Survivor Voices

If you’d like to contribute to Survivor Voices, please contact Vennie at Vennie.Kocsis@gmail.com

LOCKED IN: by John Huddle

At the 2014 conference for the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA), I was in a conference filled with cult survivors. We were sitting in a large circle, some of us child survivors, some parents who had been lured, yet all of us had one commonality, we were victims. We shared openly, and a comradely connection swept through the room.

There was a man with a great sense of humor who seemed to interject at just the right time with softly funny quips that seemed to break moments of heaviness.  He had a gentle smile and kind demeanor.  John Huddle, survivor of Word of Faith Fellowship cult and author of LOCKED IN, ended up spending time with our group of survivors.  It was a great connection of healing and realizing that none of us were alone.  I was thrilled to meet another author, and we exchanged our books with each other.

Huddle’s book, LOCKED IN, opens with a young John, innocent minded, with a heart to do good in his community, a working man who volunteered at his local church.  He meets a like-minded woman and soon marries.  Life seems fulfilling, with Christian oriented goals of giving and helping in the community.  But this simple life quickly takes a turn when a woman named Jane Whaley enters the scene. John’s church, formerly led by Gerald and Linda Southerland, merges with the Whaley ministry and morphs into what would be re-titled as Word of Faith Fellowship.   Jane Whaley rules her congregation with an iron fist.  Her intensive and extensive set of rules are strenuous, dictating everything from styles of dress to her members’ employment, relationships, how children should be disciplined and much more.  In time, John and his wife have a family, but as his family grows, so does the sadistic, abusing and controlling environment and rituals set out by Jane WhaleyThe congregation travels to Brazil on recruiting trips. Over time, John becomes conflicted.  He struggles to come to terms with the truth of what he is embedded in.  Eventually, John is forced to make a decision that will ultimately change his life forever.

LOCKED IN is an excellently written, compelling and fast read.  Well-crafted with a style that can be related with, LOCKED IN allows the reader to follow the slow unfolding of religious based mind control on an adult.  The question of how an adult is slowly lured, turned and trapped into an abusive cult is lain out with brilliant precision.  With an informative forward by Lorna Goldberg, L.C.S.W, Psy.D, former President of International Cultic Studies Association, and quoting cult experts such as Janja Lalich, PhD, LOCKED IN tells the story of how innocent humans are preyed upon by swindlers who use religion to extract everything they can from their victims.

On behalf of Freedom Slips I recently had the honor to guest host one of their broadcasts and sit down to talk with John about the experiences he details in LOCKED IN.  John also discussed the current court case involving assault victim, Matthew Fenner by members of Word of Faith Fellowship.  Click below to listen to John’s interview.

John’s blog is a hub which details the history and the current drama involving the criminality of WOFF.  To stay abreast with the current events of the WOFF criminal case, follow John’s blog.  Word of Faith Fellowship has been deemed an extremely brutal cult and is currently charged with human trafficking of its Brazil members.

Vennie Kocsis is an Amazon best-selling author of CULT CHILD.  She hosts Survivor Voices Show every Sunday, 3PM PST / 6PM EST.  She is an anti-cult advocate and a supporter of of abuse survivors.

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“Dead, Insane or In Jail: A CEDU Memoir” by Zack Bonnie

 “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.” Lily Tomlin

Let Me Be

art by Jonathan Weiner, San Francisco, CA 2015

Accented with unique and relevant art by Jonathan Weiner of San Francisco, CA,”Dead Insane or In Jail: A CEDU Memoir“, by Zack Bonnie, reveals with precision the mind bending abuse enacted inside of the youth reform industry. “The Cult That Spawned the Tough-Love Teen Industry”, by Mother Jones, explains the birth of this industry and provides the following graph.  CEDU had roots in Synanon and began in 1967.

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It was indeed an industry of profit as parents were indoctrinated with the belief that any slightly “off” behavior by their teenager was a sign of serious problems, resulting in parents not only giving away their children with the belief they were helping them, but additionally being swindled out of millions of dollars.

Dead, Insane or In Jail: A CEDU Memoir” opens with Bonnie taking a ski trip with his father. Subsequent events find a fourteen-year-old Bonnie checked into a youth reform facility in Idaho. He is tricked, and left there against his will. Thus begins the enactment of Bonnie’s mental shattering. Overnight, he joins the ranks of the large number of throwaway youth in the eighties, who eventually were labeled “Generation X“.

