Trapped By Homeschooling: Chris’ Story

CC image courtesy of PixabayWokandapix.

Trigger Warning: Discussions of emotional abuse, and descriptions of suicide and suicidal ideation.

Some stories here have recounted the experiences of people who were abused by sadistic parents or brought up in a cult. My own homeschooling narrative is much less severe. There was never any physical or sexual abuse. Religion was not used as a tool to dominate me. What adversity I faced mostly involved being homeschooled for five years by my emotionally unstable mother. She had grown up in poverty and never graduated from college, yet grasped on to homeschooling as a way to join a community and gain some meaning for her isolated life.

My mother wasn’t an evil person.

She and her older sister were raised in a series of apartment complexes by their severely depressed and emotionally abusive alcoholic single mother (my scumbag grandfather had abandoned them to start a new family). Her childhood was unstable, with several new step-fathers coming and going, and one serious suicide attempt by my grandmother. It was in her teenage years that my mother began her history of suicide attempts.

Desperate to leave her broken home, she completed her GED around ages 15-16, and went on to college, where at age 17 she met my father. They married immediately after her 18th birthday. He was several years older than her and not particularly bright or emotionally mature, but he offered the opportunity to escape life with her mother.

Predictably, marriage did not solve her problems.

My parents had totally different personalities and values, and spent the majority of their 20 years of marriage repeating the same fights over and over. But no matter how bad things got, she never considered divorce because their marriage was all she had. She was an emotional dependent.

At age 21 my mother had a stroke after mixing some medication with alcohol, and developed Tourettes syndrome. Crippling anxiety consumed her soon after, isolating her further. The suicide attempts of her adolescence resumed in her mid-20s.

After nine years of marriage I was finally conceived. My mother believed parenthood would be the solution to her problems. For the first three to four years, she seemed to have enjoyed parenting. But by age five I started to become too headstrong for her to manage easily.

My parents constantly disagreed over disciplinary measures.

This led to frequent fights. My father disagreed with her strict parenting. My mother was frustrated over his lack of any real involvement or contribution to parenting beyond criticizing her. After one argument (I must have been seven or eight) she said she was done and left. She came back the next morning.

Anxiety over her Tourettes syndrome finally began to break my mother and she quit her job to start parenting full-time. My younger sister was born almost five years after me. Mom started homeschooling my sister after her fifth birthday. That same year, just starting the 4th grade, I was pulled out of the private catholic school I attended (we were poor, but my paternal grandparents were willing to pay for my tuition). One of the students had ‘stabbed’ (probably poked) another with a pencil and a few mothers,
including mine, overreacted by pulling their children out of the school.

The next five years were hell for both of us.

For the first month I wasn’t taught anything. Eventually my mother began to meet and befriend other homeschooling parents, bought several christian textbooks, and put me and my sister into a co-op.

For the majority of my homeschooling education, character building and disciplining took precedence over any actual learning. Lessons were frequently interrupted because she didn’t like a particular tone of voice I used, or because I looked exasperated.

I had developed sleep apnea as a child due to a deviated septum and recessed lower jaw (I had needed braces for an overbite, which my mother decided against getting me). As a result by age ten I began to experience sleep deprivation and social anxiety. Every morning I would wake up and begin my lessons while dealing with congestion and headaches. As you would expect, children with sleep-deficits can be very irritable, and my mother and I began to bicker constantly.

My mother wasn’t perceptive enough to recognize these underlying issues, and instead assumed my problems stemmed from seasonal allergies and personality defects like obstinance or lack of motivation.

She referred to any display of irritability as ‘attitude’ for which I received consistently ineffectual punishments (spanking, grounding, loss of privileges). Unable to deter me from what she saw as misbehavior, we often fought until lessons for the day could no longer continue and I had to be sent to my room and grounded.

One time she took away my ‘TV privileges’ for a week after I failed to comply with her demand that I suppress any ‘attitude’ during a lesson. I was still unable to hide my aggravation (meaning my face had an angry expression), and after a couple more bitter exchanges I was banned from watching any TV for a full year.

Sometimes my father tried to negotiate down whatever punishment she had decided on.

But he had never wanted children, and expected my mother to perform all child-rearing duties. At the same time he constantly disagreed with her approach to parenting. Her personality was always much stronger than his, so she usually won these arguments. Neither of them had any communication skills, and they were never able to come to any kind of mutual understanding. These were two people who never should have married, let alone had children.

At age eleven I began to experience suicidal ideation, and openly expressed my desire to kill myself. My mother brought a friend from church to pray over me, but the issue was kept quiet after that and never addressed.

Our hostilities rapidly increased during the last two years of her life.

She developed a tolerance for the antidepressants she had been taking, and became an emotional wreck as a result. We tried to avoid each other as much as possible. From this point on (ages 12-14) I was expected to assume responsibility for my own education, while she would infrequently check how far I had progressed into my mathematics workbook. To avoid having to deal with me too often, she placed me in various athletic and religious programs (including the boy scouts) which filled my schedule for most of the week. Our mutual disposition toward one another remained icy.

Near the end of her life she began to rely on humiliation as a tool to discipline me.

In one instance I was made to attend my swim practice (an instructor offered lessons at a local community center) but sit outside the pool for the duration of the class, a consequence for my having disrespected her in some way. Another time she tried to shame me for my recalcitrant attitude by involving my friend’s parents in my disciplining. As with the ban on TV, none of these punishments were ever effective and only worsened our relationship. Her failure to find an effective way to discipline me only increased her frustration.

She eventually discovered that she could exert a measure of control over me by threatening to place me into a public school. I had become incredibly shy, even compared to many of my other homeschooled peers, and she would often deride me for this. It is probably the greatest shame I hold as a homeschooler that I was terrified at the thought of being sent to a public school and having all of my shortcomings (educational, social, physical) exposed to my more secular peers. But she never attempted to carry out any of these threats.

Another serious contributor to our inability to get along was her belief in the obligation of a child to provide emotional support for her/his parents.

She expected me to be a loyal, loving son and friend. She wanted me to be generous, selfless, and religiously devout. Failing to display these qualities invited her frustration and scorn. Instead of meeting her expectations I often displayed a childish selfishness which reminded her of my grandmother.

