Justice is No Lady: Chapter 9 – Terrorists, Far and Near

Warning: This story series contains descriptions of physical abuse.

by Tess Willoughby

September 11, 2001. This dark day united all Americans in horror, in terror, and in pain.

With at least one exception: Nate Willoughby.

I found out that our country had been attacked using our own commercial aircraft when my mother called me from town and said, “Turn on the news.” Her tone of voice suggested the worst of the worst of the worst: so awful that you didn’t ask “what channel?” because it didn’t matter what channel. The president had been assassinated. There was some horrific, unthinkable natural disaster, probably in Virginia. Something so bad she couldn’t say it.

I hung up, turned on the TV and watched the Twin Towers burn, holding the phone in my hand.

The phone rang. I hit the answer button. Nate lit into me about how I needed to come back to him and I was in rebellion against God and would probably go to hell.

I swallowed and sat on the floor and said, “Are you aware that terrorists have attacked New York City? The World Trade Center is burning!”

Nate said, “Who cares. We’re talking about my life.”

I hung up on him and sobbed and choked in front of the TV until I didn’t have any more strength to cry. How mean and insane was my husband? How would I ever get away from this vindictive bastard without being destroyed? Was Nate even human? Was my country’s government about to fall? How many more planes had been hijacked, and what would blow up next? It felt as though my own personal hell had unleashed national horrors and worldwide chaos. The lid had blown off life itself and nothing venerable, nothing precious, nothing good could stand. My own personal, religious zealot terrorist had gone global somehow and the world was burning and crumbling to the ground; nothing and nobody was safe from crazy men with extreme religious agendas.

Post-traumatic stress does funky things with your brain. That September, I believed that I had landed in a world without personal boundaries, without national security: a world of merciless anarchy where freedom was not only impossible but a joke and and an illusion. A world where terrorists could strike anywhere and nightmarish, ruinously expensive court hearings never ended, but God was silent. I believed that I could lose absolutely everything, even my nation. If not for my parents, I would have lost my sanity.

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Justice Is No Lady: Chapter 8 ~ Backlash

Warning: This story series contains descriptions of physical abuse.

by Defendant Rising

Part Two: The Legal Aftermath

I fled to the farm where I grew up and spent several weeks just trying to get the fuzz out of my head. I went to the doctor, who diagnosed Abi with failure to thrive. I supplemented her with formula but continued to breastfeed, because for once I had the luxury of breastfeeding by my own lights, and I intended to enjoy it. I moved six kids, 9 years old and under, in with my mom and dad, who were absolute angels about it.  I do not remember either of them complaining even once.

What were Tess’s long-term plans? Did I want separation? Divorce? Neither? Was God angry with me? Could I ever go back? I just stumbled through the days, utterly numb. I could not feel the presence of God, which struck terror into my heart. I could not pray, and opening a Bible freaked me out. Where had my faith gone? What did I believe? My thoughts were like muddy water that must be filtered through normality until the water runs clear. It took a long time to get clear, and in the meantime, I made a very costly mistake.

I filed for legal separation but then withdrew my action. Here is how this went down:

Nate called four or five times a day. He also sent multiple long emails every day. A few highlights:

  • “I will counter-sue for divorce on fault-grounds of desertion.”
  • “Venue (where the divorce will be held) is where the marital home is. You will have to travel back and forth repeatedly.”
  • “I will avail myself in good faith of every legal procedure available. This means massive expense to your father. I will appeal any and all negative decisions.”
  • “As I am living in the marital home, you will lose the [custody] fight. And of course, if I have the kids you will be paying me child support.”

In every email and phone call, Nate demanded that I come home immediately. In one email he made a condition: “Because of your hart [sic] heartedness and manifold sins against me, I will require that you sign an oath before God that you will submit to my authority completely, without question or dissention, and joyfully.”
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Justice is No Lady: Chapter 7 ~ Spiritual Adultery

Warning: This story series contains descriptions of physical abuse.

by Defendant Rising

Nate says what happened from Christmas of 1999 through summer of 2000 was this: I condoned his affair with Angel.

I guess Nate should know, because “condone” is a legal term and he’s a lawyer. That’s not the way I remember it. I remember two things: being very ill and being very angry. After the lingeré bonfire, Nate kept his sickly, irate wife very busy listening to his sermons on forgiveness, doing unpaid paralegal work (he set up his new firm at home with the clients stolen from his former boss), getting through Christmas on a shoestring, overhauling our finances, and going to marriage counseling with pastors Mike and Randy.

