My Story of Incest and Religious Abuse
Copyright © 2013. All Rights reserved by Telling The Truth
NOTE: Some names have been changed in this account.
I was 14 before I discovered who I really was…the daughter of a sister worker from Texas. My biological Mother was Katherine Crane. While she was in the work in Mexico, she happened to be in a shoe shop at closing time. She invited the owner to gospel meetings. He was a married man with several children, and he raped her in a back room of his shop. I don’t know where her companion was at the time. When it was confirmed that she was pregnant, she deserted her companion and nobody knew why she left the work when she did or where she went. What could be worse for a sister worker–than to discover she was pregnant??
After returning to the States, Katherine contacted Dr. Wallace (Wally) Baldwin, a professing physician because she wanted some friends to adopt her baby. Meanwhile, she found work as a nanny for a couple and their children. Katherine was 41 years old when Dr. Baldwin delivered me on June 8, 1969. When I was three days old, I was adopted by my parents. I was the youngest of their four children.
Before they married, both my adoptive parents were workers. My Mom was born in Europe to professing parents, and she eventually went into the work, where she remained for about 5 years. My Father was born in West Africa, and he was not raised in “the truth.” His family was Roman Catholic. Both he and his brother, (Uncle Henry), went into the work in Africa after attending their first convention. I believe Uncle Henry stayed in the work for about 6 years and my Father for about 3 years.
My parents met at convention and were married sometime after World War II and immigrated to America. During World War II, Mom’s sister married an American soldier and they settled in America. My aunt found a large parcel of land on the West coast for my parents. Sight unseen, my parents sent her the money for a down-payment. My Father put all their belongings in a trailer and pulled it across the country behind their Rambler from the East coast to the West coast of America.
The Sunday and Wednesday meetings were placed in their home and my Father was appointed the elder. He built a home and a dormitory for the visiting workers who stayed with us a lot, since there were many elderly friends and widows in the field who were unable to care for them. Visiting foreign workers frequently stayed with us, sometimes for 2 weeks or longer. After awhile, both of my paternal Grandparents came to America and they lived in the bottom of the dormitory. My Grandmother died about 7 years later.
My Father started his own woodworking business. Through the years, my parents developed and subdivided their property into parcels, selling it off, pieces at a time. On some parcels, my Father built homes and sold them. They presently live on some of the property they originally purchased.
My parents had two sons and a one year old daughter. Dr. Baldwin, a professing doctor, contacted them about a baby girl who needed a home (me). Not knowing anyone else who wanted a baby girl at the time, he tried to persuade them to adopt me. He told them about my mother who wanted her baby girl to be raised in a professing home, etc. They eventually agreed to take me. Years later, Mom told me, “We figured we might as well adopt you–then we would have two boys and two girls.” This comment made me feel completely unloved and unwanted. When I learned that it really wasn’t my parents’ idea to adopt me, I felt like I was a burden on them, and I have felt this way all my life. As of August, 1996, my brother Gerald is 31, Richard is 29; my sister, Sally is 28, and I am 27.
On my Father’s birthday, Sally and I both professed in a meeting held in our home by Lee Irish and Duane Wong.** She was 8, and I was only 7. Both of us did it for our parents’ approval and to make them happy–not because we saw the light. Both my brothers had professed a couple years before. Our parents kept dropping hints that it was about time for us to profess. I was too young to read or understand the Bible at that time, so a half hour before meeting I would go to my parents’ room and ask them what I could say for my testimony. Most of the time I didn’t even understand what I was speaking about. I really had no clue. I wasn’t ever baptized.
Our home reflected European style culture, with French being our primary language. Mom’s cooking consisted mostly of European dishes. My parents drank wine or other alcoholic beverages with nearly every meal, which they also served to some of the workers who visited us. My Mom was partial to beer, while my Father was partial to wine. Mom waited on my Father hand-and-foot. Males were supreme in our household. My brothers never had to do the dishes–only girls did dishes. My sister and I not only had to keep our own rooms clean, but we also had to clean and pick up our brother’s rooms. A lot of things seem odd to me now about the way we were raised, but at the time, I thought this was normal. I didn’t know anything else.
We were very isolated. We lived in the country where neighbors were few and far between. The nearest town was 7 miles away, and it was so small it didn’t even have a stoplight until a few years ago, and this exciting news made the front page of the newspaper! The next town was 47 miles away.
My parents pretty much left us kids to our own recreational devices–so long as we stayed on our property. I remember good times playing together with my brothers and sister. John Sterling, a brother worker, stayed with us often, and would do things with us kids–like play basketball, or take us to the beach or hiking. We couldn’t spend the night in any of our friends’ homes, professing or otherwise. I recall my Father very reluctantly allowing my best friend to spend the night at my house only one time.
Our birthdays were always celebrated with a cake Mom made from scratch. Mom was a very good nurse and took such good care of us that being sick was almost a pleasant experience. Mom taught all of us kids, even my brothers, to knit and crochet, and I doubt anyone on this earth can knit any finer than my Mom.
Our family never took a vacation that I can remember. We only went to conventions, special meetings and on rare occasions, to visit relatives; i.e. Mom’s sister and her family, or my Father’s brother, Uncle Henry and his family. The highlight of my year was the time I spent each summer away from home with our professing relatives. My parents didn’t have any close friends. Once, when we were very small, my Father went back to West Africa with my Grandfather and brought back each of us kids a bottle of Spain Air. He acted like this was really special. In June of 1993, Richard and Dad took to West Africa, which Richard paid for. Mom has never been back to Europe since they immigrated to America.
We didn’t really celebrate Christmas. Mom would put some unwrapped Christmas gifts for each of us on a chair with our name taped on it. I usually got a dress from the Goodwill store–never a doll or toys. Christmas was not something we looked forward to with much anticipation. Except for the summer trips to my relatives, I really never looked forward to anything, except getting away from home someday.
There weren’t any young people in our meeting. The only time we saw other kids from professing families was at gospel meetings, conventions and special meetings. While other kids were allowed to sit with their friends at meetings and conventions, the four of us had no choice. We had to sit with our parents, and oh, how we hated this! My parents would allow our friends to come and sit with us on our row, however. Dad built a bed and bunk beds in our van, and all of our family spent the night in it at convention. When my brothers were older, they stayed in a tent pitched next to the van. Later on, Sally and I slept in the tent. Finally, Sally was permitted to sleep in the women’s dorm, but as usual, I had to wait my turn, since I was younger. The last convention I went to with my parents was the first time I was allowed to stay in the dorm. I was about 15.
I don’t ever remember my parents arguing or having a fight in front of us kids. My Father was King, and we all knew it, including Mom. Make no mistake about it! My Father was stern, strict, formidable and unapproachable. His Word was Law. He commanded authority. We were never to question him or hold an opinion different from his. We tried hard not to cross him, and were all deathly afraid of him. He had 5 or 6 switches he used to spank us. One had thin leather straps on the end. He made a solid oak paddle that he sanded and stained in his shop.
When the workers came, he would proudly show them the collection of paddles, switches and whips which he kept hanging on the wall in front Sally’s and my bedroom. I suspect he kept them there to intimidate us. “That’s how we control the children,” he would boast to the workers. We were allowed to choose which one we wanted to be used on us. Thanks for small favors! Then my Father would have Mom spank us. I don’t recall my Father ever actually spanking us himself. When one of us got in trouble–often all four of us got a spanking. Consequently, I rarely spank my children and use only my hands when I do. I prefer to take privileges away or make them stand in a corner.
I had difficulty in school with math. I remember Mom having me sit at the table and hitting me on the head every time I didn’t get an answer right. John Sterling, who was around for much of my childhood, recently commented that my parents were “rough and strict” with us kids. John convinced my father that it would be alright for us go out for sports. The high school we attended was not large–about 100 kids total. The only sports I could participate in were the sports my siblings had been in. They had all played basketball, but I wasn’t good at basketball. I had to beg and beg before they would let me go out for track. Then before my parents would buy me a pair of PUMA sneakers required for track, I had to chop a whole cord of wood.
My Father said Sally and I could date when we started high school, but when the time came, he reneged and changed the date to when we would turn 16. When we reached our 16th birthday, he changed it to our 18th birthdays. Even after we became teenagers, we were not allowed to answer the telephone or make calls to our friends. My Father screened our calls for boys, and he would tell boys who called us, “No, you can’t speak to her.” However, when girls called to speak to either of my brothers, they were allowed to talk to them. My brothers could even date outsiders!
My Father insisted that Sally and I wear dresses to school (no slacks) every day–I suppose to hold up the standards of the kingdom. When we were young, and our schoolmates asked us about this, we would lie and tell them it was because we liked dresses and thought they were pretty. Later we told the truth–that we wore dresses because our parents made us wear them–because we had to. Wearing dresses actually caused us to receive more attention since it caused the boys to be intrigued with us. Sally and I were both voted Best Dressed Girl. I could wear slacks only when I went blackberry picking (to protect my legs); or when I helped my brothers with the wood. One time in third grade, I sneaked my pants to school and put them on, and Sally ratted on me to Dad, and Mom spanked me.
I was voted Sophomore Class Representative, and my brother, Richard, was elected Student Body President the same year. My father was delighted with Richard’s victory but angry about mine. His comment was something to the effect, “That’s a boy’s job. Why would you want to do that?” Sally and Richard were the favored children in our family. I realize this will sound like I am biased, have an ax to grind, or was jealous, but this was the way things really were. My parents played us kids off against each other and still do. Gerald and I were constantly being compared to Sally and Richard, and usually came out on the short end of the stick. I always felt I was a bad girl, the black sheep. My parents reserved their compliments for Sally and Richard. The only compliment I ever remember my Father giving me was that I was a hard worker, when I helped my brother, Richard, chop wood, or helped Mom weed the garden. Perhaps they were harder on Gerald and me because we were more vocal.
I always wanted to take piano lessons–but they wouldn’t let me. They said I didn’t need to do that–that Sally played the piano. They said I had no musical ability. They said “no” when I wanted to play the clarinet in school. Sally got to play the flute; one of my brothers played the saxophone and the other brother the trumpet. But supposedly, I had no musical ability, and was never allowed to even try to play a musical instrument. They never really gave me a chance to see if I had any musical ability. The family of my biological mother is very talented musically.
My parents made a big deal out of being fair to Sally. For instance, “it wouldn’t have been fair to Sally” if I got to do everything at the same time she did. I had to wear socks and didn’t get to wear nylons or heels for two years after Sally did, even though I was only one year younger. Since I was an early developer, and Sally was a slow developer, this policy caused me untold embarrassment. My needs always seemed to be considered last. We weren’t allowed to exercise any individuality.
For the most part, I had an utterly miserable childhood. Quite early, I developed the belief that I was a bad person. Actually, I wasn’t a bad child–I was a child in pain. I felt I was unlovable and believed I was unwanted. It was clear to me that I was not only a very unimportant person, but also rather undesirable. Helplessness, hopelessness, rejection, sadness, fear and self-hatred were words and concepts too big for me to verbalize, but they were feelings I experienced every day. I felt different, weird, a misfit, like a total outcast. No matter how much I tried, I could never be as good as everyone else. I just didn’t measure up. I felt I was deficient–somehow defective and inadequate.
I was chronically sad and spent countless nights crying myself to sleep and wishing the pain would go away. I felt so alone, totally rejected. I didn’t think anyone cared about me, and I was sure no one really loved me. Why was I even born? I had long talks with God. Sometimes I was mad at God for my intolerable situation. I hurt so badly–please God, let me feel better. I just wanted some relief, to numb the pain. I’ve always had an empty space in me that craved to be filled with love, acceptance and appreciation. I have this fear that nobody is ever going to really love me–that I’m unlovable, and I still feel this way today. Sometimes I fantasized about finding someone who would really listen to me. Someone I could open my heart and bare my soul to, someone who would really believe me, and take my part. I was so helpless. If only someone would listen to me and believe me…I felt so totally ALONE!
So I returned and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter. Ecclesiastes 4:1
For as long as I can remember, from the time we were toddlers, my Father molested Sally and me, but not our brothers. I remember one night when I was about 5 years old, my Father came to my room and told me to come with him. He put me in bed with Mom and him, and told me to be quiet. I remember very vividly the red and white checkered curtains on their bedroom windows. I could hear the zoo animals next door. I was afraid to breathe, and I held my breath for as long as I could…while my Father fondled me. I was scared Mom would wake up.
I almost failed third grade. My teacher said I was spacey. What child wouldn’t be, with all that was going on in my life at home? After Sally and I professed, whenever we heard my Father coming down the hall to say good-night, we would get down on our knees and pretend to pray, hoping if he saw us praying, he would leave us alone.
My parents work hard to appear to be someone other than who they really are. They are actually quite wealthy, but you wouldn’t know it, and they don’t want it known. They act like misers, always pinching pennies. Although my Father was super tight-fisted and frugal, he would take Sally shopping at all the best stores for brand new, feminine clothes with lace and ruffles. I figured he was trying to make up to Sally for what he was doing to her; buying her off; keeping her silent and compliant. Because of the differences in our height, I couldn’t wear Sally’s hand-me-downs. The Goodwill Store was where Mom and I had to shop for our clothes. Mom also made a lot of my clothes–she is an excellent seamstress.
When Sally and I needed lingerie, including our first bras, it was always my Father who took us shopping. He would pick out the pieces he liked and find our size for us. We had absolutely no privacy. He insisted on seeing how they looked and fit, so we had to open the fitting room door and show him. Even though my Father encouraged Sally and me not to wear our underpants to bed (said our bodies needed the air), I wouldn’t go to bed without mine. I was afraid my Father would construe this as an open invitation. To this day, I sleep with them on.
My Father’s shop was located in the front of our property, and our home was situated a ways behind that. After the school bus dropped us off, we all had to report to the shop where my parents were usually working. It was our custom to kiss each of them Hello and Good-bye on the cheek. When I was young, I was usually sent to my bedroom for a nap. Sometimes, my Father would whisper to me to go get undressed and lay on my top bunk bed and wait for him. He would then give Mom a task to do in the shop which took a great deal of time. Then she would stay there working, while he went to the house.
As I waited for him with the door closed, I would try hard to fall asleep. I could recognize the footsteps coming down the hall of every family member. As he would turn the doorknob and come into my bedroom, my body would stiffen. He would close the door very quietly and lock it. I kept my eyes tightly squeezed shut. Hardly breathing, I pretended to be sleeping (sometimes, he left me alone if I were asleep.) I knew I couldn’t stop what was coming. I had no rights. I wanted to shout at him to leave me alone, but what good would it do?
