Surviving As An Abused "Lost Sheep" Jehovah's Witness: A JW Apostate's Story (Contains Graphic Content)
Ways To Cope With Spiritual Abuse and Effective, (Possibly, Fun), Ways To Prevent Visits By Jehovah's Witnesses and Other Religious Evangelizers
I guess I should start off by stating that this article is not a personal attack on all Jehovah's Witnesses; I know some are trustworthy and some are not, as with anyone else. This commentary is only to outline my encounter with the abusive ones that I have met so far and to offer suggestions about how others could cope should they have similarly negative or traumatic experiences. (As an additional note, some names have been changed to protect the guilty, except for my ex-abuser, Rodney Dwayne Williams, who had been proven guilty and convicted for his violent crimes against me in a Los Angeles court, and whom I believe other women need to be warned about in order to avoid being victimized by him as well).
Oh, almost forgot: (Disclaimer's Note: The advice listed in this article about how to be rejected by Jehovah's Witnesses is not literal and I assume no liability for anyone who decides to take it or any backlash I may receive from my beloved JW brothers and sisters.) (I mean, for real, guys, lighten up...but I have enjoyed your "Apostate, apostate, apostate!" chant. It has a nice beat. I definitely can dance to it.)
Moving right along and....argghhh, my bad. One more thing: (In my parody serenade to my former JW pals, my apologies to the creators of the associated original song for my having a little fun.)
Okay, now getting to the real article, and...oh, nuts! one more second: (My statements about my experience with the Department of Children's and Family Services don't necessarily reflect my personal opinions or biases about all child protective agencies because as D.C.F.S. has neglected me since childhood and then afterward so severely punished and revictimized me for this, I don't deem this entity a child protective service whatsoever).
Okay, for real this time:
My Background As a J-Dub
So I was crucified, er...uhhh...baptized, as a Jehovah's Witness at an assembly in Mariloma, California at the end of 2007, which was the best thing any religion group had ever done to me...I mean, uh, for me, in my whole, entire life...especially after the sister I was studying the Bible with suddenly got bored and forgot about our study so I ended up finishing it on my own, and after I endured years of being literally shouted at and/or insulted by an elder and his wife for years (often in front of 15 other people) while they both caught me already clearly in the middle of a low mood, and after I received little to no help from any of the congregation members at my former Kingdumb...uh, -dom Hall, after I endured a near fatal beating and sexual assault from my ex, Rodney Dwayne Williams, after he locked and imprisoned me in a room while I was pregnant with our son, for which he received 6 years and 7 months in Folsom State Prison; but, because of the Bible's heavy emphasis on forgiveness, I dismissed it all as being all my fault as usual, as did the social workers from the Department of Children's and Family Services, who later permanently took my little boy from me and all the elders and congregation members and everyone else blamed me for my own abandonment by them and everyone else as well, and after an entire childhood of neglect in which my parents abused me in ways considerably more horrendous than I would ever dream of inflicting on my own child; but, now that the scales have fallen from my eyes, I really now have come to the profound epiphany that it indeed is all my fault. Maybe my child's dad, (who never spoke to me ever again nor apologized to me nor even acknowledged the child he knew we had after all he did to me), will one day somehow find it in his heart to forgive me. (If only I never chose to date him, or I otherwise would never have given him the right to strangle me multiple times until I passed out or he never would have done all those gross X-rated things to me as well. Which only happened because I attempted to protect our pre-born baby by trying to escape while his crazy daddy was asleep, but, well, I hope any mother who had ever been called bad can now use this reason to feel better about herself at my expense).
In my early years as a fledgling Witness, I never did believe all the rumors about my religion being a literal cult, however, I definitely felt that there were many cultish aspects to it. The whole deal with the guys not being allowed to wear beards or wear their hair long did leave me a bit miffed because I occasionally find a five-o'clock shadow charming and long hair on guys sexy and never mind, for a second, my qualms, about why, in turn, the women are deemed incipient lesbians if they prefer their hair short or why God would create men to have facial hair if He didn't want them to have it...all in all, the faith didn't seem to allow individuality and promoted a culture of everyone being forced to look and act the same to where I began to lose a sense of who I was...and feared becoming a robot myself. My fellow worshippers gradually sounded scripted in everything they said to me and to others, with no real sincerity or emotion behind any of it.
