The Woman Without a Voice: A Journey Through Abuse – Part 1
When Anna* and I met over ten years ago, you seriously could not have hand-picked two people who were more opposite: a sinner and a saint, and such an unlikely pair. Yet our friendship blossomed and I love and admire her fiercely. Through the years as we both grew into two very different people, I knew something was going on. I just didn’t know exactly what.
Today I take a serious turn and begin to tell the almost unbelievable journey of my friend. Originally I thought I would do this in one post, but I soon realized it was impossible. This story is too important and too meaningful to condense into a few hundred words or to try to make work for search engine optimization. What this is, is my humble attempt to convey one incredible story; an attempt to let anyone who feels alone and hopeless know there is always hope…
Domestic violence happens every day, but what about the women who are not convinced the terror and agony is real because a finger hasn’t been lifted against them through a physical punch? There are no bruises and no cuts, so they convince themselves they are not really abused. What of the women who are taught and believe suppression and manipulation of the so-called “weaker sex” is the will of God? That rape really isn’t rape? No, this is not the story of a woman living in the Middle East. This is happening in our own backyards. As far-fetched as it may seem to you and me, it is the reality all too many women living in cults have come to know; the reality of my friend.
I asked Anna to share her journey in order to inspire other women; to tell them that they are not alone and against all odds they can rise above and make it out on the other side. She has agreed. I have wracked my brain with how to approach this and I believe there are no words that can ever fully give justice to her story. It is my hope what you read here will prompt you to share it so that the one friend, family member or stranger on the internet who needs to see this will read it and despite the heavy fear that weighs her down, she will be inspired to get help.
Thank you for agreeing to let me share your story on the blog. Will you tell everyone why you agreed to do this? I know it’s not easy.
I agreed to this for one reason and one reason only. I am not here about revenge or to down the other party. I am here because I have found hope and I only want to help other women. I know there are many women in relationships with which they think something is wrong- but blame only themselves; women who are abused and who question the abuse or are too hopeless to do anything about it. I want women to realize that they are strong, beautiful beings that are able to rise above any circumstance.
Let’s start at the beginning. How did you become involved in the cult? I know your parents are involved. Were you raised in the cult?
My parents were in the cult from an early age. They then left when I was a baby and the call back was too great so they returned when I was five years old. So technically this was all I knew. Rules were common and a way of life. The sad part of any abusive situation is that you desensitize yourself – things the common normal world think absurd are commonplace. You don’t see the situation through clear vision – instead of rose colored glasses, you have no glasses. Things are fuzzy…memories are stuffed inside. That is how you deal.
Tell me how you and your (soon to be ex) husband met.
He was in the cult from birth. I met him when I was a young girl. He was always someone I actually couldn’t stand – I told multiple people I would never date him. Never like him. We didn’t get along at ALL. Then when I was 17 (couldn’t even express a crush till you’re 18 [per the rules of the cult]) I began to think of him in a different light.
Over the years you and I have discussed so many of the ‘rules’ of the cult which have, let’s be honest, made my jaw drop and which your (soon to be ex) husband also enforced and used as cause to abuse you. I know we will only touch the tip of the iceberg. To give readers perspective, let’s start somewhere. Share some of them here?
In regards to how we dressed, no collar bones were allowed to show and shirt sleeves had to be at least halfway to the elbow and loose. Of course absolutely no writing on the chest of t-shirts and tops could not be form-fitting at all, rather they were to be at least two sizes too big.
No pants or culottes and skirts had to be two inches from your ankles. If a skirt was too long that meant you were too worldly. Too short? Yep, you were too worldly. Of course, there were rules for skirts themselves: No front zippers, no back pockets, no slits, skirts could not be straight, no jersey fabric, no double layered (sheer layer on top of opaque layer) and no drawstrings.
No embellishments on any clothing such as sequins or pearls. Buttons had to be dull metal (no pearlized buttons or gold buttons allowed). Undershirts could not hang lower than the outer shirt, so if you were wearing a sweater it had to be longer than the camisole underneath. No colored pantyhose or tights. Only flesh toned was allowed. Nothing lace with liner underneath. It gives the illusion of lingerie.
Heels must be under 2 inches and only chunky – no kitten heels, patent leather or stiletto style heels either.
There were even rules on pajamas. Nightgowns were all that was allowed. They had to be down to the floor and could not be what is considered “slinky”. Oh and no thong underwear or push up bras.
And of course, NO makeup of any kind! Not even nail polish -clear or otherwise.
You didn’t wear a wedding ring.
There was no jewelry of any kind – no wedding bands (the world will know you are married by your behavior), necklaces or flashy watches.
And your hair was to your ankles!
Yes, hair had to be uncut. Period. And pulled away from the face. No flashy or jeweled hair barrettes. No large hair-bows. No elaborate hairstyles. Women cannot curl their hair in some congregations.
Let’s pause on these for now. I want to visit this again as you explain how they related to what you went through.
Before we go, tell me, when was the first sign you knew something was not right?
When my mom called me six months after the marriage and told me she missed her daughter. That I wasn’t the same person – that I’d lost all my hobbies, interests, desires and normal thoughts. It angered me and I pushed her away thinking she just was angry. I also quickly realized that I was to be responsible for all business, banking, bills, housework, cooking, money management, etc. – while he slept and worked. There was no downtime. I shopped once a month for groceries and otherwise I was allowed to leave only when I could go to church – twice a week.
For many of you reading this, these circumstances are just NOT normal. As her friend, I’m still wrapping my head around how it was possible Anna went through all of this. Living under these conditions Anna endured mental and sexual abuse at the hands of her own husband for ten years. Next week she will share more of these rules, what that meant for her and why for so long she didn’t really believe it was abuse.
Thank you for reading. It means a lot to me – and more importantly, to Anna. If you would like to donate to or share her escape fund, please click here. Thank you again.
*Name changed to protect privacy