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I trusted my dad completely. I thought he was the best dad in the world. He taught me the Bible and how to memorize Scripture. He taught me how to pray. He protected me from my mom’s anger. He was my rock and my hero. I love him and wanted to be like him.
No one really ever talks about sexuality in ATI (the Advanced Training Institute). Definitely not in our family. I was basically left to figure out everything on my own. When I was eight, one of my siblings and I “experimented” together. I knew it might be wrong, but I didn’t know why. My dad found out. I got fifty swats with the wooden spoon and was forbidden to ever spend time alone with my siblings again.
I messed everything up again when I was eleven. I still had no idea what sex was. I was hitting puberty and having all these “feelings” with no one to talk to. So I experimented again. Of course now I know how wrong it was. I’ve been told that most children experiment in one way or another, especially if they’re not told anything about what is happening with their bodies. It’s how they learn. Yet I was bent over the bed and given 100 swats.
I was placed in a room all alone. I ate alone. I played alone. I only left that room to go to my bedroom to sleep. I had EXTREMELY limited contact with my siblings. I was never allowed to hold my youngest sister when she was an infant. I thought that she would think that I didn’t love her, so I remember sneaking in to see her and crying in guilt as I said over and over that I was sorry.
It was during this time that my dad began molesting me. Just a few years ago I asked him why he did it. He told me that it was because I molested his children. I didn’t even know what sex was! How could I be a child molester?
No one even suspected anything was going on. I was taken to church on Sunday, of course! We couldn’t mar that image of a good Christian home. Even the worst of sinners should be allowed to worship God. But for a whole year I was not allowed to go outside to play, and I was cut off from all my friends and my family.
During this time, we lived at an IBLP (Institute in Basic Life Principles) Training Center, where my dad was on staff. He was supposed to be teaching others about God, yet he came into my room, night after night, doing the most evil of deeds. My mom even walked in on us at 6:30 AM one morning, yet she never questioned what he was doing.
He forced me to pray with him each night about his sins. He would look deep into my eyes and say, “I was wrong for what I just did. Let’s pray together.” He would ask for my forgiveness, so I would “grant” it. I thought if I granted him forgiveness he would stop! But he only used my forgiveness each night as an excuse to continue his evil. I don’t think he ever intended to stop. He only wanted my forgiveness so he would be “cleansed” until the next offense.
I wanted so badly to kill myself. I was only 11 years old, and I was considering suicide. I was trapped. My dad knew I couldn’t tell anyone because no one would believe me. It was my word against his. He had already been traveling the country as part of his ministry, all the while sadly telling people that I had molested my siblings. He would claim that they had tried so hard to work with me, but that I was a troubled girl living in constant rebellion to her parents. The thing was, at that time I was willing to cover his sins against me; I wouldn’t have breathed a word of it to anyone! I wanted to protect my dad and his ministry. But I wanted help for me, too.
When I was sixteen, I finally used the computer at work to look up “sex,” as the only thing I knew about it was what my dad had “taught” me. When my parents found out, they told me that there was no hope for me. My mom had been telling me that for years. That, and that I was probably going to go to hell. She told me that she hated me and wished she had never laid eyes on me. My dad had always maintained there was hope for me. But when he found out I had researched sex online, he shredded the last bit of self-confidence I had. He said that he agreed with mom: There was no hope for me.
That was the first time I actually tried to commit suicide. Did I really want to die at that time? Sorta. I didn’t care. I hoped if my parents found me, they would actually get me some help. If I died, the pain would leave me. So it really didn’t matter either way. I drank an entire bottle of ipecac syrup. I vomited all night long and the entire next day.
I finally called my youth pastor’s wife and told her what I had done. She told me that only selfish people would try to take their own life. When she told her husband, he called my dad and told him that he thought I needed to get some help. My dad came home and made me call the youth pastor back. He made me tell him that I was only trying to get attention and that nothing was wrong. Then he got on the phone and announced that I was leaving for college in two weeks. They were sending me out of the state, and I would never be back.
He was furious when, years later, I finally told my story to the authorities. I didn’t want the cops to get involved at that time. I didn’t even want my family to get involved. You see, I was still buying into the idea that it was all my own fault. That I had somehow “asked” to be abused. It took me years following the initial contact with authorities to even begin to recognize the wrong done to me and that I wasn’t responsible. Yet my father accused me of trying to send him to jail and trying to destroy him. He played the reputation card and said he’d been forgiven and that now it was my issue of unforgiveness. He said that I was trying to force the rest of my siblings to grow up without their father.
The truth is, I was in counseling at that time and the legal system had to step in to mediate on behalf of underage children still in his care.
There are still a lot of things that my dad has never admitted. He never admitted that he ordered the pornography he blamed my youngest sister for ordering. He’s never admitted to his extra-marital affair. He did resign his Biblical counseling position, but I’ve heard that he never admits openly to the real reason he left his ministry–he was caught and would have been forced to resign. No, he simply told people that he “burned out.”
Maybe someday soon I’ll be able to work through all of this as I continue to pursue legal action. But for now, I’m still hurting so much that the thought of finding peace and being able to grant forgiveness to someone who won’t admit to doing any wrong just seems like a fantasy.