HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Susan Gabriella Douglas’s blog The Little Fighter That Could. It was originally published on October 12, 2014.
Susan’s disclaimer: the claims made in this article are drawn only from a Christian homeschool background and thus only pertain to similar such circumstances. Because this article responds to information found in this post, it may be useful to view it before resuming.
Cynthia Jeub’s claims of parental abuse on her blog have caused an uncomfortable stir in the Christian homeschooling community and beyond. Some people offer comfort to her and her sister, Lydia, who were both kicked out of their house, while others, obviously less moved by the story, are demanding reasons. Reasons for why Cynthia’s claims are true, and then, even if they are true, reasons why she feels the need to publish them.
This made me angry. I asked myself why an audience so detached felt the need to demand such technical answers of abuse victims like Cynthia. Why wasn’t her word good enough? Interestingly, I was actually able to get a partial answer.
A large portion of the people who hear Cynthia’s story may already know of her family—with sixteen kids, it’s hard not to get some press. And what most people (at least speaking for the Christian homeschool world) have been educated to believe is that the Jeubs are all reputable people up there with names like the Duggers and the Pearls. Consequently, due nearly only to the fact that Cynthia’s parents gave us our first impression of the family, Cynthia’s unexpected claims are now being weighed against a reputation toward which we have already been biased.
It’s been estimated that physical first impressions are made in one-tenth of a second. First impressions are hard to change. But imagine this—the tables turned. What if Cynthia presented to the world everyone’s first impression of her parents as abusive, hypocritical people? How much harder of a time would it be for Mr. Jeub to come along and retrieve his reputation? You see, it’s not a question of credibility as much as it is our subconscious bias. And our bias requires logic to supersede it. Therefore, it cries out, give us reasons.
I do understand this. But I’m also still convinced that there ARE reasons. The reputations of those who came before Cynthia may be uncomfortable to question, but I believe they are worth braving in the name of open-mindedness. After having done this myself, I have even been surprised—with four reasons why I believe Cynthia Jeub.
1) The Jeub’s Response to Cynthia
An article and a podcast were recently put up by Cynthia’s father, Chris Jeub, which were interestingly removed by him days later. While the article was eventually reposted, the podcast is now only available due to the initiative of those who believe, contrary to the podcast’s original intentions, that it supports Cynthia’s case. Here are a few reasons why.
In the article so appropriately entitled Responding to Heartache, Chris makes a bold statement meaning for it to prove that humans respond inadequately in the flesh to heartache. The statement he actually makes, however, gives a very different vibe.
“I envy the abusive parent whose kids never lip off, or the hot-tempered boss whose employees just do as they say, or the fire-breathing pastor who beats their congregation from the pulpit. Everyone seems to behave. I don’t know how they manage it, because I have not had good results with the response of the flesh.”
I do not intend to twist what Chris is saying to mean something it blatantly does not. I believe his train of thought was that this is the wrong attitude to have. He mistakenly assumes, however, that this power-hungry attitude is normal amongst the rest of us. And yet, somehow, I do not envy the abusive parent whose children never speak up for themselves, or the position of a hot-tempered boss whose employees just obey, or the fire-breathing pastor of a seamlessly behaving congregation.
It seems to have slipped Chris’ mind that even in the flesh we shouldn’t wish to be monsters. Certainly our flesh is weak, but a desire for complete and utter authority isn’t assumed, it’s developed. This is an attitude that is not healthy, which—if Chris took abuse seriously, for the crime that it is—he would know not to take lightly.
This is evidently not the case, because the podcast put up in defense of the Jeub’s reputation attempts to make a laughingstock of Cynthia’s first blogpost as four of her siblings attempt to debunk her claims.
It is my personal opinion that the reason the podcast was hastily removed was because it comprised of too much evidence in Cynthia’s favor. Below are the paraphrased alibis the Jeub children provide to disprove the abusive events disclosed by their sister.
- “This always happens—this is normal.”
- “Mom only hit him because I hit him first and she took my side.”
- “He wasn’t bleeding; mom and Micah only gave him a bruise.”
- “Mom said she was sorry and she’d never do it again, so it’s irrelevant.”
- “I don’t remember this happening but my siblings said it did, and it sounds like abuse—but mom would never abuse us kids. It can’t be abuse.”