With every phone call monitored and Bonnie’s parents receiving false reports of his progress, he becomes trapped in an intricately woven scheme of abuse.  He has no means of escape.  He is unable to relay his alarming conditions to anyone.  Forced through bizarre, psychological techniques to become emotionally naked, Bonnie is often left confused about what is real in his mind.  The children are left unsure of what a right answer to staff questions should be.  They are love bombed, then verbally abused, with severely psychotic mind control rituals. The CEDU facilitators often use the children’s personal family dynamics to manipulate them.

“To not share would be to betray them and the confidences that they shared.  I said the most innermost things that made my voice tremble to admit, bringing an ancient anger and self-hatred to the surface.  It wasn’t just the situation; it was where it was taking me, inside myself.

I’m useless.”

Who used to say that to you?” Keith’s soft voice back at me.

My father.”

Your father called you useless?”

Yeah.

Had he really? Yes, he had.

Say it again. ‘My father said I’m useless.’ Good. It hurt you? Yeah. You can say that again, that’s riiiigth.”

Tess and Keith repeated what we said a lot. Just about every time a kid in my group said something, Jasper, Tess, or Keith was there to repeat it. This is how we always seemed to get roped into going deeper within ourselves.

Rituals involve teenagers verbally confronting themselves and each other.  Every detail of their life is invited to be shared as their overseeing handlers note them to use against the children later.  Rounded into groups, they are put through almost daily, mind bending sessions of unimaginable attacks as staff strategically controls the children into turning on one another.

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art by Jonathan Weiner, San Francisco, CA 2015

Zack describes session after session, as every part of the children’s emotions are controlled and manipulated.

Bianca, what do you remember about your mom? She used to have a name for you, too, didn’t she?”

I guess so.” Bianca Taylor picked up her cue from Tess.

Yeah. What was her favorite nickname for that beautiful little tyke? Can you remember for me?

She used to call me Rainbow...” Bianca started crying. I wanted to start crying from watching Bianca, who I’d never really even talked to. Seeing raw sadness like that felt like a punch to the solar plexus.

Toughen up.

The berating of kids is a carefully crafted tool.  Broken down into nothing, with their self-image lost and lacking any emotional worth, the children become easier for the staff to manipulate.  Using every piece of their fragile lives, the staff takes as many opportunities as possible to verbally abuse the children.

I can’t hear you, Bianca. A spoiled little bitch? Spoiled little bitch. LITTLE BITCH! Why did he call you that? That’s right, let me hear you.”

Go for it, Wally…GET IT OUT, PEOPLE. That’s RIGHT!”

A SLUT! Who said that to little Daphne? You really let that little girl down, didn’t you?

Yeah? When? After the abortion? Say that again, Narissa – you’ve got to stop being that girl with the reputation? Look at her!

Here’s some tissues, Bianca. Let it go.”

Catch terms such as “bans“, when children are forbidden to speak to one another, and “bad rapping“, children saying bad things about each other, are among a plethora of rituals used to manipulate the minds of vulnerable teenagers.  Meanwhile, the children are allowed to smoke cigarettes and other self-harming behaviors, geared to feed into their anxiety, which grows, the longer they are forced to remain inside of the program.

Bonnie’s writing style allows his reader to easily flow between what he is forced to witness happening to other children and the silent thoughts he is disallowed to ever let leave his lips lest there be intense punishment.  The children are trained to adhere to a system filled with mistrust and expected betrayal of one another.  They are strip searched upon admittance to the program.  They are heavily worked.  They are humiliated in front of one another.

Yet, even trapped inside such a sordid system of complicated tier goals, systematic punishments, humiliation and anger, Bonnie’s resilience becomes his counter weight as he journals.

“Guess what I went through my truth prophet August 9 & 10 and I found out that I basically I was a dick at home. I have been mulling it over in my mind and I know the point of raps and prophets.  Just to make you cry a lot so naturally being the way I am I didn’t cry. – Author journal entry, 11 August 1988 (one month at RMA)”

Through this writing, Bonnie brilliantly flows between descriptive enactment of the program and his attempt to retain a critical thinking mind.  Bonnie takes his reader’s hand and pulls them directly into the center of his deeply intense experiences.

Bonnie navigates the CEDU system until he can no longer withstand the thin line between the reality in his mind and the constant psychological belittlement he daily endures.  One day Bonnie decides to go on the run.  Will he make it out?

Dead, Insane or In Jail: A CEDU Memoir” reveals the sadistic truth of the youth reform’s use of mental and physical abuse to control children.  Never has a book had an impact on my own teenage memories since I was a young person reading “Run, Baby, Run” by Nicky Cruz. The detail through which Bonnie brings his story to life is exceptionally mapped out.