I wasn’t surprised to learn in recent years that my mother’s emotional dependence on her children paralleled her own relationship with my grandmother. Mom was able to fulfill the role of supportive daughter to my grandmother, and she expected me to serve her in the same duty. In her eyes my inability to do so reflected my poor character.

She became more explosive and vindictive during her final months, and my father asked me if I wanted them to get a divorce.

I said yes. Unfortunately shortly thereafter my mother’s mental state reached a point where divorce was no longer an option. One day she told me she had had enough and left. She was hospitalized later that night after driving into a tree. She came back from the hospital and told me I had “one more chance”. She was often cryptic like this, and it wasn’t until after her death that I came to realize she had been threatening me with her
suicide for months before she finally succeeded in going through with it.

As was inevitable, I spoke or acted out in someway that offended her, and so she ceased speaking with me for the last few weeks of her life (she did continue educating my younger sibling during this time). One day after her 41st birthday she left the house to make her final suicide attempt, a drug overdose.

Her comatose body was eventually recovered from a distant park.

As she lay in the hospital I remember praying to God, begging him to end her life. I hated her completely. On Sunday, our pastor asked the entire congregation to pray for my mother’s recovery. The following Tuesday, she finally perished after two weeks in a coma. I had only recently turned 14.

Her control over my education finally ended after five years, during which time I had received little to no science, geography, language, or history education. What I was lucky enough to get consisted of badly taught christian math lessons from VHS tapes + worksheets and the literature I was allowed to read while confined to my room.

For several years the gaps in my education had been visible to many in the community.

Most of my other homeschooled friends and their parents had noted and even joked about my ignorance. Little was done about it, no one in the community had suggested my mother give up homeschooling. To them it was a religious vocation, primarily centered on an evangelical moral education. Since in their eyes I was a ‘good christian’ and relatively well-adjusted, my mother must have been performing her duties sufficiently. I suspect she was aware of her failings as an educator, and this likely reinforced her  resolve to commit suicide.

Because of the circumstances of her death, I received little to no support.

No one in the homeschooling community ever acknowledged the cause of her death. My mother’s family (grandmother aunt, cousins) never admitted to her flaws or the harm she did, causing a rift between us. My father’s family were all too preoccupied with their own problems to have any involvement in my life. My widowed father coped by becoming a drug addict.

Mom’s suicide spurred my rapid exit from Christianity. I was an atheist by the end of the year (this was in the mid-2000s when atheism dominated the internet). During this time I lost every friend I had. Most of the people I knew in the homeschooling community disappeared because I left fundamentalist christianity. I compulsively severed relationships with all of my closest friends due to the trauma, shame and isolation I felt over my mother’s suicide. Insecurities relating to my physical appearance, lack of social skills, and failed education also contributed to my sense of alienation. Isolating myself offered me the only sense of control I had ever felt over my own life. There was some irony to this, since my mother’s death had already basically emancipated me from any adult supervision/parenting/guidance.

Somehow I was allowed by my relatives to ‘homeschool’ myself for nearly a year before my local I.S.D. finally discovered my existence and sent someone to my house.

Eventually I was enrolled into the nearest highschool where I was able to complete my diploma. Unfortunately this was an inner-city school, and I was passed through without being adequately prepared for college. During that time I slept 14 hours a day and was too emotionally damaged to form relationships with other people or think seriously about my future.

I enrolled in a local community college with no clear idea of what I wanted to do, or even whether I wanted to go on living. By some fluke I was able to score just high enough on the SAT to avoid the need for remedial classes, despite having been too dysfunctional to do any studying.

It was in college that I discovered just how incomplete my education had been.

I was unaware of several basic rules of algebra and barely passed my math courses (I even had to drop a STEM mathematics course for one less rigorous). My science education suffered immensely as a result. A STEM major was out of the question and I realized I would need to switch to a liberal arts degree to maintain an acceptable GPA. I took summer classes and quickly completed my college degree plan, moving on to university as severely depressed agoraphobe who still had no real purpose or direction in his life.

My depression, traumatic stress, physical insecurities, and previously mentioned sleeping issues eventually became too much for me to bear. I dropped out of university and became trapped in a cycle of depression and suicide attempts for the next 5 years. I am now in my mid-20s with no degree or job.

Reading the other stories here I’ve come to realize how lucky I was.

My parents were only moderately pious by comparison to most of the other homeschooling families I grew up around. I was spared any sexual or physical abuse. Because my mother took her own life I was at least able to acquire a diploma and be freed of her psychological abuse. I have also had plenty of emotional support from my younger sibling, who has gone on to have a meaningful life. Out of guilt my father allowed me to live at home for these past few years, so homelessness was never a risk.

My mother was not mentally fit to be a competent parent, let alone homeschool her children. But thanks to the activism of predominantly wealthy, suburban parents, often organized around ultraconservative religious ideologies, the state I live in (Texas) offers zero oversight to homeschoolers.

It is exactly that oversight which could have protected parents like mine from themselves and guaranteed their children the right to an education.

Had some government mechanism existed to check my educational progress, my mother might have been deterred from taking up homeschooling. This may not have solved all of my problems, but without a doubt it would have immeasurably improved my life today.

Puncturing Declension Narratives

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Elena.

Editorial note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog, Love, Joy, Feminism. It was originally published on February 8, 2016.

Last week Homeschoolers Anonymous posted this photo, “an actual graph Reb Bradley created for his mental health curriculum.” You can see it here:


So you know what’s strange? A lot of Protestants argue that before the Protestant Reformation, most people were duped by the Catholic Church into believing they could work their way to heaven. These individuals weren’t really saved and weren’t really following the Bible, the argument goes, and the priests and monks—the ones who did read the Bible—were corrupt wolves who took advantage of the people. I’m wondering how this sort of chronology—which I imagine Bradley himself holds, given his other writings—squares with the graph in the image above.

There’s something else I find most people don’t know. During the middle ages, most Europeans were much more pagan and much less Christian than people today realize. People used charms, spells, and old folklore and ideas that the Catholic Church had never been able to fully root out, and that Protestant Reformers weren’t able to root out either. In fact, some historians have argued that early European settlers to the U.S. were more pagan than they were Christian, and more apathetic than they were churchgoers, and that it took until the mid-1800s for the American people to be fully “Christianized.” In other words, the idea that people before the mid-1800s were “relying strictly on the Bible for wisdom for life” is utter bullshit.

