I was Disfellowshipped for Being Raped!
My Pre: History:
At the age of five, I came home from school one day to be told that God's name is Jehovah, Christmas and birthdays are wrong and we can't salute the flag any more. I accepted this and never saluted the flag again. The year was 1960.
I spent many a day in the principle’s office because of my adherence to Jehovah. I came to have a deep love for him and to be loyal to him was important to me.
By 1968, life was very stressful where I lived in the Sunnydale Projects in San Francisco. With the racial tensions, the cultural changes, the assassinations of beloved John and Bobby Kennedy and then, of dear Martin Luther King Jr., not to mention all the stress over the bloody war in Vietnam, tensions were very high. Living in the Sunnydale Projects, I went to sleep to the sounds of screams, gunshots, and sirens nearly every night.
The Black Panther party was prominent where we lived and I had to watch every step I took. Believing that I was never going to be "good" enough for Jehovah and believing Armageddon was coming any day, I lived in constant fear of being killed by Jehovah. I was thirteen and convinced that I didn't have long to live.
My mother had tried her best to prepare my two brothers and I for the very possible coming of terrible persecution using the Watchtowers articles on the suffering that went on for years, beginning in 1964, of our dear brothers and sisters in Malawi. I was terrified.
After a close friend of mine was murdered, and, as I knew who had done it, my mother decided we had to move, no matter how poor we were.
My new school, James Denman Jr. High, was riddled with gangs, and there were frequent riots and beatings. Our new congregation was not the loving fellowship we had enjoyed in our previous congregation. With my mother's ill health, she almost never went to a meeting and my brothers and I felt very out of place and on our own.
I had made new friends and, since my mother never let us go anywhere except to school and the meetings, I took to playing "HOOKY" a few times from the meetings. I would just have my friends meet me there. I would apologize to my brothers and tell them that I just had to have some time for myself.
At age fourteen, my mother invited my worldly boyfriend to move in with us, as she felt sorry for him, because his mom had died and his father's new girlfriend didn't want him around. My mom had come to accept my friends and they loved her and as they were always now at our house; it made not being able to go places easier.
Then I got pregnant. I was not quite fifteen. As I had long ago become disillusioned with going to the meetings it wasn't too hard to not go. The elders had begun to come to our home to study the watchtower with my brothers as they felt sorry for them what with their being fatherless and their mother ill and their sister pregnant.
When I was about six months along, after I had turned fifteen in January of 1970, I began to think of my impending death at Armageddon, and that of my baby, all because I didn't want to go to the meetings. I had thoroughly read the “TRUTH” book, put out by the Society in 1968, speaking of the impending Armageddon and how we had to "get right with Jehovah before it was too late”. So I began to sit in on the studies and later, to prepare ahead for these studies.
The next week after the Watchtower study, the three elders (a “committee”) held a meeting with me in my bedroom, with the door closed. They sat on my bed and seemed nervous. I remained standing, and after a bit of their throat clearing, and not saying anything, I felt I'd make it easier for them. (I can't believe I felt sorry for them!)
I said, "Brothers, I know that you must think that I'm not the cleanest (“moral”) girl in the world..." (that's for sure!" Br. Fleming expressed under his breath. I pretended not to have heard.)… "but I love Jehovah, and I am doing the best I can to live my life to please Jehovah."
I waited to see what they would say. Of the three brothers, Br. X was the only one who seemed uncomfortable with the other two's attitudes... that I was a disgrace and that I was "obviously guilty of loose conduct." I was told I must show that I was sorry for my behavior by attending the meetings. That if I showed "repentance," I would be forgiven and the brothers would help me. But, if I ever showed evidence of immoral conduct again, I would immediately be disassociated from the platform if ever I showed my face in the Kingdom Hall again.
I did try going back to the meetings, but it didn't last. All I had to wear was a pair of my boyfriend’s jeans and a maternity top. I didn’t even have decent shoes, but wore moccasins, which had been given to me by a lady who worked at the corner store, because she had felt sorry for me. It was so hard to sit at the meeting, amongst the stares and the whispers. The last straw for me was when this little girl continued staring at me and my belly, turned around in her chair, in front of me, and her mother never told her to turn around.
My mother was never with me, I was all alone. I left the meeting that day, resolving that if Jehovah was going to kill me then that’s what was going to happen and there was nothing that I could do about it. But I simply could not deal with the incredible lack of love and simple kindness displayed in “God’s Organization.”