Dead, Insane or In Jail: A CEDU Memoir” is guaranteed to make you intensely feel. You will be outraged. You will ask why and how a human being can do such things to children. You will laugh, and you will cry. You will cheer for the incredible strength and courage Zack journeys into as he brings his teenage memories to life on the pages of this exceptional book.

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Zack Bonnie

Zack Bonnie is in the process of re-launching his website, complete with an audio-book of  DEAD, INSANE OR IN JAIL: A CEDU MEMOIR, which is available in paperback and e-book. Additionally, he is beginning the publishing submission process for the sequel, entitled: DIJ: OVERWRITTEN.   All of Zack’s work can be explored at his WEBSITE.

To subscribe and stay informed as Zack continues developing his literature, please sign up for his NEWSLETTER.  You may also follow Zack on Facebook and Twitter.

Personal Note: Sometimes a book is so well written, it sinks into the skin of a trauma survivor like me, who found incredible familiarity in the words I read.  This author touched my heart deeply when I met him. The ache in his eyes was familiar. The strength was admirable. The energy was filled with the passion for advocacy. So, dear Zack, please forgive my delay in this long overdue review of your book. I truly wanted to give you the honor you so rightly deserve. Love, Vennie Kocsis  

#SurvivorVoices Guest Post: “Today Is the First Anniversary of My Freedom”

Guest Post by Adeena Blumenfield

April 16, 2017, at 6:22 PM

Today is the first year anniversary of my freedom.

Exactly one year ago, on April 16, 2016, with the help of Fraidy Reiss of Unchained At Last, the police were called to my home during a violent incident. My now ex-husband was arrested immediately. This incident opened up a journey of freedom for my sons and me.

This wasn’t a loving marriage gone sour, or a typical domestic quarrel. It was an arranged, forced marriage, in a sadistic and calculated, controlling cult where a man like my ex thrives. You see in this patriarchal cult, it is a man like my ex’s ideal environment. In this community following the rules is the only thing that is sacred. Humane treatment of women and children or morals are never a priority.

I was raised in the Charedi community of Kiryat Sefer, Israel. The oldest of nine children, I spent my childhood days and nights changing my siblings’ diapers, bathing them, cooking, and cleaning our meager home. Constantly trying to fit in, I prayed to God to help me believe in him. Inside of myself, I was fighting the endless questions of his existence, resulting in deep guilt.

I was in shame while wondering why would God give women a brain, if their sole purpose on earth was only to serve men? Was the creation of women in vain? Is our life’s purpose just about avoiding hell? Or is hell right here on this creator-less earth by a religion created by humans? I lived in a silent abyss of mental confusion.

Without my consent, I was engaged at 19 and ultimately forced into a loveless, abusive, and extremely violent marriage. Having no say in most of my daily activities and definitely not having the freedom of life choices, I gave birth to three children within 4 years.

The sexual assaults started during our engagement. What he wanted, he took. The rapes began after we were officially married. The physical abuse began with my first pregnancy. With the birth of my first child, the child abuse began.

My ex-husband informed me daily that, “According to Jewish law, I own you! I can do what I want to you. Your body no longer belongs to you. It belongs to me, and I can do what I wish, how I wish, when I wish.” So, he did.

Nine years of torture and torment ensued. Nine years I lived in constant anguish and horror, sorrow and terror. Nine years where every time I thought it couldn’t get worse, it did.

One year ago, my ex was locked up in the county jail, in the sex offenders unit, where he belongs. His bail was set at $100,000 in full, which my own parents paid. My family and the religious community funded his team of top New York city attorneys.

Yet, when I asked them for help, I was told, “You’re not the one sitting in jail. You will not need an attorney at all.”

I was heavily pressured by my family, the Rabbis, and even the community leaders, including city Councilmen, to go back to the police and tell them that my testimony was a lie. When I refused, I was verbally abused.

Why are you being so difficult?” They demanded of me.

Then another tactic of coercion was attempted when the Rabbi told me he COMMANDED me to lie, considering it a “Mitzva” (a good deed done from religious duty).

I asked them how would I be protected against my ex. The Rabbis and community leaders informed me that my ex will return home immediately in the hopes to “cover this mess up“. They instructed me that the next time he assaulted me, I should give THEM a call. I should never again involve the police.

My family supported this reasoning. They explained to me that if there was a divorce in my family, it would scar them, preventing my younger siblings to ever have an equitable match. Their status in the community mattered more than mine and my children’s safety.

I stayed strong, I did not give in. I held by the truth. I fought for my children’s, and my freedom. The community shunned me. My family disowned me. Yet by my side stood Chani Getter of Footsteps. The support of this organization gave me the strength I needed to keep fighting. I was not alone.