As for the idea that children were obedient before the mid-1800s, I’d say two things. First, there were disobedient children. Anyone who has read Romeo and Juliet knows that. It was also wasn’t that uncommon for children to run away from home during adolescence. But second, before the mid-1800s it was both legal and socially acceptable to beat one’s children if they didn’t obey. In fact, child abuse was not recognized as a thing until the mid-1800s. It’s not that it didn’t happen—it did—it’s just that before this, it was considered normative. So maybe we can stop saying how awesome it was back then, because children obeyed their parents in fear of a beating?

As for the divorce rate, it’s worth noting during the middle ages priests struggled a great deal to prevent spousal desertion and bigamy, things that did happen and were in fact surprisingly common. Many people practiced “common law” marriages, and the church was often hard put as to how to regulate marriage. I mean gracious, priests spent centuries working to eliminate concubinage, and initially allowed it (provided a man did not also have a wife) because of its prevalence. Similarly, the church was so concerned by the amount of sex taking place outside of wedlock that they ultimately decided that a verbal promise to marry at some point in the future (no witnesses required), when followed by sexual intercourse, instantaneously created a binding marriage. That in itself created problems, because there were plenty of cases where a pregnant woman a man had promised to marry her before they had sex, and he said he hadn’t—in those cases, the courts had to figure out whether or not the couple was already married. This didn’t change until the Council of Trent in the mid-1500s.

In other words, marriage and sexual relations during the middle ages were complicated, and the church didn’t have near as firm a grasp on the issue as people like Bradley appear to think. Domestic violence or other disturbances were common, and in some cases wife-beating was legally sanctioned. Even where divorce was banned, and couples were typically allowed to legally separate if they did not remarry, and they could also seek annulments in some circumstances. In many cases couples simply moved out and moved in with new partners, the church be damned. In a way, the middle ages is the story of the Catholic Church attempting to control and regulate an unruly mass of people who were more interested in simply living their lives than in following a list of rules.

The suicide rate is a bit more difficult to speak to, as statistics are nearly impossible to find. We do know, however, that murder rates were extraordinarily high, and that the common people consumed alcohol in rates that would be considered excessive to the extreme today. And that’s not even touching child mortality.

History is complicated, and fascinating, and profoundly messy. The narrative Reb Bradley tells in his graph above could hardly be more ahistorical. The same is true about just about every declension narrative I hear today. Did you know that one study of marriage and birth records in the colonial Americans found that one in three women who married was pregnant at the altar? Listening to conservatives, you’d think having sex before marriage was just invented yesterday. For their part, narratives about increasing crime rates after removing prayer from school ignore the reality that crime rates today are at a historical low. I am extremely skeptical of declension narratives as a genre, because history isn’t this simple, one-dimensional story just waiting to be plugged into your talking point. This shit’s complicated.

When the Bible Wasn’t Enough: Sage Lynn’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Ryan Hyde.

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Sage Lynn” is a pseudonym.

Content Warning: Suicidal Thoughts

“God is real,” I confidently asserted. “There’s indisputable proof, and his existence and saving us from hell is the only thing that makes life worth living.”

A girl about my own age countered, “God is a myth. Evolution is scientifically proven. God doesn’t exist.”

“Actually yes, he does. He created the world– science has disproven evolution over and over, but people don’t want to believe it. I believe in God’s sovereignty. I believe that he takes all the terrible moments of our lives and changes them into something beautiful, something worth having. Otherwise there’s no point in living.”

“I can find a purpose in living without God. No one really needs him. If you have to believe in a pretend deity to find meaning, then that’s not such a great way to see things,” she replied.

“Without God, nothing makes sense,” I replied. “People have been trying to find meaning without him for ages, and it just doesn’t work. He is the only one who can redeem the messes of our lives, the things we wish we hadn’t done and the things done to us. Without him, all the suffering in the world is meaningless, including ours.”

“You can believe that, but God doesn’t actually exist and life does have meaning without him,” the girl stated.

Thinking of this exchange makes me cringe. I am sick to my stomach, want to throw up and shove the memory of it far out of my head. But it’s important to me to remember. I was eighteen at the time, suicidal, depressed, starving myself to death, in the hospital because I had overdosed–at that exact moment I was sitting in a psych ward with six other teenage girls and two psych techs, in some group for coping skills or the like. The techs intervened at that point, bringing the group back on point, but I spent the rest of the group writing notes that bolstered my worldview that believing in God was the only thing that made life worthwhile and possible.

A few days later, after the 72 hour hold the emergency room physician placed me on expired, I checked myself out of the hospital. As a semi-minor, I had to have a meeting with my parents and the treatment team before I was released. My parents’ pastor and the biblical counselor I was seeing came along too. At that meeting, the treatment team asked me why I thought I was safe enough to leave the ward. I answered with more of the above, about having purpose because God was working everything together for good and it was all going to have a higher purpose, and I would continue to cling to that and draw strength from that and use it to fight the suicidal urges. The pastor and counselor and my parents all told me how proud they were that I defended my faith against psychological attacks. “You have the right beliefs,” the counselor told me. “That is what makes life worth living. We just need to help connect your head and your heart so that your beliefs guide your actions. God wants that for you–keep studying the Bible, praying, and asking the Holy Spirit to work in your life.”

After we left, I remember looking at the sky and being so relieved that I was out of the psych ward–yet so terrified because inside I didn’t know if the worldview I so stoutly defended was really enough to keep me alive.

And this is the story of my disillusionment with conservative Christianity. It wasn’t so much a lightbulb moment as a rocky path plagued by fits and starts, trying to go back, trying to believe, and coming up dry. Meeting people my religion condemned to hell and realizing they had a better outlook on life than I did.

Understanding that my parents’, pastor’s, and counselor’s approbation showed their overarching concern: that my soul’s security was more important than my body’s survival, that my ability to argue apologetics or memorize whole books of the Bible or “get my heart right before God” was more important than my ability to stop cutting or dreaming of death.

