have traveled the world. I am well educated and well read. I am a human rights activist. I am a writer.

    I am an adult survivor of childhood religious abuse. And, so are you.

    Thank you for including this part.
    It seems you’ve been very brave and hard-working throughout it all. Keep up hope!

  • Paul S.

    This was a truly sobering account of psychological abuse shrouded in the apparent non-assailable dogma of religion. I was brought up in a Christian household, but I never really bought into it. However, I did make some pretty good friends and had fun doing the whole children’s choir thing. I finally made a total break from religion while in college and was more pissed off at the Sunday mornings that were wasted going to church (and all the football I missed on TV). Anyone who says religion isn’t based on fear just needs to read this account.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com D

    Yowza. Opening up old wounds like that, digging around and showing them to other people, that takes some serious courage. I’m also at a loss for words, but I’m reminded of the song Injection: “The memories that haunt us are cherished, just the same, as the ones that bring us closer to the sky – no matter how gray.” Of course, this is only by conceit of actually surviving and moving past them, which not all are fortunate enough to do.

  • ComplexStuff

    Sarah, I grew up in a very Christian household and have a fair number of issues connected with that upbringing. My issues pale into insignificance compared to what you and some very close friends of mine have suffered. I hope this doesn’t come out sounding patronizing, I just want to give you a *big hug* and to say thank you for sharing.

  • http://potholt@cstx.gov PeteO

    Tough stuff, but reality! I have been through the same type of stuff , although to a MUCH lesser degree. There are plenty of others who had it much worse. It takes time but there is a point were you find that life can be very rewarding. Just surviving is an accomplishment in itself. Living a full life is the best revenge and I plan on taking my revenge to the limits! :)

  • Lily

    I think I should thank my parents for giving me a faith-free childhood.
    Comment #25 by: Jim Baerg

    ME TOO.

    Thank you Sarah for this.

  • Kim J

    Sarah,

    Although the details differ, the feelings are the same. I hear you loud and clear. I am 50, and finally, after years of therapy, etc…feel free. My parents are now both dead, but of course, their harsh, shaming voices have lived on in my head. They are much quieter now, and only surface when I am under big stress and under rested., under fed, and have not had enough play…For the first time in years, I do not dream of them.

    I have learned to be gentle with myself. I am learning that there is love and support out here, apart from the religious community and its goal to spiritualize everything.

    Thank you for sharing.

  • http://unikraken.wordpress.com/ Unikraken

    Sarah,
    This is an incredibly powerful and tragic story. Thank you for sharing it with us and thank you for continuing to fight religious abuse.

  • http://www.beretta-online.com Glenn

    “I am an adult survivor of childhood _______ abuse.”

    I understand why you have been left with an association between religion and abuse. It’s normal for abuse survivors to do this, with whatever happens to be in the blank space in the above sentence. As long as you understand the cause of the association and realise that it is an emotional, real, vivid, but ultimately irrational association.

  • Sarah Braasch

    I think that might be the most asinine comment on DA yet.

    And, it infuriates and disgusts me.

    The religious make me want to vomit with their bald-faced blaming the victim tactics.

    I am not an idiot. I know what the religion of my youth taught me and my parents. And, that religion is nothing if not an abusive, misogynistic, brainwashing cult that perpetuates and promotes the psychological torture of children.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Right, because if a spouse abuses you, it’s irrational to claim that it’s spousal abuse. And, if a religious zealot abuses you by using their religious beliefs like a club against you, it’s irrational to think the religion had anything to do with it. Also, if a Scottish person abuses you, it’s irrational to think that the person is Scottish, because no true Scotsman would ever do that.

  • jj

    I don’t see the religious abuse. I see parents that may not have been great parents, but nevertheless skills to live on your own were taught somewhere. More to the point, an awful lot of what you describe was well after you left, and done on your own. You were so set is showing them you were right, until you realized they were not waiting or worrying about you. You spiraled downward… because of them? No, because you took yourself there mentally. Then you put all the same stuff on your siblings, and others. hmmmm see a pattern yet? Probably not, it’s always easier to blame others than to take personal responsiblity.

  • Sarah Braasch

    So, if I learned the skills to live on my own and take care of myself, that must have been the work of my parents.

    But, if I spiraled downward into mental illness, because I had been indoctrinated into believing in a fantasy world in which demonic attack is a constant threat, that must have been my own doing.