To be fair, I always gave my friends the benefit of the doubt. They had done massive favors for me in the past...on the grounds that I owed them a lifetime of receiving verbal abuse from them in return and, uh...oh, yes, there was that one cool talk that was so smoothly executed by a sister to another sister on a Kingdom Hall platform, in which the scenario was a woman witnessing to a single mother of 3 children, in which the mother tactfully explained that she was too spent to attend meetings after her taxing 24-hour responsibility and of having no one at her side every minute to help her.
My ears pricked up as I listened. Ooo! This should be neato! Being a single mother of my now long gone son, (who was disabled, by the way, by a rare disorder brought on by an apparent chromosonal deficiency), I harbored hope that this particular sister might actually want to be more helpful to this lady and her situation than anyone at my own Hall had ever wanted to be to me. After all, taking care of 3 children alone without any help from anyone could take its toll, especially for the mother, who had to be the one to carry and bear them. And, oh...you know, more extreme circumstances in which a woman might have 7 kids for whom she must occasionally starve herself in order to make sure they eat.
So I sat and listened, knowing how I would have handled the talk. (E.g.: "Oh, you have children? That's wonderful! How old are they? What are their names? Do you have boys? Girls? I hope I get to meet them. But I imagine your situation must be difficult. I'm a single parent too so I know how it is. You're very strong to be doing so much on your own and I commend you for it. If you like, I want to share with you a few scriptures that may be helpful to you and your situation. I even know a few single sisters who love children and are bored and looking for something to do. Maybe they can come by and help out and perhaps even babysit sometimes?")
"Well," the woman conducting the talk on the platform said, "think about when your children are sick from the cold or flu. On top of them feeling so terrible, they now have to take this gross medicine. But this medicine is not meant to hurt you or to add to your burdens, it is meant to help you and to improve your life. You need to look at attending congregation meetings and field service in the same way. You can't eat the elephant in one whole gulp, you have to take it bite by bite..."
Religion Or Controlling Sect?
The sis who forgot our study, (and then later also failed to help me to fill out the required forms for the card about the blood thing), seemed to impose similar quick fix solutions on my own severe problems; after I learned that my mother had passed away from cancer, she didn't allow me to cry or grieve. She instead insisted, "You're gonna be fine, Rosie, you're gonna be fine," and bombarded me with the usual string of platitudes, ("You'll see your mother again in paradise some day,") even though I wasn't sure it could be oversimplified as easily as all that, because my mother used to kick the stuffing out of me when I was little bitty before she eventually abandoned me with nowhere to go so she could steal thousands of dollars from a check that was intended for me and, of course, there was also my having chosen to divorce her and the rest of my incredibly abusive family ever since I was a teenager as a result...but, Sister Snickerdoodle, (all names of my loving friends have been changed), screamed at me that I needed to continue to attend meetings or otherwise die in Armageddon and my situation wasn't special anyway because everyone at the Hall had their own tribulations and so my problem was solved.
Initially, it was all good, of course; my fellow members wooed me in the beginning, inundating me with all the traditional love bombing, with some of the older sisters calling me "daughter" and showering me with hugs and kisses on the face and the neck and triggering in me creepy haphephobic feelings arising from my having been molested as a kid. When I tried to explain these things to an elder, about how I had a difficult time taking even a handshake, he told me to "Forget about it, move on, and just think about the paradise," and Sister Snickerdoodle later said, "Jehovah understands all that but you need to get over it and continue to attend meetings anyway or you will lose your life."
To call this a small band-aid on a very large wound is a bit of an understatement, I guess, but I knew they were trying their best to be helpful. "Thanks for the loving reminders, Sisters," I said. "I'll be sure to do everything you say and thereby guarantee my spot in everlasting paradise where Jesus will restore us to perfection after His 1,000-year reign and all of this will be a thing of the past and...doyyyy," I concluded with my eyes crossed.
One day, after I woke up from this sweet dream in which I died in Armageddon, I decided to help Sister Snickerdoodle continue to fulfill her flaky reputation in other ways by having her promise to be live-scanned and finger-printed at the D.C.F.S. office in which I was allowed supervised visits with my infant son some months before my parental rights with him were terminated so I could finally have an official reason to leave these dorks once and for all; before that happened, Snickerdoodle told me, at my request, that she would replace the workers who monitored my visits by vowing to me that she would become my regular monitor instead; I assured her that I wasn't pressuring her to do me this favor if it was too much of an imposition, but she insisted, then set up the appointment...and then didn't show up. So yay, my scheme was working.
