Man Shares Personal Testimony of How Bill Gothard Used Bible Verses Which Led to the Abuse of Children: Part Two


<Part One

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Julie Anne Smith’s blog Spiritual Sounding Board. It was originally published on March 31, 2015 and has been slightly modified for HA.

The following is Part 2 of Dash sharing how the teachings of Bill Gothard influenced his parents to “spank” his siblings. Although I know Dash’s identity, he has asked to remain anonymous. Dash’s account shows that they were not spankings, but abuse:

I am a survivor of Gothard’s cult. I experienced unspeakable physical, sexual, and emotional abuse from my mother and father, who were at one point among Gothard’s “model parents.” Gothard is not human. Gothard does not deserve compassion. Gothard is not a man, and he does not have the slightest shred of decency or humanity within him. Bill Gothard is a monster in human form, and as far as I am concerned, he can’t die soon enough.

I asked Dash questions about his childhood and more specifics about how he was disciplined. Again, I must issue a trigger warning to those who have experienced abuse.  There may be some parents reading who used to follow Gothard’s teachings and have now left that behind. This, too, might be difficult for you to read.


In the following, Dash responds to my questions. My questions are in green:

What kinds of things did you and your sister do that resulted in “spankings?”  Can you give an example of what disobedience looked like, i.e, talking back, not doing what you were told to do, etc.?

It’s hard to dredge up specific examples of behaviors that resulted in beatings (I’m going to use the term “beating” rather than “spanking,” because that’s what they were), because frankly my recollection of the events leading up to the beatings are hazy. However, punishable offenses included: Not getting a chore done on time, or to the required degree of perfection (chores included dusting, vacuuming, taking out the trash). Arguing or fighting with my siblings (to clarify, I have an older sister and younger brother), and I mean trivial things like arguing over which record we were going to listen to or who got to play with which stuffed animal. Arriving home late from a friend’s house, arriving home late after school, not getting out of bed promptly in the morning, complaining about going to church. The list is endless.

As our family began to seriously decay and slide toward doom, punishments extended to include: making a salad incorrectly, accidentally dropping a dish or a milk bottle, getting the bathroom floor wet during a bath, not setting the table for dinner quickly enough, forgetting to put clothes in the laundry basket, putting a book back on the bookshelf in the wrong place.

In other words, any trivial perceived imperfection became grounds for beatings.

One of the worst beatings of my life was administered by my mother around nine years old when we were making chocolate chip cookies. I was given the task of running the hand-held mixer, which I was happy to do because then I might get one of the detachable beaters with cookie batter on it after. I was standing on a stool, and I turned to ask my mother a question. Being an absent-minded kid, when I turned I unconsciously lifted the mixer out of the batter and cookie dough flew all over the wall. My mom went livid and slapped me full in the face, knocking me sprawling off the stool. She then dragged me bawling upstairs and beat me with the 3/4″ dowel rod for almost 30 minutes.

What made them stop the beatings after an hour or however long?  Was there something you or your sister did that helped them to stop? Were your parents looking for signs of remorse?  Did they finally give up?

The stipulation was that we had to hold still and submissively accept the beating, and we had to stop crying and be silent and not make a sound. This was a specific part of Gothard’s beating protocol, found in one of his pamphlets: the silent, limp submission to a beating was his metric for a “repentant spirit.”

To this day, I cannot show normal emotional responses to my environment as a result of this aversive conditioning; I reflexively suppress every emotional response.

I cannot maintain a long-term relationship with a woman because of this emotional dysfunction, which is why I am still single at 44. I have had therapists hint that I might be a sociopath because of the superficial appearance of this emotional dysfunction, which I know not to be the case. I have emotions; I just cannot show or express them properly. It makes me want to kill myself.

Did your parents talk to you while you were getting spanked?  How was their tone of voice? Were they yelling or did they use a normal tone of voice?  Did they use scripture while “spanking?”  Did they pray with you after?

They would yell and scream and bellow. They would tell us what bad, awful, evil, horrible, sinful children we were. In the beginning, there was no pretext of spiritual context; later on as I got older and the beatings continued, my father began making attempts to pray with us after a beating, as if it was a spiritual exercise. For the most part, however, the beatings took place in an atmosphere of apoplectic, psychotic rage, especially when my mother was administering them. I use the term “psychotic” because my mother has been diagnosed as bipolar, and her fits of apoplexy were probably manic fugues. It was terrifying. To this day I have nightmares about it.

Did they realize you were bruised?  Did they ever acknowledge they went overboard or apologize?

The bruising and other injuries (which at one point for me included a broken finger, and for my brother once included a broken forearm) were never acknowledged by my parents. It was implied that we deserved it.

“That’s what you get for your sinful disobedience” was the message.

My parents have never really acknowledged the specific details of what they did. Both of them have acknowledged that hitting us was wrong, but we can’t discuss details properly because they are so horrified and humiliated by the recollection of what they did to us. My mother has sobbing fits when I try to bring any of this up. Both my parents have tried to make amends through financial reparations: paying for therapists, occasionally helping with rent or medical bills. But I’m still broken, so everyday life is a constant struggle. I wake up every morning and look in the mirror, and I have to find a reason not to kill myself.