All I wanted was to feel right in front in front of Jehovah but what I got was stares and whispers.
At sixteen, in 1971, I was pregnant with twins and I remember asking my mom to please come with me, and my sixth month old son, to the Memorial…and to sit with me in the very back because I did so want to attend, and I was so afraid that if the brothers saw me they would make good their threat, and I had every intention of being able to be in a position, someday, to again regularly attend the meetings, and to raise my sons in "the truth."
By the time I was nineteen, my children's father left us for good and I was pregnant with my fourth child. By this time I really had gotten some self-esteem and had decided that if Jehovah was going to kill me for living my life than that's what he was going to do. I simply refused to live my life based on fear. (I had this fear because, as every JW knows, you're never really quite good enough.)
I had been looking forward to my three sons being in school and of going back to school myself. I had such plans!! But, here I was, facing another pregnancy alone, and my son's asking "when is daddy coming home", and I prayed to Jehovah to please help me, because I just did not feel I could do it all alone any more.
In my fifth month, I sustained a serious back injury. I was told by the doctors that in order to help me they would have to take X-RAYS, and that these would most likely be damaging to my unborn child, and that unless I would agree to undergo an abortion, they could not help me.
I was in terrible pain. My invalid mother helped me all she could. I spent most of my time knocked out on FORMULA 44 cough syrup. I had a terrible cough and every time I coughed, I screamed in pain. It was a real bad time.
After about six weeks, I was able to get around a bit. My mom sent over a sister (I'll call her "Cindy") to help me. She thought I'd like her and I did. She knew a lot about back problems and she was nice to me and my sons, and she never treated me like I was a “bad” person. I told her right off, "Just don't start preaching to me, or expect me to study with you, or go to the meetings"! ( I had long ago decided that “Jehovah’s” organization was not for me, and I wanted to be absolutely SURE that, in “helping” me, she didn’t have the ulterior motive of “bringing me back to the fold”) She assured me that she didn't expect any such thing…that she just wanted to help me…but that if I ever DID want to study, she would be glad to accommodate me.
So, after a few months of feeling very comfortable with Cindy's visits, I asked her if I could go to a meeting with her and she said "Sure"! I made it clear that I did not want her to take this to mean I was going start studying.
Suffice to say that I was gossiped about from that first meeting back, until long after my eleven and a half year fellowship with the Jehovah’s Witnesses was at its end. Too bad for me, I was young, and pretty, with a nice little body and long blond hair, and I was naive and suffering from, "I acknowledge that you are all better than me", syndrome.
The gossip ranged from, "I was a whore with kids from multiple fathers", to "being after every sister's husband". The gossip would go from my congregation and make the rounds through five others , before it came to the ears of the congregation where Cindy's daughter went. Then she would report to her mother all the “latest” gossip about me, and Cindy would pass it to me. This went on for many years.
And so, in 1975, because the Watchtower made it clear that Armageddon was coming in that year, and because I did not want Jehovah to kill my children because of me, I began studying with Cindy and to try hard to "change my life". The funny thing is, the only BAD thing I did was to swear. I really had a mouth!
I guess, because I was trying so hard to "be good", I got a lot of help and acts of kindness. I did not want to give up the friends I had in the world, who were dear to me, but I was assured that when I showed loyalty to Jehovah, and “His” organization, I would be blessed with more friends and family in the truth than I ever had in the world. I gave up and turned my back on many who were very precious to me, and I sorely regret that decision.
I was baptized in 1977, with my four children in attendance. I had put off making the commitment because I had just never felt RIGHT about it. I loved Jehovah, and aside from the never ending gossip, I loved going to all the meetings and assemblies. I would pray for direction in this matter, but I still never felt right. I talked it over with Cindy, and we came to the conclusion that I should take the "leap of faith", so to speak, to make the commitment to Jehovah, in spite of my inner misgivings, and THEN I would feel right.
I truly feel that if it hadn’t been for my not wanting my children to die because of me…not wanting their “blood on my hands”, I believe that I would have never gone through with the baptism. I just did not feel right, and even though I thought that my not feeling “right” was because something was wrong with “me.” I would rather have had a clear conscience in front of God, and have Him kill me, than to get baptized, feeling like a fraud. But Armageddon was “just around the corner” and I couldn’t let Jehovah kill my children. I simply felt trapped.