He would slip his hand under the covers, and begin fondling my body, over-developed for my age. I would recoil from his touch, and my stomach would turn into knots. I absolutely HATED him. Why couldn’t he be my Dad and love me WITHOUT doing this to me? He would massage my stomach and chest. I would hold my legs together as tight and stiff as I could, but it was no use resisting–he was stronger than me. He would TAKE what he wanted–what he came for, time and time again. Eventually his hands would reach his goal, and I would feel my private area being violated by his fingers. Tears of frustration, despair and shame would slide silently down my face. Sometimes, he had oral sex with me or forced me to do the same with him. He would ejaculate into a coffee can he always brought with him. I will never forget that can. He would pour a little Pine-sol into the bottom of it. (To this day, I cannot stand the smell of, nor will I EVER use Pine-sol as a cleaning agent.) Oh, how I HATED him! I felt dirty.
Afterward, he would say the words that declare, as no other words can, that he knew full well what he was doing was very, very wrong: ”Don’t ever tell anyone.” And specifically, I was not to let Mom know because it would hurt her, and to remember how easily her stomach was upset. After he left, I would put my clothes back on and lay in bed until dinner, often crying myself to sleep. I will say that he didn’t treat me mean or cruel; he made an effort to be gentle and was fairly considerate, if that word can be used under the circumstances.
The first time my Father had full intercourse with me, I was 11. Shortly after that, I developed ulcers. I wanted to build up my muscles for track, so I started lifting weights. While I was using the bench press, my Father came into the weight room carrying his coffee can and raped me right there on the bench press. He ejaculated into his coffee can as usual. There was no way I could move or fight him off with the weights down on me. I remember worrying that Mom would come in and see him–and blame ME. Afterwards, I was sore. In front of the whole family, I told my Father that I hurt inside down there. He told me it was probably because a tampon had broken my hymen, and Mom agreed this was not uncommon.
Afterwards, I felt dirty, so very dirty. I felt like everyone knew what had happened to me and was looking at me–even though I knew better. I felt different from others. After my Father accosted me a second time in the weight room, I quit lifting weights. Whatever it took…I wanted to stop this from happening at all costs. Regarding sports, I suffered, but it was worth it. I wasn’t going to make it easy for him.
About this time in school we were learning about pregnancy and birth control. I was very afraid of getting pregnant. We never discussed it, but I felt like if I did become pregnant that my Father’s solution would be abortion. As a teenager, I lived in fear that he would get me pregnant and would let everyone believe that I was the one at fault; that I was a bad girl. I knew he wouldn’t own up to his part or take any of the blame. No, it would all fall back on me, the rebellious daughter, the black sheep.
Our parents never talked with us about premarital sex, pregnancy, birth control, venereal diseases, etc. Everything I learned came from books or health class in school, and unfortunately, from personal experience with my Father. I knew that Nice Girls Don’t Do It. I knew it wasn’t right to have sex before marriage–yet I wasn’t given a choice. My very own Father, an elder in “the Truth,” a pillar in the church, a former worker, forced himself upon my sister and me frequently. We had no rights. We never had a chance to be nice girls. This was taken from us, and we would never be able to feel nice.
When I was about 7 or 8 years old, my Father’s Dad who lived in the dorm on our property, (my professing Grandfather) asked me to sit on his lap and give him a hug; then he molested me. I managed to avoid him after that, and he left me alone for awhile. He never bothered Sally though. When I was about 14, he managed to corner me and have full intercourse. That was the last time I ever visited him before he died. We were taught we were supposed to forgive all when a person dies. I lived with guilt for a long time because I couldn’t forgive him for what he had done to me. My Grandfather died in May, 1985.
Sally and I never really talked to each other about my Father’s incestuous behavior until recently, though I suspected what he was doing to her for a long time. When Sally balked, my Father sometimes stood before her holding a gun to his own head, and threatened to blow his brains out. Now, I know that this is actually a very common tactic used by incestuous fathers. Another common one is: I will have to kill us both if you ever tell our secret. It probably didn’t occur to Sally not to believe him, or that he was bluffing. My Father also told Sally that he had hidden notes in places that said if he died a violent death, to look to Sally; that she had driven him to kill himself. He made her believe everyone would think she forced him into killing himself. I asked Sally why she worried about Dad killing himself–that if he had threatened me in that way, I would have told him: Go ahead–good riddance. She said she wasn’t as brave as I was.
Children who are Victims of incest don’t know that we can’t help what we feel–we just feel it. But we ARE personally responsible for our actions and reactions. It is not unusual for a child molester to try to make his Victim feel responsible for the Abuser’s happiness, life and death. The Abuser is desperate to place the blame elsewhere to avoid being blamed or facing his own shame. The child is often too young to realize that what the Abuser does with his life is totally HIS choice and responsibility–not hers; and that she doesn’t hold the power of life and death over him–he does. She does not have control over his living or his dying–he does. Nor is she responsible for what he does in his anger at her refusal or rejection–he is.
My Father used different tactics to keep me quiet and enslaved to him. He threatened to tell everyone what a rebellious child I was; how terrible I was to raise; that they wished they had never adopted me because I was too much trouble; that I was always causing problems and wouldn’t listen to them, etc. He manipulated me by playing on my low self-esteem, my shame that I was unlovable, inadequate and deficient. For a long time I felt like everything that was done to me was totally my fault; as if I was asking for it. I felt a terrible shame and guilt inside me about my forced participation. I don’t know why–it doesn’t make sense when I think about it now–but I was just a child, and that’s how I felt. Totally and completely at fault. I knew I wasn’t supposed to do this, and felt bad about it. Yet, when I fought him or balked, I paid for it and was made to suffer. He was vengeful and still is. For instance, he would refuse to let me go to my friend’s house; or refuse to let me try out for sports, but let all my siblings do so. He still attempts to control and manipulate me–he has threatened to take me out of their will.
Some trivialize child molestation and rape, especially if it was a one-time event. Some ask: “What’s the big deal? She would have lost her virginity sooner or later anyway.” It only takes one event–one act of molestation–to shatter trust and to steal virginity. Once it’s done–it’s done. It’s irrevocable. There is no going back. Virginity cannot be replaced. This one event changes a woman’s life forever. Virginity is a priceless gift. A woman has the right to give the gift of her Virginity to whomever she chooses. The law even protects this right for her. It’s a CRIME to steal this from her. It should be her choice. Losing her virginity can be either very positive or very negative to a woman or child. If it’s by molestation, it’s degrading and devastating. If she was violated–given no choice or voice, she has every right to be angry, to demand justice. Her precious, irreplaceable possession was seized and confiscated from her by someone she trusted. This will affect her for all her life and make it very difficult for her to trust others.
MY ADOPTIVE MOTHER (Judith)
My adoptive Mother is a typical European wife. Whatever my Father says or wants–his wish is her command. Her needs and wants don’t count, aren’t considered, don’t matter. She stands by his side. Period. Although she says she is not intimidated by him, her behavior makes it obvious that she fears him on some levels. The main thing I remember about Mom from my childhood was her frequent vomiting. I’m sure Mom had ulcers. She left the work because of stomach problems. I’d often go to her at those times, and ask her if she was alright. She would always say she was fine. For some reason, I felt sort of responsible for her stomach problems. Mom’s face is etched with anger and pain. I don’t recall ever seeing happiness shining from her eyes. John Sterling told me that he can see the pain and unhappiness expressed in her face, and what a terrible thing it must be for her to live like that. I truly wish she could be happy.
Although my Father had a woodworking shop, when I left home, Mom’s kitchen still had only shelves–not one cabinet. This changed only when Gerald filled Mom’s kitchen with beautiful new cabinets. Mom’s escape from reality was to bury her head in a Harlequin romance novel–she has a whole closet full of them. My Father was the one who kissed us kids “Good Night,” not Mom. My parents never told any of us, “I love you.” I make sure I tell my children at least once a day that I love them. At times, I have felt close to my Mom. I believe she loved us in her own way. Mostly I feel sorry for her, because she doesn’t deserve to live like this. I long for her to know true happiness some day and to have the freedom to live the way she chooses.
While we were growing up, Mom seemed to just ignore my Father’s misconduct with Sally and me. She HAD to know about it–the whole family couldn’t help but suspect something was going on that shouldn’t be. Once I asked Mom, “Don’t you know what’s going on? Why does Dad have to be in Sally’s room with the door locked until 11:00 at night? Why isn’t he here with YOU–you’re his wife. You know what’s going on, don’t you?” Mom gave her usual reply, “I don’t want to hear it–you get out of here right now.” That was always her response–Leave! She didn’t want to hear or talk about it. She was in total denial.
I even threatened once to climb on the rooftop and look down into the skylight into Sally’s room with a camera to prove my suspicions were correct. The next day all the ladders had disappeared. I know–I remember I looked for them. When one of my brothers became suspicious, he rummaged around in my Father’s things and ran across some pictures of Sally in Junior High, naked and posed provocatively. My brother never let on about what he had seen. My Father also took some movie pictures of me in grade school on the beach without my clothes.
I feel betrayed by my Mom. Why didn’t she take up for us against my Father? We loved and trusted her, and she let us down. Why, Mom, Why? I wonder when she first discovered what my Father was doing to Sally and me, what did she think and feel? Did she feel betrayed by him–or us–or both? Hurt? Angry? Jealous? Furious? This was the unspeakable, something that couldn’t be shared–so she had no place to turn, no one she could tell. Like the rest of us, she feared him. Is that why she became blind and deaf to the tell-tale signs? So she wouldn’t have to deal with it? Did she think if she didn’t know for SURE, that she wouldn’t be held responsible? Being in “the truth,” divorce was out of the question; besides, how would she have supported herself and/or us? How would she make a living? She was between a rock and a hard place. How did she see the situation? Or did she just refuse to see it? Denial.
However, when Mom didn’t stand up for us, she took his side, and aided and abetted the enemy. Silence is not golden! Maybe my Father lied to her about the situation and because she wanted so badly to believe it wasn’t really happening, she believed him. Did he distort the picture as though Sally and I had seduced him? Did he make her think it was OUR fault somehow? That we somehow caused him to do it? That we invited it upon ourselves? Did he manipulate her so she felt WE betrayed HER? Who did she think was in the wrong? Her daughters or her husband? Or did she think at all? Was she numb?
To Gerald, Mom once stated, “Oh well, the girls wanted it.” When you’re a toddler, you don’t even know what sex is–much less want it. Children do not seduce adults–immature adults seduce children. She recently wrote in a letter: In my opinion, your Dad was often too lenient with you girls. If he had been any more severe, I don’t know how we would have made it!
I advised Sally, “You don’t HAVE to do everything he is telling you to do. You are a person. You have a right to say NO. You don’t HAVE to do this. This is your body. He can’t do this to you.” She didn’t want to talk about it. That’s the way she usually was. Everyone was that way. “Mum” was the word. I couldn’t understand why no one was willing to talk with me about this. I think maybe Sally was just so humiliated and scared that she was afraid to speak up. My Father had a real strong hold over her. Sally is not the confrontational type. They called me rebellious because I would speak up, but there was a whole lot more to it than that! At one point I became really concerned and worried for Sally’s safety. I thought if we banded together, maybe we could get him to stop. Sally refused. In my disappointment that Sally wouldn’t take a stand with me, I wrote a poem I called Restless Anger in October, 1995. Often when I wake up in the middle of night and can’t sleep, I write poetry. It’s good therapy for me.
Quietness fills my life,
But anger is deep inside
Trying to escape
The corners of my mind.
The restless anger builds
With hostility and pain.
My heart cries out,
But no help is willed.
It is time for peace.
No struggle…at last.
For my hardened heart
Has let the restless anger cease.
Children are often curious about their parents’ sex life, and I was no exception. My parents’ bedroom was off limits for us kids. I wondered if they even had sex. Was my Father’s sexual outlet just with Sally and me? Was it because there were problems in their bedroom that he turned to his daughters? Personally, I think my Father was sick long before he and my mother ever married. It’s commonly known that the majority of Child Molesters have either been sexually or physically abused. After I married Victor, Mom would sometimes talk to me very openly about her sex life. It was almost like she was boasting, like she wanted me to feel jealous.
If we wanted something, anything, even a candy bar, we had to work for it. We worked for everything. To go swimming, we FIRST had to pick a gallon of blackberries. If it was money we wanted, my Father would give it to us and then put the amount on an account he kept for each of us kids. We received credits for work we did. Sometimes he offered to take a certain amount off my account if I would perform some sexual service for him without resisting.
For a while, Sally took care of the children of the couple who ran the Forest Patrol and lived next to our property. There were usually a lot of young guys on hand in case there was a forest fire. My Father was so incredibly, insanely jealous that he made me a proposition. He would credit my account some AND he wouldn’t force himself on me anymore IF I would spy on Sally and report to him. He bought me a telescope, which I still have. I would take the telescope on my bike on the trails, set it up and watch Sally who was in the house taking care of the kids. Sally knew what I was doing, and she never did anything worth reporting. I was never paid, nor did he stop molesting me.
When I was about 12, I went with a girlfriend to an Easter Seals camp as a volunteer. When I returned, my Father asked me, “What did you do while you were up there?” I replied that I had helped serve food and helped people in wheel chairs. Proudly, I told how I saved one girl from actually drowning. He said, “No, I mean about the boys. Did the boys teach you anything?” Then he grabbed me and stuck his tongue way down my throat. “Did any of them do THAT to you?” I was SHOCKED! I said, YUCK!! Then I went and brushed my teeth until they hurt and my gums bled.
Appearances were given a high priority around our home. My parents put on a totally different face for the workers and friends. Inwardly our home was just like Jesus described the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:27-28: “…hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”
John Bradshaw has written that “a family is as sick as their secrets.” Our image of “the perfect professing family” was an utter farce, a masquerade. It existed only if the truth were kept secret. My Father tried to make it appear to others that all of his kids were crazy about him. Actually, we took pains to stay out of his way, and he rarely interacted with any of us. Secrets breed sickness. Our family is a very sick family–full of deep, dark secrets. I reasoned that if I must keep something a secret–then it must be wrong, and that means I am bad for doing it.
When the workers visited, my parents had a rule that we children had to stay in the same room with them for one hour, and act interested in what was being said; then we could ask to be excused and escape. I remember once when I was about 11 years old and the workers were at our house, I told everyone that I didn’t believe “the truth” was God’s Only Way. I said I knew a lot of good people out there who are going to Heaven who weren’t in “the truth.” They responded with, “Well, it’s more than just being good.” Mom glared at me with her look that meant, You just wait until the workers leave, young lady! And I knew I was in for it–again. Always saying plainly what I thought–and getting in trouble for it. Irrepressible.
I never really had any close friends in “the truth,” but that didn’t bother me. I preferred it that way actually. I felt more comfortable with outsiders than the friends. My closest friend was my cousin, Ronnie, who was about 5 years older than I. He and his sister were aware of how my Father molested me, and they believed me. They told their father, Uncle Henry, who confronted my Father. Well! My Father was so furious with Uncle Henry–that he would even consider such a thing might be true–that he wouldn’t speak to Uncle Henry for a couple months.
