To My Sister and the Vision Forum Victim No One’s Talking About

Doug Phillips and his family.

Jenny Wells blogs at Jewellspring. She is a teacher and a writer. She educated her own three children full-time and others’ children some of the time for 17 years until 2012, she stopped and placed her three children into public school. The following was originally published on her blog on November 4, 2013 and is reprinted with her permission.

For ten years, I homeschooled my three children full-time.

And during that decade, I came across all kinds of families, systems, philosophies, and curriculum. I went to the conventions, read the books, did my research. And during that decade, I learned who the big-wigs were, the poster families, the ones “we” the homeschooling community most wanted to emulate. I wanted it at certain points, too…the family-centric lifestyle. The clean-cut gender lines. Perfectly behaved and courted children, mainly for my sake. But in my heart of hearts, I knew I could never be like “them”. I just received their shiny catalogs in the mail and wondered how they pulled it off.

I knew we couldn’t be like them; I wasn’t sure I even wanted to be, but the temptation was there. Why? Because a faith and lifestyle that gives answers feels so much safer than a life of mystery and questions and any mother gets afraid, whether they can admit it or not.

Give me a formula to keep my children “safe” and I’ll follow it.

My views and life have changed so much since the days of being handed books like, “Beautiful Girlhood“. So when Doug Phillips (the patriarch pictured above) resigned last week because of an “inappropriate relationship”, my first reaction was, “A-HA! No one is immune, not even you Mr. Father of Many in Shiny Catalogs.”

But here’s the real reason for my post.

This story has stuck with me and I wake up thinking about it. I read his apology found everywhere (just Google it) and spent some time online last night trying to research the story. I am now even more grieved.

No one. No one, not one supporter or stick-it-to-him writer wrote about her.


Who was the girl he was involved with?

I don’t need a name. But I need an identity, an acknowledgement. Because I know her heart is broken.

She hides in obscurity.

Doug Phillips apologizes as I have heard so many apologize before, as virtuously as he can sound, but not to her.

He goes home to restore with his wife and family. But I would guess the chances are more likely that she has none. How will she be restored? How will she recover?

I am so sick and tired of these stories being about Him. The man of power.

If you have never experienced it, you can’t know what is like to be given attention from someone of power in a system that encourages it. Oh, but I do. It’s heady, confusing, and so very scary, to be given the attention of a man in a position of power, especially in a system like Vision Forum and many, many circles I came across in my home-schooling and church-attending days where men have been given the greater authority from God.

Dear Sister, whoever you are, I don’t care if you started it. I don’t care if you were his peer or a young woman. I don’t even care all that much that his family was hurt. They still have each other and families have survived worse. But you have to go away. You can have no contact with a man you felt deeply connected to. You have to stay in obscurity. You don’t get to heal with the man who broke your heart. And no one is talking about you and this pain that I imagine is greater than you can imagine surviving. I’m so sorry.

And I care.

If you know of anyone else writing about the real victim, please let me know in the comments below. Thanks.

I Am Not A Victim, I Am A Survivor

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Sheldon, who blogs at Ramblings of Sheldon. It was originally published on Confessions of a Heretic Husband on June 21, 2013.

“Where are you going?” she kept asking over and over again, with defiance and a hint of amused contempt as she stood in the middle of the only doorway out of the room. I had told her just minutes before that I was leaving, and she immediately blocked the door. I had some of my stuff packed, and I was desperate to leave her home for good, but she just stood there and said I had “no right” to leave.

Was I some pouting 12 year old kid at the time? No, I was 21 years old. I was desperate enough that I was willing to leave the home of my Mom and Dad with just a few hundred dollars to my name and an old van.

What drove me to this point? It was many different things, and I should start from the beginning. Just two years earlier, I had come back from a prominent Southern Baptist college after a nervous breakdown that included severe depression with constant fatigue, muscle pain/weakness, and some bizarre panic attacks. Needless to say, I couldn’t keep it together, and had to return home.