I have a cat that I adopted 13 years ago who snuggles with me and is my little buddy. Having a cat is the only thing that keeps me going; I have to take care of my cat, so I can’t kill myself. I have to focus on something other than myself in order to go on living. It’s pretty bleak.

I’d like to state again for the record that Gothard apologists are remorseless sadists, and this includes that Alfred character who comments on your blog. These people KNOW THAT THESE THINGS ARE HAPPENING IN THE IBLP/ATI PROGRAM, AND THEY ARE FINE WITH IT. They are sociopaths.

And Gothard is a monster, because he knows about these events and he ENCOURAGES THEM.

photo credit: bark via photopin cc

Man Shares Personal Testimony of How Bill Gothard Used Bible Verses Which Led to the Abuse of Children


HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Julie Anne Smith’s blog Spiritual Sounding Board. It was originally published on March 26, 2015 and has been slightly modified for HA.

Last month, “Dash” commented on an older SSB article, Bill Gothard’s New Program/Ministry: Total Success Power Teams. He used some strong words to describe his experience:

I am a survivor of Gothard’s cult. I experienced unspeakable physical, sexual, and emotional abuse from my mother and father, who were at one point among Gothard’s “model parents.” Gothard is not human. Gothard does not deserve compassion. Gothard is not a man, and he does not have the slightest shred of decency or humanity within him. Bill Gothard is a monster in human form, and as far as I am concerned, he can’t die soon enough.

In the comments, Dash was asked to share more, and did so with me privately. I have compiled them into this article (and at least one more article). Dash’s words were difficult for me to read, especially because of my own abusive childhood, but also because of many years of teachings I was subjected to as a parent, including Gothard’s materials, so I am going to issue trigger warnings for anyone who might be triggered by childhood abuse, by spiritual abuse, etc.


Dash Explains Why He is Telling His Story Now

I have chosen to share my story with you because I’m 44 years old and it’s time for me to start talking, to anyone who cares enough to listen. I’ve already lost more than half my time to Gothard, and I want my life back. He’s 80 years old and I believe he is still damaging people in alarming ways, and he is leaving behind a deeply rooted, vile and secretively violent institution that seems to be poised to grind forth in his absence and continue churning out his awful work upon the next generation. I want to put a stop to IBLP, and I want to end Gothard’s legacy as utterly as possible. Everything he has ever written, touched, or talked about is poisoned and poisonous, and it must be destroyed.

Specifically, I’d like to talk about those aspects of Gothard’s teachings which were protocols for physical abuse: examples include blanket training, beating children with rods, and the sheer exasperation of parents whose children failed the rules of the program which would result in explosions of rage and indiscriminate hitting. In particular, Gothard’s distortions of the following verse were extremely detrimental:

Proverbs 23:13- Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.

Gothard devoted a great deal of written material, both IBLP and ATI, to using this verse as a premise for encouraging brutal beatings, albeit using roundabout phrasing and “soft” language which absolved him legally of any actual responsibility. At least, that’s how my parents interpreted it.

Part of my frustration in confronting Gothard stems from the fact that my family threw out a lot of Gothard’s most offensive ATI literature, some of which included blatantly racist arguments encouraging white followers to apply the “Quiverfull” practice, and to avoid miscegenation (in addition to the pamphlets encouraging beatings). So I can’t document a lot of these anecdotes. The basic literature quoting Proverbs 23:13, however, is part of the Red Book I believe; so it begins there.

“Spanking” vs Beatings

Also, I would like to be very clear about this point: “spanking” was not what we experienced in my family. These were actual beatings, ranging anywhere from five minutes to an hour or more. The beatings were delivered to the buttocks, thighs, and lower back, and sometimes the hands, fingers, and forearms (defensive injuries), in response to any perceived slight, offense, or rules violation.

Depending on the severity of the punishment, anything from a wooden spoon to a 3/4″x2′ dowel rod was used. My parents actually had an array of dowel rods to choose from (at least a dozen) ranging from a thin one about 1/8″ thick to the 3/4″ terror previously described. Occasionally my dad would use his belt, a heavy leather belt with a weighty brass buckle. Not often, though, because the belt would leave visible bruises.

My sister and I would go to school with huge black and purple welts across our buttocks, carefully placed so that they were covered by our clothes, and we would sit at our desks in excruciating pain with tears streaming silently down our faces. This was during our initial participation in ATI, but before we enrolled full-bore in home-schooling.

My parents were very clear that these practices were part of our Gothard instruction.

On the few occasions when I met Gothard in person, he actually stated that he believed spanking made children healthier and more successful. He would then quote the proverb about beating. He was very good about mincing words in order to evade responsibility.

If you have questions at this point, it would help the dialogue. I’m happy to type everything I can think of, but I get so bogged-down and blinded with rage that it becomes difficult to think clearly. Answering questions is very focusing for me.

(JA note:  On the next post, I have asked Dash specific questions and he responds to those questions.)

I’m not interested in confronting Gothard on Christian terms, in accordance with church protocols. He forfeited that privilege decades ago. I want worldly justice. I want a genuine reckoning from the man. I want to burn his entire legacy to the ground, and stand amid the ashes and say to the world, “This was a man who ruined thousands upon thousands of lives. Nothing to see here. Please move along.”