I well remember sitting there in the baptismal audience, feeling like a fake…a hypocrite, and feeling like I just did not belong there. And when it came time to agree to the vows, I prayed for forgiveness for agreeing, because I felt so wrong about it. I hoped so hard that I would finally "feel like a 'real' Witness" after I was baptized. As I went under the water I prayed for Jehovah to accept me, and to help me…and to forgive me.
In the dressing room, while drying off, I realized that all I felt was scared. "I did it", I thought to myself, "I really did it." (I felt no joy, only fear.) Now what?
For eleven and a half years I hung in there. For eleven and a half years I put up with the gossip, and the fault finding, being “called on the carpet”, and the constant "advice" on how to raise my kids…being told that "I was too strict", "wasn't strict enough", that I was stupid and "ditzy" (I was blond and laughed a lot, so shoot me!) I put up with lies being told about me, because it almost never occurred to anyone to check out the facts with me first.
I went through so much stress and put my poor children through a living hell, trying to make our family look like the families in the assembly demonstrations. I did not date, or go to a party, or have any kind of life. I did not allow my children to have any kind of life either. Every activity that the children wanted to do, such as cheerleading or sports, was said to be wrong for "true Christians". They were miserable.
I would pray for Jehovah to find a mate for me; someone to love me and my children and to help me to raise them. I was told by more than one witness that "no one is going to want you and all your burdens "!
About two weeks after I was baptized, in February of 1977, at the age of twenty-two, having studied for more than two years, a single brother with two young sons came after me. When (I'll call him "Gene") Gene first called me on the telephone, all nice and friendly, I was quite rude to him, as I was used to men thinking of me in a certain way, and so I made it clear to him that I was in no way looking for a relationship at that time. He kind of laughed and said that he wasn't either, and that since he lived just around the corner from me, and as we were both single parents, maybe we could get to know each other and be friends.
Stupid me, I trusted him to his word. After all, he was a BROTHER, a dedicated witness of Jehovah. Inside of one month he got me to believe that he was in love with me, that he wanted to marry me, got me to believe him and to fall in love with him, get engaged to me, to push me into "conduct unbecoming a Christian" (and when I'd break away crying in frustration and shame he'd say, "What's wrong? We didn't commit fornication.") and then to get tired of me and break our engagement over the phone. He told me, later, when I asked him, "Then WHY did you get involved with me?" "I don't know," he said, "I guess I was just horney." Sick. Really sick.
If that wasn't enough, he spread it around that I had “gone after him” and “corrupted” him, and that he wanted nothing more to do with me, and so turned many against me. No one ever asked me what had happened. He promptly proceeded to become an auxiliary pioneer (with baby-sitting help from the adoring sisters) and was praised from the podium on how “this fine, upstanding brother with a full time job, and raising two sons alone, was also pioneering." Actually, he was also shooting for the title of elder. He forbade his children to talk to me or my children. It was awful the way he came out smelling like a rose and I was labeled a whore, and my poor children were treated as just something to be put up with.
Shortly thereafter, in the summer of 1977, at the next District Assembly, Gene met a seventeen year-old girl, naive to the world, very submissive and sweet, and still living at home, being the "good and obedient daughter." In a year they were married. (I will call her "Pam.") Aside from my pain and jealousy, I felt sorry for her. She never had a chance. What hurt the most, I guess, was that I was so flabbergasted at the way Gene could conduct himself with me, a newly baptized sister, and not only did he get away with it, (ex: grabbing my pubic hair through my pants and laughing at my pain) but I was told by his best friend, Br. Y, (also the presiding overseer, no less), not to talk about the situation with anyone.
After about a month of begging Br. Y to come talk to me about my relationship with Gene, he finally agreed, but told me that he would come alone. Cindy came, also, to support me. He showed up, very nervous, and asked me what was on my mind, and how could he help me.
I just basically said that I felt terrible for having engaged in “conduct unbecoming a Christian” with Gene. Stupid me, I did not insist on telling him everything that had transpired during the month with Gene...and there was a lot to tell. A lot that Gene, during that month in March of 1977, had told me not to tell…that “they would take it the wrong way”. This elder just said "well, these things happen. We just need to repent and go on to do the best we can." He read a scripture and told me, again, that I wasn't to discuss Gene with anyone and then he left. I felt so empty. I don't even remember him offering a prayer.