Sally and my brothers all moved away from home as soon as possible after they turned 18. Naturally, my Father made SURE their accounts had a zero balance before they left. Surprisingly, my Father didn’t hold a shotgun to his head and threaten to kill himself when Sally announced she was going to marry a professing man, although he did complain he felt sick at her wedding. When my brothers left home, they left meetings also; one now claims to be agnostic. After what happened to Sally and me, is it any wonder that NOT ONE of us kids will let our children visit our parents without our being present?
MY FIRST BOYFRIEND
My Father kept Sally and me on a very tight leash up until the day we left home. We could not date or talk to boys on the telephone. Of course, we ingenuously found ways to be together. Our brothers helped us sneak out some by taking us with them somewhere, and then dropping us off with our friends. My Father usually read my mail. Sometimes a boy would ask me if I’d received his letter, and I’d find out that he had confiscated my mail, again.
When I was a freshman in high school, I fell in love, for the first time, with a senior named Darin. My Father, who is extremely prejudiced didn’t like Darin, who was Chinese, Filipino and Hawaiian. Since we only saw each other in the library and in a few classes we shared, we wrote notes. My Father was snooping around in my room one day, found some notes Darin had written me and took them–he stole them from me! This made me absolutely furious! I just couldn’t let my Father do this to me–ruin the best thing that had ever happened to me (Darin). I had just about reached the end of my rope.
The last time my Father molested me, I was 14. One morning he came in my room to wake me up for school. I was lying on my stomach. He started rubbing my back. Then he pulled my underwear down and started working his hand down my bottom and into my crotch. I woke up completely when his finger penetrated me. Propelled by rage, I stood up on my bed, pointed my finger at him and screamed, “You are never, EVER going to touch me again, or I will kill you. I’ll tell everybody at convention what you’re doing while you’re there, unless you find my real Mother and get me out of here, because you’re not doing that to me again. And I know you are doing it to Sally, too.” It worked! He never touched me again from that day forward. I just wish I had threatened to broadcast it a lot sooner!
I started seriously seeking a way out of my dilemma. I just HAD to get away from home. My cousin, Ronnie Gordon who was living in San Francisco at the time invited me to come live with him. However, I would have had to quit school, go to work and support myself. Getting my high school diploma was important to me, so I didn’t take him up on his offer. Ronnie talked to the brother workers in his area about what my Father was doing to me. They said they couldn’t help him; it wasn’t in their field. But the matter was mentioned workers in our area and the brother workers in her Dad’s field came to visit. There was an exchange that led to a promise from my Father to cease and desist. Sister workers were sent to monitor the situation. However, they never once checked with me personally.
I told Darin and his parents how my Father had been abusing me. They didn’t hesitate at all to believe me, and what’s more, they were even worried about my safety! But they didn’t call the authorities, the child protective services, the ones who could have really helped me. Eventually, I went to live with Darin’s parents for six months while he was away at college. My Father actually let me go! During this time, my Father was supposed to be trying to locate my biological mother.
I decided to talk to the guidance counselor at my high school. Well, the counselor didn’t believe my Father was molesting me. He thought I was just making it all up because my Father wouldn’t let me date my boyfriend. He pointed out that my Father was a pillar in the community, a prominent businessman, and had a church in his home–as if that proved anything! If only the counselor had taken me seriously. If he had just believed me!
I was crushed and devastated when the counselor discounted my experience and implied that I must be mistaken or imagining things and as good as accused me of lying. I buried my secret and I wouldn’t risk telling someone and being doubted again for a long, long time. His response had a powerful impact on me. Afterwards, I kind of shut down. I felt like no one would ever believe me. Everything seemed so hopeless. My Father was so prominent and powerful. I felt so defenseless against him. I felt beaten down. Little bitty ME over against my big, powerful, wealthy Father. Would anyone ever believe me and take my side?
He had everyone fooled. The workers from overseas stayed with us a lot and they all seemed to think very highly of him. It didn’t even enter my mind to tell any of them. I saw them as his allies–they were a “part of him.” They put my Father up so high on a pedestal that I felt there was no way they would believe me if I had considered telling them. I was sure they would assume I had an ulterior motive. There didn’t seem to be any way I could fight him and win.
The only way out that I could think of was to threaten him and somehow get away. Often, Victims of incest or molestation won’t continue to look for a responsible adult to tell if the first person to whom they risk telling their story doesn’t believe them. The chief thing I would say to anyone being molested is to keep on bravely telling your story until you find someone who believes you, takes you seriously, and helps you! Don’t let someone who doesn’t believe you keep you from talking to others. SCREAM LOUDER!
...a time to keep silence, and a time to speak (Eccles 3:7)
WHAT TIME IS THIS?
MY BIOLOGICAL MOTHER (Katherine)
After what seemed an eternity, my Father finally located my biological Mother, Katherine Crane on the East coast. She was still professing and had married an ex-worker. They had no children. She is from a well-respected, long-time large professing family and some of her siblings and nieces are or were workers. She did not return to the work after she gave birth to me. She told me, “That wouldn’t have been right.” What did she mean? If she was an innocent Victim, why wouldn’t it have been right?
Of course, my Father wasn’t about to tell Katherine the truth about why I wanted to come and live with her all of a sudden. So he told her that I had always dreamed of finding her, which was true. And that our school budget in the community where we lived had failed, and that it was very important to me to continue my education and get my diploma. One solution that had occurred to us was for me to go and live with her until I graduated. She agreed to this.
So, in November of 1985, when I was 16, I moved to go live with my real Mother. In the car on the way to the airport as I was leaving, my Dad reminded me that I still owed $250 on my account–and he wasn’t teasing either! I was the only one in my family who still owed my folks money when they left home. Not wanting to be in debt to my Father ANYTHING, I told Katherine about it, and she sent my Father a check for $250 to pay off my debt. He cashed it.
I was hoping my Mother would come to the airport for our first meeting by herself, but she brought along her husband, Ernest W. (Ernie) Crooks. At my first sight of her, I thought, “Oh man, am I ever in trouble!” She was prim and proper and looked exactly like a sister worker. She gave me a fairly stiff hug and I hugged Ernie too, because I wanted to welcome him into my life. Although I planned to try to make the best that I could out of everything, I sensed a coldness in her towards me that bothered me. The ride home was pretty quiet. We talked mostly about my flight. In their small one bedroom apartment, I was to use a partitioned-off corner of their living room for my space, and was given a bed, desk and chest-cabinet.
Katherine used the school situation back home as her explanation for my presence in their home. The friends and others considered me, more or less, as a foster daughter. I stubbornly insisted on calling Katherine, “Mom.” Some of the friends heard me and asked, “Why do you call her Mom?” I refused to lie and said, “Because she IS my Mom, that’s why.” This really embarrassed her since she didn’t want the friends to know that I was her daughter.
I confided to Katherine that my Father had molested me. She asked him, “This really didn’t happen to Debi, did it?” Of course, he said, “No, she’s making that up.” And he gave her some nonsense about his being a worker once, and what wonderful people they were. After SHE didn’t believe me, I didn’t tell anyone else about my incestuous Father until I was 18. I had no reason to tell. No one would help me. Who would believe me? My own Mother, who supposedly had been raped herself, didn’t even believe me or sympathize with me. I had no one to turn to. Eventually, I did tell the man I was going to marry. To his credit, he took me seriously, although it hurt him to hear it, and made it difficult for him to be around my Father.
I had always been curious about my past, so I asked Katherine if it was true that she had actually been raped, and had she had fought back? She said she hadn’t fought, and that she really didn’t want to talk about it. And that was the end of that. I never got any answers. From that point on, I felt closed out because she wouldn’t talk to me about this matter, which was so important to me. If she really had been raped, why didn’t she have empathy for me being raped by my Father? I had entertained such high hopes for my life in this new setting, and I was disappointed, of course. I never felt she really cared about me. I never felt a sense of love–just a sense of obligation. I lived with them for 1-1/2 years, and never felt close to her at all. How can you feel close to someone who doesn’t believe you??? I mulled things over, and I figured it this way. I wasn’t being sexually abused. I was given a chance to start all over in a totally new setting, FAR away from my Father. I would just make the best of the situation–the best that I could.
For the first time in my life, I began to really try hard in school. I was proud of the first report card I ever received with straight “A”s. However, Katherine never even acknowledged my good grades. I proudly made a copy of my report card and sent it to my parents. They never said a word about my excellent grades either. I wondered, “So why am I trying so hard?” I wanted so much for someone to see some good in me. But my Mother was far more concerned that I didn’t wear my hair in a bun, or wear dresses every day, and because I wore bright colors and slacks. I often wore a red turtleneck which totally annoyed her. She did not approve of the light make-up I wore or my bangs. For my job at an ice skating rink, I was required to wear black slacks with a white shirt and a red jacket.
It was inevitable–she asked the workers to come and talk to me. I let the two brother workers know that she was my biological Mother, and that they were wasting their time. They let me know that they thought I was rebellious, and that they didn’t think my job was suitable for a professing girl. Couldn’t I find another job where I wouldn’t have to wear pants? They also had this real big “color thing” back East, and brought up the red clothes I sometimes wore. I said if they had a problem with red, then that was their problem, not mine. Maybe they should talk to God about it–He created all the colors, including red. Look at all the beautiful red flowers. They objected to my bangs. I objected to their being judgmental. I asked them, “Why does it matter to you what I wear since I obviously don’t really profess in your eyes anyway?” And furthermore, I told them that I was not going to take part in any more meetings. And from that point on, I didn’t. EVER. Katherine forced me to go to meetings, but I refused to even sing.
Both my adoptive parents were Republicans and voted in elections. I was quite interested in politics, so I asked Katherine if she was planning to vote in an upcoming election. She told me that professing people usually didn’t vote–that it’s all in God’s hands anyway. He takes care of everything, and we really don’t have any control over it. He knows how the election will turn out before it even takes place. She was appalled when I encouraged her to exercise her right to vote.
I began to date Bobby, a black man who was five years my senior. As you might guess, Katherine objected strenuously, and my Father acted like I was doing something criminal. Unfortunately, I became pregnant by Bobby when I was 17. Even though he was my first sexual partner (besides my Father), I felt promiscuous. My Father, an ex-worker and elder, advised me that probably the best thing for me to do was to have an abortion. Of course, anything would have been preferable to him than to have to recognize a half-black grandchild! After the nightmare I experienced from being adopted by my incestuous Father, I did not feel I could put my child at risk by giving it up for adoption. I chose the abortion route. Bobby and I each paid for one-half. Katherine never knew anything about it, to my knowledge. Although I have grieved over this, I still feel I made the right decision at the time. My views on abortion have changed some in the years since though.
Even though I was not professing, I still felt guilty because of some things I was doing. During this time, I talked to my Father about a lot of personal things in my life, which turned out to be a HUGE mistake. My Father was the one person I felt would probably not judge me, after all he had done. NOT! Was I ever WRONG! He betrayed my confidences and blabbed them to several people who knew me. To this day, he still uses these confidences against me, like a club, usually to paint me a little blacker, and to make himself look better. I felt utterly betrayed by him. It was a very difficult time in my life. I don’t know why I went to him in the first place. Overwhelmed with my problems, maybe I hoped he would finally be the Daddy I needed and always wanted him to be, and that he would help me feel better. But I just don’t believe it’s possible for him to feel empathy for anyone besides himself.
Katherine threatened to send me back to live with my adoptive parents if I didn’t stop seeing Bobby. Of course, I adamantly refused to go. After her threat, I slashed my wrists. They were called “superficial wounds.” I wasn’t really trying to kill myself–it was a cry for help and understanding. Katherine put me in a mental hospital for a month, and from there I went into counseling. She felt she couldn’t deal with me, and she still wanted to send me back home. However, the counselor believed me when I told her about my Father’s incest, and she would not allow her to send me back. So I stayed.
It was such a relief to finally have the counselor, an authority figure, believe me; someone who didn’t think it was all my fault. I found out what had happened to me actually had nothing to do with me personally; that I was a Victim, and I had done nothing to deserve the treatment I had received. I was not to blame. I was not at fault. I did not bring this upon myself through some fault of my own. I had nothing to be ashamed of. I was forced to participate. I had no choice.
I saved the money I made working at my two jobs, and flew back home for a visit, timing it so I could go to convention and see my friends there. The time I spent on my trip in my adoptive parents’ home was strained. Mom seemed angry with me, I suppose for choosing not to live with them anymore.
Katherine’s husband, Earnie was an ex-worker and a manic depressive. He was on medication and did not work. She fretted over him and called him several times a day from her work, as a computer operator. One time I asked her if they ever had sex. She said they didn’t have that kind of relationship; and that before they married, she had asked Ernie if he could accept her, knowing she had a daughter. If he could, she could accept him being a manic depressive. And that was the basis under which they entered their marriage.
While I was living with them, Ernie tried to commit suicide several times. This meant he was often sick and in and out of the hospital. Katherine lavished her attention on him; doting, coddling, babying and fretting over him. But she was embarrassed and tried to hide it that Ernie went to a psychiatrist. She was always so wrapped up in him and his problems that she had little time left over to spare for me. He got her undivided attention. My hopes for a relationship with my mother were thwarted, and I was growing more and more disappointed and resentful.
I didn’t even think she would miss me if I wasn’t there, so I left while Ernie was in the hospital. I was 17. My girlfriend and I went to New York where we drank ourselves into oblivion. However, this time Ernie succeeded–he died from drinking a combination of bleach, mineral oil, Drano, Lysol and other things usually found under the sink.
After Ernie died, I came back and lived with Katherine for awhile. I don’t look anything like her, except for being short. I told her the reason she didn’t like me was probably because I looked like my father–the man who raped her. It was a mean thing to say. She slapped me, and on reflex, I slapped her back. She called the authorities and actually had me put in juvenile detention!
When I was released a month later, my Mother didn’t want me living with her. The feeling was mutual, so I lived with a girlfriend and her parents. I kept going to high school and working at both my jobs. Later I moved to a boarding house where I rented a room for about six months until I graduated in 1987. I barely made enough money for my rent and went hungry sometimes. I was surprised when Katherine showed up for my high school graduation. She came up to me afterward and invited me out to dinner. I was planning to go party with my friends, so I refused.
Katherine generously offered to pay for my college tuition–so long as I went into something she deemed responsible or important. I was interested in Criminal Justice. She was not pleased with my selection, but she did pay for my tuition for the one semester of college I attended before I married. I wanted to become a police officer, to go into something to do with law, so I could work as a detective with rape, incest and molestation cases. I wanted to give something back; to act unselfishly for the good of someone else; to help bring about justice where I had experienced injustice. I wanted to turn the terrible things that happened to me into something good for others, to help the oppressed. “Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow,” Isaiah 1:17.
