That Botkin Sisters Letter

That Botkin Sisters Letter February 7, 2019
Screencap from ‘Return of the Daughters’ on YouTube. Meme courtesy of imgflip.com

Yesterday I laid out Cindy Kunsman’s response to the toxic and downright bratty Botkin sisters, Anna Sophia and Elizabeth, who are claiming ten years on that Cindy’s blog has harmed them. Today I am publishing the letter they sent her. They are trying to claim that the letter is ‘privileged communication’, instead of what it actually is, an attempt to manipulate and guilt Cindy in retracting her very helpful words on toxic Quiverfull.

I had added italics to their quotes of Cindy’s words and direct quotes of psy manuals/information. There are a few sic spelling/grammar notations in italics too. But where the italics and bolds are that they placed in the original document are there. Grammarly puked and malfunctioned when I ran this through. Holy run on sentences Batman?

Cindy Kunsman had a MSW and DSW review her work before she posted it on the aptly named ‘Botkin Syndrome’ describing when parents are too enmeshed with their children. Funny too because Botkin Syndrome is a type of hepatitis.

I wonder if Cindy can sue them for harassment. The sisters apparently kept calling Cindy’s local post office trying to find out if the letter than been delivered. That is starting to sound a lot stalker like from here. They are claiming Cindy stalked them, but they are the ones calling around about Cindy.

~~~~~~~~

January 10, 2019

Dear Mrs. Kunsman,

Greetings in Christ. We are writing, first of all, to thank you for your obvious desire to help the hurting, rescue those in bondage, and illuminate the way for those walking dark paths. The need for this is especially obvious as the reality of dysfunctional family dynamics, abuse and victim grooming within the conservative Christian world comes more and more to light. In fact, the more we read your websites, the more we’ve come to realize that we really are fighting some common enemies.

We also appreciate the helping hand and listening ear that you extend on your blogs to anyone who comes to you for help. We’re writing to you with the hope that that compassion will be extended to us as well, as we come to you with our own unusual story of abuse.

We grew up in a happy, healthy, functional home where Mom and Dad’s love for each other and the Lord formed the core of our family life. Boys and girls were respected equally; all of us were giving the choice to pursue the passions and opportunities that interested us most. We were each individually encouraged to develop our convictions and opinions from our own studies of Scripture, even when we came to conclusions that were controversial… and even when we wanted to write publicly about these controversial opinions.

When we did publish these controversial opinions, plenty of people disagreed with us both in person and online. We’ve been grateful for the criticism which has humbled us, sharpened us, and helped us refine our thinking (an ongoing work.)

But not every critique of our work was  objective or honest, or dealt with only what was truly factual. One complete stranger, who had never met us or made any attempt to contact us, projected the dynamics of her own childhood home onto our family, diagnosed us long-distance with a perverse psychological disorder, presented a speculative (and untrue) life story of our family as factual, attributing teachings to us that we actually teach against, and made our family name synonymous with a mental disease, sexual perversion, incest, and cult-ism.

Using our name as the trademark for the type of incestuous family dynamics she was trying to spotlight on her blog, she said, was a choice prompted largely by the increase in web traffic that happened every time she connected us with those dynamics. We would like to believe that she was motivated not by a malicious desire to hurt our family, but a genuine and noble desire to protect other families from pain and harm by getting her message out. But if this is the case, she needs to know about some very real pain and harm she is causing to the real people who are still paying the price for her decision. In short: No matter where any of the Botkin siblings go, or what we attempt to do, or who we meet, or who we marry, or who our children are we’re all just one Google search away from being labeled ‘cultic,’ (sic) ‘diseased’ or a ‘perverted family’ because of this one woman’s publications.

And after reading the disgusting mischaracterizations (sic) of who we “really” are, we don’t blame anyone who has decided over the last ten years to drop our friendship, cut us off, refuse to do business with us, shun us as people, or warn our neighbors, our community, and the rest of the internet about us.

Mrs. Kunsman, our parents have never abused us, bullied us, deprived us of opportunities, or used us in any ways for their own personal gain.

But you have.

And while we girls have been willing to live with abuse for the last ten years, we believe that we owe it to our brothers, their wives, and our three nieces and six nephews who all carry the name Botkin and have lives of their own, to appeal to you to end this. Yes, you’re harming us with your gross mischaracterizations (sic) of what we teach, but more than that, you are harming people who are not in any way responsible for what we teach.

