Remember, guest bloggers are always encouraged to submit articles for Free-Thought Friday. For last weeks post explaining the expectations, click here.
Jennifer is the love of my life. Though she practiced New Age Spirituality as an adult, she was raised in a very fundamentalist form of Christianity. I think you will find her story interesting, heartbreaking, and definitely eye-opening.
The following story is one of abuse and heartache. If you know of any child that is being abused, please be their advocate, speak out for them. Some of Jennifer’s pain might have been lessened if someone had picked up the phone and actually done something.
To report child abuse call the national child abuse hotline 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453)
I was raised as a Christian in the deep south by two very strict fundamentalists. My dad was the stricter of the two, and did not allow me to cut my hair, pierce my ears, go to public school, listen to secular music of any kind, or wear blue jeans. He dressed me up like a cliché pentecostal girl, and it was quite embarrassing to go out in public. My mom was pretty much the stigma of the passive good wife, submitting completely to a husband who was emotionally and physically abusive. This man was a tyrant, and had ridiculous notions of reality. This was during the 80’s and 90’s, so the AIDS scare was in full force, and my father has fallen for the rhetoric of stupid the entire time I’ve known him. He was full of hatred for gays, and I recall an occasion where we had visited a fast food place where the server seemed slightly effeminate. This sounded alarm bells for my dad, and despite the fact that he, having been a mere cashier, didn’t even touch the food, dad threw the bags immediately in trash. Since we hadn’t had anything to eat that day, we were starving, so it was quite the outrageous overreaction. Before this, I hadn’t really questioned theism much, but having finally reached the age of reason (I was 11 at the time), I began to wonder if these beliefs were worthy of holding if they led to such irrational hatred for others who were different.
After having spent years being beaten and emotionally scarred by this man, mom and I started to feel as though the relationship wasn’t working out, so we made plans to leave him behind and go out in the world on our own. Still the good little god-loving girl, I prayed and prayed for mom to leave, and for him to be with us during these struggles so we would be safe. Well, that didn’t work out so well. We would leave, and she kept falling for his charms and empty promises of change. Each time they reunited, the abuse got worse for me. He felt I had betrayed him, and made his feeling clear every time I walked by with a pinch of my arm, a slap to the back of my head, or a hateful glare. He would do this to me, then go over to mom and whisper sweet nothings until she would giggle like a doe-eyed teenager. This made me utterly sick, and I didn’t understand why she had chosen to continuously to go back to him. I knew he would just hit, kick, and choke her again after he felt comfortable enough in the relationship to do so. In tears, I reached out to god, but it no longer felt as though he were present; instead there was a cold emptiness and sense of total abandonment, betrayal, and utter lack of regard for my life. I felt I had no one – for dad had isolated us both from other family members, and now it seemed there was absolutely no one in the world who cared about my well-being, especially my parents.
Of course, as it always did, the abuse escalated to the point where our lives were put at risk nearly every other day. To make matters worse, my parents started traveling hundreds of miles to see a psychiatrist for ADD medication. They even coached me on how to tell the doctor my “symptoms” so they could get me on these drugs, which to this very day baffles me. So anyway, we were all now on legal amphetamines, but my dad took it to a whole new level – crushing up his meds and putting them in his coffee. Of course, he started seeing shit that wasn’t there, and going even more insane with the paranoia. He had always been paranoid, in fact, he had moved us to the middle of nowhere Arkansas, since he felt the “leftist government” was after him because he was a prophet who got messages from god. We bought tons of food (and of course, lots of guns) to prepare for the inevitable apocalypse that would come as a result of the government allowing gays and non-believers to take over the country. All of that was nonsense, but I wasn’t really aware of how crazy it was until he started going off on these rants about it while high on the meds. By this time, I was almost 13, and completely sick and tired of dad’s bullshit. I told mom we had to leave, and she concurred, but argued the timing wasn’t right, and if we tried to leave with him acknowledging our plans, we would kill us. In heed of her warning, and under the influence of the drugs, I began carrying a pocketknife – just in case.
A few months passed in this same manner, until we had to take the long trip to the doctor to get more meds to fuel dad’s insanity. We went to the appointment, then dad decided he wanted to check out the electronics store, but told us to stay in the truck. It was the month of May, in the state of Texas, so it began to get really hot after a few hours of him lollygagging around in the air-conditioned store. I was in the bed of the truck, which had a metal camper over it, and a beanbag chair for me to sit on. Despite how hot it was, neither one of us dared leave the truck to find relief. If we had, dad would lose his mind. We waited for 6 hours while he bullshitted with clerks inside, and of course, had nothing to eat the entire time. Finally, around dusk, he came out of the store with bags full of electronic parts he would never use. He drove to a catfish place in the city, and ordered a huge amount of food, and proceeded to head toward home eating his food while we both sat there patiently awaiting a morsel. After he had finished what he wanted, he finally offered me a piece of catfish, when mom made the horrid mistake of asking if she could have some. He became extremely irate, proclaiming that she was too fat to eat any, and screamed at her for hours about it. He would brake really hard to express his anger, and swerve all over the road screaming at the top of his lungs, “I WILL KILL YOU BOTH AND ASK GOD FOR FORGIVENESS LATER!!” My mom cried and pleaded with him to stop, but he wouldn’t. I sat in the back, with the sliding window between the truck bed and the front open, witnessing this whole thing in a terrified but angered state of mind, tightening the grip on my pocketknife, and waiting for the right moment to stab him in the neck so we could get out of this alive. There was no way I was going to do it while he was still driving, though. He finally pulled over, and I contemplated whether or not the situation merited a knife, but it seems he had finally calmed down after several hours of the tirade, so I put my knife away. One thing I noticed, I no longer was praying to god to save us, I was relying on myself for preservation instead.