MARRIAGE, DIVORCE & REMARRIAGE
A month after I graduated from high school, I met Victor when he came to work part-time for Domino’s Pizza where I was working. I was his boss. He also worked full-time for a gas and electric company. Although it bothered me that he was divorced, we were married on April 9, 1988, just after I turned 18. Vic is 14 years older than I am, and has three children by his first marriage. Right away, we bought a nice house.
Our daughter, Betsy, was born December, 1988. Although Victor never lifted a hand against me while we dated, a couple months after we married, he started to become physically abusive. Three times I had him arrested for assault. I still have copies of the police reports. Vic became moody and would refuse to speak to me for days. He often showered me with verbal abuse; i.e. vulgar and derogatory remarks. He decided he wanted to have fun and began to stay out all night after work. Sometimes he would go out drinking and come home totally intoxicated, slap me around and shout insults at me.
He refused to go to marriage counseling or consider getting any help for his drinking problem. He said he just wanted to be free and didn’t want to be married anymore. In September, 1989, he moved out and went to live with his mother. Vic said he wanted custody of Betsy, who was 9 months at the time, and he threatened to go to court and take her from me. This upset me greatly. Nobody, but NOBODY is going to take my daughter away from me!
I talked to my Father about it, and he said, “Why don’t you just let Victor have her?” His callous, insensitive, unfeeling cold-hearted answer floored me! Was this how little he valued his own daughters? Take ’em or leave ’em? Our divorce was final in late 1989. Katherine didn’t want me to divorce Victor because she figured I would remarry, and she thought I had a better chance of salvation if I stayed married to Vic, even though he was divorced–figure that one out!
I took Betsy, who was about a year old, and moved back home. Later, when Vic came out for a visit, we agreed to try again, provided he would move to the West coast. So he put the house up for sale, moved out and found a job. Not quite a year later, in July of 1990, Victor and I remarried. I did this a lot for Betsy. I also felt my chances would be better at salvation if I was married to just one man. Our son, Tommy, was born in December, 1991.
My Father was not circumcised; my husband was. I definitely knew that I wanted my son to be circumcised. My Father had a real problem with my decision and brought up all kinds of objections. He asked why we would have things cut that didn’t need to be cut. I was adamant. I wanted my son to be as different from my Father as possible–in every way–and especially in THAT way. Although the doctor was most reluctant, I insisted that he circumcise Tommy on the very day he was born. I did not want to take Tommy home and bring him back for his circumcision. I think I was afraid something would happen to prevent it.
I was afraid of dying. I was afraid I would not go to Heaven, and I was afraid of going to hell. So in 1990, I told a sister worker in our field, that I planned to profess again, and asked her if I would be able to take part in meetings, since Victor had been married before. She told me that I had no chance of eternal salvation as long as I was married to Victor; that I should divorce him, and then I would get my speaking privileges back. Five years later in August of 1995, even though I still cared for him, and had two children with him, I divorced Victor once again. Our divorce cost me $9,000. I bought a mobile home where I now live with my daughter and son and work as an interior decorator.
Just before we divorced, I asked the sister worker in our field then: “When I get divorced from Victor, does that mean I get to have speaking privileges?” She replied, “Of course. You won’t be married to a divorced man any more.” The first (and only time) I exercised my so-called speaking privilege after the required ($9,000) divorce was at Convention, 1995. I repeated a statement I had heard John Sterling make: “Salvation is a bargain at any price,” and said I hoped I would always be willing for whatever price that was, and be willing to pay for it. I had just paid the price of $9,000 for my salvation, and I was soon to learn that wasn’t enough to even get me the privilege of speaking in meetings! As soon as meeting was over, Joyce came up, grabbed me by the arm and said, “Don’t you think you should wait to take part until you are told you can? I really think it would be better if you waited a year.” I was dumbfounded and speechless. She turned and marched off to the dining area, without giving me a chance to reply.
I am pretty sure I know why she wanted me to wait. Because I don’t look right. I have always cared about my appearance. I don’t wear my hair in a bun. (I can count on one hand the times I have ever put my thick hair up on my head–and every time I got a terrific headache.) I have bangs. For years I have worn light makeup–a foundation base, mascara and curled my eyelashes. I don’t wear tight collars that button all the way up to my chin or skirts down to my ankles. Not that I wear revealing or immodest clothes. I also wear pins (broaches). Once a sister worker asked me if the pin I was wearing wasn’t rather boisterous.
After Vic and I separated, I worked hard to build up my business, but it was slow. Things were tough for me financially, but I did NOT want to go on Public Assistance. I was behind on my mortgage payment. The electricity company was threatening to cut off my power shortly. I didn’t even have money to buy food. I needed to make some money legally, and FAST. As a last resort, I went to work as a nude dancer for a month. I hated every second of it–detested it. I would get myself either drunk or stoned so I would be numb when I went to work. Otherwise, I couldn’t face the evening or make it through it. I never went home or out with anyone who was there. I would dance all Saturday night, and then cry all through meeting on Sunday. I felt like everyone could see right through me, and knew all about me. I knew I could NEVER ever measure up–now that I had sunk this low. I would probably not even get ONE foot in the door to Heaven. I felt like I was putting nails in my coffin, sealing my doom. Not surprisingly, my ulcers began acting up.
The dancing I did is not something I’m proud of–quite the opposite. I feel ashamed of it. It was something I felt I had to do in order to survive–to feed my children. Sometimes you do what you feel you have to do. In one month, I made the money legally that I needed, and quit. I will NEVER do that again, no matter what. Victor was very upset when he found out what I was doing to earn the money I needed. He called my Father, who asked Vic to verify rumors about me that he’d heard. Vic told him the plain, unvarnished truth.
My Father called me and said that I should be ashamed of myself; that I was not doing what was right; that professing girls don’t do that; and for me to think about what people would think if this ever got out! He put me down, ridiculed me, and then he went out like a jerk and spread the news to others! He never even asked me why I needed the money so badly, nor did he send or offer to send me any money so I could quit. “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” John 2:15-17
Uncle Henry and Aunt Mary live in our state and had five children. Uncle Henry also had a daughter named Rachelle who grew up in Europe. She was born out of wedlock, before he married Aunt Mary. When Rachelle was around 16, she came to visit Uncle Henry and family. Although the friends were only told that a girl from Europe was coming to visit, some of them seemed to know who she really was. For a couple months, Rachelle worked for our family as our nanny…and apparently my Father raped and molested her repeatedly during this time.
A few years ago, Rachelle attempted suicide by running her car into something like a tree or pole which paralyzed her from her waist down. In February of 1995, the French police called my Father concerning Rachelle. They were trying to locate and notify Uncle Henry that Rachelle was dead. Without knowing what they wanted, my Father just hung up on them in a panic. She had taken an overdose of sleeping pills and then drowned herself in the bathtub. She was 43 and left behind a husband and a daughter 13 years old. I heard that the week before Rachelle died, she had called Uncle Henry, and said she couldn’t go on with her life; that she was depressed about what my Father had done to her. Uncle Henry just hadn’t realized how severe her depression was. I heard the French police sent him a note left by Rachelle which implicated my Father, but I’ve not talked to anyone who read or saw it.
My cousin Ronnie became terminally ill. I was the only one of my siblings who went to see him. The last time I saw Ronnie before he died was in January, 1995. He told me at that time, “Be true to yourself, Debi.” As I drove back home, I cried all the way, and was practically a basket case when I arrived at our house. I collapsed on the sofa beside Vic, sorely needing comfort. Vic was extremely callous. He got up and moved and said, “I don’t want you to ever touch me again.” Victor was jealous of my loyalty, devotion and closeness to Ronnie.
Soon after that, I had two serious anxiety attacks, began hyper-ventilating, and couldn’t stop crying all the time. For three months, I didn’t cook or work. The doctor gave me sleeping pills and tranquilizers. I literally fell apart–had a breakdown or something. I couldn’t function. To say that Vic was lacking in understanding and compassion at this time in my life when my best friend was dying, is a serious understatement.
Ronnie died on February 15, 1995, the same week Rachelle drowned herself. So two of Uncle Henry’s children died within the space of one week. What a tremendous loss! Ronnie was just 30 years old, and his death really hit me hard. He was my closest friend. He was the first one to believe me when I told him about my Father. We were always there for each other in the bad times. He was the black sheep in his family, and I was the black sheep in mine. He was the only friend I ever had who was totally non-judgmental. I felt utterly alone in this world. I nearly passed out at his funeral. I still miss him sorely. Right after Ronnie died, Vic and I separated.
I began to have uncontrollable flashbacks, nightmares and painful memories surfaced that I hadn’t thought about in years. Probably, Ronnie’s death triggered them. I was forced to deal with my past. I wrote my Father a letter about what he had done to me. He called to talk about it while Mom was working. He said he had hoped the past had been put behind us, and that we would not have to talk about this again. I told him that it still hurt me, and that we hadn’t really ever talked about it; that I had just told him never to do it again, and he promised me he wouldn’t. I reminded him that he had never even told me he was sorry. He thought he had. I disagreed. So he said he was very sorry, and asked me if we could drop it and never bring it up again. Even though I personally, didn’t believe he was truly sorry, I agreed to drop the matter because I needed to get on with my life. I’d had enough pain and didn’t want to dwell on it any longer.
I fully intended to drop it, but alarming Flashbacks began to overwhelm me. Flashbacks aren’t memories or nightmares. Memories are distant and muted, and nightmares occur when you’re asleep. When a Flashback zaps you, you’re conscious. It can happen at any time, day or night and some Flashbacks trigger memories long buried. A Flashback is a flash of intense feeling that washes over you that you have felt before in another time and place, similar to deja vu. Flashbacks may be sweet or terrifying and agonizing. Flashbacks of positive experiences give off warm fuzzies.
Flashbacks of Victims of Sexual Abuse relive feelings of terror, fear, hurt, dread or pain, etc. for an instant which were experienced earlier at a particular time. Flashbacks are usually triggered by something that is seen, heard or happening in the present. The feelings that arise in the Victim are usually way out of proportion to what is actually going on around him/her at the time (over-reactions). A trigger may cause a Victim of Sexual Abuse to recall and feel again the exact same uncomfortable feelings s/he had at another date, time and place. During this time when I was afflicted with Flashbacks, I wrote a poem about my feelings I titled “Flashbacks.” The last two verses are a tribute to Vic. He understood about my Father and was kind and sympathetic, never throwing it up to me. He never turned away from my tears and held me when I cried in my pain. He was an immense help and comfort as I went through this frightening, painful time I was recalling memories that I had blocked out.
Time has a way of dimming pain and memories. With time, after I moved back East, I forgave my Father. Putting thousands of miles between us helped a lot. I felt in control. I had exercised my rights. I chose not to be in close contact with my family. I also received counseling. I wanted to put the sordid past behind me and get on with my life. For awhile I did this.
IF it had only been my sister and me who were affected, I am sure I could have let sleeping dogs lie. However, when I learned for certain that my Father had forced his attentions on some other young girls and devastated their lives also, I couldn’t let the matter rest. My cousin Rachelle was dead (as good as murdered) because of him. My sister finally talked to me about her incest experiences. I knew the names of two other young girls in “the truth” my Father had admitted that he had also molested. This additional information put an entirely different light on the matter for me.
I suspected my Father had molested a girl named Shannon, who was about 15 years old. After gospel meeting held on convention grounds just before the 1995 convention, I went up to her, took her hand in mine, looked her straight in the eye and said, “You don’t have to tell me anything if you don’t want to, but if you ever want to talk to me about my Father, I want you to know that I will believe you–because the same thing happened to me and my sister.”
She broke down crying and said he had molested her three different times when she was between the ages of 9 and 11. He would invite her over to his house to read comic books. (While we were growing up, my parents bought us comic books galore, and they still have a huge collection.) Of course, Shannon’s parents didn’t think twice about leaving her with him, especially since he was an elder. It did seem a bit odd to them that my Father didn’t also invite their other two children. My Father bought Shannon expensive gifts (but not her siblings) like a pair of NIKE tennis shoes, probably to buy her silence, and entice her to come back.
After her third visit, Shannon didn’t want to go back when my Father invited her, and her parents didn’t make her go. At some point, Shannon told her parents what he did to her. When Shannon’s parents confronted my Father, he managed to smooth-talk his way out of it and made them think that Shannon had overreacted and made a mountain out of a molehill. Unfortunately, they bought his story and didn’t call authorities.
I explained to Shannon that this same thing could happen again and again to other innocent girls if he wasn’t stopped and didn’t get help. Shannon suggested we talk to her parents. With my story to back up hers, they became convinced there was something more to her story than my Father had let on. I told them my brother, sister and I were planning to confront my Father, and suggested Shannon and her parents do likewise. I also suggested they bring the matter to the attention of the workers, as well as the law. I offered to testify on Shannon’s behalf if they went to court.
According to her Mother, Shannon had been having an extremely hard time, and was in counseling. At convention, Shannon’s paternal grandparents hugged me and told me that they now understand everything I’ve had to go through. I can’t tell you how much this meant to me, since my Father had spread it far and wide that I was a regular hellion to raise. I worry about Shannon though. Her mother told me the most important thing in their life was “the truth,” and that they wanted to protect it and not destroy it. I just hope and pray they don’t idolize “the truth” to the point they sacrifice their daughter!
GOING TO THE WORKERS ABOUT MY FATHER
I took the matter to John Sterling, the worker our family knew the best. Since he lived with us for nearly six years, off and on (there were very few other places in his field where he could stay), I felt closer to him than to any other worker, and I had a good deal of respect for him. I told John about my Father’s incestuous behavior with Sally and me; with Rachelle and Shannon, and the other girl that he had molested. It was a hard pill for John to swallow, but he believed me.
John said something I found very strange: “As you know, ‘the truth’ is not orthodox, Debi, and this could destroy ‘the truth’ as you know it. So we have to be careful that this information does not get into the wrong hands.” He was obviously wanting me to keep quiet and let him handle this. What on earth did he mean by: “the truth is not orthodox”??? What was he really saying?
He also said if some other workers were handling this, that they would immediately kick my Father out of “the truth”–no questions asked. He would be History. Obviously, John felt it was a good thing I came to him. However, I began to wonder about John’s priorities. John said that he believes, loves and cares about us. However, his MAIN concern seemed to be to protect “the truth.” This tells me something is very wrong in a church–when the system and Abuser are protected rather supporting the Victim and protecting potential Victims!
At my siblings urging, I composed a letter in October, 1995, to our Father, which Sally and her husband, Gerald and his wife and I all signed. John Sterling asked to read the rough draft, and he basically told me what to include and exclude in the letter.