To try to understand where you’re coming from, we recently combed every single page of “Overcoming Botkin Syndrome” and “Under Much Grace.” One thing we found there was a lot of helpful material about how to recognize when you are dealing with abusive and unhealthy relationship dynamics. Another was the story of your own painful abuse history, which gives us a lot of sympathy for where you’re coming from (and we are deeply sorry for all that you’ve gone through.) But here were a few more things we discovered. Please take these observations in the spirit in which they are meant – an appeal from your sisters in Christ to consider whether you have treated us as you would be treated.

  • You did not engage our actual writings, and words (or practices), but instead bore false witness about both our teachings and practices.

You do claim to critique our teachings (which you have every right to do, by the way,) but instead of finding your critiques full of actual quotes by us, we found none. Instead, we found you quoting others, many who teach things we have always taught against — such as unquestioning obedience to parents, women as lesser beings, woman as man’s natural enemy – and describing these are our teachings. This is no small error… especially for a website all about proclaiming the truth.

You also claim to tell our family’s life story and theological background, and furthermore, to have special insight into the inner workings of our family relationships due to your own family background (e.g. “What I can readily recognize is the pattern and the rules, both written and unwritten. …I did grow up with a devotion to my depressed and dysfunctional family that needed me to perpetuate it in order to survive the pains of life. I can spot the patterns a mile away. And I know well, along with every other adult child of a family trying to survive some pain of life, the destructive outcomes that the patterns produce. …I know well the role of the enabler…” http://botkinsyndrome.blogspot.com/2008/07/what-does-literature-on-family.html) What you present as historical fact and educated diagnosis, though, are total speculations about the private lives of complete strangers whose real history you have little or no real information about, and whose family dynamics you have no special insight because they are actually not at all similar to the ones you describe growing up with.

And the mistruths (sic) you publish are not inconsequential. Among other things, you accuse us of practicing a form of incest, describe us as having a mental disease, and liken our father to murderous cult-leader Jim Jones.

  • You did not care enough about either the truth –or us– to reach out, either to verify if any of the details you were publishing about us were true, or, to see if we needed help.

We believe the sincerity of your desire to see those in bondage set free, and the hurting comforted. But if you truly believed, as you profess, that we ourselves were in a cruel, painful bondage… why instead recklessly tar and feather us, without double-checking the facts, with such callous disregard for our emotional and spiritual health, our safety, our reputations, our opportunities and our future lives?

  • What’s more, you even misappropriated medical terms and abused the trust people had in your credibility as a medical professional by creating a “syndrome” to describe the dysfunction you thought you saw in people you had never met.

This goes against psychiatric and psychological codes of ethics. You don’t claim to be a licensed psychologist, but as setting yourself up as a teacher and advisor on psychological issues, you surely are aware that this conduct goes against the “Goldwater rule” (“It is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination”) and the APA Ethics Code, which exhorts psychologists to “provide opinions of the psychological characteristics of individuals only after they have conducted an examination of the individuals adequate to support their statements or conclusions.” You assure your readers many times that you are not making an official medical diagnosis, but these ethical guidelines aren’t about making a diagnosis, they’re about giving an opinion.

  • You exploited our names and faces for your own gain.

You rightly hate seeing others treat women as less than human, or exploit women for their own personal gain (a hot-button issue of ours as well,) but that is exactly how you have treated us. Our name is driving up your web traffic and while we (and others connected with us) in turn suffer a loss of dignity, privacy, reputation, opportunities, livelihood and relationships. Please consider: If you were engaging and describing our family’s teachings and practices honestly, rather than projecting onto us false teachings from your own background (e.g. Bill Gothard, the Shepherding Movement) — for instance, if you would simply quote us on our beliefs instead of using other teachers’ words to describe “our” beliefs — the use of our name would seem more sincere, less like a thoughtless bid for more online attention.

“I never intended for “Botkin Syndrome” to take off as a descriptive term for the enmeshment and dysfunctional family dynamics  that the followers of Patriocentricity describe in great detail! It was a tongue-in-cheek comment. But… I have been overwhelmed to say the least by the comments of people in favor of the term and the dynamics described that I think it is here to stay. Of ALL the material that I have posted online in the past concerning spiritual abuse, I have received more POSITIVE feedback about this Botkin Syndrome information than all the other feedback  combined.” http://undermuchgrace.blogspot.com/2008/07/announcing-overcoming-botkin-syndrome. html||more.

