HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Eleanor Skelton’s blog. It was originally published on October 20, 2014.
Trigger warning: victim-blaming.
Observing the backlash against my friend Cynthia Jeub’s blog series on family abuse has been quite informative for my journalistic aspirations.
Cynthia and I worked at the campus newspaper as editors for two years, and we share a passion for investigative reporting.
Together, we advocated for disabled students on campus, plotted together to conduct social experiment videos, followed the conflict over sermons about homosexuality at Bob Jones University last year, and cheered on the BJU students leaking bootleg recordings.
But two weeks ago, it got real.
Cynthia wasn’t just supporting Homeschoolers Anonymous and the spiritual abuse survivors blog network anymore, we weren’t just swapping links back and forth on chat. She shared her own story.
People told us to be quiet, to not make God or Jesus or Christianity look bad.
And all I could think of was a verse from memorizing the book of Ephesians with my youth group nearly 10 years ago: “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” (ESV)
There is no need for silence any longer. I noticed several types of attempts to stop Cynthia:
“You’re mentally ill.”
Cynthia’s parents and siblings keep using “mental illness” in attempting to discredit her, posting comments like: “Hey I’m Cynthias lil brother Micah Jeub and she is making this stuff up. she is just lying. Cynthia is dealing with mental illness and needs prayer.”
In the Jeub family’s responses, the fact Cynthia is even seeing a therapist at all is grounds to claim she is “mentally ill” and that her memories should not be considered credible.
I’ve noticed that American culture often misunderstands mental illness, as illustrated by the Matt Walsh post on Robin Williams’ suicide.
But legally, the state only interferes when the patient states or acts to threaten their lives or others. When their issues keep them from functioning in society.
So I don’t believe the Jeub family can label Cynthia “mentally ill” because she goes to counseling. She holds a full-time job and attends classes. If Cynthia’s crazy, well then so am I.
“But you forgave me.”
Another phrase abusers use to cover up the past. Especially in the church, because forgiveness is a Christian virtue, and Jesus forgave so much more than you ever could.
This brand of “forgiveness” just enables abusers, as illustrated in power and control cycles. Read the “minimizing, denying, and blaming” section.
Last week, a friend of mine received a message from her former boyfriend’s phone, sent by his controlling, manipulative girlfriend who assaulted him back in 2012.
“Anyway, it’s all in the past now. The only thing we can do now is move forward. You seem to be doing good things in your life. And we are doing good things in ours. Lets just all be happy and forgiving and let the negativity finally subside.”
If we cannot tolerate this behavior in romantic relationships, we shouldn’t in child rearing, either. Even forgiveness does not heal the hurt.
Chris Jeub’s podcast was loaded with this excuse, mostly from Cynthia’s siblings.
“That’s not abuse, that’s what every mom does when her kids don’t do the dishes, she throws silverware at you.”
“A lot of moms would have popped before mom did.”
The Jeub children still living at home assume explosive outbursts and physical attack is normal and happens in every household.
A more aggressive attempt to discredit Cynthia’s story, in the form of libel accusations, came from Patricia Byrnes, former counselor to Cynthia and the other older Jeub sisters.
She and her husband Kurt Byrnes founded Anchor of Hope Ministries in Monument, Colorado, and provide services to the homeschool community.
I received the following Facebook message from her on October 7:
Also, notice her comment on Chris Jeub’s Facebook status two days before, discussing a therapy session:
And her comment on Cynthia’s Melting Memory Masks post:
So I screen-captured Patricia’s message and posted it publicly to my Facebook account. She dialogued with us on the thread:
In these online encounters, Patricia Byrnes violated her own confidentiality agreement in revealing details from prior therapy sessions. Anchor of Hope’s policy states: “Interactions between client and counselor are confidential. Unless I have permission from you, what we talk about will be private; I will not discuss it with anyone else. Our discussion will be private and confidential.”
And she actively discouraged Cynthia from sharing her story, although a counselor’s role should be to enable and empower.
Patricia Byrnes also avoided questions about her credentials, while still telling us to “use caution” and “be quick to listen and slow to speak.”
The homeschool community becomes abusive and toxic when authority figures mislabel and deny our voices and then advocate a false forgiveness above all else.
These scenarios are what perpetuated our harm for so many years.
Silence only enables abusers. Our scars have stories. And the stories matter.