Afterward, social workers on my case continued in their usual orbit of yelling at me and telling me about how terrible of a mother I was and continuing to viciously blame me for being nearly killed by my child's father while allowing my son's foster parent to ridicule and insult me in my son's presence and theirs as well. I was treated as if I was a criminal instead of a victim. The workers were at their own liberties when they were alone with me but seemed uncomfortable the approximately 1-2 times Snickerdoodle and a fellow sister did bother to accompany me on these visits. Many of the D.C.F.S. caseworkers blatantly lied in their documented reports about me and one even asked me about the ethnicities of the men I had dated before Rodney, and appeared offended that they were all the same race she was. She pried in her interview with me using her position to ask me whatever she wanted.
Regardless of how much I tried to show I was trying, every reason was looked for to shame and rag on me and destroy my already annihilated self-respect; the social workers harshly judged me under a microscope while whitewashing and making excuses for the foster mother regardless of how belligerently she behaved.
I received little to no help from anyone in my abusive, long since estranged family nor from a Kingdom Hall consisting of probably nearly two hundred people. As I had limited transportation, I remember often wishing I had at least one member from the Hall who could take the liberty of driving me to the visitations I was allowed with my boy and was perplexed about how my fellow members had the time and energy to visit total strangers from door to door while most or all of them seemed reluctant to give this type of time and energy to either my child or me. I was even more bewildered by their proclamations of self-sacrificing love for me, one woman even telling me she would die for me. They could certainly preach it, but none could seem to prove it.
When my case with D.C.F.S. was down to a wire, and the associated children's court was determining whether I should have custody of my child, I asked Snickerdoodle to contact the attorney on my case to report the abusive mannerisms she said she had noticed in my little boy's foster mother; I reiterated that she didn't have to if she couldn't or didn't want to, to which she said she "probably" would the next afternoon.
So the next afternoon, I didn't receive a follow-up call from Snickerdoodle, so called her myself, reminding her of my situation and telling her the matter was time-sensitive, that I could lose my baby to the system forever if she didn't come through on his behalf; she told me she was busy phone witnessing at the Kingdom Hall and would get back to me as soon as she was able. I told her that the phone call would take only 2 to 5 minutes at most and that we wouldn't have another chance to reach the lawyer about this before my next court date, but Snickerdoodle continued to state that she was still busy catering to the needs of strangers.
But then, an amazing thing happened. Less than an hour before my lawyer's office was to close for that afternoon, and I texted Snickerdoodle telling her about the increasing urgency of my situation, she sent a text back that read, "Ok I'm still at the Hall" leaving me feeling abandoned and unwanted all over again...and triumphant about having a good reason to abandon these buffoons in return.
In a word, I felt bamboozled by these individuals, in how they turned out not to be who I thought they were, or didn't do what I thought they should have done. It took me a while to realize that they simply don't take a stand on things like that, that my child probably himself would have needed to be a baptized Witness before they even thought of it. I only wished Snickerdoodle were simply honest and said so, as her doing so would have bought me more time to find someone more reliable...such as, perhaps, a bum on the street. Or a soccer ball. Or my Fairy Godmother; she did, however, text back to ask me if I were going to attend the meeting that evening, not at all addressing my situation, to which I texted making some vague excuse that I couldn't attend...before resolving in my heart to never speak to her ever again. Which I haven't.
After a period of my being inactive, (which, according to me, means no longer attending meetings or participating in any of the other spiritual activities or not accepting any additional abuse from these sociopaths, and, according to my bros and sisses, qualifies me as a traitor and an apostate), I sought help outside the religion, and, eventually, met a young man who was infinitely more helpful to me than anyone in the faith had ever been..during which, Snickerdoodle repeatedly sent me phone calls and emails and seemed puzzled and upset that I wasn't responding and for years asked everyone at my old Hall about this except me. But as I began to feel increasingly isolated and as if I was indeed betraying and breaking my integrity to Jehovah, I poured my heart out to another loving elder, (hmmm...think I'll call him Frankfurter), in my distress, telling him that I was hoping to find a friend in the congregation who had been shunned and neglected as I had and hoped we could help each other through all our trials in this way.
"You need more than a friend," Frankfurter said. "You need the elders to help you."
"Cool," I snipped. "But I think I would also like a peer to relate to, someone who is in a similar league with me, who has walked a mile in my shoes."
"No, because you might pull someone else into your problems," he barked. "Talk to the elders instead. They are more qualified and equipped to handle such matters. Jehovah will give you what you need, not what you want."
"But the elders deserted me during my worst trials," I wailed.