With Gene being so revered and aloof to me and my kids, and everyone gossiping about how good it was that he had gotten away from "my clutches", and congratulating him on his coming marriage to Pam, I felt like I wanted to die. I was seriously suicidal. I remember taking long walks down by the sea cliffs and talking to Jehovah about it. I asked him to give me the strength to go on and to take, what was to me, the persecution in my congregation.
Right about then I had an opportunity to take a hostess/waitress job and I took it.
With four children and a full time job, and my babysitter living in a near-by town, I had little time for the emotional pain.
It was at this restaurant that I met the father of my fifth child. After my eight hour shift, one night, a fellow worker asked me to sit with her at her table and meet her cousin. "Tom" was nice and said he'd watched me all night; the way I handled all the customers and the stress, and that he was looking for a wife and, as far as he could see, I was what he was looking for. I thought he was nuts.
For two weeks, every day and night, he was there, telling me over and over that I was "the one". It turned out that the sister who babysat for me, had known Tom for all his life and vouched for him to me. He had a full time job but still sold his beautiful car and put the money in the bank to show me he was serious and would do anything to provide for me. He also knew a JW couple I knew and set up a study with them as I had told him I couldn't possibly see him unless he was a JW.
In a stupid and weak moment I committed fornication with him. I was already so numb with depression... I really needed the fear of being disfellowshipped hanging over my head. I could just hear the gossip now. "We KNEW she was a slut!! "Aren't you glad you’re marrying a good Christian girl, Gene?"
But, of course I called the elders right away and Tom insisted he wanted to be there with me to tell them that it was all his fault. Well, the elders came and I felt like my life just couldn't get any worse, and one of the elders looks at me, shaking his head, and says "That's it Amy, that's disfellowshipping right there. It's been coming on for long time." Those were his exact words. I've never forgotten that awful moment. To be disfellowshipped, next to losing my precious children, was my greatest fear.
Well, the elder I had spoken to re: the situation with Gene, Br. Y, was the other elder, and he was acting like things weren't so terrible, and said to "not go off and get married just because you're feeling guilty"!…that they would be meeting with me again soon.
But I had been feeling TERRIBLY guilty and had already agreed to marry Tom. He said we'd get married that night, before I had a chance to change my mind. So there I was, in Las Vegas, at four o'clock in the morning, getting married to a guy I didn't even really know, in my nightgown.
I couldn't believe it. What, was I now a subject for gossip at the meeting for SERVICE??? I was used to being gossiped about, and I had accepted it as "my test", but this was just too much. I could never figure out what was so interesting about my life that anyone would want to discuss it in detail ANYWAY!!
Two days later was the Thursday night ministry school and service meeting, and the appointed meeting with the elders to discuss whether or not I was to be disfellowshipped. That was also the day I conceived my son. I say this because it was just as the presiding overseer was waving me into the conference room that I realized, "I'm pregnant."
Br. Y talked to me a bit and then asked why I hadn't come to him for help before things got so out of hand? I reminded him that, "Brother Y, don't you remember when I approached you after the meeting last week, and said I had a serious problem, and that I needed to meet with you, because I was afraid of what could happen because of the emotional state I was in, and you said you'd meet with me the next meeting, but you forgot and you went off with your wife to take her to dinner for your anniversary"?
"Oh!" , he said, "that's right! I forgot"! He really looked like he felt bad; as if it was all partly his fault. He really is a great guy...though his choice of friends leaves something to be desired!
Well, I guess I didn't get disfellowshipped, or even put on reproof, because Brother Y was a nice guy who felt guilty and I was married, so I wouldn't SHAME the congregation.
My sham marriage lasted six short weeks and then I told Tom to leave; that I was sorry but I didn't love him and I just couldn't stand to be married to him anymore and so he left.
So, I was left to raise all five of my precious children alone.
The Rape Story:
I had to move, at the age of 26 to Watsonville, in the summer of 1981. It wasn't the best of places but it had everything I had prayed to Jehovah for...I could walk to anywhere I had to go, even to the Kingdom Hall, so I no longer had to endure the three times per week phone begging to get a ride to the meetings.
