TRIGGER WARNING - SEXUAL ABUSE
Even though I have being doing shadow work (deep diving and processing the darkest parts of myself to integrate and grow) for a few years now, I've only realised very recently that I was in fact in a cult as a kid and that has brought up deeper and darker layers for me to dredge through.
You may know about some of my story if you read my last blog post.
Well, shit's been getting real.
I've been delving into Jehovah's Witness documentaries and support groups, and my eyes have really been opened as to how destructive the cult has actually been to not only myself but tens of thousands of people that just wanted safety and security from a community of like minded individuals but instead got misogyny, abuse, dismissiveness and patriarchal ignorance.
Me with my mum at 3 years old
According to the Cult Education Institute, the following are the characteristics of a cult:
Absolute authoritarianism without accountability
Zero tolerance for criticism or questions
Lack of meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget
Unreasonable fears about the outside world that often involve evil conspiracies and persecutions
A belief that former followers are always wrong for leaving and there is never a legitimate reason for anyone else to leave
Abuse of members
Records, books, articles, or programs documenting the abuses of the leader or group
Followers feeling they are never able to be “good enough”
A belief that the leader is right at all times
A belief that the leader is the exclusive means of knowing “truth” or giving validation
For years I just thought I was in a strict religion. A religion that was a bit odd in its beliefs but had good intentions. For the most part, I still think it does.
The majority of the millions of JW's out there are decent people that just want to save as many people as possible from the destruction of Armageddon. It's the small percentage of men in power and those that benefit from their unrealistic rules that are doing all the damage.
By seeing it through the eyes of others (lawyers, friends and family of JW's, abuse victims, ex JW's, police ect.) I am seeing it clearly for, what I can easily say, is the first time ever.
Looking back with a completely different perspective, I can confirm that all of the above characteristics are true regarding Jehovah's Witnesses.
I was disfellowshipped (kicked out of the church) at 16. I am now 43 years old.
Watching these documentaries have made me realise how manipulative the organisation really is.
It's been bringing up the uncomfortable feelings within me of, "how could I not know the extent, even after so many years of being out of it?" To be fair, I was born into the cult and it was the biggest part of my life up until I was kicked out at 16 so I have to give myself a break.
Brainwashing in your formative years is no small thing to get over. Even after 27 years it seems.
It has also brought up feelings of guilt and shame regarding abuse that I suffered at the hands of people that I was supposed to trust and then breaking the trust of others myself.
One thing that was absolutely rampant in the JW organisation was kids exploring their sexuality with each other.
This kind of behaviour is normal in children. Children are sexual beings and when they discover that certain things feel good on certain parts of their body, they look to replicate those feelings as often as possible.
It's no different than sneaking lollies. Sweet things taste great and so kids, without the maturity of dopamine regulation that comes with age (and a healthy upbringing) will try and eat sweets as often as possible. Sometimes resorting to stealing and hiding their consumption because they understand they will be reprimanded if caught because it would potentially "rot their teeth" or at the very least, "ruin their dinner".
With the right guidance, both examples can be steered into a healthy and respectful behaviour (for self and others).
Unfortunately, it is also common when you have repressive and oppressive rules within an organisation that has no methods in place for guiding children regarding sex in a healthy and constructive way or safeguarding children against known predators but instead condemns sex completely unless you're in a heterosexual marriage and only keeps your name on record if you've been accused of predatory behaviour but then takes no other steps to prevent said predator from harming other children.
I just found out through these documentaries that there is a "two witness rule" in which no one can accuse someone else in the church of a sin unless they themselves confess or there are two people to corroborate the story.
I never knew about this rule (I may have reconsidered confessing my sin at 16 if I knew! Check out previous blog post for the story) and I find it quite confounding.
It's almost as if no one has come forward to accuse a perpetrator of abuse before and so they would have no idea of how abuse actually works! (There are tens of thousands of reported and documented sexual abuse cases by the JW's that have not been reported to the proper authorities and nothing done to prevent perpetrators from abusing children again.)
Generally, there is a perpetrator, an adult most likely, that looks for a vulnerable minor and makes sure they're in a situation where they are alone to then perform the abuse.
I don't know about you but to me that makes it pretty difficult for there to be two witness available that would willingly come forward to validate any accusations made against the perpetrator.
I was abused by a 16 year old girl when I was 4 at a JW get together in one of the family homes.
All the kids of different ages, raging from 4 to 18 where in a room with the door closed and the older kids where doing whatever they wanted with the younger kids. As far as I know and can remember, there was no rape in that occasion but I know from other reports that it has happened.
That experience woke the sexual part of me up and just like a lot of the other JW kids, I would play sexual games in hiding with other kids. It wasn't till I was 12 when one of the kids died of cancer that I stopped playing those games because I thought it was my fault he died.
I thought that because I knew what I was doing was "wrong" in God's eyes that it was punishment towards me for doing such disgusting things.
I have carried that with me until very recently. It has affected me to no end, in so many different ways. Some I'm still discovering.
Of course, intellectually I know that I didn't cause that kid's death because of the games we were playing but when you're a child reared by a cult, logic and rational doesn't really come into it and it can fuck with you till the end of your days if you're not aware that you can actually do anything about it.
Why am I telling you all this?
I know you don't have to be in a cult to experience abuse, sexual or otherwise. It's rampant and it's generally performed by those closest to you.
It's common. Super common and I want you to know that you're not alone and there is so much help out there, traditional and otherwise that can help you work through whatever you're going through, even though you may think it's too much and something insurmountable.
It's not. I promise.
If you ever need recommendations on who to go to to process trauma or tools you can learn to cope, hit me up. Any mountain, no matter how big, can be conquered.
I love you.