The Superior Court found my ex guilty of serious crimes, including but not limited to, child abuse and neglect, child endangerment, aggravated assault, criminal restraint, and long term spousal rape.

Last month, with the help of Patrice Lenowitz of The Nurtured Parent Support Group for Survivors of Domestic Abuse, and Richard Pompelio of the New Jersey Crime Victims Law Center, the criminal case was finally over. My ex plead guilty on multiple criminal counts. I received full custody of my children. He was denied any access to them. We hope he never will.

In the past year, my sons and I have evolved from being beaten up under the control of a clinically diagnosed Sociopath, to living in a domestic violence shelter, to finally re-starting our lives fresh, in a wonderful neighborhood. My sons are in fantastic public schools. I am in college, studying Molecular Biology.

This transition has not been easy by any means. Yet, we have started a journey that I can finally trust, a new life for all of us. I walk this journey in freedom, with great friends by my side, creating great new memories to look back on and look forward into new and amazing experiences.

There is a life of hope after domestic violence. As Anais Nin so eloquently said, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” I took the risk to blossom, and now, I am blooming and creating new blossoms.

Thank you to Adeena for being a brave Survivor Voice. 

If you or someone you know is a victim of Domestic Violence, please reach out. If you feel that your computer use is being tracked, be cautious and try to use the phone or another computer instead. See resources below for global Domestic Violence support.

National Domestic Violence Resources:

ORGANIZATIONS/AGENCIES

Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Line
3300 N.W. 185th Street, Suite 133
Portland, OR 97229
Phone: (503) 203-1444
Toll-free: 1-866-USWOMEN (International Crisis Line)
Organization dedicated to assisting American women living overseas victimized by domestic violence. Outreach, safety planning, extensive support services, general info on domestic violence at website.

Arugaan ng Kalakasan
45 Maalalahanin St.
Teachers Village
Quezon City, Philippines
Phone: (02) 921-8013/928-7774 / (02)430-4227
E-mail : aru-kalakasan@phi.gn.apc.org
Arugaan ng Kalakasan is a SEC–registered NGO providing services for battered women and mobilizing the community to action against domestic violence.
Service : Free face–to–face counseling by appointment
Schedule : Monday to Friday 8:00 – 5:00 PM

Canadian National Clearinghouse on Family Violence
Family Violence Prevention Unit
Public Health Agency of Canada
200 Eglantine Dr.
Ottawa, ON I9O 9D1
Phone: (613) 957-2938
TTY Toll-free: 1-800-561-5643
Toll-free: 1-800-267-1291
The NCFV is a national resource centre for all Canadians seeking information about violence within the family, including spouse/partner abuse, child abuse, and elder abuse.

Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma at Alliant International University
10065 Old Grove Rd.
San Diego, CA 92131
Phone: (858) 527-1860 x 4160

Muslim Women’s Help Line
Unit 3, 1st Floor
GEC Estate, East Lane
Glasgow, UK
Phone: 0808 801 0301
Hotline for Muslim women and girls in the U.K. dealing with domestic violence, sexual abuse, and other problems.

National Domestic Violence Hotline (Canada)
Toll-free: 1-800-363-9010
All provinces. Bilingual (English & French).

National Organization of Battered Women’s Shelters (Sweden)
ROKS, Hornsgatan 66
118 21 Stockholm, Sweden
Phone: 08-422 99 30

Nottelefon Zurich
Phone: 044 291 46 46
Pages available in German, English, French, Spanish & Italian) Counseling by phone and in person, free referrals to doctors and legal advisors, for women dealing with sexual harassment or abuse, or exploitation by therapists, doctors, ministers, at work or home.

Provincial Association of Transition Houses of Saskatchewan (P.A.T.H.S.)
1940 McIntyre Street
Regina, SK S4P 2R3
Phone: (306) 522-3515
P.A.T.H.S. is a non–profit organization comprised of safe houses, shelters, transition and interval houses throughout Saskatchewan for women and children victimized by family violence. The Hot Peach Pages provide links to hotlines, shelters, legal and general info on family violence for Saskatchewan, and throughout Canada.

Scottish Women’s Aid
2nd floor
132 Rose St.
Edinburgh EH2 3JD
United Kingdom
Phone: 0131 475 2372
24-hour helpline: 0800 027 1234
Support and information, referrals to refuges, counseling, and services for children.

Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE)
c/o Austrian Women’s Shelter Network
Bacherplatz 10/ 4
1050 Vienna
Austria
Phone: 01-5482720
Refuges, hotlines, education, counseling throughout Europe.