The greatest and most dangerous fallacy that I keep hearing from Gothard apologists is the argument “Gothard may be imperfect, but his teachings are still right.” No, no and no. This is a lie: an ugly, flat-out foul and evil lie, intended to continue perpetuating Gothard’s abusive legacy. Everything Gothard teaches is wrong, all of it, even his direct Scripture quotes, because the CONTEXT is wrong. It places Gothard in the seat of worship instead of Christ. Everything Gothard ever taught or ever will teach must be discarded. If people want answers, they should listen to the Holy Spirit, and not any human teacher.

The Dangerous Fallacies of Gothard Apologists

I’ve stated this in a previous email, but it bears repeating. The greatest and most dangerous fallacy that I hear from Gothard apologists is the argument “Gothard may be imperfect, but his teachings are still right.” This is blatantly false. Everything Gothard teaches is wrong, all of it, even his direct Scripture quotes, because the CONTEXT is wrong. It places Gothard in the seat of worship instead of Christ.

Everything Gothard ever taught or ever will teach must be discarded. If people want answers, they should read the Bible and listen to the Holy Spirit. They should not listen to Gothard or any other human teacher; they should make up their own minds.

The second greatest fallacy I hear from Gothard apologists is “Many families have a great experience in IBLP and ATI. If your family had a bad experience, it’s because you misinterpreted Gothard’s intentions.” This is also blatantly false. I believe Gothard does in fact intend for parents to beat their children. I would argue that anyone who claims to have had a good experience with Gothard, IBLP, or ATI is either lying, deluded, or sadists themselves. If you got 4-5 years into ATI and you actually applied everything in the publications that Gothard sent you, especially the material based on Proverbs 23:13, you would have had an identical experience to mine.

I would argue that those who believe that they had a positive experience with Gothard are the ones who are in fact misinterpreting his intentions… just as I would argue that those who defend his behavior from the ongoing accusations of sexual misconduct are deluding themselves as to his true nature, and are blind to the damage he has inflicted.

Dash Believes Bill Gothard to be a Con Artist and Explains Why

I believe that Gothard is a consummate con artist. In spite of the endless documentation of the damage he has done, Gothard still manages to convince his inner circle of friends that he is a good man with good intentions who merely stumbled a little bit, and his victims are more to blame than he is for making such a big deal out of “nothing.” There are two explanations for this phenomenon:

  •  The first explanation is that genuinely hurting people, like my mother, who are desperate for real answers and a real connection with God, are easily misled by Gothard’s overpowering charm, his carefully crafted image, and his claims of secret knowledge and a special understanding of the Bible. These people are broken to begin with, and the hurt piled on hurt that Gothard inflicts is too much for them to comprehend; they defend Gothard out of reflex as all abuse victims will defend an abuser, due to Stockholm syndrome and an inability to comprehend their own damages and failures.
  • The second explanation is that Gothard appeals to genuine sadists and sociopaths, such as your commenter Alfred who obviously has zero concern for Gothard’s victims and is committed entirely to defending Gothard and behaving as vindictively toward his accusers as possible. These people are reprehensible scumbags. I would use a more graceful word to describe them, but there isn’t one.

JA note: Alfred, who was mentioned above, is Alfred Corduan, who commented on this SSB postYou can also see his comments on articles at the Gothard survivor site, Recovering Grace websitewhere he continually defends Bill Gothard. 

 I would like to close at this time by saying that while I no longer call myself a Christian, I never gave up on Christ. I still believe in the Great Commandment:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

I don’t do so well with the first part; loving God is next to impossible when I don’t know who God is, and I blame Gothard for that. I may yet end up in hell, and there’s nothing I can do about it. So I focus on the second part, and I try to love my fellow-man as best I can. That’s the best I can do. I can’t save myself. Only God can do that, if he wants to.

Part Two>

photo credit: bark via photopin cc

Wanting to Date, Being Told to Wait: Adah’s Story, Part Three

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Pearl” is a pseudonym. Other names have been changed to obscure identities.

Content Warning: Descriptions of emotional, physical, sexual, and religious abuse.

Part Two

Part Three: Me and My Dearling

I am one of the fortunate females in the fundamentalist/patriarchal culture to have attended college, albeit under my parents’ watchful eye.

In school I had caught the attention of one of my classmates who refused to leave me alone. Despite giving him the cold shoulder, Dearling decided to be my friend, no matter what it took. He was irresistible, and in a good way. He understood me and my background, and he had the most enduring patience I have ever encountered. I didn’t want to have a romantic relationship with him though. I was deathly afraid of what my parents would do this time. I had met the man of my dreams, but I was paralyzed.

Slowly but surely, Dearling melted my heart from the inside out. I tried to break up with him preemptively multiple times, but we couldn’t stay away from each other. I told my parents he was just a friend. They made it clear that he better remain that way. When they realized that we were more than friends they tried to break us up. They put impossible rules on us that even by courtship standards would be seen as ridiculous. I was their daughter, and they were not about to let me be wooed by my Dearling.

We tried to keep the rules to show a spirit of cooperation. Instead, seeing that the rules were failing to make us hate each other, my parents made them worse. So we got engaged. But we kept it a secret because I was still afraid, living under my parents’ constant scrutiny. I lost weight and became borderline anorexic. I lied to be with my Dearling but I was dying inside.