We knew that our parents could react in either a positive or negative manner. They could admit their failings and be truly remorseful and offer restitution. They could react in anger or fear. They could question our motives. They could attempt to divert our attention from the Abuse issue. They could attack our integrity or status as a child of God, and try to put us on the defensive. They could ask irrelevant questions and make irrelevant accusations or points to distract us from our intent. They could attempt to put a guilt trip on us or imply that we are causing them undeserved pain and suffering. They could accuse us of being the problem. They could try to shame us or make us think we’re crazy. They could try to minimize our experience or discount our pain. They could act as if it is unimportant. But whatever their reaction, we couldn’t continue to gather as a family and go on pretending everything was just hunky dory. We had set in motion circumstances which would soon cause our parents to experience extreme embarrassment.
In November, 1995, I received a letter written by both Mom and Dad in reply to our letter. John Sterling wrote me a letter dated November 21, 1995, asking whether or not my parents had responded to our letter.
…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak. Eccles 3:7
No one was happy with our parents’ responses. It was not true that Sally and I had never complained to Mom–I did on several occasions. Keeping the family secrets within the family seemed to be their highest priority. Dad even misused Scripture to try and preserve the secrecy. He was furious that we aired his dirty linen in public. Instead of showing sincere remorse, (the only possible attitude that would be acceptable in his predicament) he assumed the role of The Pathetic Victim, and cast his Victims in the role of his Persecutors. He attempted to manipulate us using guilt and blame. He tried hard to create a diversion so his lack of integrity wouldn’t be further exposed. He looked for someone to blame for problems he had brought on himself. He pointed out our faults, hoping to keep us from focusing on his actions. The fact is, no matter how many faults we have, and regardless of what we may have done in our lifetime–these things are irrelevant to the crimes he has committed. Nothing we do or have done excuses or subtracts from his sins.
HE was the one who abused us, and he can’t get around it. I refused to feel guilty–the blame is not mine to take. I am not the guilty party–my Father is. I have stopped sheltering him; stopped taking care of his feelings, and I don’t feel one bit guilty about it. He’s responsible for what he does with his sexual urges, his flesh. Yes, I am angry, and my anger is justified. We are supposed to love righteousness and hate iniquity, and I DO! “…and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” John 3:19-21
After receiving the unsatisfactory response from my parents, John Sterling thought we should write a second letter giving Dad another chance to respond and repent! It still seems odd to me how willing John Sterling was to give my Father, the Abuser, a second chance. We replied to my parents’ letter, and sent them a list of the things we wanted Dad to do:
(1) Get counseling (must be monitored)
(2) Admit his sin in the meeting, including Mom and Gerald
(3) Step down as elder
(4) Promise to stop abusing others in this manner
After receiving our letter, my Father wrote Sally and apologized. He said he was deeply sorry; that it pained his heart that he had done such Atrocities, but he didn’t specifically mention what the Atrocities were. When I asked him why I had never received such a letter, he said it was because he thought I forgiven him earlier. About a year ago, my Father said to Sally privately, “How can you stand to look at me, after what I’ve done to you?” Sally walked away without replying.
John Sterling wrote me on December 7, 1995, that he had visited with Shannon and her parents. I thought a meeting should take place with my parents, my siblings and me, and the workers. Sally backed me up in this. John scheduled the meeting for January 20, 1996, to be held in my parents’ home. Shannon’s parents knew about the upcoming meeting. Reportedly, they wrote my Father a letter and said if he didn’t comply with our request to get counseling and to step down from his position as elder, that they would go before the church and also press charges against him. After their letter was sent, John made the remark that something serious would have to be done about my Father’s actions.
I QUIT GOING TO MEETINGS
Meanwhile, I was in touch with Mark, a friend of mine who had quit going to meetings some time earlier. One day Mark asked me, “Debi, what do you think about ‘the truth’?” I replied, “Basically I’m struggling with ‘the truth,’ right now.” I was struggling because I didn’t want to be single for the rest of my life; struggling as a single parent; struggling financially; struggling because I had given up my dream house and divorced a husband I still cared for, so I could get to heaven; struggling because I was angry that I couldn’t take part in meetings after I had been told I could. I mean, I was really struggling! Mark said, “Sit down, and let’s talk.”
He told me all about the history of “the truth” which has been deliberately covered up, and gave me some information to read. When I returned his information, Mark asked me for my thoughts about it. This was the beginning of frequent talks. I knew there had to be some truth to it all–after all, they had a name and a date. He loaned me the book Reflections***, and I couldn’t put it down. I could relate to at least one thing in every one of the 57 stories, and especially to Kent Griggs’ story. I began to call some who had stories in the book. I ordered my own copies of the other books.
I read The Secret Sect in five hours. I’ve probably read more in the past six months than in all my life put together! I recalled hearing a worker say at convention that there are less and less people going into the work, and that it’s a shame that people aren’t trusting the workers any more. The workers also warned that there is poison literature going around. If we received any in the mail, we should not even open it and should burn it immediately. I sure wished I could get my hands on whatever it was they were talking about! When I found out what it was they didn’t want me to know or read, I discovered I’d been lied to my whole life. Now I feel like my whole life has been a lie.
The Bible says “Seek and ye shall find.” I’ve been seeking all my life, finding no answers. Even though I was raised in this way, I never agreed with everything they taught. I never believed that the only saved people were those associated with “the truth.” I do not believe one needs a religion, a system, a way or an affiliation to enter the everlasting kingdom of our Lord. Jesus said, I am the way. He didn’t say, I will point you to a way. Eternal life will be the destination of those who are saved by God’s grace through faith–not through their works or through the workers. We need a personal relationship with God to be saved; we don’t need to be a part of a particular method or system.
On January 13, 1996, I delivered to my elder a copy of my Exit Letter (my Declaration of Independence), explaining why I would not be back to meeting again. I asked him to read it to friends after the Sunday Morning meeting–but he didn’t. I read my letter to Sally over the phone. Although she had not been aware that “the truth” is less than 100 years old, and it was news to her that it was invented by William Irvine (though her husband knew this), she seemed mad because I was sending out my letter and felt the way I did.
Mark put me in touch with many others who had also stopped going to meetings. He told me, You’re going to feel so much love you’re probably not going to know how to handle it! I didn’t know what he meant at the time, but I sure do now! I have experienced more love and acceptance from these people than I ever felt in “the truth.” I feel a closeness to them that I never felt with the friends. They really listen, believe and care about me. They accept me without rejecting me…Just As I Am, like the hymn says. Support and love have appeared from the most unexpected sources!
Please don’t misunderstand me. I have NOT turned my back on God, just because I don’t attend meetings any more. I have rejected or turned my back on a man-made system that men claim is God’s only true way on earth today. I was raised to believe “the truth” originated from the time of Jesus about 2,000 years ago. However, in reality, it was started by a man, a Scottish man named William Irvine, just a mere human being less than 100 years ago! It is an understatement to say that I was shocked to find out I had been deliberately deceived by workers I trusted. Because many workers and friends deny its origins, “the truth” has actually become The BIG Lie. It’s a Big Farce. I refuse to live a lie or be a part of a system whose foundation is a lie and whose founder made false prophecies (concerning the day the world would end).
CONFRONTATION WITH MY FATHER
Gerald told me that my Mom had said I was not welcome to come to the meeting John Sterling had scheduled in their home, because I was too vocal, and they didn’t know what I might say. If I showed up, I was told they would call the police and have me arrested for trespassing. My Father announced I would be taken out of their will if I came.
I was hurt and furious and decided if I couldn’t be there, I would still say my piece, one way or the other. I called my parents at 1:00 A.M.–the time of my call was to become an issue later. I heard Mom in the background telling him things to say. I said I didn’t call to crucify him, but felt like he needed to acknowledge his mistakes, to be sorry for them, and to apologize. He said, “I HAVE apologized to you.” I said, “No, Dad, you really haven’t.”
I asked if he had molested Shannon, and he totally denied it. He denied responsibility for Rachelle also, saying that she was in and out of mental hospitals her whole life. Hoping to find some clues as to what was behind my Father’s behavior, I asked him if he had ever been sexually abused as a child. He replied, thoughtfully, “No…I don’t think so.” I also asked if they knew about William Irvine. Dad had some vague recollection of having heard the name before, but couldn’t recall any details. I also mentioned that most of the friends worshipped the workers rather than Jesus.
Note that I made this call BECAUSE I believed I was barred from the upcoming meeting. What was very interesting was my brother and sister’s versions of this telephone call. Gerald wrote Bob Daniel: The only reason Debi wasn’t involved is because she called my parents at 1:30 A.M. and abused them for two hours. She actually barred herself from the meeting due to her behavior two nights before the meeting. Sally wrote Bob: Debi went ‘solo’ by calling Dad on the phone at 1:00 A.M. to rail on and berate him; she did not offer any constructive comments or solutions, but simply ‘vented’ at him…Debi’s decision to depart from the collectively agreed-upon approach and her deterioration into a self-pitying attack mode is what caused us to exclude her from the face-to-face visit; we felt that her presence in that mind set would be disruptive and counter-productive, and she was not welcome to participate. In a later conversation, Mom asked me, “Why weren’t you present with the rest of the kids?” I repeated to her what Gerald had told me. She said, “What? I never said that! He lied.”
I talked to John Sterling about how very upset and angry I was because I (one of my Father’s main Victims and Chief Instigator of the whole meeting) wasn’t permitted to attend the meeting with my parents. When I told him I had been thinking about contacting the media, it really got his attention and shocked everyone. Calling in the media breaks their cardinal rule: Keep the church and family secrets from outsiders. Finally, it began to dawn on them that they couldn’t second guess my reactions now that I don’t operate within the boundaries and rules of “the truth”. Since I no longer put the workers and the 2×2 system above my own needs–there’s no telling what she might do!
I also asked John Sterling about the history of “the truth”. In reply, John asked me, “Do you have a drinking problem or something? Why would you exit ‘the truth,’ and why are you so angry about this? I told you I was handling it.” What a cop out! He wouldn’t make any comment on the history either! When you don’t have a good answer–sling mud. Attack the person asking the hard questions! I found his question quite offensive, and saw it for what it was–an attempt to distract me away my question about the history by attacking me personally. I won’t be put off that easily.
I wrote a letter dated January 31, 1996, to Harold Bennett, (John Sterling’s Overseer, and Overseer of our state) expressing my disappointment with the way matters were being handled by the workers.
John Sterling and his companion; Sally and her husband; and my brother Gerald and his wife, all met on the appointed date with my parents in their home. I stayed home, and cried all day.
Afterward, Gerald told me some of what took place. When my Father was asked to tell what he had done to Sally and me, he said he had rubbed our backs. When pressed further, he added that he had also had us sit on his lap some. When my sister insisted that there was A WHOLE LOT MORE to it than that, Mom ran out of the room (which she had threatened to do if this subject came up.) John and Gerald talked Mom into coming back.
While my Father did finally acknowledge there was more to his behavior, he didn’t give the full extent of his actions. He apologized and agreed to get professional help, but he did not volunteer to step down as an elder. So my Father got his hands slapped–that’s about all it amounted to, in my opinion. By his willingness to get counseling, my Father admitted he is guilty.
The word somehow began to spread, and people began calling me–people I had never heard of before. One day I received a call from Bob Daniel, who had heard of my Father’s misconduct. Of his own accord, Bob wrote a certified letter to Harold Bennett, expressing his concern for the physical, emotional and spiritual well being of his family members who attend meetings with my Father.
Bob strongly encouraged this matter be referred to the appropriate law agencies, citing verses that encouraged obedience to the laws of the land, etc. For the protection of others, he urged that my Father’s problem be made public, and that both he and his victims get professional counseling at my Father’s expense. He felt my Father owed it to his Victims to make financial restitution. He pointed out that my Father violated a very basic requirement for an elder; that of being blameless, not unruly, etc. He let it be known that a cover-up would not be tolerated in this case, as has occurred in some other situations. Bob called and read his proposed letter to me before he mailed it. He sent carbon copies to his two daughters and their husbands; and at my request, he also sent copies to my siblings, Uncle Henry & Aunt Mary, John Sterling and Shannon’s parents. To say that Bob’s letter was NOT well received by the workers OR my family members is putting it very mildly!
After Harold Bennett had time to receive both letters (Bob’s and mine), I called Harold. He let me know that he did not appreciate Bob Daniel being involved. He made it perfectly clear that he had nothing to say to me. He claimed he wasn’t the one handling my case, and he wouldn’t tell me who was. I told him how disappointed I was in him as the Overseer of our state, and that he hadn’t heard the last of me; that I wasn’t going to let this issue die. Within 30 days, Harold replied to Bob:
“This is in reply to your letter of February 5, 1996. Peter Gordon’s abuse of his own daughters and of the X child grieves us immensely! I am sorry that this situation did not come to light sooner. We certainly do not condone such shameful behavior, but rather look upon it with the utmost abhorrence!
“You should know that he has been relieved of his Eldership, and that the church that once met in his home has been moved to another location. The sister workers have spent quite a lot of time visiting the Saints in the area so that they will also be aware of the nature of Peter’s offenses. And he has been seeing a counselor to seek to obtain the needed professional therapy for help to rise above his problem. In accordance with state* law, the counselor has notified the appropriate authorities of the situation.”
I called John Sterling since he hadn’t called me since the meeting with my parents, or written me in response to my letter. He apologized for suggesting that I had a drinking problem, and said he didn’t mean to hurt my feelings. John said what they were the most upset about was that I had taken my plight to Bob Daniel. I told John I didn’t go to Bob–Bob came to me. Bob already knew the facts when he called me–I just confirmed them. I did NOT ask him to write a letter on my behalf. I was probably as surprised as anybody when he called to read me his proposed letter! I most certainly did not go to him and ask him to take up for me. The workers and several others just assumed that–and they assumed wrong. Assumptions are dangerous! Why don’t they put the blame where it belongs? If my Father had never committed these Atrocities, then Bob would never have had a reason to write Harold a letter. My Father is the one at fault! Why aren’t they angry with the ABUSER?
John Sterling tried to reason with me. I imagine he would rather deal with me any day than Bob Daniel. It seems my parents, brother and sister were all very angry at me. John suggested they might be more apt to forgive me if I were to write them a letter explaining that I had not asked Bob to take up my cause, and then I wouldn’t lose your family forever. I told John that my Father, the Abuser, was the one who should apologize–not me; that he owes me a written apology. He wrote Sally a letter of apology. Where’s mine? John said I probably wouldn’t be getting one now, because my Father is afraid of Bob Daniel; and afraid that I might use a letter against him. I think he meant that I could use such a letter as an admission of guilt to press charges against him legally. Bottom Line: Unless I called Bob off their backs, I would not get an apology from my Father, and I would likely lose my family, whatever that means.
Child molestation and rape are CRIMES, for Pete’s sake! This church supposedly believes in obeying the laws of the land. So why aren’t the workers pressing my Father to turn himself in and obey the law in this matter?? Instead, they are pressing ME, one of his Victims, to apologize! If THAT isn’t backwards, what is?! It seems to me that something is terribly amiss when the Victim is made out to be the Chief Offender; when the Victim is required to apologize to her Abuser and family for blowing the horn on him. I refuse to be the scapegoat–I wasn’t the one who committed the CRIME. I’m a Victim, and I intend to SCREAM LOUDER–until I’m heard. I reiterated to John Sterling that I was still thinking about going to the media with my story.