Women’s Aid Federation of England
P.O. Box 391
Bristol B599 7WS, England
Phone: 0117 944 4411
Freephone: 0808 2000 247

World-Wide List of Domestic Abuse Agencies
Global inventory of hotlines, shelters, refuges, crisis centres and women’s organizations, searchable by country, plus index of domestic violence resources in over 70 languages.

“Ownership” Featured Blog Post

**TRIGGER WARNING**

One of the ideas that I have struggled with the most this past year is that I was a slave. I was owned. Words that are hard enough to type and still stumble and bumble off of my tongue. My heart clenches, my hands shake, and my mind screams NOOOOOOOO every time I delve into this subject in therapy or on my own. I still ask how? why? Questions for which I will never really have answers.

Read More at Sunset – Fire, Ashes, Rebirth

Motherless On Mother’s Day

by Vennie Kocsis

I don’t quite understand these constant holidays, dedicated to moms and dads and bunnies and love. I see them as marketing scams, a way to boost economy almost every month, by throwing in a Holiday.

But hey, maybe I’m bitter.

On these days I am reminded of my absent mother. See, not only did she pass away in 2007, her mother’s soul was stolen when I was three.

Recruited by an ill-intended woman into a sinister cult, my mother was forced to be separated from her children, initially physically starved through food rationing. After years of brutal torture, all of our spirits were broken.

Emotionally, I never had a mother. In cult life, I was rarely allowed to express my feelings to anyone. This was considered to be self centered behavior, a feeding of the flesh and a sin in the eyes of God.!!If by some chance I caught my mother in a listening mood, my emotions were most often turned back around on me.

“Suck it up, buttercup.”

This was one of my mother’s favorite phrases.

These days feel so distant to me. Social media is filled with flowery and adoring words dedicated to mothers. They are loved and adorned with the flowers of sparkly attention.

I wonder if those mothers are supported every single day as they raise children, work and juggle schedules. I wonder if they have their own mothers to love them.

My mother is not here to love me. If she were here, she would most likely be in the midst of her Queendom, wearing her dark “Godmother” sunglasses which she’d taken to wearing for her glaucoma.

She would be the center wheel, the rest of the family mothers in her shadow, as she preened. There is a wince inside of my star heart, a little ache to return, back into the portal where my real home awaits.

I see the outstretched arms of my celestial Mother, her lips parted into a smile reflecting light from her pearly white teeth. She is waiting for me. She is proud that I succeeded in my mission.

“Welcome Home.” She says softly.


(Gif by Vennie Kocsis)



There is no banner or trumpets to celebrate my return. We are not a star family of false pretenses. She gives me the intimate connection which supersedes any material gift.

She holds me inside of her love, and as her arms wrap around my body, I sigh a heavy breath into her chest. I am home again.

To the mother in the starlight, who visits my dreams at night, soothing my cries, stroking my holographic hair, I am alight in your glory. We will see victory in this round.

The Constant Ebb of Impending Doom

By Vennie Kocsis

To untangle the web of my current occasional States of Being has required a process of retracing the steps into my past through the portal of my present behaviors and emotions.

Growing up in an end-times cult, I was taught two main death concepts.

1. God was going to end the planet by destruction, and all humans would die.

2. The Communists would begin that process through a brutal American invasion, which would include the genocide of all Christians.

Therefore, from my beginning developing years, my mind was conditioned for a death event which could come at any time.

Although eventually an acceptance set in as I was put through survival training to live off of the remote Alaskan mountainsides in Delta Junction, existing within this mindset created a layer of doom inside of my childhood emotional state.

Life was not only lived in fear of my own death and the world ending, but of the adults around me. I feared the death of the handful of people I had come to love. I feared the punishment of the brutal adults who were always overseeing us like vultures. I had to watch every word I spoke. I walked on eggshells of fear; afraid to say or do the wrong thing.

I held the secrets of my sexual abusers. There was no safe place for me. There was no one I could talk to; no safe teacher, as they were all abusive, no school counselor, since we were schooled inside the cult, no police or 911 to call, no access to telephones, no ability to write un-monitored letters to my Grandmother or Father, whose addresses I was not allowed to have anyways. Not even friends could ever fully be trusted. I was indeed enslaved in body, mind and spirit.

The programming of mistrust ran so deep, the fear of death and saying or doing the wrong thing, always simmered within my mind. It weaved into my normal state of awareness. Simply put, it became a part of my operating wheel.

This doom morphed into a state of being which embedded itself into my body’s scientific chemical system, understanding that emotions derive from cells and brain chemistry, and became a permanent part of my operational system.