- “Why wouldn’t mom be upset if she didn’t do the dishes while cleaning and cooking and caring for ten kids? It’s her job to do the dishes. Cynthia’s an adult, she should just grow up and do the dishes.”
- “Cynthia’s only mentioning this one part of the conversation. Dad didn’t only ask her ifthe reason she was cutting was to follow the trends of her college friends.”
- “I doubt this even happened, but if it did, mom didn’t ORDER Cynthia to not tell her counselor she was self-harming…she just suggested it. Besides, that makes no sense.Why would she be in counseling and not tell her counselor she was self-harming? Cynthia totally is contradicting herself.”
- “Mom and dad used to think spanking was a really good thing like ten years ago, but they don’t do that anymore.”
- “Mom blew it that one time and threw silverware at me, but that’s just what moms do when their kid doesn’t do the dishes, right?”
- “Remember, mom was in the middle of a miscarriage. She was having a hard time. We have to cut her some slack.”
- “She was so sorry, and you’ve forgiven her, so it doesn’t matter anymore.”
These statements do NOT justify what happened to Cynthia. In fact, if you read her blogpost and then listen to the additional information explained in the podcast, the abuse becomes even more evident. If you have any doubts about what’s been paraphrased here, I encourage you to go listen for yourself. I’ve also transcribed the entire podcast, which you can read here.
Brainwashed Children Don’t Know They Are Being Abused.
Cynthia’s first post claimed three main things. Physical abuse—abuse her siblings did not deny happened, and instead trivialized by normalizing it or saying it was forgiven; psychological abuse—which her siblings responded to by doubting; and emotional abuse—which her siblings made fun of.
Before I go on, I want to make it clear that I relate closely to Cynthia, as I grew up in a family that was—not physically, but—psychologically, spiritually and emotionally abusive. I therefore feel that I understand where she is coming from.
From growing up with such abuse, I also know that the most confusing part of it can be that you don’t know you are being abused. If you grew up in a successfully abusive family, you would’ve been taught from the earliest age possible that your life as a victim was normal. To you, the world outside was a dark, scary place that wanted you to be miserable…unlike in the house where you lived, in the loving arms of your abusers: Your Christian homeschooling parents, who tell you they love Jesus more than anything else.
When you do something wrong or that makes your family look bad…that is your fault. When you don’t want to obey your parents because it hurts…that is your sinful spirit, which must be broken. You suffer from guilt and shame and the constant, crippling fear of inadequacy.
The reason why most children who are being abused don’t realize it is because they have been brainwashed. I know I was. In fact, I am out of school, and it was only last year that I began to realize my parents hurt me a lot more than the world has, or can. This is because, as an independent adult, I choose who hurts me by choosing how I live my life; but under my parents’ authority, I had no control over what I could do, say, or believe. I was not only withheld from being myself, but I was pushed into a mold that I was not designed to fit in.
Siblings Are Willing to Stand By Their Parents Even When Their Siblings “Rebel.”
Cynthia, Lydia and their two older sisters all agree that they have been abused, and yet the younger siblings make no such claims. Likewise, my older brother, Ryan, and I know that we have been abused as children. But our two younger brothers? They angrily have been pitted against us, believing we’ve rebelled against our parents.
In the comments of one of Cynthia’s blog posts, her younger brother, Micah, blatantly denies any abuse. Jumping on top of this, people immediately asserted that he was only brainwashed. In Micah’s defense, someone realistically pointed out that he was far too sharp to be brainwashed. And I have to agree. At the age of seventeen, it would be difficult to brainwash anyone. But…what if it had started at the age of two?
I don’t think a genius could stand a chance.
The brainwashed are simply people whose worlds have been painted inaccurately, in a way that causes them to function on someone else’s terms. It’s harmful for our independence to be denied for the same reasons that the American Revolution is considered just.
Seeing Micah repeatedly insist that his sister was the one to blame reminded me of myself years ago.
My older brother, Ryan, as a legal adult, had gotten into a relationship against our parents’ wishes. This was the situation that I firmly believe God used to get him out of my family’s abusive home. But in the wake of the moment, and for the next two years, our family was in shambles “because of his mistake.” It broke my mother’s heart, it pissed my dad off to the point of swearing in front of me for the first time in my life, and I and my younger brothers became very bitter at him—all because we believed he was sinning by dating instead of courting. I have many memories of talking with people who disagreed with me about Ryan’s situation, but I held fast, and never for a moment did I question whether my parents were right or not. That’s just how powerful brainwashing can be.