I had to choose between my parents and my Dearling.

I thought choosing my parents was they only way to obey God. I had been guilted into obeying my parents by a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible so many times that I didn’t know I had true choices as an autonomous adult. I was at a breaking point. I tried to give the ring back, by my Dearling’s love for me overcame my fear. We told my parents. They played nice for a while, but then things started getting much, much worse. After a few more months of hell—verbal, physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse, I moved out. Not with my Dearling, because that would be wrong, according to what I believed at the time.

Finally, we could date and love each other they way we had been longing to for months. And then we eloped.

My Dearling and I have been married for a while now. I don’t talk to my family anymore. I can’t do it without extreme anxiety and panic attacks. We tried to reconcile with my parents but they never could see what they did wrong. They just tried to manipulate us more and more. So we had to close the door.

Maybe one day they’ll see that they didn’t fail in raising their children just because they rejected their version of “right.” Maybe they’ll learn, like I have, that consent is important, that individuals have autonomy and are not owned by anyone else, that love is a choice and cannot be stopped or force, that feminism and birth control are not inherent evils, that it’s okay to ascribe to different brands of religion, and that at the bottom of good relationships is one thing: respect. My Dearling and I respect each other and we are happy. We dated, wouldn’t be forced into courtship, and we are okay.

In fact, we are more than okay, we are ecstatically happy.

End of series.

Wanting to Date, Being Told to Wait: Adah’s Story, Part Two

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Pearl” is a pseudonym. Other names have been changed to obscure identities.

Content Warning: Descriptions of emotional, physical, sexual, and religious abuse.

Part One

Part Two: Failures—Mark, Elisha, and Brent

I met a guy in NCFCA. Let’s call him Mark.

He was a bit older than I was and his family was in ATI too. He was cute, but the best part for me was that he was “sooo godly.” We chatted online a lot, and I developed a crush on him. In other words, I didn’t “guard my heart” like I was supposed to. I went on a Journey to the Heart (IBLP speak for going to the woods and learning how depraved you are and what you need to do to be acceptable before God for ten straight days). I convinced myself that this crush was wrong and I need to stop talking to Mark. I took a “vow” of single service for a year, until I was 18. Then I would be “old enough” to get married and it would be okay to have feelings for a guy.

Of course, Mark, who still had a crush on me, didn’t take this very well and we still ended up talking a lot. He wanted to come to visit and meet my family. They told him no. He was going to ask to court me.

Eventually I got over him, but not before he called my dad and apologized for “stealing my heart.” That just proved to me how perfect he was. Now I realize if I had married him I would probably have several children by now and would still be part of everything that I now eschew.

I guess I have my parents to thank for that.

A couple years passed. I had a few crushes but nothing substantive, and I had yet to hold a guy’s hand. Then I met Elisha. I dated him for six months behind my parents’ backs. As soon as they found out, they forced us to break up. I was heartbroken, so we kept in contact…a little here, a little there. In reality, even though he said he loved me, he just wanted to see what he could get out of me. He preyed off my innocence.

A few months after the forced break-up, I went back to him, and he raped me.

He raped me, and I didn’t know it was rape because he used his finger. I bled for days and I didn’t know it was a crime. He told me never to come back because I’d refused what he wanted. I didn’t realize that I shouldn’t feel guilty. I thought it was all my fault, so I suffered the trauma in silence.

A few months later I found out Elisha was a pimp. He was a pimp who abused and manipulated me, and I had no idea. I thought it was all my fault. I felt guilty for something that would never have happened if I’d been taught to recognize abuse instead of living in it. I felt guilty when I should have been feeling free for finally being away from him. I was drowning in despair because I thought I was worthless to any other man because of what I’d done with Elisha, even though I had never consented to any of it.

But I wasn’t taught consent, so I didn’t know any better.

After Elisha I met Brent. Ours was a long-distance relationship and my parents controlled every second. They wanted to know about every text and phone call so that things wouldn’t “move too fast.” But then when I wanted to go visit him, they insisted on meeting him too. Instead they scared him off by their intensity and he broke up with me in an email. My parents had interfered with my past three relationships.

Surely once I turned 21 they would let me be an adult and make my own decisions.

Part Three >

Wanting to Date, Being Told to Wait: Adah’s Story, Part One

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Pearl” is a pseudonym. Other names have been changed to obscure identities.

Content Warning: Descriptions of emotional, physical, sexual, and religious abuse.

Part One: Background

I am the youngest daughter of a homeschooling family.

Somewhere around my tenth birthday, my parents joined ATI. Up until that point, we were a pretty typical evangelical family. However, in the last few years, my parents had seen their older children rebel and walk away, and they didn’t want that to happen to the younger ones. They wanted guaranteed success stories, and they fell hook, line and sinker for the polished picture of bright-eyed obedient children becoming perfect adults. What my parents didn’t realize was that none of us would ever turn out like they wanted. Their dream family has fallen apart.

I’m not blaming them for how things turned out, but at the same time, they do bear responsibility for what happened under their roof.