Ordinary day to day activities randomly awakened the sense of doom and fear. Going into public, it simmered in my stomach. It became the possibility of everything bad that could happen. It emerged in unexpected moments like grocery store visits where my eyes watched every stranger who passed me, untrusting and suspecting. Or when driving, where I was intensely aware of my surroundings, watching vehicles and noting who was inside of them. It held me often in isolation, not wanting to venture far from home.

It contributed to the choice of two abusive adult relationships, as I confused being controlled with being protected, believing the second time that I could even help an abusive person, although I could not help myself.

It assisted in taking away my ability to have a reality based thinking, or build self-protecting boundaries, a life skill I was never taught. It led me away from my own intuition and eventually replaced it, until the act of living was filled with a thin layer of expected doom, even if it was undefined by any specific event.

As I became older and experienced more abuse, the hyper-vigilance and fear became my fuel. My mind was constantly on the run and in defense mode. I behaved as hunted prey, always on the lookout of my surroundings. I trusted no one. Yet, naively trusted everyone. My trust abilities were reversed, convoluted and tangled.

However, there had to come a moment where I was living my life, not from a sense of doom, gloom and fear, but through an empowering awareness, wisdom and critical perspectives.

While I still have certain thought patterns that I am working through, when survivors of abuse explain an adult life of feeling impending doom emotion, I hold a true understanding. I feel with them and understand why. Especially those victimized by religious abuse.

To carry the layers of who we are as abuse survivors is like carrying a book which must be read, should someone care to know us. Within the pages, cracks created by a multitude of breaks, are clearly revealed.

I require understanding. I want to feel safe around the people I am with. Not just safe emotionally, but physically as well. It is at the top of my requirement list to be a part of my life; loyalty and safety. It only takes once for that to be broken for me, and I either say goodbye or change my interactions.

To love us survivors is to know us. To reassure us. To look out for us. To help us know without a doubt you will never hurt us. Until we can feel that completely, patience is required to help us trust you. When you show interest in giving us that support, in return, you will receive a deep love.

A Story of Religious Abuse and Torture

Introduction:  This piece is a contribution from an abuse survivor.  It details extreme abuse and could be triggering to readers.  Please consider caution if you are a trauma survivor.  

By Lusciana Philomena

I was born in the US in the nineties. My sister was quite older than me. She had her own issues, but this is my story. What I will say, is that at one point, I discussed my childhood abuse with her. She believed me in our mutual conversation, then betrayed me and told one of my parents about it. The result was the family turning against me and calling me a liar. It created a new wound in me. Yet, I also saw that the Narcissistic triangulation that my parents created with my sibling never ended. It was hurtful to have a moment of validation taken from me by the betrayal of my sibling.

My parents were blue collar workers who both came from military families. We didn’t move around a lot, but we did move churches quite often. Yet, regardless of what denomination my mother and father were trying out at the time, we always reverted back to fundamentalist, Pentecostal Christianity. This was my life from birth into my twenties.

For those who don’t understand the Pentecostal religion, it is a belief system of rituals such as prayer through laying on of hands, speaking in tongues, frenzies, clapping and dancing as if filled with the “Holy Spirit”. I imagine Christianity is wide spread enough that most people have a grasp on this sect of the religion. We were taught about demons, ingrained with demonic threat and fear. We were often put through rituals where throngs of the congregation members would lay their hands on us children to fill us with the spirit of God so that the demons wouldn’t enter us. I was claustrophobic. I felt panicked when I was in these moments. They scared me, and the energy pressed down on me, as I felt small inside of these moments.

I began having nightmares as a child. I would lay in bed awake for hours at night praying and pleading with God to please not let Satan take me. Because of the extreme nature of the fear and torture I was experiencing, I became adept at dissociating away from my body. I was often threatened with eternal torment in a place called “Hell“. I was told that I could lose my salvation and be damned. Yet, in those same breaths, I was also told how much God loved me. I could not make sense of anything around me. Many days were filled with fear, uncertainty and there was no safe place for me. There was gossip, deceit, and trickery everywhere in my environment. I never knew who I could fully trust.

I also attended a private Christian school from kindergarten until I graduated high school. Private schools are not required to adhere to the same curriculum or child safety rules as public schools. In private school, abuse was constant. Since the religious belief systems were also the same as the church we attended, they used the same methodology of punishment. Teachers subjected me to solitary confinement in closets and rooms until I lost track of time. There was physical abuse, severe mental and emotional abuse, spiritual abuse, public shaming and humiliation, degrading remarks, inappropriate sexualization and touching, and isolation from other children and the outside world. I was kept inside of a bubble of fearful compliance.