In fact, when I first started seeing the counselor, the first thing she said to anorexic, cutting, suicidal me was, “Before I even try to help someone with their life issues, I want to make sure they’re saved. Otherwise, dealing with the other issues will be ineffective.” When I ended up in the psych ward–again, and again–I would leave with resources to use, groups to attend, but the biblical counselor and pastor would tell me to quit them, to turn to their approved Bible studies and “counseling,” to pray more and make my life right with God. Over and over, this never worked. All the “right answers” just left me broken and battered, more wounded than when I’d begun to seek them.

Eventually, I went left home and started college. I was incredibly lucky to meet several therapists–ones with a degree who didn’t read me Bible verses for every session–who began to help me untangle the webs of lies and confusion I had been told. They affirmed my worth and value, and the priority of dealing with my depression and other issues, all without bringing the Bible into it or mentioning God or telling me my behaviors were sending me to hell.

As I healed, my parents expressed concerns about my salvation. In their eyes, my turning to secular psychology evidenced a rejection of the Bible and principles they wanted me to embrace. I spent hours trying to convince them–and myself–conservative Christian beliefs could be reconciled with reality in the world. I came up dry.
I also watched the way conservative Christianity treated people. I saw much talk about doctrine and scripture and grace and judgment and holiness and righteousness–and I saw an inability to listen to real people, real stories, real pain. From abortion to LGBT* people (before I had figured out I was one myself) to healthcare to immigration, I saw a plethora of articles and words about what should be done, what the Bible said about things, and precious little attention given to people who had lived these things.

Leaders my parents followed seemed to be more concerned about figuring out a doctrinal formula and backing everything up with Bible verses than they did with engaging in the pain and hurt in the world.

They were too quick to offer the “solution” that would fix some problem and prescribe the correct theology–talking–while refusing to listen or love.

A few months after I told my parents that I was queer, we had a conversation that had become commonplace. “I know you say this is how you feel,” my mom said, her face lined with concern. “But I ask you, who is Jesus to you? Do you call yourself a Christian? How can you back up that you are a Christian from the Bible?”
My voice trembling, the pull of religious fundamentalism that will always be in my blood tugging at my heart, I replied, “I can’t do this anymore. I won’t defend my faith to you. I don’t have all the reasons and all the answers and all the doctrines–and I don’t want them. I will never be able to justify my faith or lack thereof or uncertainty thereof to you. It only ends up hurting me and not answering you. My God, when I believe in them, is not the same as yours. They never will be. I am done. Defending my faith, defending conservative Christianity, almost killed me. I can’t go back. I am sorry, but this is not a conversation I can have anymore.”

That day marked a turning point for me. I gave up trying to reconcile my beliefs with conservative Christianity. Even though my heart still longs at times for the familiarity and rules that defined life for me for so long, I know I can’t go back. That bridge is destroyed, and it is for the better. If I remain a Christian, it will be in spite of conservative Christianity. In the end, love, truth and knowledge will win, defeating the hate-mongering, fear-mongering lies sold to people to modify their behavior. Until that day, I choose to live in love and acceptance, even if that means I don’t have all the answers

How I Survived Homeschooling in Bill Gothard’s Cult: Part One

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Norbert Posselt.

HA Note: The following is reprinted with permission from Alexa Meyer’s blog Life of Grace and Peace. It was originally published on June 26, 2015 and has been slightly modified for HA.


In this series: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Conclusion


Part One

With much encouragement from my husband I’m sharing my experiences with Bill Gothard and the ugly influence of Gothard’s Institute for Basic Life Principles (IBLP) and Advanced Training Institute (ATI – his homeschool program) teachings on my life. After reading many of the experiences of others, I felt that my story would just be redundant since we all seem to share similarities. My husband assures me that what I learned and how I dealt with Gothard would help someone – and so I hope.

The beginnings of what I think of as my personal “Dark Ages” started in my 13th year (Aug. 1988), a year after being pulled out of public school to home educate. There’s nothing like being told the day 7th grade started, and after taking all the trouble to get ready that morning – clothes on, check; hair done, check; makeup, check; pep talk, check – to “never mind going to school, you’ll be doing that at home from now on.” With my foot out the door and my bag over my shoulder, I thought it was a joke. When I realized they were serious and asked why, I was told that I was “out of control and rebellious, so to bring you into line you’re being taught at home.” That inspires cooperation!

From what I could tell, being rebellious meant that I wasn’t open to them, sharing my every thought, dream, etc., I was physically pulling away from them, not wanting to hug my dad frequently, spending time by myself, asking questions (which evidently meant I didn’t agree with them).

Basically, I wanted privacy and for my dad to stop paying attention to me (attention that made me uncomfortable), and they wanted to control everything about me. They had already tried Josh McDowall’s stuff with me the previous year, which I thought was a little overboard since more rules and guilt trips don’t help anyone. I’m sure that I was a little sullen and mouthy since by my understanding all my crying out for help to my mom, and sometimes my dad, didn’t get any results. My dad continued to sit too close, tickle my knees or ribs at will, make me hug him frequently, sit alone with me and pry into my deepest thoughts, humiliate me in front of my peers and adults by sharing my personal habits or spiritual revelations I had, make jokes about me, twist and turn my words (manipulate) back onto me when I would sit down and express my concerns about them – I could go on, but I don’t want to bore you. In addition to asking my mom to talk with dad about giving me some space, I asked my youth pastor to just come sit with me during a talk with my parents and help me make sure that my point got across to them. Nothing, of course, came of that. I tried several times at many “family devotions” during and after dinner, to confront my dad (like I had been taught to do-Matt.18) about this strangeness I felt between us. I was always “wrong (i.e. don’t know what you’re talking about), confused, misguided, so you should spend more time searching your heart and the Bible to see what Jesus wants you to work on.” I tried this approach from the age of 11 to about 15, and then gave up since everything I said was always turned back on me (it still is to this day).

After my “rebellious” first year home schooling, my parents decided that I needed Character Building. I guess I wasn’t enough of a character already! So after talking to a friend who knew a friend who had a similar “problem”, my parents were introduced to Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) – or Basic Training – through the Character Sketches. (These character sketch books were full of character words, their meanings, stories taken from the Bible, and an animal assigned per character word to teach the how to demonstrate the particular character, i.e. faithfulness.) I remember the first time I looked through that book thinking “Seriously?! I’m supposed to learn how my parents want me to behave by reading how animals behave? We’re going to spiritualize animal behavior?” It seemed really kooky to me, but I wanted to keep the peace, so I cooperated. Boy was I in for a treat at the IBLP seminar we went to that spring (1989)!