    Hmmm. See a pattern yet? Probably not. It’s always easier to blame others than to take personal responsibility.

  • http://steve.mikexstudios.com themann1086

    Wow, fuck you jj. While you’re at it, let’s blame those kids for being raped by priests. Sure, the priests weren’t perfect, but they taught those kids how to deal with real life! Or something…

  • Thumpalumpacus

    … it’s always easier to blame others than to take personal responsiblity.

    The funny thing is, had Sarah stayed in her religion, she would have had a fine whipping-boy. I cannot speak for Sarah, but only once I left my Southern Baptist dogma did I learn to truly accept responsibility for my actions. I had no devil left to blame.

    If you credit God with the happiness in life, you must debit him the tragedy. Anything else is a double-standard.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Thanks guys. You both said it better than I could have. I’m never quite sure if I should respond to nonsense like this or no.

    The thing that always shocks me the most when people respond with their blaming the victim tactics is that we’re talking about children here.

    I mean, yes, I do describe the aftermath during my late teens and early twenties, but one does not immediately move past egregious trauma on your 18th birthday.

    And, that’s really my point. We’re sending untold numbers of severely damaged and wholly unprepared young people out into the world.

    And, that’s only if they’re strong enough to take personal responsibility for their lives and walk away from everything they’ve ever known.

    I know for a fact that I have taken personal responsibility for my life and for the repercussions of my actions in a way that my parents will never know.

    It’s so much easier for them to remain in their fantasy land of make believe and no culpability and to demonize the escapees.

    My one brother killed himself to escape. My other brother became a paranoid schizophrenic.

    I chose to recreate myself anew, to try to right the wrongs and to get as far away as possible. If that’s not taking personal responsibility for one’s life, I’m not sure what is.

  • Katie M

    Sarah-I for one applaud your courage. Your family is a prime example of how evil religion can be. You are brave to tell your story, just as those sexually abused by the Catholic church are brave to tell theirs. The world could use more people like you.

  • Jim Baerg

    I just attended a talk by Nate Phelps, son of Fred -Westboro Baptist Church- Phelps. He is now an atheist & now apparently quite mentally stable, despite the abuse of his childhood.
    Once again I thank my parents for a faith free childhood.

  • Dawn Wright

    When I started reading this article I thought someone had found the paper I wrote for college and published it without my permission. I am a survivor of the rape by an Assembly of God minister, who was also my step-father. He told the judge that “God told him to do it to punish me” I can remember standing in the courtroom wondering what kind of God tells a man to rape a 17 yr old girl. I have slowly gotten past it but it has taken 27 yrs to do it.

    I understand the lost feeling very well I left the church and joined the Navy and was sent to Italy. It was quite a culture shock, but it helped the healing to begin because I was able to get as far away from him and my mother as possible.

    Now I am free of the hate and lostness(know its not a word but can’t explain any better) that I went through as a child. Yes I still deal with depression and some bi-polar issues but am doing better. I can only say thank you Sarah for writing what I couldn’t.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Dawn,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. You are a survivor.

    This is why I wrote this. For you. In your honor.

    Keep on keeping on. Do you still have that college paper? Think about writing and publishing your story.

    If enough of us tell our stories, they won’t be able to deny the truth any longer. They won’t be able to blame us. They won’t be able to marginalize us. They won’t be able to pretend that we don’t exist.

  • steve

    Sarah, thank you for putting this out in public.

    I will tell you that as a male in a paternalistic cult, I had it much easier than you did. I could run away informally, as opposed to through the courts. Reading your post and subsequent comments has moved me. Too many similarities, including sibling schizophrenia.

    Your anger is well founded, and I understand it; I have some of the same defense skills. It is difficult to explain to people who have not experienced it.

    You are fortunate to have escaped, but you are truly noble for telling others.

  • Marius

    Thanks for sharing this.

  • Leslie

    Hi there
    Thank you for posting. I feel a connection to you. I really identified with
    your story and pain. I too,experienced the religious abuse through mormonism. Only to have parents use these beliefs to inflict additional abuse as well.
    You are very brave. Its taken me a lot longer to do some of the things you have done
    Cutting ties can be hard. But healthy for sure. I think I will be in Therapy for years. Did you know, that the next pending DSM IV diagnosis is Religious abuse. It is going to be actually recognized. Heres to another survivor. Best to you and yours :)


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