I had a special relationship with one of my brothers. We were pretty young, so everything that happened was pretty innocent. I loved my brother and wanted to marry him and do what married people do. I found comfort hugging him for long periods of time. I liked to hid in the pantry or the attic and fondle his private parts. One day my mom found us hugging in the laundry room and, after much prying, convinced us to tell her everything we had done together. She put all the responsibility on my brother and wouldn’t let us near each other. She made me feel ashamed of what I had done and afraid of my brother. Not once in all this time did I realize that it was impossible for either of us to feel any sort of sexual pleasure because we were both prepubescent.

I simply wanted love and was desperate to feel close to someone.

My mom stayed at home and homeschooled us, but much of the time we were left by ourselves. My dad was a workaholic, and my mom, still undiagnosed, suffers from major depressive disorder and is possibly bipolar. She was emotionally manipulative, and would proclaim her love, feign sadness, or even disappear for hours or days in order to get what she wanted. In our house, it was always about making mom happy.

Another one of my brothers would act out so severely that even as a teenager my dad would whip him with a belt. I don’t know how severe it was because I usually managed to avoid whippings, although the wooden spoon still got used with frequency until I was thirteen. So, my brother, who was constantly angry, would often be left in charge whenever my mom went out. Then the brother I loved and I would be the subject of his abuse. My brother and I still have scars from what he did to us. We never said exactly what happened to us when my parents were gone, but we did tell them that we didn’t want him in charge because we were afraid of him.

I always wonder why they never pursued finding out what he had done, but I suppose it’s just their way.

And so, my abusive upbringing continued. I got a purity ring when I was sixteen, but never received sex education. I read all the “right” books: I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Passion and Purity, The Bride Wore White, Before You Meet Prince Charming, Captivating, etc. I was told to “stay pure,” whatever the hell that meant.

I would soon find out.

Part Two >

A Little Girl’s Screams for Help: LJ Lamb’s Story


Pseudonym note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “LJ Lamb” is the pseudonym chosen by the author.

Content warning: descriptions of physical and sexual sibling abuse.

Mum had these weird beliefs about Christianity. She believed that when you became a Christian you gave up your human rights. I’m going to let you think about that. Stop, re-read that, and let it sink in. My mother believes that no Christian has any human rights. None, zero, zilch, nuda. Feel free to grab your spew bag now.

One of my older brothers had a particular thing for beating, bullying, destroying, and even killing anything and everything he could get his hands on. Everyone younger than him was petrified of him. It only got worse as he got older.

I remember telling one of my younger brothers off – I think for making a mess in the kitchen and not wanting to clean it up. My older brother, hearing the argument between my younger brother and I, suddenly entered the room. He cracked his belt and threatened to whip my younger brother because our fight had disturbed his afternoon nap.

I pleaded with him to let me deal with it and not hurt our younger brother.

Another time he took some things that belonged to me. I ascertained to the family members there that taking something from someone without permission was stealing. Mum agreed, until she heard that it was her little ‘angel’ who did it. Allegedly she prayed about it, and God told her that I needed to learn to give up my rights.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise, then, when he worked out how to get into my bedroom and my bed so that I couldn’t kick him out without making a fuss to mother (who would of course side with him all my experience told me) despite me feeling desperately frightened and dirty. I was certain I must be displeasing God, but believed with all my heart that if I went to mum she would punish me and turn me over to the wolf.

So I didn’t scream.

I didn’t fight.

I did the best I could. I tried to amuse him every other way under the sun. I knew he wanted sex. I was so frightened of him. What he would do to me if I as much made a peep. I kept putting my clothes back on. When at the end of the day mum finally came to put me to bed that night and found him in bed with me, his instant reaction was to blame me.

It was my idea. My fault.

By this stage I had already started blocking memories, so I couldn’t even remember what happened earlier that day. I was too frightened to speak. But I felt so dirty. I have no idea what he told my parents later, as I begged out. I pleaded to be smacked instead. After all, we were taught that beating makes atonement for wrong. Beatings were the only way to be worthy of God’s forgiveness. I intended to later get a belt and whip myself or get my younger sister to do it as a favour to me. It still makes me sick to think of it.

I knew what happened that day wasn’t right. I just didn’t realise for years that I had been conditioned to it and groomed for abuse. I didn’t realize it wasn’t my fault. God wasn’t choosing not to forgive me because I was too evil. He didn’t see me as having sinned in the first place. He saw me as the hurt, not the hurter. And He loves the scarred and hurt girls as much as the ones who weren’t abused.

Several weeks after that, the family was at the beach (minus dad). My brother tried to murder me by drowning me when no-one was looking. I couldn’t understand his behaviour and asked him why he was doing this to me. I will never forget the dark look in his eyes when he told me he was going to kill me, because he hated me.

I desperately tried to swim away, but I was quite young still, and couldn’t swim very well. In moments he was on top of me again, holding me under, willing me to drown.

I wasn’t sure why he let go.

Maybe I struggled too much at first. Maybe the waves knocked him about, because it was choppy. But I remember looking up at one stage realising the shore was too far away, and there was no way I could get back in because I was losing my strength to fight. And when I went back I can still hear that little girl’s desperate screams for help, realising she was about to drown at the hands of her own brother, and no-one would know why.

Then there was the terrible moment when I realised that nobody heard, because the wind dragged my voice away.