At that first Basic seminar (I was 12), my dad made sure we all met Gothard. It was very brief, but I didn’t like him and thought it strange how like my dad he was – same first name, hair and eye color, body build, voice tones, manner of speaking and hand gestures.

The most unnerving trait they shared, which became apparent about 2 years later when I met him again, was the sexual undercurrent.

I recognized that particular type of tension because I dodged that sitting-too-close, inappropriate-tickling, alone-at-night-deep-probing-questions, forcing-affection and being-called-girlfriend tension from my father my whole life.

Another thing that seemed strange, yet obvious, to me was how odd it was for people who are married and probably have kids to listen and take to heart a man’s interpretation of the Bible, who has never left home or married let alone courted anyone (to my knowledge at 13) and had no experience whatsoever of raising kids. Wow! Really?! The rules he was spouting seemed endless and silly, focusing on only physical things that we should do, never the true Grace and Peace that Jesus brought us all after the cross.

So after attending Basic and learning all the things we must do to receive God’s favor (Wait a minute! I thought that was un-merited because of Jesus!), and, apparently, to fit in with this club, life became a burden.

It was already rocky enough, what with being the only child who was blessed with her father’s laser beam of religiosity, demanding my every thought, confession, loyalty but never my questions or concerns about anything to do with my parent’s authority. I call that blind loyalty, and ironically my parents taught me, no required me, to be a deep thinker and self-analyzer, to always question things, especially establishments and authority.

Did anyone else’s parents require complete transparency (even if nothing was there), daily Bible study at the ungodly hour of 6am (okay, I’m so Not a morning person!), regular self-analysis to see where you’re wrong and how you can be more like Christ? Or the room raids and confiscations when you’re gone, public humiliations by talking about your private struggles or personal habits? Or have the limits on youth group involvement and the focus on staying pure, pointing out that I’m inherently a sinner, so I have to keep myself pure and modest so I don’t tempt anyone and become a stumbling block? The way my dad talked he had me believing that every guy over the age of 12 had one thing on their mind most of the time, so it was my job not to encourage them. Later I would wonder how to turn him off! After witnessing my father come home from work one day (when I was about 14) and thank us for praying for him that day, because he’d been tempted by a beautiful red haired woman in a suit, I knew for sure that my dad was one of those males he’d been warning me about. It took years of being married to my wonderful, non-ATIA, Godly husband before I released my prejudice against most men.

A lot of the teachings from IBLP my parents had already been teaching me for a while. Some of the new things were the Patriarch stuff, women wearing only dresses, no make-up, long hair, stay at home, having babies (no birth control) and the courtship idea. The teaching that people are supposed to follow all these rules (most of which are made by man), which are “backed up” by Bible verses used out of context, to be “right” with and blessed by God, weren’t new to me. It was, however something that I was finding oppressive and didn’t think was right. What I saw through my parents and the numerous churches we attended was those in positions of “authority” (power, really) abusing their position saying, “Jesus died for you because He loves you and wants to save you. (His blood wasn’t powerful enough? I have the power to make Jesus my Redeemer or Savior?) But He accepts you as you are. Accept Him so you won’t burn in hell (Didn’t Jesus take the judgement of the world and bring Peace between man and God?).” Then after you accept Him – really, who wants to burn in hell? – they teach all the things you have to do to continue to stay “right” with God. The backstabbing, ostracizing, cruelness comes the minute you questioned anything or didn’t agree exactly the same way. Aside from studying how Jesus behaved after the cross (as well as before!) and noticing that He certainly never acted that heartless way, it just didn’t feel right.

It’s what Jesus wants from us, to be hateful towards someone who doesn’t think, act or dress like us?

Really?! That shows Love?

Well, after contemplating suicide three times my 13th year, shortly after turning 14 I raised my fist to God and told Him to take this “Christianity” and shove it! If this was Him I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. He was going to have to show me who He really was for me to have anything to do with Him. He, thankfully, didn’t disappoint me! About five months later He encouraged me to read Song of Solomon. He showed me His Love, He wooed me and became my best friend, confidant, lover, teacher, most especially my Hope. I know to the core of me that He was the only way I made it to 18 reasonably sane and alive.

How Many More Dead Kids?


HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kathryn Brightbill’s blog The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person. It was originally published on December 31, 2014.

Leelah Alcorn was 17 years old when she concluded that life was never going to get better for her.

Before she reached the point that she ended her life, Leelah endured years of spiritual abuse from her parents and from Christian counselors. Her parents eventually pulled her out of school to homeschool, keeping her isolated from her friends and support system by taking away her phone and laptop for months on end.

Here are some of her own words describing what she endured:

“When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.

My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression. I only got more christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.

When I was 16 I realized that my parents would never come around, and that I would have to wait until I was 18 to start any sort of transitioning treatment, which absolutely broke my heart. The longer you wait, the harder it is to transition. I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life. On my 16th birthday, when I didn’t receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep.

I formed a sort of a “fuck you” attitude towards my parents and came out as gay at school, thinking that maybe if I eased into coming out as trans it would be less of a shock. Although the reaction from my friends was positive, my parents were pissed. They felt like I was attacking their image, and that I was an embarrassment to them. They wanted me to be their perfect little straight christian boy, and that’s obviously not what I wanted.

So they took me out of public school, took away my laptop and phone, and forbid me of getting on any sort of social media, completely isolating me from my friends. This was probably the part of my life when I was the most depressed, and I’m surprised I didn’t kill myself. I was completely alone for 5 months. No friends, no support, no love. Just my parent’s disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness.”

Leelah’s death hits me hard, she wasn’t just an LGBT kid, she was an LGBT homeschool kid, and her parents used homeschooling as a tool to isolate her, to try to turn her into the “perfect little straight Christian boy” they thought she should be. As a one-time homeschool kid, I have a feeling of affinity for other homeschool kids. Leelah was one of us, and now she’s gone.


