The Woman Without a Voice: A Journey Through Abuse – Part 4
Hi, everyone. I’ve been sick and apologize for the delay in getting part 4 of Anna*’s story up on the blog. For those who are seeing Anna’s journey for the first time, click here to start at Part 1. The truth is, I’ve felt a bit deflated for her. I myself have had the wind taken out of my sails. I can’t understand how resources are so unavailable, how people don’t step in to help. Anna lives in the Bible Belt. It’s a different way of life than where I live. This would have been over for her here. She’d be free. Her kids would be taken care of. They’d be safe. This last week the judge made a temporary ruling and now she is left to figure out how in the world she and her children are going to live.
To answer some questions that have been presented: yes, the courts are involved. Domestic Abuse Hotlines have been called. Counselors are involved. Anna is paying a lawyer out of her pocket, with her own limited resources. She has no family. The local friends she had have turned their backs. The judge passed down an order for a very small amount of child support which, frankly, is a joke. I am flabbergasted. Yes, she is working. Remember, her experience is extremely limited because women in the cult are not allowed to work. The fact she has a job is pretty incredible in and of itself. So now she just keeps going on. The eating disorder has manifested and my heart breaks for her. She is taking it day by day. Some are better than others. The media is concerned about touching this story because it is still in the legal process. I’ve been in contact with them, personally. I’m open to ideas. Please contact me if you have them.
One person asked, “What would $1,000 do?” Yes, $1,000 is very little. And truthfully, she needs much more just to help with legal fees. But it is a start. And there is no limit. Every bit makes a difference and I will include the Go Fund Me information at the end of this post. UPDATE: We spoke and decided to raise the goal to $5,000. Note that still won’t cover all legal fees, but again – it’s a start.
Now, here is more of Anna’s journey and the steps she made to start the change to give herself and her children a normal life:
1) How long had you been thinking about leaving before you finally talked to your (ex) husband about it?
I have thought about leaving for years – I just felt that I was stuck and couldn’t get out. We basically lived as roommates, and honestly though my feelings for him were dead I didn’t think there was any hope for freedom so I just decided to make the best of the situation in my mind. I told myself that I was ok. I was safe. I was cared for. That it was okay to live without feeling loved. I could do better – work harder – do more to fulfill his needs. Really – how could I leave? I was unemployed. I had NO money. I was told so often my only worth was as a housewife and cook – what could I do?! When I left the cult I had ZERO intention of leaving my husband, however, after I left it was within a month I knew I had no other choice but to leave him. I consulted with a lawyer about 6 weeks after I left the church.
2) How did you tell him you want to leave and what was his reaction? He financially stranded you. How has that affected you and the kids?
The day after I left he cornered me and begged me not to prolong it or to “wreck him”. When I asked what that meant he said, ” 1.Don’t take my money. 2.Don’t take my house. 3.Don’t take the kids.” I instantly thought it was interesting he never once mentioned loving me or not wanting me to go.
And yes, he did financially abandon me. The short story is that I wasn’t supposed to buy new clothing until I’d sold enough old clothes to pay for it. I got tired of waiting and got three store credit cards without telling him, thinking I’d pay them off without him having to know. I had come home one day (late because of a traffic jam) and went to the bathroom. As I sat in the bathroom he came in screaming because he was angry and had found one of the bills. It was the first time I genuinely realized this man could hurt me. He was so angry. He demanded that I tell him if there were any other bills. I told him no. My mistake for lying – I admit it. He told me that the next day I HAD to go out and return things to pay for the $500.00 I’d spent and if I got out of line again he would cut me off. As I was out dragging the two children around store to store he called – apparently the other bill had come in and he came home unexpectedly at lunch and found it. That was NOT a good conversation and I knew what it meant. Thankfully I had a few friends that had warned me of this – I had already set up a checking account in my name only and immediately called the bank and transferred half our savings to that account. Within five minutes he called me and wanted to know where the money was. He took me off the account, took all the checks, cut up my credit cards and then told me if I ever spent a penny from his money he would have me arrested.
It has affected us. Honestly – I have debt I can’t even pay on which has destroyed my credit as well as leaves me fielding angry collectors. We’re currently on food stamps and CMA to cover the daycare expenses. I don’t mean to complain, but things are very tight. I’ve patched the boys clothes, I stretch things as much as I can. My utilities have made it to shut off day twice. My phone was also cut off. I’ve gone without a few meals. I don’t share this side of things often – even to my closest friends. But in the light of this I will share – he offered me $60,000 to leave and give him custody of the kids. I declined, obviously. I’ll be okay – I’ve lived in poverty before and as long as they’re with me I can deal with the stress. Credit can be rebuilt…stuff can be replaced or done without.