Frankfurter demanded, "Talk to the elders, blahblahblah," and then bragged about how he had been an elder for more than 30 years and insinuated that I was lying because he had never known elders to behave the way I described and that I was the one who needed to be placed on anti-psychotics, not them.
Later, I asked to speak to a mature sister at another local Hall about my issue, and she said little more than, "You will find all the answers you need in the Bible." Then, she sharply added, "Why don't you come attend our meetings more regularly to receive all the support you need here?"
Knowing she wouldn't believe me if I told her the truth, I respectfully said, "I can't right now. It's a long, complicated story."
"There are others who have a long, complicated story, and they're here," she snapped.
They all indeed were a charming bunch. I telepathically told all these folks, "Screw you," mentally aimed my handy-dandy lazer gun at all of their rear ends and fired, then, permanently dropped them and the whole JW scene like a hot potato.
How I Did My Fade
The callousness and poor treatment I received seemed part of the faith's high mind control aspect. Even if one had severe health conditions or extenuating circumstances, they were virtually dragged into attending meetings, field service, etc., under the subliminal threat of death at Armageddon anyway. All these are examples of what many religionists might term "spiritual abuse", in which self-professed Christians fall far from the Bible's standards of genuinely showing the love of Christ. And then if one complains, one is called a liar, which only further nurtures the JW oh-I'm-being-persecuted complex.
For a time, I did internalize Frankfurter's comments and believed Jehovah indeed was forcing me to put up with all these incredibly toxic, unloving, judgmental people, that I in fact had completely lost it this time...but then, I took the time to listen to other people's stories of victimization and began to see how much of it really wasn't me.
A dear friend of mine told me about how his brother saw a married sister leave a hotel with some young guy unbeknownst to her or anyone else, and then upon reporting what he saw to the elders, he was the one who was disfellowshipped.
Said friend also relayed that a woman he had previously dated shared about how she had once taken a shower at an elder's house, and then as soon as she left the shower stall, he entered into the bathroom with her and tried to...hrmph...do it.
"What are you doing?" she resounded. "Aren't you married?"
"Uhhh...doyyy...my wife doesn't satisfy me," was the elder's only explanation.
Eventually, one young lady told me that she was raped by an overseer, who remained protected and believed by her congregation over her; I urged her to report the man's actions to the police to assure he doesn't do this to someone else and to seek help from a local rape treatment center as soon as she was able; afterward, she told me she wished more JW's had my quality, and I was warmed by her affirmation.
It was only when I viewed online video documentaries about elders and others in the religious group who continue to conceal the actions of sexual predators, including those of alleged pedophiles like Ronald Lawrence, that my dismissed feelings and concerns were only further validated...and only that much more into a downward spiral of deep, disturbed, aghast disgust; more and more I began to feel as if I was moving through this hellish world of smoke and mirrors in which I no longer knew what was real and what wasn't. Who I could trust and couldn't. These days, I've felt so addled, disillusioned, and depressed that all that has been left of me is this person who goes about in a trance. I barely know who I am anymore, and seem to be in a daze I can no longer snap out of; but I think I've had enough of my senses about me to determine the reasons behind my own persecutors'/loving brethren's behavior.
One reason is that being selfishly inclined, imperfect humans tend to favor those whose problems seem easier to deal with. If a problem appears too difficult, one might mentally place that problem into a "too hard basket," (File 13, I think it is called in some legal systems), and then hope that if they ignore the problem that it might somehow go away. I had gone through a lot in my life that the vast majority of people will never understand, which was why it was easy for them to say things like, "Forget about it," "Get over it," etc.; no one forgets trauma, whether it's in the form of a lost limb or lost childhood, one only learns to cope and deal with it. People who say such things either have never been traumatized or abused or even if they have they think that because they are able to cope that everyone should be able to cope and that life can't possibly be more difficult for anyone else than it is for them. While I'm grateful for the coming paradise, I'm sure these stumble-bums will cause me to give out before its arrival. If it even exists, of course.
To a degree, I also empathize with the difficulty some might have in believing that someone in the so-called Christian congregation would be capable of behaving in an entirely non-Christian manner; others have intoned to me "Can't you see these people are crazy?" until they were blue in the face. I am now ashamed that I myself refused to listen; while I was still a naive newbie wrapped up in my own zeal and fanaticism, it just felt impossible for me to believe that Jehovah would tolerate such cruelty in His own congregation...until I began to experience it for myself.
Even now, however, I still don't blame Jehovah, realizing that He allowed such psychopathy due to the exertion of free will, and that He won't allow the cruelty to take place forever; I now know that my first-hand experience of spiritual abuse is a blessing, as it is what helped me to wake up, and saved me from becoming crazy myself. (Thank you, Jehovah).