Just as surely as the homeschool kids who were beaten or starved by their parents, Leelah Alcorn is one of Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. Leelah’s parents are just as responsible for her death as the parents who beat and starved their kids to death, but even though they drove their child to suicide, they’ll never see the inside of a jail cell. They’ll get sympathy, some will probably pat them on the back and tell them how they were good Christian parents doing all they could for a troubled child. Make no mistake though, Leelah’s death was entirely preventable, and if they had given her love and support instead of disappointment and loneliness, this story would have a different ending.

And to the pastor who told me recently that he was going to continue preaching anti-LGBT sermons because to do otherwise would be to disregard the unchanging Word of God, this is what happens. You have kids who are tormented by their church, by Christian counselors, by their parents, all because theology is more important than people.

Christians, if your theology results in a child stepping in front of a truck because she can’t imagine a world where her life will get anything but worse, then it’s time to reevaluate your theology.

A theology that leads to dead kids is wrong and immoral. Jesus said to let the little children come to Him, that whoever harms one of them should have a millstone put around his neck and be thrown into the sea. You’ve got it backwards, you’re tying the millstone around the child’s neck and calling it “love.”

I’m tired. Tired of the dead homeschool kids. Tired of the dead queer kids. Tired of the fact that the Evangelical world doesn’t care about the lives of either group.

Please, don’t let Leelah’s death be meaningless. Change the world and change yourselves so that there aren’t any more Leelahs. No kid should have to endure what she did.

RIP, Leelah.

*Both images taken from Leelah’s tumblr

When Homeschoolers Turn Violent: Benjamin Matthew and James Tyler Williams

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Series note: “When Homeschoolers Turn Violent” is a joint research project by Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. Please see the Introduction for detailed information about the purpose and scope of the project.

Trigger warning: If you experience triggers from descriptions of physical and sexual violence, please know that the details in many of the cases are disturbing and graphic.


Benjamin Matthew and James Tyler Williams

Benjamin Matthew Williams (31) and James Tyler Williams (29) were brothers who believed in white supremacy. On July 1, 1999, motivated by self-professed hatred of gay people, they murdered Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder, a gay couple living in Redding, California.

On July 1, 1999, motivated by self-professed hatred of gay people, Benjamin Matthew Williams (l) and James Tyler Williams (r) murdered Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder, a gay couple living in Redding, California.
On July 1, 1999, motivated by self-professed hatred of gay people, Benjamin Matthew Williams (l) and James Tyler Williams (r) murdered Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder, a gay couple living in Redding, California.

Benjamin and James grew up in Palo Cedro, a small community in Shasta County, California. Their parents were fundamentalist Christians who kept to themselves. A neighbor described them as “heavy Bible thumpers, really into that stuff.” The Williams family briefly attended a Baptist church in Palo Cedro, but they left when the church refused to kick out a bi-racial couple. The Williams’ parents were apocalyptic survivalists who grew their own food and homeschooled their children until they reached high school. In highschool, Benjamin and James were prohibited from participating in extracurricular activities, though they were honor students.

The family eventually moved to Redding because their father believed he received “God’s orders” to do so. After high school, Benjamin briefly served in the military and then attended  University of Idaho. In Idaho, he joined a a local Charismatic church and become interested in “purification diets,” hoping to achieve “perfect bowel movements.” He eventually left the Charismatic church and immersed himself in literature from the internet on white supremacy and anti-Semitism. This literature led him to the Christian Identity movement, a fact seemingly relevant since “proponents of that movement advocate death to homosexuals.”  James was also interested in white supremacy.

Benjamin and James knew their victims — Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder, who had happily been a couple for 14 years — through involvement in the local landscaping industry. The brothers began planning the murders 2 weeks prior, when met Gary and Winfield at the Redding Farmers Market. Both Benjamin and the couple had booths at the market. Benjamin specified to James the couples’ homosexuality as reason for targeting.

On the night of the murder, the brothers used their father’s vehicle to drive to Gary and Winfield’s home. Gary and Winfield were already asleep. Benjamin personally shot both men, emptying an entire clip from a .22 calibre handgun. He then reloaded and fired 5 more shots. When asked later about the murders, Benjamin said he was “not guilty of murder” but rather “guilty of obeying the laws of the Creator.” He called other Christians gut-less, declaring that, “So many people claim to be Christians and complain about all these things their religion says are a sin, but they’re not willing to do anything about it. They don’t have the guts.”

2 years after the murders, in September 2001, both Benjamin and James pled guilty to numerous charges unrelated to the murders: setting fire to three Sacramento synagogues and an abortion clinic in 1999. For those charges alone they were sentenced to prison: Benjamin for 30 years and James for 21 years. The following year, 1 month before his murder sentencing was scheduled, Benjamin committed suicide in prison.  Several months later, James pled guilty to his role in Gary and Winfield’s murders and was sentenced to an additional 29 years to life in prison.

View the case index here.

When Homeschoolers Turn Violent: Brandon Warren

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Series note: “When Homeschoolers Turn Violent” is a joint research project by Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. Please see the Introduction for detailed information about the purpose and scope of the project.

Trigger warning: If you experience triggers from descriptions of physical and sexual violence, please know that the details in many of the cases are disturbing and graphic.


Brandon Warren

On July 26, 2001, 14-year-old Brandon Warren from Kenly, North Carolina shot and killed his 13-year-old brother Bradley and his 19-year-old sister Marnie Rose. He then turned his gun on himself and committed suicide.

On July 26, 2001, 14-year-old Brandon Warren from Kenly, North Carolina shot and killed his 13-year-old brother Bradley and his 19-year-old sister Marnie Rose.
On July 26, 2001, 14-year-old Brandon Warren from Kenly, North Carolina shot and killed his 13-year-old brother Bradley and his 19-year-old sister Marnie Rose.

All of the Warren children — Bradley, Brandon, Marnie Rose, and their older brother Ellis (21) — were homeschooled by their parents, Boyd and Nissa Mae. The family had a history of interactions with social workers due to dysfunction and the children having visible bruises. In fact, in just the 2 months prior to the murder-suicide, social workers talked with the parents 11 times but “the Warrens routinely turned them away, forcing them to get a court order for each visit.” Their house reportedly had “rotting food, animal feces on the floor.” Shortly prior to the murder-suicide, Social Service inspectors had “warned the parents that if they didn’t clean up their home, they could lose their children.”