3) How has his behavior been during the separation? In my own words, he has gone bat shit crazy.
Well – for the most part very distressing. Before we lived separately he accused me of cheating (Heather’s note: He still accuses her.), forbidding me to go to church or a certain grocery store due to his accusations. He would read my odometer to try to catch me lying about where I had driven, go through the trash, he still stalks me online, the list goes on – it’s been very frustrating. I have received calls from acquaintances. He has gone to their houses and jobs and shown them pictures and asked for information. He went to the neighbors. I have nearly felt like a prisoner in my own home. I was eventually forbidden to go into public with him as I was too repulsive. I slept on the couch – in the beginning he asked me to move because I had a cough and he needed his rest. After I moved the first night I realized I didn’t want to sleep in the bed with him anyway so slept on the couch for good. I had no access to his money but he still said he would “help” so I could buy groceries and things for the home – BUT he had a budgeted amount and so anything he spent came out of the budget first – then my receipts were on the fridge and every two weeks he would go through them line by line to decide on what was appropriate. He would mark each receipt with a green marked line like they do at Costco to make sure I didn’t try to “cheat” him out of money and then also would mark through the ones he didn’t pay so that I couldn’t recycle them. He would not allow me to pray with him and the kids and I was shut out of the room when they did. They would pray for mommy to wake up before she burned in hell. The children were given permission to demand I turn off the radio and to defy me if I tried to “convince” them to wear shorts or do anything “ungodly.”
4) How have you been treated by the cult members?
I haven’t heard from anyone really. I received a letter that was filled with so much hate and several accusations. The content was very degrading. I did go back one day for Mother’s Day and my childhood best friend came to me and said she saw evil coming from my eyes; that the devil was inside me and that I was bound for hell. Now if I’m seen in public I’m avoided as I’ve been marked.
5) You still have faith, though. Will you talk about that and your journey to finding a place where you can express it in a comfortable way? Have you found a new church?
I struggle with my faith. I am a Christian. Having been raised that I’m never to sin and that sin is in so many things, I do fight with my belief in grace; that Christ could love me just as I am. I’ve been in relationship after relationship (and I don’t mean just romantically) where love was given based on performance. I feel the need to be perfect in everything or I’m just not worthy. I have been to church – but it triggers flashbacks and pain. I enjoy it, though. I’m trying to put myself out there and find a community and a home. Having been trained in other religious tenets and knowing how to “refute” them based on cult principles – I tend to find myself unintentionally arguing in my head with the minister instead of just accepting the thoughts as they come.
6) Where are you in the process now?
Well we are currently waiting on the court. I was careful enough to document everything in enough detail that between the court appointed Guardian ad Litem and me we turned everything over to an investigator and my husband was arrested for felony child abuse. We’ve gone back to court due to some clerical errors and his fighting to see the kids. We’ve had to go into hiding a few times as he does live within 100 yards of our home now. The kids are in therapy and I’m doing my best burning both ends of the candle to help them heal.
7) What’s next for you and the kids?
Healing. Hope. I’m praying that the court will rule in our favor and that soon the divorce can be granted. Right now we are alone – my family also left me once all this came out. It’s all about my children for now. Teaching them a new way of life. Dealing with their anger and abandonment issues. Finding out old things that happened that I never knew about. Grieving the loss of a life I tried to hold together as well I could. Learning how to cope and deal with all the stress. I cannot complain – I’d rather be broke, alone, hungry and tired than to go back to the abuse we’ve survived.
There has been some hope. There have been bright moments. Thanks to a friend, Anna and the kids were able to spend a few days at the beach. The kids got to be kids. They saw a wild sea turtle for the first time. They played. They laughed. They breathed. Strides in their healing are being made, but the damage is very apparent and it will take a lot of time for them to heal.
To contribute, please click here to be taken to her GO FUND me account. If you have questions, please use my contact me form. I am happy to address them. Some have written and said they would prefer to send funds via Paypal so they don’t have to use a card. You are welcome to Paypal me at ANNAS.STRENGTH@GMAIL.COM. Anna will be posting on her GO FUND me to explain what she will use funds for.
As it stands now, it is possible it could be over a year until the divorce is granted. It is a hurry up and wait kind of situation. I will continue to update as things unfold. Please continue to share Anna’s story. Perhaps it will help someone out there who needs her own inspiration.
Thanks, everyone. – Heather
*Name changed to protect privacy.