When I was 31, after living there for five years, I was raped by our apartment manager. He had always been nice to me, as was his wife, and had made many repairs to the various apartments, including mine. I had never had any reason to ever conceive of the notion that this could happen to me in his company.
The first time was such a shock that I literally blocked it out. To this day I can't figure out how I was able to do that.
I had gone to his apartment to inquire as to when he was coming down to the parking lot where we had been working on his car. I was standing in the doorway, the front door open to full view, as is proper. He was in his downstairs bathroom, cleaning the sink. He was making small talk. Then he asked me why I was standing there with the door open and I explained that it would be improper for me to be in the house, alone with him. He made a sound of exasperation and said not to be “stupid”. I still refused to come in and shut the door. I did feel very foolish but this is how I was taught. After a bit of trying to get me to come in he walked up to me, pulled me in, and shut the door.
As I was turning to go, saying that I had to leave, he said that he just wanted to show me something upstairs. He grabbed me by my arm, pulling me up the stairs, when I hesitated. Inside my heart there were warning bells but in my head I was telling myself that I was being silly. After all, I had known this man and his wife for over five years. Our children played together. I kept protesting that I needed to go but he said it would only take a minute and to stop acting like a child. The more I resisted the harder he pulled me up the stairs, saying, “Why are you acting like this?” I wondered if I WAS being “silly”.
That I had relied on others to do my thinking for me for so many years, having no real faith in my own “thinking ability”, figured much, I believe, in my not trusting my own instincts. And in being so submissive.
At the top of the stairs he now pulled me into his bedroom. Still wanting to believe that nothing was really wrong, and trying to keep my composure, I asked him what it was that he wanted to show me. “Come HERE!”, he said, pulling me in front of him as he shut the door. I tried to maneuver around him to get to the door, but he blocked my way, as he hurriedly took off his sweatshirt. “I want a massage!”, he said. I said, “No!” I tried to escape past him again. But he is a big man and I was not able to get past him.
Then he took off his sweat pants and I saw that he was naked. “Put your pants back on!”, I ordered sharply. That’s when he grabbed me and said what he wanted to do. He was grabbing at my clothes, pulling at them, and I am saying, “No! Stop it!”, all the while trying to pull back on whatever article of clothing he had managed to displace. We struggled in the same manner a bit more and then he got mad and threw me down to the floor. Once down, he pretty much had me. I fought but he was so strong. I was in a frantic daze. Surely, this could not truly be happening! I could hear neighbors talking on the sidewalk, right below his window. I was so scared that someone would hear. I just wanted to get away and not have anyone know of my terrible shame.
I would fight until I was literally exhausted…he certainly did not have an easy time of it…and then I would somehow manage to dislodge him and get away from him a bit but it was all, in the end, to no avail. I think that a part of me died that day.
I just remember going numb. It was if I was outside of my body, watching myself. I went through the motions of cleaning up and getting dressed but I had no feelings…none at all.
I went about the rest of the day as if nothing had happened. It is not like I forgot, but rather like the incident was in a compartment in my head labeled, “Do Not Open”. The numbness wore off and was replaced with a “everything is just fine” attitude. After all, nothing had happened. How was I able to DO that??
He acted like nothing had happened, and so did I. But the next morning, bright and early, he came to my door and said he wanted me to come to his apartment, and I couldn’t believe it. (His wife worked days.)
I said "no way, it's just not going to happen"!, and after a bit more cajoling on his part, with me remaining "safe" behind my cracked open door, and my kids all upstairs ready to awake at any moment, he suddenly, and forcefully pushed his way in, shoving me ahead of him across the living room floor into the downstairs guest bathroom just a few feet away.
I was so shocked. I simply could not register that he was doing this. He was so FAST. He forced himself on me again, he is so strong, over six feet tall and I am five foot two and not very strong. It was all over in maybe a total of three minutes. He just walked out when he was finished and I just sat down on the toilet, trying to come to terms with what had happened. But I couldn’t. Reality slapped me hard in the face and I just wanted to stop breathing. There was no protective numbness, no compartment in my brain labeled, “Do Not Open”. The absolute terribleness of it all was now inescapable.
I have heard stories of this happening to other women, and I had always thought it would, and could, never happen to me, because I never put myself in a compromising position. But here I was. I realized that I would be asked "Why didn't you scream?" and I can only say that the first time I just couldn't believe what was happening, and I had kept thinking that I could get out of this. And I was terrified that someone would hear, I was so scared and so numb with disbelief.