The Warren family’s troubled state, however, went back a decade. In 1991, the parents were convicted of child abuse in another state, Arizona, where they also homeschooled. After the conviction, the family moved to their current home in North Carolina.

On the day of the attack, Brandon accessed his mother’s .22-caliber rifle and used it to kill his siblings and then himself. A motive was never publicly stated. However, Nissa Mae’s reaction to losing three of her children was chilling: she told a detective that she would “rather God had them than Child Protective Services.”

While Brandon was ruled to have murdered his siblings and then committed suicide, Brandon’s parents were also charged in the case due to squalid living conditions. Boyd and Nissa Mae were both charged “with misdemeanor child abuse and storing firearms in a manner accessible to a child.”

Homeschool advocates immediately dismissed any connections between the Warren family murder/suicide and homeschooling. In April 2002, Jeff Townsend — president of North Carolinians for Home Education — said he “didn’t see any connections between home education and the teens’ deaths.” But in 2003, the case received heightened media attention due to a CBS report entitled, “A Dark Side to Home Schooling.” The report, which prominently featured Brandon Warren and his family, received the attention mainly because its title provoked a huge backlash from homeschooling communities. Later that year, Rep. Todd Akin — himself a homeschooling father from North Carolina, most recently known for his “legitimate rape” commentsspearheaded a signature-gathering effort and recruited 33 Congress members — 32 Republican, 1 Democrat — to publicly denounce the CBS report.

View the case index here.

When Homeschoolers Turn Violent: Darren James Price

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Series note: “When Homeschoolers Turn Violent” is a joint research project by Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. Please see the Introduction for detailed information about the purpose and scope of the project.

Trigger warning: If you experience triggers from descriptions of physical and sexual violence, please know that the details in many of the cases are disturbing and graphic.


Darren James Price

In June 2013, 13-year-old Darren James Price from Dowagiac, Michigan took a gun to Dowagiac Middle School, ran away after being approached by school staff, then went into the woods near the school and committed suicide.

In June 2013, 13-year-old Darren James Price from Dowagiac, Michigan entered Dowagiac Middle School with a gun and then committed suicide.
In June 2013, 13-year-old Darren James Price from Dowagiac, Michigan entered Dowagiac Middle School with a gun and then committed suicide.

Darren attended Dowagiac Middle School through 6th grade. Darren was described by a former public school principal as “very nice, polite, a good kid.” He was withdrawn from the school a year prior to his death and was homeschooled for 7th grade. Darren had an unknown number of siblings, all of whom were also withdrawn from the public school district. No reasons for withdrawal were publicized.

The night before his death, Darren stole a handgun from his family. The next morning, he entered school grounds with the gun. A custodian saw Darren with the gun and notified the school principal. After the principal approached Darren, the boy ran into the nearby woods. The school notified the police. A deputy sheriff arrived and approached the woods where the boy was hiding. After seeing the sheriff, the boy shot himself. He died shortly after in a hospital.

Despite initially approaching the school with a weapon, police remain unsure whether Darren intended to attack others prior to committing suicide. To this day Darren’s motive for committing suicide also remains a mystery. The school’s public safety director said, “I wish we had a reason.”

View the case index here.

When Homeschoolers Turn Violent: Israel Keyes

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Series note: “When Homeschoolers Turn Violent” is a joint research project by Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. Please see the Introduction for detailed information about the purpose and scope of the project.

Trigger warning: If you experience triggers from descriptions of physical and sexual violence, please know that the details in many of the cases are disturbing and graphic.


Israel Keyes

Israel Keyes has been referred to as “the most notorious serial killer in a generation” and “the most meticulous serial killer of modern times.” He also was homeschooled.

Israel Keyes has been referred to as "the most notorious serial killer in a generation."
Israel Keyes has been referred to as “the most notorious serial killer in a generation.”

Israel was born in 1978 in Richmond, Utah. His parents were fundamentalist Mormons and homeschooled him and his siblings. When his family moved to Stevens County, Washington, they attended a Christian Identity church called “The Ark,” known for its racism and anti-Semitism. While attending the Ark and living in Washington, the Keyes family became neighbors and friends with the aforementioned Kehoe family. Israel, Chevie, and Cheyne were childhood friends who remained friends through their teenage years.

Israel’s criminal activities allegedly began around 1996 when, at age18, he raped a young girl in Oregon. He intended to kill her, but eventually decided against it. He then began a series of burglaries and robberies. In 2007, Israel created Keyes Construction in Alaska and became a construction contractor. Through his business, he traveled around the U.S. and planned and committed an alarming number of murders. His killing tactics were indeed meticulous: “he would choose a random victim in a remote location, murder the person, and leave,” and “he only killed strangers.”  He financed these trips by robbing banks. He had “murder kits” — with items like shovels, plastic bags, money, weapons, ammunition and bottles of Drano — “to help dispose of the bodies.” After his murders, he would bury his kits. His kits have been discovered in Alaska and New York, but he claims he also buried some in Washington, Wyoming, Texas, and Arizona.

In February 2012, Israel kidnapped an 18-year-old barista named Samantha Koenig in Anchorage. The abduction was caught on video by the coffee shop’s surveillance system and a massive search began for her. Unfortunately, Samantha was killed not long after the abduction. Israel raped her and strangled her to death, then left her body in a shed and went on a 2-week-long cruise. When he returned after the cruise, he then dismembered her body and dumped it in a lake. Israel was finally caught because on March 16, 2012, he used Samantha’s debit card while in Lufkin, Texas.

While being interrogated, Israel confessed to eight murders. He also said he studied the tactics of other serial killers but “was careful to point out” that “he used his own ideas, those of other famous killers.” He added that, after murdering, he “liked to return to Alaska and then follow the news of his murders on the Internet.”

On December 2, 2012, Israel committed suicide in his Anchorage jail cell by cutting his wrists and strangling himself with a bed sheet. He did not leave a straightforward suicide note, but rather a four-page “Ode to Murder.”