We were too far from the shore. Nobody saw us, and in my heart I knew that nobody was coming to my rescue.

My brother again grabbed me and held me under (over 8 times now), but this time something happened. Mum suddenly saw what happened, and called for him to come to her. (I didn’t see this of course, I heard about it afterward.) All I knew was that he let go of me, as a waves went over me, and I popped up into glorious air. And he was somewhere else, out of reach of me, and mum was calling him. He was in big trouble. I was much closer to shore than I was before he pushed me under the last time and I was able to catch a wave in.

He ended up being barely punished for the incident, because mother felt sorry for him. I should have told her what happened, but I didn’t. She wouldn’t have believed me over him. She never did.

It was only recently I was able to go back and unpack that memory in counselling. One thing it confirmed for me was that God did hear that little girl’s screams for help, and He didn’t abandon me in my darkest moment. As petrifying as it was to go back, I was comforted by that. Because God still loved me and was looking out for me, even then.

To this day I know the only reason I am still alive is because God spared my life that day.

Hurts Me More Than You: Jennifer’s Story

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Trigger warning for Hurts Me More Than You series: posts in this series may include detailed descriptions of corporal punishment and physical abuse and violence towards children.

Extra trigger warning for Jennifer’s story: descriptions of blood in relation to physical abuse during menstruation


Jennifer’s Story

I am 17.

Funny how the majority of my life is a blur; I have very few clear memories of my childhood. I believe this is because my mind is suppressing the worst of the abuse.

But I do know that every day my oldest brother was beaten for mocking  and hitting me and that at least once a week I and my other siblings were beaten.

Rather than talk to my brother about why he felt the need to bully me, my parents used belts which only exacerbated the issue. And of course, I and my two other siblings were  ambiguously “disrespectful” and deserved beatings, no matter that everyone we ever had contact with thought us perfect.

I remember the times we hid from my father when he came  home and read the list my mother kept of infractions the children committed and deserved being beaten for. The four of us were always  found out and told to “line up.” Listening to my older siblings’ screams and being a helpless bystander knowing it would be my turn next was so much worse than the beating itself. Listening was much more psychologically damaging. Thanks to that damage, I was incredibly introspective.

It was a habit of mine in middle school  to sneak out and wander the streets by night, fascinated by the stars, doubting God. One day I was caught by a police officer, who called my mother at 3 a.m. I was  menstruating, but my father beat me anyway, until I had lost about a quart of blood, my legs coated in it. The combinations of cramps and blunt force created the most excruciating pain I have ever experienced.

That was four years ago.

Today, I still recoil when people reach out to me. I still cringe at the sound of a belt. I am still not free from them; indeed, today my sister has healing scabs on her arm from our mother clawing her.

And the worst, most depressing, soul draining thing is not the scars, but how I have no recourse but to watch her cry.

In my childhood, my parents mocked people who used the term “spanking,” saying they don’t call it what it is and they are right. Any form of physical punishment is violence and damaging. Not only to the one being hit, but to everyone hearing the screams.

Hurts Me More Than You: Warbler and Laralyn’s Stories

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Trigger warning for Hurts Me More Than You series: posts in this series may include detailed descriptions of corporal punishment and physical abuse and violence towards children.


Warbler’s Story

I was a “liar and a thief” growing up. AKA: I would take saltine crackers out of the cabinet and eat them between allowed meals and then I would lie when I was inevitably caught and told to fess up. I got spanked at least once per day for a couple years.

I don’t know were exactly my parents first learned about spanking, but they read and promoted the Pearls out the wazoo.

Over the years they spanked us with hands, paint stirrers, and lastly with 2-by-4s. My mom had a 2×4 custom made with a handle. If we tensed out butts, or put on extra layers we were spanked for avoiding the pain and made to take the layers off and be spanked over underwear. We were usually taken to another (private) room, but our walls were thin and every *thwack* echoed through the house, along with the eventual crying and the “I love you and this hurts me too.” Afterwards we were expected to say in explicit language exactly what we had done wrong, that we were sorry, and that we loved the parent who had just beaten us.

My mother was usually the one to do it, but she would spank us so often that her hands started hurting (blood vessels breaking, etc) that she had the 2×4 made, or she left us to wait in dread for daddy. His hands were tough and he hit hard. The paddle sometimes hit the tail bone as well, and that was the worst.

I usually cried.

As much as I tried I was “weak.” Sometimes if the boys didn’t cry they were spanked till they showed “proper” repentance. If we were stubborn, refused to say we loved them, or did not properly state our transgressions we were spanked again. 5 spanks was the bottom line, then ascending in number by units of 5.

As for me, I never got more than 40 in one sitting (that I remember) because I was (as stated) weak and timid and disliked getting spanked. My older brother was rebellious and would often get spanked for hours. I can still him yelling defiantly over the strikes, refusing to back down even when being punished.

As we got older (teens), our parents decided that spanking was not working and we were given leaf-raking jobs, cleaning jobs, or extra writing assignments. They thought that we were either so bad, or so old that spanking still hadn’t done well, and it was time to try something else. I once heard my mom say something about “decency” having something to do with it, but I have my personal doubts.