Now, it had happened again, and again I hadn't screamed. All I could think of at the time was of my children upstairs and "please, God, don't let them stumble onto to this"!
I knew I had to get out of there. I wanted to just walk out in back of the apartments where the trash was and just shoot myself. I wasn't depressed, I just couldn't bear to live anymore. Only another person in my position could understand, and maybe not even then, because, I now realize, no one can truly KNOW how they will react in a situation until it happens to them. I had always thought that "if it were ME, I'd scream my head off and I would just NEVER let that happen"!
And here I was, trying desperately to come to terms with something that I just couldn't come to terms with.
I came out of the bathroom to find my youngest child, M, age 7, watching cartoons, and I am looking at this sweet little boy, whom I love so much and I know that I cannot kill myself; I cannot do this to my innocent children, and that I must find a way to survive this…to find a way to cope.
I went to my neighbors and told them I had an emergency that necessitated my having to leave my children for a few days and to please keep an eye on them. I also explained as much to my children and told them to be good and that they could go to the same neighbors if they needed help and then I left. I could not get out of there fast enough. I felt that I would just expire from the pain in my soul at any moment.
I didn't even know where I was going. I headed down the street to the little shopping center and, so very unlike me, purchased a bottle of Scotch.
I set off toward downtown, with uncontrolled tears streaming down my face. I am not one to "cry" in public. This was just a tangible overflow of the pain in my heart.
In about 15 minutes I arrived at a bus stop downtown and had managed to somewhat control my tears and I caught a bus headed for Santa Cruz, about 17 miles away, where my mother lived. I thought, at this point, that perhaps I could hold up in a hotel and get drunk and "deal" with it. I found it disconcerting, and as a finger of guilt, that the bus driver was an elder from another congregation.
I arrived in Santa Cruz and proceeded to look into every possible hotel for a room but they were all above my ability to pay. I went to see my mother, hoping that perhaps, because of her residence at the retirement hotel, they would let me stay at a reduced rate. My mother, a JW, was happy to see me, but perceived right away that something was very wrong.
I led her to believe that I was perilously close to a nervous breakdown, due to my stress of single motherhood, and said I just needed some time to myself. She did not push the issue and arranged for me to have a room. I thanked her, moved into my room, and then went down to the beach. Being close to the water had always helped to "center" me.
At about 4 o'clock, I went back to my room and began drinking. (And I never drink) By 4:30 I was pretty drunk. By 5 o'clock I was blind. I remember sobbing and crying out over and over and then over again "I didn't WANT TO!! I didn't WANT to DO it!! NO!! NO!! NO!! NO"!!, and then I would break into more loud sobbing, and go through the crying out of my pain again.
I cried like this for hours. I do not know why no one banged on the door to tell me to shut up or call the police...perhaps Jehovah allowed me this "time out" to vent my pain and despair.
I remember finally exhausting myself and then throwing up at about 9 or 10 o'clock, and passing out, hugging the toilet for comfort, only to "wake up" to throw up and pass out again. As I look back on it now, I feel I had to have had protection because I could have died from alcohol poisoning, as I had not eaten that day and I have a heart condition. As it was, I did nearly die.
My mother came to see me in the early morning hours to check on me. She said that my children's father had called her to say that I had called him in the middle of the night to tell him why I was there and to ask him if he thought I was a "bad" person and to please tell me that he loved me, because I had to hear from someone that I was a worthwhile human being.
My mother, on hearing the real reason for my being at the hotel, called the Rape Crisis Center and asked them for advice. They asked her what I was doing and she told them that I was crazy drunk and yelling and sobbing, and she was advised to leave me alone and let me vent, and she did.
That was the BEST advice she could have been given. Against her mother's instinct to want to run and comfort her daughter, she kept to her room and prayed for me.
When she came to check on how I was doing, I had no idea that she knew. She put her arms around me and told me that she loved me and that I could tell her anything. I told her it was too awful and that I didn't want to burden her with my mess, and that is when she told me that "D" had called her the night before, and told her. I began sobbing again and she held and comforted me.
I asked her if I really could tell her everything, I guess I needed to "process it" myself to understand it all, and she said "of course"! and so I told her.