“I don’t exactly get it myself, but many people find them fascinating, and posts about them here on this site remain along the perennially popular.” http://undermuchgrace.blogspot.com/2012/02/botkin-update-and-botkin-success-story.html

  • You have misappropriated the name “Botkin,” hurting even those Botkins who don’t share our beliefs  — and their friends and associates.

Our concern is not that you’re going to war against dysfunctional and destructive family dynamics. Our concern is also not that you are publicly disagreeing with our teaching. Our concern is that you used the real name of a very real family, full of real people trying to live their own healthy and productive lives, who do not represent the practices you’re describing… as the mascot of those practices.

The accusations are equally false for all of us — those of us who have written books, and those who haven’t. But it’s especially unjust that your defaming of our family name endlessly stalks the lives of those that have done nothing that concerns you. Did you  know there are people who call for boycotts on our brothers’ businesses on the grounds that they sexually use their sisters? And that they link back  to overcomingbotkinsyndrome.com as their source for this lie? Did you know that even distantly-related family and friends run into major barriers in life on the grounds of being connected with a “Perverted family” –  and that you are the sole cited source for this? If you could have foreseen this sort of thing, and if the concern you claim to have for the welfare of innocent people is genuine, we can’t imagine that you would have pursued so heartless and thoughtless a maneuver to drive more traffic to your websites. 

This is why we can’t turn the other cheek any longer. You’re not just striking us; you’re striking the people we love, and with whom you have no quarrel. And we cannot allow this damage to them to continue.

Mrs. Kunsman, we’re appealing to you as a professing follower of Christ. (Editor’s note: Originally this had “Professional” It was a typo from transcription.) Scripture says if your brother sins against you, to appeal to him personally. You have sinned against us, and against people you don’t even know exist, by bearing false witness and slandering us. You have stolen from us – reputations, friendships, opportunities, business, sexual dignity and privacy, our very name. You have exploited us as your own profit.

We appeal to you, in the name of Christ, for His sake, for the sake of your sisters in Christ, and for the sake of your own cause: Please prove your compassion for the abused by not abusing us, our brothers, our sisters-in-law, our mother and father, or our nieces and nephews anymore. And please demonstrate your concern for truth by removing all libelous “information” and speculative accusations from your website.

We’re not asking you to stop trying to help real victims, but we are appealing to you to remove the name “Botkin” everywhere from your site except where you are honestly engaging our actual words –  and that includes every use of the term “Botkin Syndrome,” as well as all speculative “biographical” material about our family and our father.  Please inform us by January 22nd, 2019, of your plans for action, public retraction, and restitution. You can contact us at (removed email address for their own idiotic clamoring for “Privacy”)

We thank you in advance for doing the right thing. May God bless your endeavor to help set free those truly in bondage… and grant you healing from the hurts you have suffered at the hands of others.

In Christ,

Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Breathtakingly blaming, shaming, abusive, accusatory and demeaning. They just proved all of Cindy’s points about their lifestyle in this letter. This is Evangelical bullying at its finest. Clueless entitlement and bratty.

Here’s a thought. While there is a great deal I could say here let me just state I still hold a social workers licensure and challenge the Botkin sisters to allow me to examine them to see if Cindy’s words are true. Ball is in your court, Anna Sophia and Elizabeth. Are you strong enough to allow a real licensed mental health advocate to examine you?

Also, Cindy is not a psychiatrist. Those rules you oh so piously spouted do not apply to the personal opinions of anyone not a psychiatrist.


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About Suzanne Titkemeyer
Suzanne Titkemeyer went from a childhood in Louisiana to a life lived in the shadow of Washington D.C. For many years she worked in the field of social work, from national licensure to working hands on in a children's residential treatment center. Suzanne has been involved with helping the plights of women and children' in religious bondage. She is a ordained Stephen's Minister with many years of counseling experience. Now she's retired to be a full time beach bum in Tamarindo, Costa Rica with the monkeys and iguanas. She is also a thalassophile. She also left behind years in a Quiverfull church and loves to chronicle the worst abuses of that particular theology. She has been happily married to her best friend for the last 32 years. You can read more about the author here.

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