The Woman Without a Voice: A Journey Through Abuse – Part 2
Last week, many of you wrote me and you cried for Anna*. You were shocked. You were disgusted. You were heartbroken. Living this reality is unthinkable for many of us. Looks guys and girls, I am straight up asking you to help her. Asking for help is one of the hardest things a person can ever do. Anna’s attorney is limited right now. To get away from this monster she needs to cover legal fees. And she needs to live. Please consider skipping a Starbucks this week or going without a dinner out. This week was a difficult one; the judge did not rule on the case against her perpetrator – let’s call him what he is. For now she is at the mercy of waiting on the court while continuing to live holding her breath in fear of what he might do. If you would like to help, please click here. Please don’t doubt that even a dollar helps. If you can’t give a dollar, please share the page. There are so many good people in this world. Let’s show her that.
As I get more personal with Anna I ask that all of you continue to send her positive thoughts however you give them; whether through an affirmation, a prayer or a virtual hug – she needs them.
There have been a lot of messages and an out-pour of support for you since so many have read your story last week. I know everyone wants to know more. We touched on how your feelings changed toward your (soon to be ex) husband when you were seventeen. Tell me more about the steps toward getting married. What did you have to go through?
If you recall, you may not express a “crush” until eighteen years of age in the cult. When you do like someone, it is required you go to the minister to state your feelings – and by go to the minister I mean at the end of the service they have a long somber altar call. You must walk forward and kneel in front of everyone. The minister or his wife come and “deal with you.” If you attempted to make any type of contact before this you were considered to be out of the will of God. When I was sixteen, I liked a boy and we sneaked phone calls and wrote letters back and forth. No touching, mind you. When we were found out we were at camp and I was called out by name in front of 600 people and labeled a slut.
Back to the proposal – as soon as my husband and I revealed our feelings, the minister then prayed and sought God to see if he felt we would be a good match. If you got approval from the minister (you were only allowed to date within the church and only people deemed acceptable – sin free, busy about God’s business, good and brainwashed 😉 ) then you started out writing one letter per week. Once he feels it is acceptable, you may move on to phone calls; he allowed us thirty minutes a week. After some time, you move onto one date per week – usually two hours and in all of this time there is absolutely no touching. Now remember – dates are ruled by the beliefs of the church: no movies, no roller skating, no dancing, no drinking. Basically we walked around a mall or ate every time we saw each other – except the times we went to his mother’s. Yes, my first date ever was eating dinner at his mother’s house.
We dated for two years and the minister felt we needed a break so he forbade us from speaking. In two months’ time, we were back together. The minister made my husband move out of his mother’s home and into his own. He pleaded for permission to propose and was denied for a year. Finally being allowed to propose he did so by kneeling on the gravel, asking, “Will you marry me?” and then telling me to hurry with my answer because his knee was hurting. Of course, as we’ve already covered – he could not propose with a ring. There is still absolutely no touching – not even a handshake as touching hands when you’re dating can lead your mind down an unacceptable path. You have a short engagement (better to marry than to burn!) and the first time you ever touch each other is at the front of the church when you marry.
I think that a lot of people will be asking, “Seriously?”
Yes, I’m dead serious. Absolutely nothing I’m telling you is embellished.
What is marriage like?
The woman may not work. She has to stay home and raise the children. Everything is her responsibility. It is taught that a “good” wife cooks and meals are definitely NOT something frozen. They should be only from scratch. She sews her own clothing, is organized, well dressed, good with money, frugal, meek, quiet, doesn’t talk much and ALWAYS submits without questions. Over the years I was like a frog in a simmering pot. At first I was just so thrilled to have a home and be married. Within time I was quietly controlled to the point I didn’t even realize it.
Will you describe some of what went on? I remember he made lists for you.
Yes, he did. Over the years the fact that our home wasn’t perfectly organized and kept on a schedule was a huge problem (note from Heather: Anna’s house looks like a model home as far as I’m concerned!). I would be in so much trouble if everything wasn’t put in its place every day. He would make schedules and chore lists that were posted on the refrigerator. I was to keep inventories of my fridge and freezer and was never to waste an ounce of food. I was only to shop once a week for groceries and always on a very tight budget with no frivolous purchases. I was to have only one pair of shoes and one purse and use those until they wore out. I never stuck to that. I remember one day having to COUNT my shoes and answer to him to find out what percentage I should dispose of.
Anytime I “got out of line” I would be punished – either by sleep deprivation or verbally. Perhaps the most damaging to my memory was one day I was laying on the bed and he came in and started reading out loud a romance novel I had in the house. I begged and begged him to stop and he kept shouting for me to shut up – that he wanted me to hear what trash I had brought into the house. I sat there sobbing while he read aloud a romantic book – and then he threw it in the trash and told me I had 24 hours to clean the house out of my trash or he would do it for me.
He had a budget and though I handled paying all of the bills I had to conduct monthly budget meetings which meant I had to give a full accounting for the money I spent. I was allowed fifty dollars a month for clothing (for our children and me) and fifty dollars a month for eating out…he was extremely tight. At the same time – he stated he didn’t have TIME to do anything business related – so I alone handled all dentist or eye appointments even for him (we weren’t supposed to go to doctors, only faith healing is allowed), all bill payments, everything – I did it all. On vacations our budget was so tight I cooked in the room. I’ve never actually had a vacation where I rested – I would get up at 3am to put prepared food into a crock-pot I smuggled into the room. I would take gas station mayo and pickle relish packets over the weeks leading to a trip in order to pack food to be eaten at rest stops or smuggled into an aquarium or venue.