All this was going on in my last six weeks of pregnancy. The financial overhaul alone was tiring and overwhelming. Nate planned another home birth for me, increased my life insurance, and made me sign for credit cards in my name to reduce our interest rates. Then he rolled all our debt onto the cards, charged law office supplies to them, and locked the cards in the file cabinet. I wasn’t sure how increasing my life insurance saved us any money—after all, it cost more—but Nate insisted that I wouldn’t understand even if he explained it to me. I couldn’t even balance a checkbook, so if I would just trust him and sign here, here, and there already, he would take care of it all. It was futile to ask questions, I would just be even more worn out with Nate’s thousand-word answers, excuses, and insults.

Marriage counseling was also futile—it didn’t help matters at all. Nate was enraged for two reasons: I had great respect for Mike and Randy, and Mike and Randy were very hard on Nate. Randy made one remark during counseling that hit me like a stun gun.

Randy said, “Nate, in your heart you have rejected God.”

My brain began to blink to life. The broken mirror pieces in my mind fused into one big mirror, still picturing Nate, but he was ugly—uglier than the portrait of Dorian Gray. Ugly as sin.

Nate’s “theology,” no matter how complicated, was a substitute for faith, not evidence of faith. I knew it in that instant.

Nate’s retribution was swift, his diversion brilliant. He accused me of being in love with Randy and Randy of being in love with me. We could continue to go to the church and to marriage counseling, Nate decreed, but I was not allowed to speak to Randy unless Nate was present. Nate spread ugly innuendo about us throughout the congregation. In private, Nate assured me that the only thing I was guilty of was “spiritual adultery” so far—of putting another man in Nate’s place of spiritual head and God-mediator. I needed to watch myself, though, he argued, or I’d be in bed with Randy next.

I hated Nate with every ounce of my strength. Randy’s wife was very pregnant too, and it hurt to see the pain and doubt cross her face. Randy’s marriage held tight, though, and his wife was soon beaming again.

As the controversy blew over, I focused on the imminent birth of my sixth child. I had to lie down a lot. The cramps were breathtaking. I had legal research to conduct. I had my children to educate. Plus, Nate had one last theological curve ball to pitch. Nate had begged my forgiveness for Angel. He had repented in tears, and agreed to the marriage counseling. Now, in the wake of my alleged “spiritual adultery,” Nate was backtracking. Could a convinced polygamist, Nate asked me, ever commit adultery? Nate said, “Maybe only women can commit adultery.” As he explained to Mike and Randy, he was “looking at six months” of no sex while I carried Abi, and what better time to look for a second wife? (A little wrinkle: Though only 21, Angel was married. Her husband was in the Navy and deployed at sea.)

Suddenly I was the adulteress, and I wasn’t buying a ticket for this guilt trip. Nate and I had one heated argument after another, and, as long as we were arguing, I hotly denied that I needed God to speak to me through Nate or any man.

By the final two weeks of pregnancy, I was too uncomfortable to argue any more. The pressure on my pelvic floor was so intense that I wished I could simply hang from the ceiling via a system of big elastic belts between the legs and under the belly, attached to straps, affixed to wheels on tracks. Then, I fantasized, I could push off with my swollen feet and glide from room to room. Nate responded to my weakness and discomfort by threatening to exercise his “right” to polygamy on a permanent basis and move another woman into the house, if I couldn’t figure out a way to carry babies and have sex simultaneously. If I left him or reported him to the authorities for practicing polygamy, Nate said, he would use the courts to take the children and everything we owned. No other man would ever want me with six kids. [Read more...]

Justice is No Lady: Chapter 6 ~ In Which Nate Takes Up Racquetball

Warning: This story series contains descriptions of physical abuse.

by Defendant Rising

I tried to conceal my misery, fatigue, and desperation from the members of our new church. We had not been there very long when people began to notice how spaced-out and jumpy Tess Willoughby was. Our pastor, Mike, and our assistant pastor, Randy, both expressed concern about me.

I was pregnant for the seventh time, and I dreaded another pregnancy, birth, and recovery. The clandestine feedings of Matt had delayed this pregnancy—this baby would be two whole years younger than Matt, a personal record. Matt’s birth in 1998 had been in the hospital—my first hospital delivery—because Nate had health insurance through the law office and hospital birth was cheapest. The bright lights and fetal monitor frightened me, and the labor, though not long, was excruciating. I hemorrhaged following the birth and recovery was slow. Two years’ spacing of babies was not enough after so many babies so close together, and I knew it. I was not healed. This pregnancy would be a rough go.