I’m not surprised that everyone is angry with me. I pretty much expected it. Family, friends and strangers often turn on the Victim–many books on pedophilia verify this often happens. They’re all steamed up about an insignificant detail like who is to blame for a certain letter being written. Talk about getting off the subject! What about the CRIME committed which the letter addresses! Assigning blame doesn’t do anything to resolve the CRIME that has been committed, or resolve the potential danger in their midst–my Father. The problem hasn’t changed, regardless of how many letters were written, or who wrote them. The subject is still my Father, who is guilty of the CRIME of incest and molestation. What are they going to do protect other girls in “the truth” so he won’t repeat this crime?
Some relationships are worth working to preserve. Some aren’t. I have known all along that in pursuing this, I risked losing my family. I was prepared for this from the outset. I will not be manipulated by the fear of losing my family into complying with their wishes. I will be sad if it happens, but I am not going to let fear govern my actions. I am prepared to accept this loss, if that’s the way it turns out to be. Counselors familiar with incest say that no matter how the rest of the family responds, the incest survivor is freed through the act of telling her story. I am acknowledging what happened to me and others; being open and honest about it. I know what happened to me. I’m not crazy, and I never have been. But it is crazy to pretend that what happened didn’t happen. I’m tired of the charade. I refuse to pretend anymore, or keep it a secret any longer. If my family doesn’t feel they can continue our relationship with all our secrets out on the table, then it will be better for me if I do not see or communicate with them. Although I hope this is not the way things work out, I must do what I believe is best, and they must do the same.
Gerald and his wife believed my Father was doing everything in his power to get help now, and that he was “really trying.” He sold a couple of vehicles, supposedly so he could pay for the counseling he is receiving once a week. Frankly, I sincerely doubt that he HAD to sell a couple vehicles to come up with the money. For my Father, selling a couple vehicles isn’t anything. He restores antique cars, and he sold a couple of them. So what? He would have sold them anyway!! His action proves nothing.
John Sterling had assured me more than once that I had no reason to be concerned and that everything was being handled (by the workers), but that didn’t ease my mind one bit. Their method of handling things has left much to be desired, in my opinion. To my knowledge, his counseling wasn’t monitored, which was one of our specific requests. Neither is there any proof that he actually went to counseling. John Sterling said they (the workers) trust that he’s getting counseling. My Father incorrectly assumed that Sally had shown me the information his counselor sent to them.
Since the meeting with my parents from which I was barred, I have not communicated with my siblings. I have no idea what the counselor’s report said. We had asked that my Father step down as elder of his meeting. However, John said they (the workers) didn’t feel they needed to take the meeting out of his home–because he was making so much progress–this after only two counseling sessions!
It concerns me the way the workers handle my Father with kid gloves. I can’t see that the workers handle the scandals/crimes in their congregation a bit better than the world handles theirs, and they claim their righteousness exceeds the righteousness of other churches! The workers often seem to mishandle things–like they hide and cover up things that should be exposed! There is …a time to keep silence, AND a time to speak (Eccles 3:7) and they have them confused!
An elder holds a position of trust, which enables him to easily abuse again. I wonder just how serious something would have to be before the workers WOULD take away an eldership and remove a meeting??? I wonder how many of the friends would continue to go to a meeting which was being led by a pedophile? When three elders in Oregon were found to be pedophiles in the late 1980’s, I heard that their elderships and parts in the meeting were taken from them, and also the meetings were removed from their homes. Why aren’t the workers treating my Father the same?! Could it be that he knows something the workers don’t want broadcast? Is it a trade-off? Or maybe it has something to do with money or my Father’s will? It is obvious to me that the Victims are not the workers’ first concern–the Abuser comes first.
Off and on for 6-1/2 years, I’ve had therapy and counseling–not that my Father has paid for a dime of it, nor offered to. With the help of counselors, I realized what was done to me was not my fault. I can hold my head up high. I am not ashamed. I was and am a Victim. I could not live with myself if I didn’t do everything in my power to prevent another girl from becoming one of his many Victims. Even in the eyes of the law, my Father has committed crimes-plural! Incest and child molestation are crimes committed by adults against children, by the strong against the weak. Doesn’t this church believe in obeying the laws of the land? My Father’s CRIMES fall under the jurisdiction of the law. So why don’t the workers wash their hands of the whole matter and allow the law to handle it? It’s time for him to “face the music” that he forced me and others to dance to.
Gerald replied with a short letter to Bob’s letter. Sally and her husband wrote Bob Daniel a very stilted, 5-page letter letting him know exactly what they thought about his actions and comments, which wasn’t much! However, they hadn’t read Bob’s letter closely and thought his comments about a cover-up were directed at our family, when they actually concerned cover-ups the workers have participated in. Therefore, much of her letter was irrelevant–knocking down a position Bob didn’t even hold (a straw-man argument). Even though Sally planned to send a copy of her letter to me, she included nearly a whole page of derogatory remarks about me in which she contrasted her actions with mine. She was much very against Bob circulating his letter any further. She felt it would be at her expense, a Victim. She also said, “Dad has volunteered to have the meeting moved and to step aside as the elder, and our workers have apparently decided to take that course.” That turns on the definition of volunteered, I guess. My folks told me that the meeting was taken out of their home.
Sally and I haven’t communicated since she met with my parents and John. She has said repeatedly that she doesn’t want to dwell on the past and just wants to put it behind her. She doesn’t want to go into details and doesn’t want to discuss it any further. I respect her wishes, but I don’t think she’s fully healed. According to incest counselors, you’re not healed from the trauma of incest until you can talk about it freely.
The week after the 1996 Special Meeting, Dr. Wally Baldwin (my former elder) and his wife called to ask if they could come to see me and promised to answer any of my questions. First, however, Dr. Baldwin took a tape recorder out of his pocket and pushed the record button without commenting on it. He felt it was his duty as an elder to have a visit with me and he wondered if any demons had gotten to me, or if some people on the outside had distracted me from “the truth.” He said I had a testimony without speaking, and praised the way I raised my kids. I told them the full extent of my Father’s sexual molestation, which really seemed to shock them, and Dr. Baldwin was very regretful this had happened.
I asked Dr. Baldwin what he knew about William Irvine. He said William had been quite a character that he had good leadership abilities, but he just fell in it (“the truth”) and the folks let him leave. He went out, like a light. When I asked if he knew of any record of anyone before William Irvine, he said there shouldn’t be–because the Bible wasn’t published before him. (Apparently, history wasn’t Dr. B’s best subject!)
I asked all the questions I wanted to know about my background. It would be nice to know what nationality I am. It’s awkward for me when I fill out histories or applications, and don’t know what nationality to check. He told me what little he knew, and offered some good suggestions as to how I could find out more. He said that he had NEVER placed a baby in a home where the people weren’t professing. Dr. Baldwin asked for, and I gave him, copies of all the tracts I had about “the truth.” (The workers probably asked him to do this.)
The Baldwin told me about a private meeting that had taken place in his office after the Special Meeting between my parents and some workers (Harold Bennett, plus three other younger workers). The Baldwins weren’t included. When my parents were leaving, they were visibly upset and both were crying. The Baldwins ran after them to speak to them, but both my parents just shook their heads negatively, got in their car and drove off. The Baldwins knew nothing, beyond that. I hugged both the Baldwin when they left, and they told me I would always be welcome at their home. I have only seen my Father cry once in my life, and that was when his Father died. I began to worry. I wondered if he was upset enough to kill himself and Mom too. What on earth went on at that meeting?! I felt awful, like a heel, when I heard they left sobbing. Then I remembered all the times I’d cried myself to sleep after he left me. Now, it was Daddy’s turn to cry.
In the mail later that day, I received a note from my Father, dated February 23, 1996, which he had written before the meeting that upset them. I just about cried when I read his card. Still, it wasn’t a letter of apology like he had written Sally, nor did he come out and admit what he had done to me. He was still covering it up.
Transcript of Peter Gordon’s handwritten letter
February 23, 1996
I remember the good times we had together. You always held my hand when we went shopping together. You were the only daughter who went fishing with me, and who asked me to sing hymns with or to explain something in the Bible. We talked about Africa, about president Reagan, politics and lots more. We had many things in common. You always came to me after you made mistakes or wrong moves and apologized. It made me feel good and I gave you credit in my heart for that.
After you married and bought your first house, you invited us to visit you. Mom and I often commented about you being such a good hostess, house keeper and cook. You always had a nice meal prepared whenever we came to see you. You never forgot to send holliday (sic) cards, birthdays, and special occasions, thank you cards and notes for little things we did for you or your children. My heart is full of good memories about you. This is just to let you know that I will never forget the good times that we had together and no matter what you think of me now, I will always love you.
However, SOMETHING must have happened to change the workers’ minds, because they took away my Father’s eldership and removed the meeting from their home. I wonder if Shannon’s parents had anything to do with it?
Harold Bennett’s reply to Bob Daniel didn’t mention that my Father would make restitution of any kind for his Victims. Bob Daniel indicated in his letter that it was only fair and reasonable that my Father would make arrangements to pay for their counseling expenses also.
About a week later I received another letter from my Father dated March 8, 1996. This was really a switch. FINALLY, he apologized to me in writing. My reactions were varied. I’ve hurt for most of my life. I’ve cried an ocean. But my emotions aren’t like a computer–they don’t instantly re-calculate just because he said he’s sorry. It will take time for them to adjust, and of course, he will have to prove himself–back up his words with actions. For so long no one believed me…now our roles are reversed, and no one believes him, or trusts that he has truly changed. Can a leopard change his spots?
His actions over time will be the telling factor. I’m not fast to trust his words. Anyone can SAY they are sorry–but are they really sorry? From what does their sorrow stem? Is his sorrow for the pain he caused his Victims? Or for himself because of the repercussions he is suffering? I don’t doubt he wishes he had never committed these Atrocities. Humiliation brings many regrets–but are they for the Victim, or for oneself? Sympathy isn’t the same as empathy. My Father has mouthed apologetic words, but as yet, his actions haven’t shown me that he is truly remorseful for the pain he caused me and others. Actions speak louder than words.
About a week later, Mom called. With my permission, Dad got on the line and we all talked for about two hours. Mom asked me to forgive her for turning her head for all those years. She wanted to know why I hadn’t responded to their letters. My Father said, “I keep saying I’m sorry, but you won’t write me back. I WANT you to forgive me.” At the end of our conversation, he ASKED, “Will you please forgive me?”
I told them I had forgiven both of them for what happened to ME, but what I was having a hard time with now was what has happened to other girls. I said no one has taken up for Rachelle, and that Dad has got to feel her blood on his hands. My Father didn’t say anything to this. I said that what I was the most angry about was that Rachelle had to die–because of what he did. Shannon’s name wasn’t mentioned. They asked me if I cared to have a relationship with any of my siblings. They mentioned that I had been a sensitive child and had always shown a lot sense; that I was “The Thinker” of the family. They urged me to come and spend a weekend with them.
The previous Sunday, my parents had attended meeting in the new meeting location. They told me they were allowed to speak in meeting, but they chose not to. However, they said they had decided not to go to any more meetings. My Father said they couldn’t go back, and that they will never go back to convention. The reason they gave for quitting the meetings was because something clicked that I said to them earlier: that the friends worship the workers. They hadn’t realized this was true until someone spoke in the last meeting they attended about how they were so grateful for the workers who had brought them “the truth”, and that if it weren’t for the workers, they don’t know where they would be today (No mention of Jesus). My Father said he had been hearing that for years, but until then, it didn’t dawn on him that they were actually worshipping the workers, instead of Jesus.
They said they planned to visit a Jewish synagogue the next Sunday. I encouraged them to visit a variety of churches. However, this did not take place, and they continued going to meetings. They had read Bob Daniel’s story, and they agreed with a large part of what Bob had written and felt the same way. They wanted more information. I told them my life story will be coming out in a book. He said that everyone in the state knows about what he’s done, so what’s one more person?
Mom said she had always thought there are lots of good people out there that would probably be saved because they are so good. How could God make them go to hell? I said, “Mom, you’re not getting it. You’re not saved through your good works–the workers want you to believe that though. They teach that you are saved by how good you are, by how obedient you are to them. But you’re not saved by your goodness. You’re saved by God’s grace through faith. Don’t you remember reading that?” She said, “Well, it DOES say that, doesn’t it?” It was like a light bulb went on for her.
My Father asked me, “What can I do to make it up to you?” I gave him several things to do, and he agreed to do all three:
1. Find my biological Father for me
2. Have your counselor call me
3. Go to counseling as long as I did (6-1/2 years)
My Father wrote me another letter dated May 8, 1996.
At a brief encounter with my parents in their home, my Father told me that he had stopped going to counseling; that he was fine, cured, and had worked thru his childhood. He said he had sexually abused me, but had gotten help. That he was better now, and that he would never do it to somebody else again.
Let me see if I understand this: For the first 16 years of my life, I was abused and went through untold pain and agony, and he thinks he’s fine in just six months? (He exaggerated; it wasn’t even 6 months when I counted it up–it was only FOUR months, and no more than once a week at that = 16 times at best!) He said his counselor had moved out of state and said he didn’t need to come anymore. He promised me he would go to counseling as long as I did (6-1/2 years). His counselor never contacted me. Nor did my Father provide me with any information about my biological Father. He didn’t fulfill any of his promises to me.
I asked him: “What about your childhood?” I really needed to understand what he went through as a child so I could understand why he did what he did to me; and so that I can totally forgive him and go on with my life. He said, “I’m fine now. I didn’t even really need that” (counseling). He said the counselor didn’t want to contact me because he felt this was between my Father and me; not part of the counseling. The workers were satisfied with this, I guess, but I wasn’t. Now, he takes part in the meetings. Yet, they allow an admitted 5-time Child Molester to take part, and his co-conspirator wife who turned her head??
I thought it was time Harold Bennett heard from me again. Harold didn’t reply to my letter. I gave him a few days grace and then I mailed out to the local friends 100 copies of his letter to Bob on which I had written the following a note of warning:
“My father is still going to meetings. He still takes part. He is not going to counseling, nor have the appropriate authorities been notified. Harold is lying and covering this up. Protect your children please!”
Finally, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. An article titled “Incest A Chilling Report”* says: “Confronted by memories and their implications, the victim can swing wildly between denial that this ever happened and acceptance that it did. With acceptance comes grief, then rage, and finally self-forgiveness, followed by resolution.” I feel I’m in the final stage of resolution–I’m working towards it anyway. I am feeling so much better about myself, so much happier. I am eager to find a place where I can help others heal and recover who were/are in the same situation I was.