Our younger siblings were spanked much less because the “other” punishments on us older ones seemed to be working (or as we got older we didn’t take so much food and hid things better) so they got some similar punishments and spanking was reserved for serious, extra bad transgressions. With the sidelining of the spanking it got worse, though. They were reserved for daddy and he often beat far longer than needed because the younger siblings were not used to being contrite, crying enough to get out of it, and say the right things. I remember the 8th child had a problem at dinner and shouted at my mom or something. My dad had just gotten home from working and it seemed like the height of sin to be making noise and disturbing his dinner. My baby was taken to his room and hit for about 5 minutes long, screaming up until the last minute or so. He was either 4 or 5.

My mom also got more into slapping or hitting as we got older and talked back to her as older teenagers. It was like the ultimate shame because you could never hit back. Those were some of the times that I “saw red…” Brilliant shades of red color everything as you focus in on one person with all the hatred and anger in your tortured soul. Your body shakes and you blink, but still see the color. Nothing else is, or ever was. The only two things in the world are you and the face screaming at you in red waves…. and you wish you had a knife in your hand…. Sometime later you awake from your dissociation, you can’t remember the past 30 minutes, but you feel guilt for your feelings.

After all, you were the one in the wrong. You deserved punishment for your sins…

I don’t know how common spankings are now, as I “ran away” from home 4 years ago. I do know that if my mom had access to plumbing line or glue sticks one or more of us might have fared worse. The wood was solid and “just” bruised.

And we learned how to hide our transgressions in order to avoid it.


Laralyn’s Story

Spanking. Even now I don’t know what to make of the term.

It feels so wrong to apply it to how our parents punished us. I initially assumed I would always spank my own children. After all, it was Biblical and right according to so many Christian parenting books. I didn’t want to have horrible children, so of course I would spank. As my first baby became a toddler, I found I couldn’t stomach the idea. I tried to spank her once and the attempt was half-hearted and I cried because I knew deep down it was horribly wrong. The moments I was tempted to spank were when I was angry or I didn’t know what else to do and that to me said more than any Christian parenting book ever could. I decided then and there that I would never physically punish her or future children in such a way.

I wish I couldn’t feel my stomach turn when I remember my parents disciplining us. The angrier they were, the worse it was. A belt was the most frequent tool and almost all spankings accompanied the remove of clothing below the waist. I still feel humiliation and shame when I remember it. We were spanked for nearly every infraction – my parents knew no other mode of discipline.

However, the moment I remember most vividly is when I was spanked for being afraid of the dark.

I had horrible fears as a child (of hell, of the house burning, of dying) and refused to sleep alone. One night, after repeated attempts to settle me, I was still crying uncontrollably. My parents, frustrated to the point of losing control, marched into the room. My dad ordered me to turn over and with my head buried in the pillow to muffle my crying, he hit me several times across my bottom. He yelled at me to shut up and then they left.

I was still crying. I was still afraid.

I started injuring myself when I was five in response to anger and overwhelming emotions. This behavior continued and worsened into my teens and young adulthood. My parents shamed me and blamed bad influences.

I blame their shaming and willful crushing of spirit.

Hurts Me More Than You: A Poem by HomeschooledinGA

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Trigger warning for Hurts Me More Than You series: posts in this series may include detailed descriptions of corporal punishment and physical abuse and violence towards children.


A Poem by HomeschooledinGA

In slow motion I watch the belt land blow after blow.
I hear my sister’s screams as time goes slow.
I feel the terror slowly sink in,
As I realize it’s my turn again.
Try to control the urge to tremble,
The urge to cry and beg for mercy,
But this is just a preamble,
To a never ending struggle with
Love for me.
I try my hardest you see
To not let him have control of me
To be a person with singular thoughts
Is to be a kid with an irregular walk.
To be a kid who’s always fought
Is to be a person who’s too afraid to talk.
To be a girl with bruises down her legs,
Is to be a girl with that gait
Peg legged.
To be too scared to cry
Is the moment I realize I want to die.
In quick motion blooms the notion
That I will be nothing more than a notation
On my death certification.
As the belt lands blow after blow,
I keep my breathing going slow.
I feel the peace flood within
I realize he’ll never make me cry again.
Try to control the urge to turn around
Take his weapon seize control
Beat him until he’s the one on the ground
But now it’s time to pay the toll.
I try my hardest you see
To not let him have control of me
to be a person with singular thoughts
Is to have a mind full of guarded locks.
To be a kid who’s always fought
Is to be a person who’s too shell shocked.
And to be that girl with bruises down her legs
Is to be the girl who will never beg
In this never ending struggle of
Love for me.
To be too happy to feel the blows
Is the moment that I know
That I will be nothing more that a notation
On my death certification.

Hurts Me More Than You: Kendra’s Story

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Trigger warning for Hurts Me More Than You series: posts in this series may include detailed descriptions of corporal punishment and physical abuse and violence towards children.


Kendra’s Story

My first memory is of being spanked.

For real, I can remember my parents lining my older brothers up for one at a time spankings and then debating whether or not I was old enough be spanked as well. They finally decided that yes I was and I was subsequently lifted me out of my crib (yes, my crib) and spanked me with a leather belt. I remember crying so hard I couldn’t breathe, and then being told that if I didn’t quit I would be spanked again.