By the third month carrying Abigail, I was sexually sidelined again. Nate complained and quoted Scripture at first, then mercifully seemed to lose interest—not that he ever had much interest in sex where I was concerned. I might hemorrhage after the birth, but at least I was sexually off the hook and wouldn’t be hit with those lightning-bolt cramps.

At about five months’ gestation with Abi, Nate made friends with one of his clients, whose name was Trey. Trey was into racquetball, and Nate announced that he was going to start playing racquetball with Trey a couple of nights a week. I was pleased that Nate had a hobby other than web-surfing, and the five children and I accompanied Nate to the sporting goods store to pick out racquetball equipment.

Nate had his new sport. Bored stiff with home-schooling and unable to sing for an audience, I also itched to take up a hobby of some kind, so I laid out a small garden in the back yard. Nate announced one day that I had ruined his nice lawn with my “ugly weeds” and fired up his lawn mower. As I watched my peas, beans, and flowers fly out the back of the mower and hit the fence, something inside me died. I could not get over it. There was no Bible verse for this. There was no Scripture in this. There were no devils in my garden that needed mowing down. This was bald, capricious cruelty. And it was unprovoked. I had done or said nothing. I could not point to any guilt or failing on my part that caused Nate to kill something of mine.

That was the day I began to stop loving Nate, and began to stop blaming myself for his rottenness. It didn’t happen all at once; Nate killed my love by degrees. Throughout 1999 and 2000, my husband grew more callous than ever. There were fewer endearments coming my way—fewer “honeys” and “sweethearts.” Instead, there were insults. Besides Nate’s old standby, “frigid,” I was “Ditz,” “Klutz,” “Teeny Tits,” and “The Official Willoughby Family Buttwipe.” (Nate did not change diapers, you see.) Thankfully, Nate was not around much to hurl invective at his pregnant wife. He was on the computer more, played more racquetball, had a lot more court dates.
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Justice is No Lady: Chapter 5 ~ In Pursuit of Biblical Theology

Warning: This story series contains descriptions of physical abuse.

by Defendant Rising

Hannah was born at home in spring of 1996. By this time, Nate had a better job at a personal injury law firm and we were able to get a three-bedroom house.

Satan must have followed us, because now there were lesbians having sex in the mailbox and Nate had no idea how the pervert porn peddlers got his name and address again.

I was still in a stupor, still worshipping my cult leader. The lights were on in my brain but no one was home. I think, however, that my brain’s doorbell started ringing in 1996, and Tess’s Good Sense began its three years of patiently knocking, waiting to be invited back in. Doubts, in huge bold type, slipped under the door and were increasingly hard to shove back out onto the doormat of my mind. Even a Branch Davidian or a card-carrying member of the Manson Family would begin to get suspicious when the porno people guessed their leader’s name and address twice.

Nate’s theology had more twists and turns than a ‘coaster at Busch Gardens. I could not keep up, and the numbers of True Christians with whom we could associate grew smaller and smaller.

By degrees, Nate became:

1. A Reformed Baptist—a Calvinist who holds that only “the elect” are predestined to be saved and he’s one of the “elect,” only Nate was the Baptist brand of God’s chosen few, as opposed to the more common Presbyterian variety.

2. A Reformed Baptist Theonomist—all of the above plus embracing Old Testament Law. Nate forbade me to serve bacon, ham, or shellfish. We wore only 100% cotton or other natural fibers.

3. A Reformed Baptist Reconstructionist—all of the above plus a belief that the Old Testament Law as given to Moses should be the one and only law of the United States. This would reconstruct America. In Mosaic Law We Trust.

4. A Reformed Baptist Reconstructionist Polygamist—ditto, with the possibility of the reconstructionist taking multiple wives, the better (and faster) to reconstruct America, my dear.

This was a bit much.

However, Nate was quick to assure me that while God would have no problem with Nate “using his freedom” to take one or more mistresses and call them wives, and while Nate had no problem with polygamy per se—he was actually pretty comfortable with the concept—I, Tess, was so loved by Nate that my husband would set aside his liberty in Christ to sleep with other women out of his great love for me.

Nate did not understand why I was not bowled over with love and gratitude. After all, “God’s Law says . . .” Look at Abraham, Isaac, David, Solomon.
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