Laundry had to be done by 6pm and I was not supposed to rest at night until the house was clean. I couldn’t take a bath unless I got permission from him first and my chores were done. I remember distinctly once when he went to my grandparents house one night and I asked to go with him and was denied because my chores weren’t complete.
I know at one point within the last two years he accused me of having an affair and told me I was restricted from going to a certain grocery store. I lied one day and said I hadn’t been there (it was the closest one to our home) and he told me he knew I was lying. He had been reading my odometer. He then made me sit down and map my mileage via Mapquest for two trips to Target and daily trips to the school (to pick up our children) and that was the mileage he would allow. He stated he was being “generous” by offering me an extra fifteen miles per week. He went through my trash, disposed of CD’s, books and makeup. I was told to throw out all my “worldly” goods.
What readers didn’t know is you have children and I definitely want to get to your precious kids next week. Please go on; he once made you take a bath in his dirty bath water. (I will never forget the day you told me that).
It’s one of those things about the frog in the pot – He preferred very hot water and it hurt my skin. I expressed how I hated such hot water and he suggested that he take the bath first and then when it cooled I was “more than welcome” to take mine. Of course it also saved money and the hot water heater. So like the “good wife” I was, I agreed to it. I’ll never forget the feeling of standing there, looking down at a tub filled with warm, murky water; all the bubbles gone. It had hair floating in it and felt slimy from all the soap and shampoo that had been used. I finally refused to do so and just told him I wasn’t in the mood for a bath to get out of having to bathe. That went on for a few years, actually.
He also had rules on my hair; the length, the length of my nails, my clothes, how my car looked, what I was allowed to cook. I wasn’t allowed any contact with any other males. No social media, no texting. My minutes per day for phone and computer usage were also regulated.
He told me all the time I wasn’t good enough, that I’d have nothing and be nothing without him. He said I am too ugly to be seen with in public so I had to walk behind him (note from Heather: Anna is beautiful inside and out). I wasn’t worth any more than a seventy-five dollar ring; that he would never take me out for a nice dinner no matter what because I wasn’t worth the money. I truly felt I was a nothing and had zero confidence at all.
Let’s talk about intimacy. You and I have talked about it a lot. Please tell me only what you’re comfortable sharing.
Of course there was the rule that I was not allowed to refuse him sexually. One night I had a migraine and begged him to let me be. He told me he would do all the work required, to roll over. I said no several times and he kept telling me to roll over so I finally gave up and laid there and cried as he did what he wanted.
When I started losing weight he decided that before I could buy new clothes I had to earn them. Throughout the marriage I had to earn things by sexual favors, chores and selling my old things before I could get anything new. I could go on forever…
This was not a one-time instance. You refused him more than once and he had sex with you anyway. It’s been hard for me to phrase this question. What do you think about the fact he really believes God dictates it was okay to rape you? Though it may not have been violent, that is exactly what it was. How are you doing with it?
He knew he could break me. He KNEW he would if he continued. So I do believe in his mind it was never rape because he finally got me to give into him, so that made it okay. I learned quickly our intimate life was never about me anyway – so I would often lie. I would say I was on my period…pretend to be asleep…urinate (I had to be scrubbed with soap before sexual activity and peeing “contaminated” me), etc. I’m honestly not dealing with it well – who would. I have felt completely broken in that area and it will eventually prevent me from ever dating again. I’m terrified of it.
There is one thing that you could control. May we talk about the eating disorder?
I thought if I just could be skinnier my problems would go away so I quickly learned to binge and purge. I would eat insane amounts of food then quickly purge it. It consumed my thoughts. I knew I needed to lose weight. I asked him a few times who he was most attracted to or whose body type he thought was good. He told me who; two women in the church. We called them his “church wives.” He had other women he thought attractive at work – they were his “work wives.” Once he told me I could have something I’d begged for for years – IF I lost 50 pounds and kept it off for six months. A few weeks later he told me he knew I’d never lose it therefore he knew he’d never have to buy it for me.
I think we should stop here for now. Is there anything that you want to tell everyone reading at this point?
I think it’s easy to sit back at home and look at this and think, “yeah right” or “good thing it’ll never happen in MY world”. BUT – know this – THIS is SO SO much more common than you think. My story is completely one hundred percent true and stories like this are everywhere. Details may be different BUT the effect is ALL the same. You don’t have to help me, but I AM asking for everyone to look around. If you see someone you suspect may be hurting – yes, you may not need to get involved, BUT you CAN look at them and say, “I’m thinking of you. You’re doing a great job. I love you”. Those words mean SO much to someone starved for positive attention. Just love one another. LOVE each other. And love doesn’t hurt.
Many may call an eating disorder a “side-effect” of the abuse. I believe it to be the cause. For so long, for too long, Anna believed his words. She believed he was right. I think some days she still wonders if what he said is true and this will always be with her. I also know she is becoming stronger and next week we will touch on what I believe to be her greatest source of strength; her kids.
Part 3 of Anna’s story can now be read by clicking here.
*Name changed to protect privacy