What triggered my “coming out” of the closet with the family secrets? Why did I wait this long to confront my Father? I didn’t really wait. I’ve been trying all my life to get my story out, but nobody would listen to me. No one took me seriously and believed me. I tried telling my school counselor, my Mom, my cousins, my boyfriend and his parents, my school friends, my biological mother. No one ever called the authorities or the child protective agency.
Why am I telling this long-hidden secret? I’ve been dealing with this ugly secret in my past for my whole life. I never totally repressed the memories. My Father could force us to keep his dirty secret when we were children–but he can’t control us now. Secrets fester. Secrets keep shame alive. Secrets hurt others. Studies show that a key factor in women recovering from Sexual Abuse is releasing the burden of your secret that has remained hidden for so long. Telling my story to friends who responded with loving concern and compassion has definitely helped my recovery. I’m not willing to keep this a secret anymore. When a Victim can disclose all her secrets to someone, laying it all out there, it’s a sure sign that she is well on the road to recovery and healing. The downside of coming out with the nasty truth is that family members are often enraged at the Victim for talking, and mine are no exception.
Some believe I am just an angry, bitter, vicious person out for revenge. John Sterling reminded me the Bible says “Vengeance is Mine, saith the Lord;” and that it does not say: “Vengeance is Mine, saith Deborah.” Some just don’t seem to distinguish the vast difference between Justice and Vengeance. Helping the oppressed is a far cry from Vengeance! “They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily,” Ps. 73:8.
Is a parent getting Vengeance when he spanks his child? Or is the parent making the child take responsibility for his actions, while the child is receiving the consequences of his misconduct? The same principle applies for my Father. He has flagrantly disobeyed the laws of God AND the laws of man. Why should he be excepted from experiencing the consequences of his actions, just because he is an adult or an elder? Why shouldn’t he get what’s coming to him? Spankings are given with the hope that they will cause the child “to stop and think” before repeating his misbehavior.
My Father knew serious consequences could result from the Atrocities he forced his Victims to endure. And yet he still chose to take the risk, in order to have it his way. His Victims did not create the Abuse they endured at his hands–he did. Well, the party is over and the lights have been turned on bright. Should my Father be allowed to talk his way out of this? Where is Justice??? Where are all the righteous Judges? It’s just compensation for my Father to receive the consequences of his actions–then hopefully, he will “stop and think long and hard” before repeating them. If giving punishment for misbehavior is “paying for your actions,” for a child; then it’s the same for an adult. To re-label it Vengeance for an adult is using double standards.
How did incest affect me? The Sexual Abuse I endured as a child left me emotionally crippled in several areas for years, and I am still dealing with some problem areas. I strive overly hard to achieve and to get approval and acceptance. I have always felt I was fat, even though I wasn’t. I loathe my body and would like to change it. I don’t know why. I have attempted suicide once, tried cocaine once, smoked pot. I tend to be somewhat obsessive at times. I find it very hard to trust anyone, even myself. Whenever I see a person who is a pillar in the church or community, I wonder, “What are they doing to their kids?” I am a perfectionist. This comes out in my being a compulsive housekeeper. I want everything just so, and if everything isn’t absolutely perfect, I get upset. I can be stubborn at times and difficult to get along with.
My low self-esteem affected my choice of a spouse, as well as our marital relations. Victor is an alcoholic, and is sometimes abusive to me (but not to our children) when he has been drinking. He began physically abusing me a few months after we were married. In the seven years we were married, he was arrested three times for hitting me; and 3-4 other times as well. Once he stabbed himself in the hand and said I did it. However, the doctor said the angle of his wound indicated a self-inflicted cut. He was required to attend an Anger Management class, and work out community service hours.
I’ve had ulcers and migraines at least since I was 11 years old, the age when my Dad started having intercourse with me. They still flare up at times. I have taken numerous prescription drugs through the years, which include Pepcid, Esgic Plus, Zantac, Ultram and Voltaren. To this day, I am an insomniac, and have taken various prescriptions to remedy this problem; the last one was Desyrel. I even had this problem when I was a small child about 4-5 years old. I remember getting up before dawn, about 4:00 A.M., and doodling in the dew on my bedroom window until there was no more room left on the window to write. Mom would get upset with me because this made more work for her. I would sometimes sing as I doodled, which was NOT appreciated by my sister, who shared my room and was trying to sleep. A child-insomniac? How many children have you known or heard about who couldn’t sleep at night? When a mere child has this problem, it’s an indication of a much deeper problem. Today, I am an extremely light sleeper, and have an acute sense of hearing. I can usually identify a person just by hearing their footsteps.
Although I will never be glad for what happened to me, I do know that my experiences in life have made me who I am. On the positive side, I feel they have made me a lot stronger. I’m a fighter. I’m called a “Survivor.” I hate that word because I’m tired of being just a Survivor. I don’t want to just survive. I want to be a winner. I know I have a right not to be mistreated. I really try hard to treat others much better than I was treated. I have always fought for the underdog, trying never to judge anyone for their mistakes, because I’ve made plenty of mistakes of my own. My children have received positive benefits because I make a real effort to raise, love, discipline and praise them in the way I WISH I had been treated as a child. I’ve never been afraid to say what I feel, which has its advantages AND disadvantages.
I’m still in the process of reprogramming my “old tapes” that made me think I was deficient and replacing them with the truth; that “I am OK.” I no longer believe “I am a bad person,” although sometimes I still feel that I am. My siblings continue to make me feel as though I am a bad person at times. I no longer have the mindset of a Victim. I WAS a Victim. I know that I am much more than that now. “I am no longer a Victim–I am victorious.” I am still recovering. It’s an on-going process that will likely continue all my life. What I would like now is to put it all behind me and just be and feel that I am “normal.”
What is my purpose in writing my story? My motive? I wanted to create a first-hand account of what happened to me; to make the truth crystal clear. Many communications go through numerous people. Often things are heard and passed on down the grapevine until what really happened or was said is anybody’s guess. Much is misstated and misunderstood, much is feared, much is frightening and painful. Now, here’s my story, directly from me. I hope some good things will come from it. I chose to tell my story; No one forced me, paid me, or influenced me to do so. My goal is to heal, not to hurt.
I’m so thankful God never gave up on me; never faltered in His patience with me. I’m so glad to have clear vision finally. One must believe in Jesus–not in a way or system devised by a man. I want God’s approval–not the approval of the workers or the friends. God is the one I will stand before on the Judgment Day–not those in “the Truth.” “Not unto Men I labor…” I am reading the Bible now with a true understanding. I never quit praying to Him, and asking Him to show me what He had planned for my life. I feel I really know Him now. I’m so grateful He has finally answered my prayer. I have been attending a church I really like.
I finally hear that “still small voice” I’ve longed to hear for so long. It’s overwhelming to me. Finally, I feel like I truly have a relationship with God; that Jesus is my friend; that He understands me and my life. I never felt that way when I was in “the truth.” They talk about love in “the truth,” while living in fear and guilt. It’s such a relief to stop trying to measure up to that impossible standard I could never attain. I love God so very much, and I am so glad that Jesus is my friend.
This brings my story up to date as of August 1, 1996.
…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak (Eccles 3:7)
WHAT TIME IS THIS?
* Article in Lear, February 1992, by Heidi Vanderbilt titled:
Incest: A Chilling Report”
** I have been told that Duane Allen Wong was put out of the work for molestation. To his credit, he never acted inappropriately with me at any time. He then married a divorcee and molested his stepdaughter for ten years. He was convicted June 16, 1995 for sexual abuse-1, Oregon Case No. CMCR 950635975DEF00001 and served time in prison.
*** Reflections compiled by Daurelle Chapman, published by Research & Information Services (RIS).
Debi: June 8, 1969 – July 7, 2013 (aged 44) from cancer.
Debi’s mother Judith Gordon: Nov. 27, 1928 – 2016, October 12
Katherine Crane: December 21, 1928 – April 9, 2008, aged 79
Katherine Crane (aged 48) married Ernest W. Crooks (aged 52) on March 31, 1977 in Bell County, Texas. She was 41 yrs old when Debi was born in 1969.
Ernest W. “Ernie” Crooks: August 15, 1924 – March 17, 1987 (aged 62) in New Jersey; buried in Austin, Travis Co. Texas
Peter Gordon sold their West Coast home and he and his wife moved out of state to a small town where a son is living. Statute of Limitations had expired when Debi exposed this matter, except for Shannon, who decided not to pursue it “for the kingdom’s sake.” No criminal record found for P.G. Peter and Judith are still living and reportedly are still attending meetings. Uncle Henry died in 1996. Debi’s paternal Grandfather died in 1985. Debi’s 3 siblings, 2 two children and 1 grandson were all still living as of July 7, 2013, when Debi passed away, aged 44.
John Alfred Sterling: November 20, 1938, in Chico, California – November 14, 2002, buried in Beaverton, Oregon.
Shannon was in the work for a few years; is now married with children and lives in the USA.
Debi obtained a university degree due to R & W Campbell’s generosity.
1996 August: Meeting with Workers & Friends. See R & W Campbell’s letter below for details. Debi prepared and gave out packets to attendees containing information about Child Sexual Abuse and the 2×2 founder and church history.
1999: In January and February of 1999, the child custody trial of Dorey and Dorey vs. Steingard commenced. Witnesses for the Defendant (Janice Steingard) included, among others: Debi Gordon
1996 August: Concerned about children at the ongoing Convention being attended by her abuser, Debi posted fliers on the road with her abuser’s photo. She also walked up and down the road alerting those who would talk to her to the potential danger of a child molester being on the convention grounds. Her parents and sister and family were seen hastily leaving the grounds. Debi’s actions came to the attention of a local newspaper reporter, who wrote the following article.
COTTAGE GROVE (OREGON) SENTINEL Page 3A
By MARK BOWDER, Sentinel Editor
August 21, 1996
Woman accuses sect of ignoring abuse
Former member plasters Saginaw convention with fliers
A religious sect’s annual gathering in Saginaw this month is being met with claims from a Springfield woman that group leaders turned a blind eye to her sexual abuse.
Deborah Gordon, a former member of the little-known Christian sect that calls itself “the Truth,” said she was repeatedly molested while growing up by a member of the organization.
No charges have been brought against Gordon’s alleged abuser—she says she had kept silent so long the statute of limitations has expired—but she said she has been pressing leaders in the group to discipline the member and alert others to his alleged tendencies.
“I believe it’s my moral obligation to warn parents and grandparents about this,” said Gordon. “My main goal here is I want children protected.”
Gordon said she has met with group leaders and presented them with a possible policy for handling such cases in the future, but made little headway. She said Harold Bennett, the sect official responsible for the group’s activities throughout Oregon, did not attend the meeting.
The proposed policy included requirements that group officials pass on reports of molestation and incest to legal authorities and press for those responsible to repent and confess to their victims and fellow members, provide restitution to victims and their families and submit to counseling.
Gordon, who left the group in January and is writing a book about her experiences, also posted fliers with the photo of her alleged molester around the Saginaw farm where the group is holding an annual convention. She said the fliers were removed as quickly as they were posted.
Bennett, contacted by phone at the convention site, had little to say about Gordon and her activities.
“That person has been causing us a lot of difficulties, so we’re not interested in anything connected to her,” Bennett said. “I wouldn’t care to comment on it. She has a problem. We’re not interested in any kind of article or any kind of association with her.” Bennett then said, “thank you very much,” and hung up.
R. & W. Campbell’s Letter
October 1, 1996
W. and I are writing to you because we are concerned and distressed about the way several issues are being handled by the Workers. We have included addresses of each one to whom we are sending this letter, and if you feel these issues are serious enough to be addressed you could network with one another. The three events that concern us are:
How Peter Gordon’s pedophilia has been dealt with by the Workers; Rumors circulating about Debi Gordon, Peter’s adopted daughter; Disturbing interactions at an August meeting concerning Peter Gordon which John Sterling and Tom Hinkle attended.
Peter Gordon’s Pedophilia
You may be aware that in the past year Peter Gordon, a Worker and later an Elder in the Truth, has admitted to molesting 2 of his adopted children and 2 other young girls, who are in the church, and a possible fifth victim, (not in the church), who chose suicide. Unfortunately, the original molestations fall outside the statute of limitations on all but two of the girls (the statute can only be used if it is proved that sexual abuse happened within the past seven years), and to date those two families have chosen not to prosecute Peter. These two girls were molested by Peter when they innocently accepted invitations to his home after Sunday morning meetings.
Peter Gordon is an admitted pedophile. If he had been convicted by law and then released from prison, he would be barred for life from being within 100 yards of children, and his neighbors would be notified that a child molester was living in the area. This month the State of California is looking at a law where pedophiles may voluntarily undergo chemical castration if they have been found guilty of sexual molestation once; if they have been found guilty twice they are required to undergo chemical or physical castration. That is how serious this behavior is viewed by the legal system of this country.
Ironically, today this man has been given the permission and encouraged to attend meetings and conventions –with the Workers’ blessings–where he could have casual contact with young girls who may possibly end up becoming his future victims. This is of grave concern to us; instead of being a safe place for young girls to grow up and socialize, the church group is protecting a known pedophile. Our concern is not only for this case, should there be discrepancies with details, but for future cases, that they be dealt with in a safe manner.
You may be wondering if perhaps we are over-reacting. The fact is, repeat acts of pedophilia are an ongoing problem for men even after intensive individual and group therapy; statistics indicate that a scant 2% actually have a chance of recovery. After Debi blew the whistle on his sexual deviancy, Peter reluctantly underwent 6 months of individual counseling and eventually wrote several letters to Debi first demanding forgiveness and finally asking forgiveness. It is almost impossible for a perpetrator to recover without the entire family undergoing therapy. In this case, so far only Peter has seen a counselor. He does not see any need to make further amends, and wonders why Debi doesn’t remember “all the good times we had instead of dwelling on the problems.” A victim needs more than a few months to make up for 9 years of almost daily sexual abuse.
While the incest was occurring, everyone in the family participated to some degree in keeping it a secret. A confusing double standard permeated Debi’s home life–on one hand she was a victim of Peter’s repeated molestation, and on the other, she watched as Friends and Workers revered him as an Elder, a role model for others in the church “with an open home in the truest sense.”
Prior to the age of 5 Debi has flash memories of being fondled and since the age of 5, Debi can vividly remember Peter’s frequent visits to her room where he forced her to perform sexual acts until the age of 11, at which time he demanded sexual intercourse until the age of 14. Peter often locked himself in her sister’s bedroom until 11 p.m. while his wife waited in their bedroom. During all these years, Peter never wavered in partaking of the bread and wine and in prayer and testimony.
Consider the confusion and anger that this day-by-day onslaught would have on a young woman’s body and spirit. When Debi was 12 years old, workers were finally made aware of what was happening in the Gordon home. The upshot was that the Workers were brought into the field who knew about the abuse and Peter was reprimanded.
