Home Is Where The Hurt Is: Mary’s Story, Part Five
HA notes: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Mary” is a pseudonym. The following series is an original non-fiction story that spans 33 pages of single-spaced sentences. It will be divided into 10 parts. The story begins during the author’s early childhood and goes up to the present. At each stage the author writes according to the age she is at.
Trigger warnings: various parts of this story contain descriptions of graphic, often sadistic, physical abuse of children, apologisms for religious abuse, deprivation of food, as well as references to rape.
Extra trigger warning: this particular part of the story involves a description of rape.
In this series: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine | Conclusion
Part Five: Deeper Shame
I’m feeling it again.
I don’t know what it is but it makes me feel shameful.
I can’t ignore it. It hurts, it’s pulling me to go hide under my bed. I have to figure out some way to sneak away without Mom noticing. Some days I’m better at this than others. I know if I disappear for too long, I will get in trouble, but it doesn’t matter. I am pulled into my room, at least I feel pulled, but I don’t understand how. I feel like something is really, actually pulling me but no one is there. What is going on?
I don’t like it but I can’t help it. I manage to get to my room with nobody seeing and, as fast as I can, I hide under my bed. I have to do this, but I’m scared. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I can’t ignore this pain. I lay on my back and open my pants just enough to fit my 10-year-old hand in. What am I doing?
I don’t even know what this is but I cannot stop myself. I start rubbing and then it happens. I don’t know what happens to my brain and I don’t understand. Mom and the house disappear.
I am no longer under my bed. I don’t know where I am. Who is this scary man that has me? He is dragging me. My hands are tied and how did this thing get tied around my mouth? He keeps dragging me. I am fighting, this hurts. I am trying to run, but can’t. We are deep in the woods and it’s dark and scary. Is that a really high wall ahead? No! Please don’t go in there. I am so scared! Is this a dream or is it really happening? He pulls me into the wall. All I see is a concrete building. He pulls me to a small door on the ground next to the building, opens the door and throws me in. I hear the door locking behind me. It is dark, pitch dark. I can’t see anything. I feel a spider crawling on my leg and I shake my leg as hard as I can. I am too scared to cry, what is happening? I lay there forever before I hear the door unlock again. That man is back. He comes in and pulls me back out and into the building. He unties my hands and takes all my clothes off then ties my hands again. What is he doing? I really don’t understand. I don’t have any breasts yet, why is he touching me everywhere? What is he doing? It hurts. It hurts so bad. I cry and he yells at me to shut up. He finally leaves me alone but doesn’t give me my clothes back. He just leaves. I am so tired, I don’t want to go to sleep but I can’t stop myself. I don’t know how long I slept, but I wake up later to that man again. He is on top of me again and hurting me again. Please, please leave me alone. I am hungry and I am terrified.
“MARY!!!!!! WHERE ARE YOU?!?! YOU HAD BETTER GET IN HERE BEFORE I GET TO 10 OR YOU WILL GET 10 HOURS OF CORNER TIME AND 50 SPANKINGS ON YOUR FEET!!!
I suddenly feel jolted.
I hear Mom screaming mad. Wait, that wasn’t real? I’m in a fog. I can’t move my body for a minute. I try to hurry and get my pants back up, but I just can’t make my body do anything fast. Mom is at 8 and I know it is impossible for me to get into the kitchen before she gets to 10.
I stumble into the bathroom and wash my hands quickly.
“10! MARY, ANYTHING I COUNT PAST 10 IS ANOTHER HOUR IN THE CORNER AND 5 MORE SPANKINGS!! 11…12…13…14…15…16…17…18…19…20…”
Why does she have to count so fast? I’m trying so hard to get in there. I finally make it to the kitchen as I hear “25.” Wait. How many spankings is that? I can’t think to try to figure it out.
I see Mom standing over me with the belt in her hand. I see anger, hate and rage in her eyes. In a quick glance around the room, I see John standing in his underwear in the corner sending seething glances at Mom. Abby is curled up on the floor sobbing. Why does she do that? Mom just wants to see us cry and she is just giving Mom what she wants.
Ouch! I am yanked back to paying attention to Mom because she yanks my hair. She yanks my head around so I have to look her in the face. You know, that’s weird, my head is so numb from her yanking my hair that I really don’t feel it that much.
“WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?!? I HAVE CALLED YOU THREE TIMES!”
I don’t know what to tell her. I am still confused. I still feel like I’m in a fog.
I mumble something about being in my room.
“QUIT MUMBLING!!! IF YOU MUMBLE AGAIN YOU WILL GET A 10 PAGE PAPER TO WRITE. AND YOU KNOW YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED IN YOUR ROOM TILL AFTER SCHOOL TIME! I CAN’T STAND THE SIGHT OF SUCH REBELLIOUS CHILDREN! ALL THREE OF YOU GET OUTSIDE NOW!!”
She shoves me towards the back door and finally lets go of my hair. All three of us go to the back porch. My heart is sinking. It is pollen season. I am allergic to it and I know that I am going to have an allergy attack. I am embarrassed for John. He is still in his underwear.
I look at the clock in the kitchen from the window. Wow, it’s only 9:30 in the morning.
This is going to a long day. Well, what’s different than yesterday?
Mine and Abby’s stomachs are growling. I can’t remember the last meal we ate. Abby looks weak and sick. I want to cry for her. I am so hungry but I’m not feeling sick. John and I managed to sneak a few handfuls of dry cereal while Mom was in the bathroom this morning.
