Escapes and Rescues: A Call for Stories

By Eleanor Skelton, HA Editoral Team

Leaving any controlling system is messy.

But for many of us, getting out of a totalistic household required a literal escape, when guardians were away or with a large group of supportive friends.

Independence was discouraged. Freedom required a personal revolution.

Many of you have read the UnBoxing Project series recently crossposted on Homeschoolers Anonymous. The UnBoxing Project is the network Cynthia Jeub and I formed after we both left our dysfunctional households.

Since 2012, we’ve helped nine friends find new lives outside their cages.

But this isn’t just about our little group of friends in Colorado Springs. We’ve realized that we’re part of something much bigger. Informal networks like ours have formed in other states in other homeschool communities.

For our next open series, Homeschoolers Anonymous invites homeschool alumni to share their stories about leaving cults and controlling households.

Most of us never believed our own parents would bar our attempts to grow up and find freedom by emptying bank accounts, withholding identifying documentation, or taking away our means of transportation. Others were stalked by parents or fellow church members after leaving.

Some were kicked out by their parents because they wouldn’t comply with unreasonable demands.

We would like to hear your story.

As always, you can contribute anonymously or publicly. Please let us know your preference when you contact us.

* Deadline for “Escapes and Rescues” submissions: Friday, November 16, 2015. *

If you are interested in participating in this series, please email us at

Please put “Escapes and Rescues” as the title of the email.

Call For Help: Sarah’s Story


HA note: The following call for help is shared by Hännah Ettinger, who blogs at Wine & Marble. It includes the personal story of Sarah.

Note from Hännah: I’ve used my blog to share the story of a friend’s sister after she got kicked out of her QF family home for being vegan, and you wonderful people chipped in to raise $10,000 for her to replace her clothes, art supplies, and go toward her college tuition in the fall. 

This time, a 24 year old QF daughter, Sarah, reached out to me to share her story with you — she’s a beautiful person with a knack for words, and she wrote up her story here for you to read. Sarah just started blogging at The Pathway Maker, and will be doing a series of posts on her story in longer form. We set up a PayPal account specifically for donations to her tuition fund, and she made an Amazon wishlist for her school and apartment supplies that you can help her out with, too. 


Sarah’s Story

My world spun inside my head, each thought more terrifying than the last. I would lose my soul. The demons would get in if I ate that food. They would get in.

Then my father was there, forcing the spout of the water bottle between my clenched teeth, jamming it into my mouth. I struggled and fell. My father bent over me, forcing the water down my throat as I choked and cried out in panic. Over a decade of my internal tortures had come and gone, but now things were worse than ever.

I hadn’t always been like this. My early childhood had been reasonably happy, despite the anger and the yelling and the spanking. But these had never crushed my spirit, and I had been a carefree child in many respects. But then things changed.

I began struggling with scrupulosity as a young child. My labored confessions were the first signs of the mental illness which would destroy me for years. As if this growing inner torment were not enough, I began to struggle to see the physical world around me and learned, at the age of 8, that I would one day be legally blind because of an incurable retinal disease.

I lost my sight gradually over a period of several years, and at the same time, struggled increasingly with my mental illness, later diagnosed as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.*

When I began exhibiting signs of OCD, it manifested in the form of terrifying, uncontrollable thoughts (obsessions) that prompted ritualistic action responses (compulsions). Because my OCD was religious in nature, it was only exacerbated by my fundamentalist, Christian Patriarchal, Quiverfull, homeschooled upbringing. My fear of hell and demonic possession drove me to pray for hours, forego food and sleep and pace for hours in the middle of the night.

My family treated my OCD like silliness or sin that could be rationalized or prayed away. Worse, while they disregarded my obvious need for mental health assistance, they treated me as though I was already possessed by demons


For the rest of Sarah’s story, or for more information on how you can help her, please see Hännah’s original post at Wine & Marble.

Hope For A Better Tomorrow: Matthew Gorzik’s Story

Hope For A Better Tomorrow: Matthew Gorzik’s Story

Hello, my name is Matthew Gorzik.

I’m a 19 year old from Missouri, recently liberated from my parents and my homeschool. I was taught via the curriculum offered by Alpha Omega Academy, a YEC-oriented set of curricula which taught the wrong things and didn’t even teach them well. I learned that Pi = 3, that the Earth is 6,000 years old and that the *only* way fossils could possibly exist is if a great flood happened. It also tended to use History class as indoctrination, and tried to teach 9 and 10 year olds that they should only vote for Christians in elections because ‘otherwise, we’d have to live by Man’s law, and not God’s.’ All of this, of course, paled in comparison to the largest problem this caused.

I was completely isolated from civilization for most of my life, with the exception of the internet.

My parents were extremely sheltering, to the point that they demonized things like public school. Because of this, I only knew my family. I knew some of my extended family, but only got to see them on a monthly basis. Otherwise? I didn’t know a single person that I did not share a blood relation with.

And my family? They were not nice people.