To be honest that is one of the better memories I have of “spankings.” In our house any object could be used for discipline, a particular favorite one was the wooden spoon, but my mother broke so many of those on us that she had to upgrade to a thick soup spoon. She also broke several of those on us.  For a while she kept a horse whip in the house and pulled it out for behaviours she considered particularly offensive.

The spankings usually came from my mother and usually had a predictable pattern.

1. Something would enrage her, I’m not talking normal parental upset or disappointment. I’m talking 0 to 60 in .2 seconds rage.  There was never any rhyme or reason to her anger. It could be something as small as the dishes not being done, even if we hadn’t been told to do them.

2. She would begin the search for something to spank us with, anything at all, a wooden spoon, a belt, a fly swatter.

3. If something wasn’t immediately available she would throw things at us in the interim, once again anything would do, erasers, tape dispenser, kitchen implements, newspapers etc.

4. Once she located something she would spank random areas of your body until her anger subsided.

We lived in a constant state of fear, never knowing what was going to set her anger off.  These beatings persisted into adult hood and only stopped when she finally passed away.

One particular instance I can recall she was sleeping in a recliner, snoring for about an hour with the radio blaring in the background. My older brother decided to turn the radio beside her off and she woke up in a rage.  She threw the radio at him, then ripped the electric cord of the back and began to beat him with it.  That instance stuck out in my mind because by then he was old enough to fight back and I very nearly called the police to stop the ensuing brawl. I wish now that I had called them.  I also wish that I would have fought back when I became old enough, but I was too brain washed by the “good girl” image of femininity and submissiveness propagated at our local cult/church.

I remember another particularly brutal beating that my other brother received. He hadn’t paid enough attention during the two hour devotional that was forced on us that morning.  When my mother reported this to my father he was taken to my parents’ bedroom and my father produced a belt and my mother produced her famous wooden soup spoon. The sounds that came from that room were atrocious, I walked down the hall and cracked the door open to see what was happening, he was sitting in the middle of their queen sized bed curled up in a ball crying with a parent and a discipline instrument on either side.  I was told to “get out or I’d be next.”  About fifteen minutes later my father emerged for water, he looked at me (about age 9) and asked “Does he really deserve this?”  I was too scared to even talk to either parent so I shrugged my shoulders and made myself scarce.

For years I felt guilty because I hadn’t said “no, nobody deserves this.”

Until one day I realized that I was right, Nobody deserves this. No child deserves both his parents ganging up on him with a belt and a wooden soup spoon, and no nine year old child should be made responsible for such a beating, and no father should have to use his nine year old daughter’s opinion for a moral compass. No, nobody ever, ever, ever deserves that.

In the nineteen years that I lived with this behavior I was beaten with more things than I could ever name, including a metal dog leash and an iron rod and a horse whip.  I can remember wearing thick black stockings to church to hide the bruises, I can remember hearing my parents say “I love you” and silently choking back sobs because there was no way I could ever believe them.

I was in my mid-twenties before I ever realized that my parents had physically abused me. I was spoon fed Focus on the Family episodes and the Pearls’ teachings on how parents who love their children beat them.  As a child I looked with pity on children who were “spoiled brats” because they had thoughts and opinions all of their own and who “just needed a good spanking.” In fact I was married and telling my husband a story from my childhood when he pointed out to me that the story I was telling depicted abuse.

The funny thing is, I don’t really remember misbehaving as a child. I’m sure I was not perfect, but I was polite, respectful, and hard working.  I virtually home schooled myself while simultaneously doing the bulk of the cooking, the laundry, the cleaning, volunteering in our church and over achieving at whatever extracurricular activity my parents chose for me.  To some extent their abuse worked in that I was a “good girl,” the model daughter in fact.

I often wonder how my life would have been different if I would have gone to school. 

Would someone have noticed the bruises?  Would someone have told me the definition of abuse?  Would I have had a friend to confide in?  I remember at about the age of fifteen wanting to run away, but I couldn’t. I had no friends outside of our church/cult and no money to support myself with.  Maybe the abuse would have stopped at fifteen.

As an adult my father frequently tries to guilt trip me into stopping by and calling more often, but I don’t think I ever will.  Even though the bulk of the lashings came from my mother there were definitely some inappropriate episodes of discipline from him too.   I still can’t believe that any loving parent would stand by and allow their child to be treated like that, even one time, let alone systematically.  The only conclusion that a reasonable person can draw is plain and simple, they didn’t love me, they never will, for all practical purposes I consider myself an orphan.

As an adult I’m scared to turn into the monster that my mother was.

But mainly I’m just angry, angry that the people who were supposed to love me beat me and treated me like a slave, angry that anyone would treat any child in that way.  I want to go spit on my mother’s grave; I want to stand over her wielding an iron rod and screaming in her face.  I’m tempted to self-destroy my life just to show my parents how badly the messed up raising me (Although that would be pointless because my brothers are doing that for me.)    I struggle with relationships, I reached my late twenties before I ever asserted myself, and I’m scared of conflict, scared of authority, scared of everything.  I struggle with depression and guilt and anxiety, and occasionally have suicidal thoughts.

But at least I’m not a spoiled brat, right? At least I was a “good girl.”