Mom is storming towards the door. She yanks it open and nails us with her eyes.
“I FOUND TWO PIECES OF CEREAL OUTSIDE THE PACKAGE IN THE CABINET. WHO STOLE MY FOOD?!? “
I don’t want Abby to get in trouble for this so I tell her it was me and John. He sends me an evil look. Now John is angry at me too. Mom walks away and I know where she is going. She comes back with the ipecac and two spoons. John and I refuse to take the spoons and she starts screaming at us. She says that if we don’t take the ipecac then we will be outside for a week. That sounds better than throwing up and getting stomach sick, so we say fine. I knew that wouldn’t work. I can see the rage in her eyes.
She grabs my head and throws me up against the side of the porch. She holds me down and forces the spoon in my mouth. I guess she didn’t like our choice. When I throw up later, it is almost all just stomach juice. That smell makes me sicker than throwing up. Hours pass. It is so hot outside. We are so thirsty and hungry. My eyes and throat are itching so bad.
Mom opens the door. She has been crying — her eyes are all puffy. She sounds so sad. I roll my eyes. ere we go again with the martyr act. It makes me so mad when she does this. I know what’s coming next.
“For the last few hours I have been praying and trying to figure out why God gave me such rebellious children. I have been trying to figure out why you are all ganging up on me and trying to make my life miserable. One day is going to pay you back and give you rebellious children. Do you know what happened in the Old Testament to rebellious children? They were stoned to death. That is what you deserve. We are going to sit here until we get to the root of all your rebellion!”
(Will she ever stop talking?)
“You know, everything that is happening to you is your fault. All of you are forcing me to act like this. When I was a little girl, I never did this. I never misbehaved around my parents. I know I am not perfect, though.”
I know she is lying. I know she wasn’t that good. And I know this isn’t all our fault. She has been talking for 3 hours now. Dad will be getting home soon. I am so tired and hungry.
“For the rest of the day we will be having obedience drills!”
That means we won’t be getting any food for the rest of the day.
To be continued.
What a horrific turn this family has taken. Mom has already been diagnosed with a serious medical condition, as well as exhibiting signs of postpartum depression in previous years…so where were dad and grandparents and church families while all of this was going? All culpable from my POV. I realize they were isolated, but kids starved and abused to the point of delusions/hallucinations would be hard to hide at Sunday services…the occasional welfare check or phone call from family or friends… I grew up near Springdale, AR and was always equally fascinated and repulsed by the quiverfull sects. I doubt abuse is inherently more prevalent among these folks, but isolation and religious justifications provide the perfect incubator for for these tragedies to fester and persist. I dearly hope some healing has taken place among siblings in the years since.
Following this story has made me so sad.
Dear Mary, you are a beautiful person.
Your abuse and pain and shame are completely undeserved.
I am still here and I am still reading…as much as you need to write…
Secular homeschooling mum here, this is exactly what the kind of horrible abuse I expected would happen when I listened in on the Quiverfull email list in the 90s… for all of you who have suffered, I feel so very badly for you and for you Mary, you are a lovely, normal, sensitive individual who deserved to be treated with respect. The very basis of respect is not to be violated by violence or threats of violence.
All abuse, no matter what the justification: religious or not, has in common that treating of the ‘other’ in ways somehow that they ‘deserve’ the abuse for some made up reason. Everyone deserves respect, period. Any made up reason for an exception is inhuman and in my opinion, against the very teachings of Jesus.
Well said, Margot. I wanted to clarify that I in no way see justification for mom’s escalating abuse. I just find it heartbreakingly tragic that with proper care and support (and perhaps breaking away from a likely abusive husband) she may have been able to return to the seemingly loving mother from Mary’s earlier years. The repulsion I referred to above is in regard to the belief system that women should be submissive and want for nothing more than to serve their husbands and bear children. The fascination was that whenever I saw these large families out and about, they appeared so content with children always well behaved. Now reading this blog (after coming across it on Daily Beast), I just wonder what horrors could have been going on behind closed doors. I can’t imagine how much strength and bravery it took for Mary to break away and write this piece. I hope the tremendous heart Mary and others are putting into blogs such as this can raise awareness and affect some change from within these closed communities. While it must have been difficult putting this story down on paper, Mary, you could very well be saving other children from a similar fate.
I put the blame squarely on the popular peer pressure use of the abusive teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl. It’s hard to have a bunch of kids, to want them to help take care of the little ones, do the chores, etc.. When things get tough if your community is telling you this hard job wouldn’t be so tough if you were tougher on your children, and if that is what in your parenting toolbox, you are going to reach for it when stressed. It’s a way of blaming the victim that is sanctioned by the community.
And, of course those kids behave in public. But fear doesn’t help grow the kind of supple muscles of self-restraint and self-respect that lead to true self-mastery: that comes with time and practice, Yet the Pearls say that kids should practically be born with those abilities or they are somehow out to get you and deserve to be beaten into submission.
There have always been members of our society who have advocated harsh physical punishment as training, but perhaps they haven’t always had the reach or the climate of community acceptance that the Pearls found. Once you buy into it, the message is, if it’s not working: do it harder.
“All of you are forcing me to act like this…”
“I know I am not perfect…”
Lies. You have almost zero self-knowledge, and nobody is forcing you to act abusively.