Perhaps this explains why Cynthia’s younger siblings are all standing with their parents—they simply do not yet have the unveiled eyes to see the truth.
Parents Can Be Brainwashed Too.
I am not here to proclaim that Mr. and Mrs. Jeub are evil, although I definitely feel that what they’re doing is not right. Instead, I sincerely believe that parents can be brainwashed too. Brainwashed to believe that what they’re doing is best for their kids. Brainwashed like mine were to believe that the man who tells them what is right is representing God. Brainwashed families quite often aren’t self-invented. Sometimes they’re hoodwinked by their leaders. This doesn’t justify anything abusers do—but it’s helped alleviate my perspective toward my parents, and people like them. Therefore I don’t look upon the Jeubs as monsters; instead, I see them as terribly, tragically misled people who—for the sake of their children—must be corrected.
3) Similar Testimonies
Cynthia’s story sounds like a plethora of others posted on Homeschoolers Anonymous, a blog dedicated to telling the stories of homeschool alumni who hope others can learn from their negative experiences. I have found the same behavioral patterns in her story that are evident in many preceding hers, and they all point to the same tragic idea: the misled continue to mislead others. Maybe it’s believing that God teaches them to beat the wickedness out of their children; perhaps it’s the simple idea that obedience trumps all else, regardless of the expense. There are many different patterns of abuse each with its own unique effects, but in every situation regarding parental abuse the children pay the consequences—often long after they’ve left childhood behind.
Cynthia’s story is one of many—too many to turn a blind eye toward. I can’t just reason stories like hers away, like I did with Ryan. They are becoming too loud and too real for me to continue to justify.
4) Track Record
Cynthia is not the only Jeub to leave the nest with less than stellar relationships with her parents. She is one of four—the oldest four—to not only leave with different beliefs than her parents, but to be kicked out of the house for refusing to be controlled. I really wonder how Mr. and Mrs. Jeub can fall asleep at night without wondering what they did wrong. Really, how can you parent and watch as 100% of the children who move out leave as disowned rebels without questioning your tactics?
Cynthia’s parents and siblings claim that Cynthia is mentally ill. I don’t argue that struggling with self-harm and suicidal thoughts is the epitome of emotional stability. Having struggled with self-harm and suicidal thoughts myself, though, I quote my counselor when I say that “emotions serve as an internal thermometer; so when our emotions tell us death is the best option, we know something is terribly wrong.”
But not wrong with us.
When people want to die, they’re not crazy—they’re being seriously oppressed. When I wanted to die, it wasn’t because I was losing it. I have never been diagnosed by anyone but my parents with madness; instead, what I have been told, and what I have grown to believe, is that the way my parents were treating me was threatening my mental well-being.
Suppose with me for a minute that Cynthia was mentally ill once (loosely defined according to whatever extent you may believe it); and by the way, she says she’s gone to therapy since moving out. Now ask yourself why she might be mentally ill. After all, there is no effect without cause. Perhaps she was in an unhealthy, abusive environment. Perhaps she was so oppressed that her only coping mechanism turned out to be the dream of a better reality, which—in her sheltered world—turned out to be none at all.
I don’t know this for sure.
But here is what I do know.
Cynthia’s track record is the same as her three other sisters. Interesting that her family is claiming that only Cynthia is mentally ill… And yet all three sisters support her words. All four sisters claim the same growing up experience. Clearly, we have few choices to be choosy with. Either:
- These sisters are telling the truth, or
- All four of them happen to be insane.
I believe each of these reasons stand alone as evidence that Cynthia is simply sharing her heart. I can’t blame her—her siblings are still living in the abusive conditions she’s clearly spent so much time recovering from. Besides, the whole idea behind blogging is to share opinions and experiences. The people who condemn Cynthia for sharing her story should likewise be condemned for telling her how they feel about it.
I, for one, think Cynthia is doing a really brave thing by sharing the truth. I hope that her story will someday feel worth the pain living through it has caused her. I hope she inspires people to be courageous and honest, as she has inspired me. I hope she educates people about the reality behind Christian homeschooling. And dear God, I really hope she helps her siblings.