There were layers upon layers of cover-ups at school, as the staff was always watching us and each other. I felt constantly surrounded by human predators waiting to pounce. My mind was terrorized. I was often the focus of being targeted. I thought I was just the worst child in the school. In the beginning, I was a well-behaved child who merely daydreamed. Looking back, I believe at that time I was actually beginning to dissociate from life as a whole. Soon, I decided that since I was going to be in trouble anyways, I might as well give them a reason to punish me, so I began to act out. This at least gave me a satisfactory feeling of justification versus being punished for nothing.

In my home life my father was a confusing man. He could be the most loving father and also the most brutal. Since this was all going on at the same time as the abuse at church and school, I tend to remember these time periods as one, long bundle of abuse. My father taught me “games” that I eventually was conditioned to ask for and even enjoy, which haunts me to this day. I believed that I was born to please my father and make him happy, protect him, and do his bidding at all costs. I also believed that once my father died I would have nothing left to live for therefore I would have to end my life after his. I was conditioned to be my father’s puppet by him directly as well as his immediate family, who told me that I must do what my father commanded.

Some of the “games” he played with me included nerve shock torture where he pressed his fingers deeply into trigger points in my body, pulling the tendons up and away from the bone, then twisting and grinding them. Places he targeted were behind my knees, my neck, and my pelvis area. He purposely created a mixture of pain and sexual pleasure in my body. Regardless of my age, my body scientifically responded, giving him the results that he wanted.

Other forms of torture included tickle torture where I was forced to stay still or else the game started over; he used light breath, fingers and whiskers to tickle my body. All of my father’s sadistic leanings were filled with sexual elements. My household was rife with sexual inappropriateness. My mother would also sometimes behave in inappropriate sexual ways, behaviors that I should not have been exposed to as a child. I soon believed that my mother knew what my father was doing and didn’t care. My father would freely smack me on the behind, as if I was his girlfriend, whenever he wanted. He pinched my skin in inappropriate places, tried to get me to kiss him and chased me around the house. My mother simply hollered at us to settle down.

My father contorted my limbs, bending them the incorrect way. This caused excruciating pain, and I would scream. He threw ice water on me randomly when I was showering. Sometimes he would just stand in the doorway and flick the light off and on, off and on, repeatedly. I could not say a word or ask for him to stop. I was in complete compliance. My mother sometimes participated, throwing water on my face in the morning until I woke up feeling like I was drowning. I was yelled at to get up for the day, again my lights being flicked on and off, on and off. It was all because I was a heavy sleeper, they would say, sometimes laughing at me at the same time.

The torture my father enacted on me seemed endless. He would press into my sternum until the pain was excruciating. He pulled my fingers apart so wide it felt the skin would rip. He’d instruct me to stick out my tongue, grab it with a towel and pull until I screamed from the intense pain. He would laugh when this was happening. He would laugh intensely, as if it was the most entertaining thing. Sometimes he would lead me around by my tongue as I was in pain. Yet he would be laughing, since to him, it was a game. My father allowed me to have pets. Not because he wanted me to be happy. No. It was so he could use them to abuse me further by abusing them. I had the belt used on me to the point that I dissociated from my own body in order to withstand the pain.

As I became older with my father grew more deeply confusing, because coupled with his “games” of inducing mind blowing pain on me; he also showered me with love. At times he whispered in my ear that he loved me and would whisper other loving sentiments. There were moments of doting on me. He had endearing pet names for me. He also treated my pets the same way, sometimes loving them, sometimes cruelly abusing them. These moments induced a great love and bond with my father which intersected itself into the fear state that I existed inside. His behavior created a duality through which I could not critically navigate emotionally.

This abuse was also coupled with ritualistic religion, such as my father quoting Bible verses in the middle of abusing me. I have many gaps for which I don’t have answers. My body and my intuition have an idea of what hides inside those gaps. I often don’t even want to think about the possibility of what more my father did to me, that my mind has chosen to suppress. My mother projected jealousy onto me and in doing so, also physically and mentally abused me. She made me shower with her. Both my father and mother bathed me far beyond the years that I should have been being taught to bathe myself.

My father was an alcoholic and pill user. One night when I was a young adult he physically and sexually assaulted me. I hit him multiple times to get him to stop. Years later, when I confronted him, he alleged not to remember those moments. Yet, with persistence, I finally got him to admit to abusing me, and he said he was sorry. Then he proceeded to use emotional blackmail on me, victim blaming me and trying to make me feel sorry for him, saying that I was “killing” him. My mother was no help when I called her, blaming me for the situation and saying that she didn’t have time to be bothered. I felt helpless and in shock. She further stated what a terrible person I was for hurting my father with such lies. I knew that when it came to accountability in my family, I may never have it.

