Trigger warnings: references (sometimes graphic) to emotional, physical, religious, and sexual abuse.
HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Auriel” is a pseudonym. Auriel blogs at Drying My Wings.
Also in this series: Part One: Growing Kids the Abusive Way | Part Two: Isolation and Ideology | Part Three: Mini-Parents | Part Four: The Sound of a Sewing Machine | Part Five: The Aftermath of Childhood Abuse
Part 2: Isolation and Ideology
At 16 years old, I was not allowed to cross our property line without another human being with me.
Like a caged dog, I paced back and forth, crying at the injustice of it all. The bonds that held me weren’t physical. I was chained by my sheltered life. The isolation came from homeschooling.
Until high school, I only had three close friends outside of my siblings, and I only saw them once a month. Although I was involved with many extra-curricular activities, I was not allowed to be friends with boys, non-homeschoolers, nor kids whose families my parents did not know.
So, no friends.
Pop and rock ave evil beats, movies with kissing or language — let alone violence — will make you copy them, gyms make you compare people’s bodies, TV shows are so sexualized they’re evil, iPods hurt your spiritual life, and so on. At least, that’s why I was not allowed. My siblings and I snuck around, listening to Christian music here, pop music there, watching TV when our parents were gone.
I’m still trying to get caught up on movies, pop culture, and music references.
Courtship was introduced as the only method of finding a spouse. We read books like the Courtship of Sarah McLean, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Boy Meets Girl, The Princess and the Kiss, and so many more. It was like my dad was supposed to own me, and any potential mate would have to ask for my father’s permission both to be near me and to eventually own me.
It’s so damaging to think of oneself as property.
Now, I want to date to find someone to marry, but my father does not own me. I do not need to be under his “vision” for my family. I have my own vision, which does not include abuse.
Mom held a sexist view of girls: they should not work outside the home. Girls were to have babies, homeschool their kids, and be dominated by men. Many Vision Forum books cemented this view in her mind like So Much More, What’s a Girl to Do, the Beautiful Girlhood books, Mother, and Joyfully at Home. Mom taught me needlework like a good Victorian girl, but I hated these activities! Just because I’m a girl does not mean I have to knit and drink tea!
I’m a person! I’m not a gender stereotype.
I was taught to be afraid of gays, Islam, and black men. It’s tough to grow up in a homophobic, Islamophobic, racist, sexist environment and come out unscathed. While it’s a struggle, I have learned to love everyone as made in the image and likeness of God.
The modesty teachings were awful. Modesty was focused more on covering skin than on ensuring the dignity of each person. I learned to watch my back for guys who would lust after me.
I heard that what I wore made me a rape target.
At first, Mom dressed me in denim jumpers or Easter and Christmas dresses from the local stores. Eventually, she forced me to sew my own dresses and skirts. When I was 9 years old, she told me that having my hair down made me look like a “lady of the night.” Even though I was a shy, modest girl, Mom constantly told me that something I did or wore was sinful, displeasing to God, and might turn on my dad or my brothers.
I was so scared that I was going to lead my brothers or dad into sin for lusting after me.
If that’s not twisted thinking, I really don’t know what is. Bleh.
I cried so many tears over how ugly I thought my body was, thanks to the baggy clothes I wore. Looking back, I was a healthy weight and my body was great. But shirts had to have sleeves and couldn’t come below the collarbone. Pants were forbidden after age 6. Swimwear was culottes that puffed full of water. The lifeguards even chided me for not wearing appropriate swim attire. I wanted to scream, “It’s not me!” My skirts had to be several inches below the knee, or else I was “showing some leg,” and that would “give guys a little jolt.”
When I finally turned 18, I had to beg a friend to help me pick out my first real pair of pants since Kindergarten. Of course, Mom called me a “slut” and a “whore,” declaring she could see intimate parts through my pants that would have been impossible for her to see. It was just to shame me.
Oh boy, here comes the scary part.
No one in my homeschooling community talked about sex. I got the talk at 12, earlier than any of my homeschooled friends. However, I only knew about one type of intercourse. I didn’t even know people did it lying down, lol. Because puberty, sex, and all related words were so hush hush, I stopped asking my mother questions.
The first time I heard another girl even mention her period, I was 16.
I stared at her in shock! “Did she just speak of her period?” I wondered. When I turned 18, I succumbed to searching dictionaries to learn the rest of the words and meanings.
I was also incredibly afraid of CPS. Through HSLDA and my parents, I learned that foster homes are terrible places that abuse children by burning their hands on stoves, and more. Well, it worked. I didn’t call hotlines, tell the speech moms who cared about me, or beg my few friends for help.
When CPS showed up at our doorstep, my siblings and I lied for fear of being separated from each other forever.
The community that attended our very conservative Catholic church supported the sheltered, so-modest-its-frumpy, sexist views of my parents. I even was bullied at church for failing to meet up to the standards of the kids my age. In the midst of all this, I got comments asking if I was part of a cult, Amish, or Mormon. It hurt deeply that people thought I was a freak. “IT’S NOT BY CHOICE!” I wanted to scream. But I couldn’t.
When people think you’re part of a cult, they tend to ignore you or avoid you.
The few people I told about the abuse after I escaped looked at me with shock and said, “I had no idea.” The isolation of homeschooling added with the isolation of a cultic appearance equals an ideal environment for abuse to continue.
To be continued.