Unfortunately, he continued to molest Debi–in fact, it began the very next day, with a threat to her safety if she didn’t silently comply to his wishes. Peter often admitted to remorse after raping his daughter and asked her forgiveness…only to seek her out again and again when the sexual urge returned, a common pattern of sex offenders.
The Sister Workers who were sent to the field to monitor the situation were uneducated in the behavior of pedophiles and never once asked Debi what was going on. The situation continued with no protection from the Workers or Friends until Debi turned 14, when she finally found the courage to refuse to be touched by this man in any way. Peter stopped visiting Debi, but continued molesting her sister for some time; again, a common pattern of perpetrators.
It is not uncommon for victims who have been molested to this degree to commit suicide. If they opt not to deal with these deadly memories by death they often become totally dysfunctional adults and often receive the label, “promiscuous.” Once Debi found her voice, however, she poured her anger into warning others of her father’s pedophila, asked that extensive counseling and an apology be forthcoming from her father, and asked that the Workers take a clear stand and not condone a child molester. Debi took action and hung posters at ***convention warning people that her father usually attends this convention and is a child molester. She also shared information with the Friends about her life and the injustice she and other young girls suffered at the hands of her father.
While Debi may be flailing and thrashing around a good deal, she is justifiably filled with rage for the hypocrisy and lies she has known in her family and in the church. What does Debi really want? She wants her father put in a position where he can never molest again. This has been her cry from the beginning and it is her cry today. Thanks to Debi’s incensed and relentless cry, Peter Gordon has now been removed from his eldership by the Workers and no longer has meeting in his home, although he has been given Worker blessing to take part fully in meetings.
For some time W. and I met with Debi on Wednesday nights. Despite the fact that she was unable to take part in meetings since her marriage to a divorced man, she regularly attended with her two children, at great struggle. Karen Oakes told Debi several times that she had no chance of salvation as long as she remained married to her husband, so Debi took the advice to heart and, conscientiously wanting to do right by the Truth, divorced him.
At 1995 *** convention, after the divorce was final, Debi gave her testimony for the first time since her marriage/divorce, in her testimony she said she was glad to finally be free to have a place in the professing community. That afternoon, Joyce Szakacs came to Debi and said, “Don’t you think you should wait to take part until you are told you can? I really think it would be better if you waited a year.” Debi stood there stunned as Joyce walked off to the dining area without giving Debi a chance to reply. Debi had hoped finally to be supported and included in the group, and this was the response.
Although he refuses to talk with her directly, Harold Bennett and Joyce Szakacs have told lies that defame and discredit Debi. A few weeks ago at ***, Harold called a meeting with John Sterling, Tom Hinkle, D.O. and J & E. where he said Debi had written letters to two young brother Workers propositioning them to have sex with her. The attached letter is a copy of one of the letters Harold sent *** to substantiate his statement. As you can see in this case, Harold’s claim about Debi is patently untrue; his remarks might even be considered slanderous in a court of law.
Regarding the second letter which has been conveniently destroyed, we can feel confident that it falls in the same category as the first. At ***, prior to the sex letter accusation, the O’s were approached by Joyce Szakacs. She warned them to quit talking about this issue, and at that time Joyce said “Why, Debi is no more than a prostitute!”
All or these statements can be substantiated. W. and I are upset that Workers in this church that we have loved and been a part of for 40 years are behaving in this manner. We are sorry that Debi has been treated in such a shameful and demeaning way when what she really needs is unconditional love, and help and support for the ordeal she has endured throughout her childhood. Debi has lived under a tremendous deception all of her life, and the time has come for honest communication among ourselves, not additional lies and abandonment.
August 1996 Meeting with the Workers
In August 1996, Debi requested a meeting with Harold Bennett and other Workers and Friends who were interested in discussing how to take protective measures so other young girls would not become victims of Peter Gordon. Debi had contacted Harold Bennett and specifically requested that he attend because of his position of authority among the church group in Oregon.
Instead, John Sterling and Tom Hinkle came, and early in the meeting indicated that they had “full authority” from Harold concerning the matters being discussed. Later, John and Tom refused to take any action in this matter because, they told the group, they “didn’t have the authority” to do so. During the 4-1/2 hour meeting, their concern was mainly on supporting Peter Gordon’s continued attendance at meetings (for his own salvation), and not on the lives this man has shattered by his repeated attacks of sexual abuse.
The meeting was conducted by a Chester Ehrig, whom Debi had asked to facilitate, since she felt too emotional about the discussion. The main focus of the meeting was to clarify Debi’s case, and educate Workers and Friends on how to handle sexual abuse cases in the future so they could be expedited in a simple, direct manner so meetings would not become polarized; wrongdoings would not be covered up; guilty/innocent issues would be handled by the law rather than by Workers; openness and clarification would be available to all (i.e., everyone in the field would be notified about the problem so they could protect their children and provide support; assistance to both the victim and sex abuser); and the victims would be given money, if needed, for therapy. We were in this meeting, and W. and I now see that we have a responsibility to take action so the little children among us are safe and protected. With all the awareness there is in our country about incest, judgment, abuse and victimization, we believe it is important that everyone in the church adhere to the highest level of integrity.
A few days later, E.O. asked Harold Bennett why he didn’t attend the meeting. He told her “Debi called me a liar, so I have refused to have anything to do with her or her case.”
When the editor of The Cottage Grove Sentinel contacted Harold about Debi’s sexual abuse allegations, he said, “That person has been causing us a lot of difficulties and we’re not interested in anything connected to her. I wouldn’t care to comment on it. She has a problem. We’re not interested in any kind of article or any kind of association with her.”
Please help us stop the judgment, rumors and indifference circulating among the Workers and Friends. Instead let us offer loving support and assistance for those whose lives have been, and are being, changed forever by senseless acts of child abuse. As a group, we need to demand accountability from our Workers and from one another on these kinds of issues.
We say our values are as close as possible to Christ’s and we proclaim love to be our banner, yet we stand by as others participate in character assassination and slanderous remarks. Why is this behavior deemed acceptable? Would Christ treat His little children like this?
In writing this letter W. and I realize that we may be opening ourselves and others mentioned in the letter up to further disparagement and discreditation by Workers in an attempt to justify and explain away years of neglect of this issue and condoning of Peter Gordon’s behavior, in particular. However, today we have decided to take this action because we feel this situation is serious enough to warrant the risk of lies and slander directed toward us.
Yours in Christ’s love,
“R. & W. Campbell”
Is there a cure for pedophilia? Sexual Child Abuse is rarely an impulsive or one-time event. It is usually premeditated and chronic; i.e. my Father’s convenient, prepared coffee can. Unfortunately, there are no known cures for molesters of children. No magic drugs or curative therapy. Once a sex offender, always a sex offender. Sexual Abuse doesn’t just happen–it’s a choice. The Abuser makes a choice to abuse, and usually plans it out. The abuse is 100% the Abusers’ responsibility. There is no surety that the Abuser will not/never make this choice again. His word is no guarantee.
There is no CURE–only CONTROL. Circumstances can be controlled so that there is no opportunity for the Abuser to make this choice again. These circumstances can be controlled by the Abuser and others. Mutual efforts are the most effective. Circumstances arise often and without warning which tempt molesters; and choices must be made repeatedly throughout their entire lifetime to deny themselves. An adopted or stepfather is ten (10) times more likely to sexually abuse the adopted/step child than a natural father.
What about counseling or therapy? With the help of therapy, some Abusers who are serious about overcoming their abusive tendency learn what measures they must take to control it. The focus is on avoiding temptation. The Abuser takes precautions. They avoid children, as well as any situation where children could possibly be present. They NEVER allow themselves to be alone with children. They NEVER accept a position as an authority figure over children. If/when they MUST be around children, they ask a special friend or spouse to remain close to them at all times.
Group therapy greatly reduces the likelihood of the Abuser repeating the Abuse. There is a 95% chance the Abuser will reoffend if he does not get group therapy. Group therapy takes the cloak of secrecy away–the whole group knows about the weaknesses shared by the Abusers present. One-on-one counseling rarely, if ever, works for abusers because it still keeps things secret. Some Christian counselors will not accept Abusers as patients because they don’t want to feel responsible when they reoffend, which is almost certain.
What drives a pedophile or incestuous father to behave this way? What goes on in his mind that leads him to fondle, touch or penetrate a child’s or his daughter’s body? How can he use his daughter or a child for his own sexual gratification? Different men turn to acts of molestation for different needs, motives and impairments. A common thread is that the Abuser usually did not get enough maternal nurturing; therefore, he lacks an internal sense of security and confidence. 70% of Abusers have been sexually abused themselves.
Most have extraordinary low self-esteem, and turn to others to provide confirmation of his worth, power or lovability. He has an insatiable need to be admired. Nearly all Abusers are narcissistic and incapable of empathy for his Victims and others–he can only feel for himself. He is often impatient, wanting instant gratification. Incest is about power. Like rape, incest is never about the Victim. It’s always about the Abuser, and his need to control and dominate. Studies show most Abusers are not “wackos” or psychotic. Many are very intelligent, educated professionals. Some Abusers may deal with their own childhood abuse in therapy, but this is no guarantee whatsoever that they will not offend again.
How can children be protected from a pedophile? When it is known that a person is a pedophile, and they refuse to get professional help for their weakness, it leaves concerned adults with little choice. The word must be spread. A warning must be broadcast! Children are protected from a pedophile when they are closely monitored by an adult. To save the children from harm, one must make the children and others aware of the Abuser’s weakness.
The more society is aware of exactly who has this tendency, the more precautions they will take, and the more the pedophile’s actions will be curtailed. Sound the trumpet! Warn both children and adults! Don’t hesitate! Put people on guard. Telling the truth about a pedophile disables him. Silence enables him. Break the silence! Protect the children! Refuse to go to a meeting led by a pedophile. “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator…” 1 Cor. 5:11. Christians or preachers who continue to allow a pedophile to be their elder must be in a “congregation of the dead.”
What happens when a pedophile isn’t stopped? When a pedophile’s actions are ignored or denied, he is ENABLED and ENCOURAGED to continue his Atrocities. I had forgiven my Father for what he did to me. But I’m not his only Victim. Based on his past, it’s quite possible he will seduce even more Victims. I cannot in good conscience close my eyes to this possibility to protect my Father. God respects those who help the oppressed, and the fatherless. Having been one of his Victims, my heart goes out to those who may become his Victims. At his age, my Father could be a threat for several more years. People do not heal or change when their misbehavior is ignored. When the Victims are placated and the wool pulled over their parents’ eyes, as was done in the past, my Father is given an open invitation to continue his abusiveness.
How does Sexual Abuse affect Victims? Some experts believe that when a child is molested by a family member, it is even more emotionally damaging than if the child had been abused by a stranger who is not tied so closely to the child. Studies report that the more abused you are as a child–the more addictions you are likely to have as an adult. Victims of incest have lost their innocence, their memories, their trust, and often their parents and their families.
Most suffer emotional effects that influence or handicap them for life; such as faulty beliefs, fear, guilt, phobias, flashbacks, nightmares, obsessions, compulsivity and self-destructive behaviors. They were robbed of the opportunity to grow up and develop in the ways and time frame of children who were not abused. They are consumed with self-hate and doubt: Why did this happen to me? What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with my family? What’s wrong with God? Why didn’t I stop it? Why didn’t God stop it? Am I a bad person? When a child’s needs for love and acceptance are not met, they use defense mechanisms to cope with their pain and to endure. The coping mechanisms frequently used by molested children are: suppression or denial; repression; rationalization; sublimation, isolation, disassociation and fantasy.
Many Victims of Sexual Abuse suffer with serious addictions or disorders. Eating disorders are common; such as anorexia, bulimia and compulsive overeating. Some self-mutilate, develop multiple personalities, self-schizophrenia, amnesia, anxiety, panic attacks or depression. Others are plagued with sexual addictions or chemical dependency. Many acquire compulsive behaviors, such as compulsive working, spending, gambling, cleaning or bathing. Some cope by letting go of their sanity and choosing insanity or death. Frequently, Victims of Sexual Abuse become prostitutes, alcoholics and hard-core drug users.
How does a Victim recover? There is no blueprint or prescription one can take to get over Sexual Abuse. No predetermined steps one can go through and be cured afterwards. There is no set way to heal and recover. People are different, and get over it in different ways and on different timetables. Most experts agree that to recover from molestation, Victims MUST place the responsibility for the act squarely where it belongs–100% on the Offender. Until this is done, the Victim will remain in emotional paralysis, racked by guilt and pain and unable to grow. A few can heal on their own, without help. For a few, a friend MAY be able to give enough aid and support. For others, a good therapist makes all the difference in the world. The therapy must be two-way. “Un-huh therapy” won’t work, nor the “blank-mirror” therapist who listens but doesn’t speak. Victims of Sexual Abuse need a human contact with warmth and who listens and engages in conversation.
Based on my experience, what advice would I give?
IF YOU are a Victim of Sexual Abuse, I would say break the “Don’t Tell” secret. There is every reason TO TELL IT. Keep looking until you find someone who will listen to you. Above all, don’t give up when someone doesn’t believe you. Keep right on looking and risking…and telling your secret until somebody believes you. Report the Abuse to the child protective services agency in your state. Telling your secret is also crucial to your being rescued and to your recovery. Remember that when you can tell your secret to someone, that’s a sure sign that you are on the road to recovery and healing. Forgive yourself. Don’t hold yourself responsible for what happened to you. Put the blame where it belongs–on your Abuser.
IF YOU are the one a Sexual Abuse Victim confides in, I would say to you that the simple act of believing is a priceless gift to a Victim of Abuse. If a child spontaneously tells a trusted adult of abuse, giving details, you can be almost certain that the child is speaking the truth. Sometimes their stories may sound outrageous and be hard to believe–but what if it really IS true? How can you lose if you err on the side of compassion? How would you feel if you had suffered the same Atrocities, and no one would believe you?
Some comforting things you can stress to the Victim is that they are normal; are not alone; are not shameful; are not defective; are not crazy; are not to blame for what happened to them. To be truly loved and accepted, with few demands or expectations, is a highly valued gift that will be received with reverence and appreciation. Secondly, report the abuse to the child protective service agency in your state. Your state handles this type offense–not the federal government, and states differ widely in the names they call their child protective agencies. Some state departments that handle child abuse cases are called: Social Services, Human Resources/Services, Health Services/Department, Families Services or Public Welfare.
IF YOU are a parent, no matter how hurt, frightened or shocked you feel when your child tells you they have been sexually molested, you MUST put your feelings aside and believe them. Children almost never fabricate stories about incest. More often than not, they are too scared or ashamed to mention it at all. If your children give you even the slightest hint that they are being Sexually Abused, take them seriously and investigate the matter thoroughly. Act on it!
…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak (Eccles 3:7)
NOW IS THE TIME!
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