Because of my childhood, I endure flashbacks, complex PTSD, an eating disorder and fibromyalgia. I have insomnia to avoid the night terrors. I am hyper-vigilant about being followed, and I am often in fight or flight mode, feeling trapped. My capacity to develop my own spirituality as an adult has been severely hindered due to having a constant, tangible fear which lingers inside of me. Being an abused child left me with mental health and physical disorders. I have severe body somatic pain which can’t be associated with any one specific physical injury, leading doctors to connect my body pain to the reality of body memories.

Body memories are caused by trauma settling into our cells. Therefore, the body manifests the abuse on a daily basis, causing severe genital pain, joint and tendon pain, neuropathy that shoots nerve pain through my whole system. The nerve pain mimics the tendon shock rituals performed on me as a child.

The most confusing part about my abuse is how my parents could be so loving at times and so sadistically brutal at others. I realize that my identity belongs to them and now, I am struggling to figure out who I am before I was born into a childhood of abuse and confusion. I am sifting through broken pieces to integrate them so I can get to know who I really am.

Because of my experiences I have a great capacity to understand others who have been tortured. I know that as I continue to work through the aftermath of my own abuse, I will continue to grow and be a strong support for my fellow survivors.

I don’t know if I’ll even understand why I was tortured, except to understand mind control on a level so deep, a parent believes a religion justifies the abuse of their child. I want to know who trained my father to utilize such specific torture methods on my muscles and limbs. There are so many questions that leave tangled pieces in my mind. As a child my mind fragmented into “pieces or aspects” in attempt to endure what I was being put through however they have more or less integrated now. I wish my parents knew how much accountability and truth would change the course of each of my days. I wonder if my paternal grandfather learned these torture methods while serving in the military, and in turn, used them on my father. Again, I may never have these answers.

And so, I must stand inside of radical acceptance and continue creating who I truly am.

ART

When art comes out of me, it can take on varying forms, depending on who is holding the pen or the paint, as you will see in the pieces below.

 

POETRY

                Another outlet for my pain is writing poetry.  This expression has been a crucial part of my healing journey.

Porcupine No Longer

Ashamed and frozen in fear, time stops.
Pretending to be asleep; staying very still…
Lying and waiting, pretending it’s all just a dream.
“NO! Get up! I have to do something!” SCREAM!
*Silence*… I don’t make a sound. No one can know. Ashamed!
Eyes now scrunched up tight and fists form into balls.
Go into my mind. Pretend I am a porcupine.
Can’t touch me! Can’t touch me! I am a porcupine!
Doesn’t work…
Porcupine’s quills have been plucked clean away! Exposed.
Body is a map whose lands have been plundered before.
Monster’s fingers are legs, walking the map, exploring it all.
Monster is greedy: taking what is not his to take.
Too scary. So scary. Can’t be happening.
Dumb, wretched girl.
Pretend. Pretend. Pretend. Smile. I’m alright.
Tomorrow I’ll pretend I don’t remember what happened at night.

Healing Under a Canopy

Stroll through the shaded wood I must;
Liniment for a marred soul.
In love with the seclusion it offers;
I yearn for the peace it brings.
Amble about in nature’s song
I stroll along to such sounds:
Singing birds, dinky feet on Forest’s floor, water-a-trickling.

Healing from a pain so deep
It threatens to crush my voice.
I rebel, fight back, scream, kick, cry.
I will not allow this.
You cannot have my soul.
My past will not destroy me!
Your ‘control’ is merely an illusion.
I am no longer a child.

For I see the light.
It’s above me,
Filtering through the leaves.
It streaks my face with gold.
I feel its warmth on my skin.
This is the color of confidence.
I give myself the permission.
I can heal.
No one else can have
Me.

I smile.
I laugh.
I cry.
I’m filled with joy.
I am at peace.

Up ahead, I see a bridge.
I will cross it.
I will burn it down.

My story is the story of countless children being raised just like I was. Please don’t forget them. I want other survivors to know that you are not alone. Time and self-work make days easier. Please know that healing to a level of thriving is absolutely possible. To kids everywhere being abused, you are so strong and brave. You have the right to speak up; to tell your story; to be believed, heard and protected. You have the right to be safe and loved. You are not alone, and there are many of us Advocates dedicated to rescuing you and helping you heal.