When I did return home, I explained what had happened, and all of it was dismissed as “guilt” and “not having a right relationship with god”. You see, in her mind, my struggles with mental illness were not an illness, they showed a lack of character. Her attitude reflected much of what what can be seen in fundamentalism: that true happiness can only come from serving god, and if you aren’t happy, then that must be a sign that your relationship isn’t right.

The real kicker is that I actually believed for this for two years, and generated a lot of self hatred and frustration. I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working. I begged god for “forgiveness”, I doubled down on my dedication to my faith, but it wasn’t working. I was beginning to realize that the relationship with god had little to nothing to do with it, and that I had a real disorder. The problem was that my mother was never going to see it that way, and dealing with her ignorance left me feeling trapped in this situation.

It was pushing me to the point that I was starting to become suicidal. For a while I pondered jumping off a local bridge during the winter, but then I started to think that if I did, I would be giving my mother exactly what she wanted: control over me for my entire life. That thought bothered me more than the thought of ending my life. I knew I had to do something, anything, to break away, but I was stuck.

At the time, I was in a local college, and I was starting to realize that they were a scam, but of course, she didn’t see it that way. I proved it to her in so many different ways, I even told her what some people in the field that my major was in told me at a summer job (that the college was a scam), but all to no avail. It didn’t work.

She told me the only acceptable plan for my life was to go to college, and she kept pontificating about how supposedly I would never make it financially without that piece of worthless paper from the scam of a college I was in at the time.

Allegedly, I would be working 3 minimum wage jobs, have no time for anything, and would be starving. She called me “lazy” because I would rather work (I still haven’t figured out the logic behind that argument). She tried to make me feel without hope, that I would never leave, and that I couldn’t make it without her. I knew that was a lie, and meant to keep me defeated and powerless. I knew I wasn’t getting anywhere while trying to reason with her. I knew that if I stayed, it would be many more years suffering under her rule, and it might just lead me to finally end my life.

So I packed some things, and was going to leave that morning, but there she was, standing in the doorway to barricade me in the room. “Where are you going?” It’s not as though she didn’t know, I explained it to her just minutes before. It was more of a challenge than a question. I had a phone sitting out, because as angry as I knew she would get, she hadn’t become violent with me since I was 11 years old. But she loved to threaten it when nothing else worked, and I couldn’t be too sure. 

She noticed the phone sitting out, and insisted to know why it was laying on a desk. She figured it out, and told me (keep in mind I was 21 years old at the time), that if she were to hit me, I would deserve it. I pointed out to her how hypocritical her statement was, due to the fact that she was always ranting about how bad her childhood was with a physically abusive father (and rightfully so). She had nothing to say for once, she simply walked away.

I realized that if I was to ever reclaim my life, and get back any sense of hope, I had to push back, and resist in any way possible. Eventually I would wear her out, reasoning sure wouldn’t work. I refused to go along with her plans, and finally won on the college front. I got a job (not three minimum wage jobs), and saved my money, paycheck by paycheck

She tried to slow me down by making pay “rent” for living in her home (the home “I had no right to leave”),  which I payed, but I kept pressing on anyway. The muscle pain and weakness came back, but I fought through it, sometimes working up to 64 hours a week, despite the pain and stiffness. She told me that I was so lazy, that even if I did get a job, I wouldn’t stay at it very long.

Guess what? I have not only been at the same company since September 2011, I have moved up within the company (thankfully to a job that is no longer physically demanding). I saved up enough money over the last 2 years to buy a foreclosure house, and closing procedures will take place next week (the week of June 10, 2013) [Note: this has happened!]. I paid cash for it, and won’t ever have to worry about house payments. My finances will be a little stretched to say the least while rebuilding it, but I never would have thought I would have gotten this far only 3 years after that day that I was barricaded in that room.

There are times, like when I’m writing a post like this, that I feel much the same way I did that day: defeated, humiliated, like a victim, but then I remember, I’m a survivor. I fought, and clawed my way towards finally getting the right to start my own life, and won. I survived the toxic self hatred and ignorance of fundamentalism, and cast it aside.  I have a long way to go to rebuild my life, financially, emotionally, and in so many different ways, but I won the fight for my freedom.