My father was emotionally abusive, constantly reminding you that everything you had was his, that he could take it away at any time. He would threaten to kick me out of the house for speaking against him, and would openly say to my mother that I was lucky that he didn’t slap me into submission. My mother, of course, was a parent of the same vein. She would use my father as a mouthpiece when she didn’t want to get her own hands dirty, and would basically lie you into doing what she wanted. If the lies didn’t work, she would basically say “I’m the parent. I run barter town. You don’t get to question me, you get to do what I tell you to.” Failure to comply would result in having things taken away from you, or being slapped if you didn’t apologize for daring to question her authority.

I lived in the belief that this was normal.

I lived thinking it was normal to obey your parents without question. I lived thinking it was normal for someone of my age to not even be considered a person in their own home, thinking that it was normal for a parent to be nothing but a fear-monger to the child, demanding respect and complete obedience under threat of physical abuse or being kicked out. It drove me to a deep depression for a time, to the point that I considered myself completely without worth.

Then the internet found me, so to speak.

I had been online for a few years at this point. I had made friends – good friends. Friends that still stick with me to this day. They helped me realize that life wasn’t meant to be full of fear, and they helped me find a voice for myself. They helped me find my own personality – something that I would be completely lacking without their influence. I didn’t realize, though, the true extent to which they would help me. I found a forum for a site devoted to poking fun at the overtly religious and downright insane people of the internet. My boyfriend poked me into showing them some of my schoolwork, and telling them about my family.

They did not like what they heard.

My family situation, and their anger about it, escalated to the point that they banded together, raising $1,000 for a rescue operation. One of the members of that forum literally drove out to MO with a friend and picked me up in the morning without my parents even noticing until I called, I even got out with most of my belongings. We then drove for three days straight into Salem, OR.

Nowadays? I’m living with the family of the member that saved me. They have done more for me than anyone could possibly know, and they have been more of a family to me than my own. I’m going to a community college – trying to get my GED – and they’re doing everything they can to help me make up for lost time.

Where my life before was left empty — and I wondered if I would ever amount to anything more than just another person forgotten by time — my life is now filled with hope. Hope for a better tomorrow and, with the fact that the word is getting out about this kind of behaviour, hope that nobody will ever have to suffer my yesterday.

Call For Help: A Quiverfull / Patriarchy Rescue

Call For Help: A Quiverfull/Patriarchy Rescue

HA note: The following call for help is written by Hännah Ettinger, who blogs at Wine & Marble. “Jennifer” is a pseudonym. Her name has been changed to protect her identity. Jennifer turned 18 recently and graduated high school the weekend of this rescue. She is currently in a safe home. HA has personal confirmation of this story from the involved individuals.

Update, 05/31/2013: Over $10,000 raised so far! Read Hännah Ettinger’s update here.

Last Sunday night, I got a call from one of my post QF/CP buddies–we’re both the oldest from big homeschooling families with some unhealthy dynamics, and we both left that world when we got married (which torqued both of our fathers, for different, but similar reasons). She and I have been discussing with some of our post-QF/CP peers the needs of new adults trying to get out of borderline abusive or codependent or controlling family situations.

“Hännah,” she said. “I need advice.”

And then she spilled a story about her family’s downward spiral into isolation, fear, and control (increasing after she left and got married as a reaction against how “bad” she turned out), about how her sister “Jennifer” was demeaned by daily screaming from her mom, Bible-based lectures from her dad on why her interest in being vegan and an animal rights activist were rebellious and wrong. Despite many requests to be allowed to make herself vegan food, she was never given permission to even make herself a salad. She wasn’t allowed to touch fruit or vegetables unless given permission, which sometimes meant that food would rot in the fridge even though she wanted to eat it. Jennifer’s parents also threatened her pets, telling her that if she did not eat meat for dinner, she would wake up the next morning to find one of them gone.

The final crushing moment came last weekend, after her high school graduation, when she wasn’t singing in church (out of self-consciousness) and so, in a fit of anger, her parents removed all of her access to the outside world, taking away the power cord to her computer and her cell phone charger. She managed to get a few calls out, begging for help, with the battery power left on her phone.

She called her sister, and asked her to come get her out.

Her sister called me. “What should I do?”

But we knew there was really only one option, and so she and her husband put in 28 hours of driving in three days and went to rescue Jennifer. They got her out after a confrontation with her parents that required police backup, and cost Jennifer her three pets, her graduation gift iPad, her computer, her art supplies, her summer clothes, and her life savings of nearly $3,000.

Jennifer plans to become a concept artist for computer games, and wants to start college classes in the fall in order to pursue her art, but she will need a computer and art supplies and a number of other essentials to start life over in a new state with little to her name.

So, dear readers, I’ve never done this before, but I think this is a worthwhile cause. Would you be willing to chip in $10-15 to help raise money for Jennifer to get back on her feet and start school in the fall?


To donate to Jennifer’s fund: Please go to Hännah Ettinger’s original post and click on the PayPal button at the bottom.