Just kidding, I no longer believing in the existence of Jehovah or in any such sense although I respect the rights of others to believe in whatever jiggery-pokery they please and I stand by my conviction that the majority of Jehovah's Witnesses are insane.
Ways To Get Jehovah's Witnesses To Shun You
As already noted, the best way to get JW's to stop knocking on your door is to have a severe crisis in which you are deserving of help; if the JW's you have met are like the ones I've described, they will more than likely abandon you to look for folks whose situations are easier to handle than yours, and then when that happens, count your blessings and good riddance to them..but if you want to prevent them from continuing to evangelize, place a "No Trespassing" sign on your door, or tell any visiting JW's to have your address put on their "Do Not Call List." Change your phone number or move, if possible. If you have family members or other loved ones in the congregation, you might need to be more discreet and gradual about your fade. For more persistent JW's, however, more aggressive measures might be required, such as contacting your local Hall and complaining, or calling the police...but I always advise avoiding violence at all costs.
If you feel like having a little fun like me though, troll JW's in a way that throws them but remains within reasonable, manageable bounds.
For example, if they for some reason ignore your "Keep Out" sign, post one that says, "Trespassers will be attacked with water balloons. Survivors will be attacked with maple syrup balloons," or come to the door, and say, "Dang!" looking paranoid as you look around, harried and frenzied and then whisper, "What took you doofuses so long. Consuelo is gonna chew my head off!" Then, hand them a ziplock bag filled with flour and slam the door.
Or come to the door dressed in a giraffe's costume and see how long they can continue to carry on in a serious conversation with you before they go, "Sorry, I think we have the wrong door," or accuse them of trying to steal your husband/wife [insert name of your celebrity crush] and demand they keep away from him/her.
Or, say, "Sorry, I'm busy gardening," and then effect your most pathetic imitation of a running chain saw slicing through a tree; or, if your visitors are of your gender, say, "I'm gay, come in," and then tip them a wink.
If you're a man, grow a long beard and your hair past your shoulders. If you're a woman, cut your hair short and dress like a man, or wear a mini-skirt and skimpy halter. Then, when you have a chance, allow the congregation gossip to catch you walking out of a porn shop or wild house party or late night club blasting hardcore gangsta rap, or, splash your clothing with vodka and then sing, "The Jehovah's Witnesses never leave me alone (never leave me alone), leave me alone, (they neeevvverrrr leave me alone), never leave me aloonne, (they never leave me alone), never leave me alone, I've traveled so many places, they've slammed the door on our faces, there were times I didn't think I'd make it through, (alone), but now that I know these JW jackasses, I slam the door on their faces..." to the tune of Never Leave Me Alone by Nate Dogg.
Surviving As An Ex-JW
After you've succeeded in ditching these obsessed extremists, remember to know for yourself internally that whichever way you yourself may have been victimized by the religion is not your fault, and that Jehovah, (if you still believe in Him), will work things out in His own time and in His own way. Take some time off to really dive into taking care of yourself by doing whatever you enjoy and what makes you feel good about yourself. As already mentioned, a busted leg needs a cast, not a band-aid, so dismiss anything all the Brother Frankfurters in your life might also advise.
If you wish to connect with other X-Dubs or anyone else who had been negatively affected by the group, try joining social media sites such as Facebook and meetup, where former Witnesses set up support groups and other social activities.
If you, too, had been victimized in a domestic abuse relationship and were blamed by a JW or anyone else for your own abuse, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 to receive affirmation from a victims and survivors advocate that the abuse you experienced is not your fault, and for any additional information you may need for counseling, d.v. shelters, support groups, and other resources. I also suggest you read Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft for more validation.
That said, I apologize on behalf of whatever hurtful actions others in my former religion are guilty of, and for my not believing what others have been trying to tell me, because for a long time, I didn't. What has kept me going, I think, is my sense that Jehovah still loves me and is on my side, and my intense spiritual connection with the person Frankfurter seemed determined that I don't find, (way to try to get in the way of Jehovah's plan for me Ding-a-ling), but, how Jehovah supports me in my journey with this new person and who he is I might address in a future article...except that, as I said, because I no longer believe in Jehovah God I've decided to seek a more interesting way to while away my time, such as in watching my fingernails grow, or having dental surgery performed. Till then, I hope to see y'all in eternal paradise. (Shoot....sorry, force of habit).