To this day, the FBI is “still having trouble identifying many of his victims.” They have created a timeline of his criminal activities from what they know. As of August 12, 2013,

Federal authorities released new information on Keyes, revealing that they suspect him to have a final death toll of eleven victims, all killed from 2001 to 2012, and that there are presumably other victims in Canada (where he sought out prostitutes) and other countries.

View the case index here.

Nightmare in Navy and White — Experiencing the Dark Side of ATI: Selena’s Story, Part Three

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Nightmare in Navy and White — Experiencing the Dark Side of ATI: Selena’s Story

HA notes: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Selena” is a pseudonym.

Part Two

Part Three: The Hard Road Ahead

For the first few months, I was a recluse, constantly in my room obsessively praying for God to cleanse me, to forgive me, to surround me with protection from this terrifying world I was thrown into. I was surrounded by a world I had had nothing to do with for these years. I suddenly had freedoms I didn’t know how to handle. I had spent all this time with my every move planned, with every trip to the bathroom a privilege, every little thing a potential reason for shame and punishment. Now the shock was too great.

Eventually, I became suicidal.

I felt I was a failure, I would never be pure. I attempted suicide and my mother sent me to a mental hospital as a last resort. As she had drifted away from ATI’s teachings somewhat, she regained trust in getting medical and psychological help when necessary. Unfortunately, still feeling like the inferior, patriarch-less mother, she leaned on these figures to solve all of our problems and refused to just be a mother to us, unable to handle the responsibility.

At times she would instruct me on what to say when she dropped me off at the mental hospital so that they would admit me as a “danger to myself”, and she didn’t have to deal with me while I recovered from the abuse I had suffered. It was the same problem that had her handing me off to counselors and then Eagle Springs instead of taking time to love and care for me as her child; now the pattern continued to repeat itself time and time again.

My days in the mental hospital were traumatizing as well (the shock of being locked in a facility with people screaming, banging their heads, cursing, being wrestled to the ground and injected with sedatives, and so on is bad enough in and of itself – but here I was with full blown, undiagnosed PTSD, coming from the most sheltered life imaginable straight into this!). But there was one good thing that came out of it. For the first time, when I mentioned very cautiously a small hint of what I had been through, I was told that I had been abused. The counselor worked with me to get me out of my shell, and seemed truly disturbed at my level of trauma.

And for the first time in my life, I got a glimpse of understanding that what had been done to me was wrong.

I went home and began to change. I was an emotional wreck – but for the first time, I was angry, and I was tired of being hurt. Then one day my mother tried to get me to go back to church – the tiny little church we went to full of ATI families. I knew by the way she had been acting that I was likely to be subjected to another series of humiliation, prayers, exorcisms, and so on. And for the first time, something inside me just broke.

Now, all these years I had never truly known the police or CPS could help me; all these years I was told to fear these people, never speak to them, because they might come and get us for being godly homeschoolers. They were our enemy; to us, they were the Romans and we were the suffering righteous church hiding carefully in our own homes. We sent letters of thanks according to Gothard’s teachings – but we were always in this state of fear about the war we thought everyone was waging on believers like us. Now, in the hospital, I had been told the truth: that they could help those who had been harmed. I was told that I had options, if there was abuse in my home.

It really shook my whole view of the world. And I wanted more of this merciful world that I had glimpsed.

Presently, the situation began to escalate. I told my mother I did not want to attend church. She started to grow angry, weeping and yelling, and I knew what it could mean for me. Suddenly, I just looked my mother in the eye, and quietly but confidently threatened to call the police if I had to.

My mother’s eyes filled with shock. She took my sister to church, fearfully avoiding me, and never invited me to church again. I saw through her now, and she could never return me to my naive state again. She knew she had lost me. I was kicked out and sent to live with a relative – who was told a lengthy tale about how rebellious and out of control I had become. I was punished further, but since they worked daily, I was left more or less to myself most days.

And so, at 16 years old, I left ATI.

I was never my mother’s daughter again. They left the cult shortly thereafter, reluctant and angry that I had ruined their happiness again. I would never outlive the title of black sheep. I was able to tell my mother some of what happened before she passed away recently, but it will never truly be resolved.

The rest is history. Raised by a family who was wealthy, my rejection of the cult meant I was instantly plunged into desperate poverty. I spent the next 8 years clawing my way from the brink of homelessness, through a relationship that turned physically abusive (even in retrospect I don’t think I, nor anyone else, could have ever guessed that this guy was abusive, by the way – lest I be lumped in with those stories you hear all the time of abused people jumping from one abusive relationship to the next), past a few brushes with death and finally onto a shred of solid ground. My mother passed away this year; the last of her years were spent spiraling into severe mental illness, paranoia, alcoholism and addiction, and she died suddenly while in rehab.

My siblings have gone on to live the high class life, carefully hiding our family’s dark secrets behind flashy cars, million dollar homes and grand parties. They have long since learned to mimic the abusive behavior of my parents toward me, never really knowing or caring where it began. I have tried to build a life on my own, far away from my family and among kinder people. Circumstances brought me back into contact with a dear friend of mine from when I was young, and today we are engaged and living together in a happy relationship.

Through these years I searched for my own spirituality, and through many twists and turns, I landed somewhere outside the box. I spent years of study simply saying that I was an agnostic; I suppose in a sense that remains true, because I feel that faith is, after all, lacking a certain amount of evidence. Today my faith rests in the wisdom that seems present in most religions and belief systems, and in staying stubbornly aloof from religious control of any kind. I will never believe simply because I’m supposed to again. I will always ask, research, study, seek, and never be too comfortable that I know all the answers. I have settled on a more natural spirituality, and found that in many corners of spirituality I once considered damned to Hell, there are in fact some of the greatest truths I could ever know.

Through the years, I began to listen to secular music, dress normally, and slowly grow accustomed to modern living. Now I can’t see for the life of me what they were so afraid of! I am happier now than I ever was under Bill Gothard’s regime. They promised me freedom, but all I got was enslavement. My life now is true freedom: Responsibility for myself, not for my authorities. To find my own answers, not be forced to believe another’s.

I still suffer from very severe PTSD; I think it’s only to be expected. I’m not sure what healing looks like for this kind of repeated trauma, or if it’s even fully possible; but I try to take it day by day. It’s not the best of endings, but a firm and resolute one.

After all, I’m an “apostate” now – and we never give up!