I was shaking so badly that, after I "got it all off my chest", she asked me if I was okay and it was only then that I could focus on how erratic, and irregular, my heartbeat was. She insisted on calling for an ambulance but, as I was still feeling so "exposed" in my shame, I was extremely reticent. Finally she convinced me. The paramedics were concerned and said I had to go to the hospital, and so my mother saved my life. I am so blessed to have such a loving and supportive mom!!
After coming out of the hospital, I stayed a couple more days, gaining comfort and support from my mom, and trying to brace up my strength for going to the elders. I think back on it now and I feel that I shouldn't have felt that I needed to tell them since I had truly done nothing to "confess" to. But I felt I had shamed Jehovah, and the brothers, and so I went home to my children and after a few days, I called the elders.
Since the Circuit Overseer’s visit was impending, I was told that I would have to wait until he was gone before the elders could meet with me to discuss “what I had done”. I do not know how it was that I survived…how I was able, in my numbed state, to care for my children and to continue to go to the meetings.
It was the most trying and traumatic experience to be before these older men, three of them, by myself in a dress, knowing I looked "sexy", (I hated having to wear a dress and have my legs showing) and feeling such shame, and having to "confess" to them. I wish I had had someone there with me for support but that is not the way the elders "court" sessions operate.
They were not sympathetic but they were not condemning either. I just felt like they saw me as having committed fornication and now I was trying to make myself look good. I could certainly understand their feelings. I would not have understood it myself. They kept asking me what I had done and HOW this had happened and "Did he have a knife"? and "Did he threaten you"? and "Did he hit you?", and I'd shake my head, "no". "Then why didn't you scream"? "I don't know", I'd reply. But it was because I didn't want anyone to hear and I kept thinking I could get away, and that this wasn't really happening.
What was so difficult was that the brothers kept asking for DETAILS. They asked awful questions, gross, intimate and painful questions, that I just couldn't bear to answer, though I answered the best I could. I broke down frequently and begged them to just call it "fornication" and to disfellowship me, to end the pain of their interrogation, and they would say "Oh, no! We don't want to disfellowship you! We are just trying to understand what happened"! But their “trying to understand” was much worse than the rapes…and trying to live with what had happened. I knew they could never understand.
I endured 3-4 of these interrogations. It was pretty ugly at times. One older elder said to me that I had “disgraced the congregation” and” the name good sisters of the congregation”. That "they (the elders) had taken my family like a milestone around their necks, so to speak, and this is the thanks they get...a slap in the face”! Other remarks were made as to my shameful condition.
The last meeting with them ended and I was told that they would let me know their decision in 2-3 weeks.
It was so hard. I tried to act "normal" but I was far from it. I was unusually quiet. I went about my business of day-to-day caring for my home and children in an automaton manner. I would walk around with my head down everywhere I went. I just couldn't seem to act normal, no matter how hard I tried. I worried every day that my children would find out. I worried that the manager's dear wife would find out. (She had once confided to me that her husband had cheated on her in the past, and that they had worked on their marriage, and things were good now, but that if she ever found out he cheated on her again, the marriage would be over. She had 2 small children and a "happy" family and I just could not tell her. What good could possibly come of that??)
Just in case you are wondering if I am crazy let me explain that this man, in his mind, had not "raped" me at all. He was not a "dangerous" man. He was in his fantasy world; he really believed that we had had mutual sex and, when he asked me once, why I was avoiding him and "acting so strangely", he did not understand what I meant when I said that "he had raped me". It seems he felt that it was impossible for a woman to be raped unless "she was held down by two or three men"! He was not dangerous to any other woman, he was only "dangerous" to me because he was obsessed with me. He later admitted that he had been obsessed about me for quite a while and that he had frequently fantasized about being with me and now "it had come true"! Lucky me.
About two or so weeks after the last meeting with the elders, I called one of the brothers, because I was so stressed with the waiting, to ask if he could give me any idea what their decision would be. The only thing I remember that he actually said was his cryptic comment, "You know, if we were living in the days of the Israelites, you would be taken outside the city gates and stoned to death." That was really difficult to hear. I already felt like I was trash; worthless, and unworthy of life.
It was during the third week that the unbelievable happened. I was doing my laundry one morning when the offending manager came over to fix a leak in the bathtub. I was still feeling like an automaton. I was very cool to this person. I went upstairs with him to the bathroom and he is talking to me like we are old friends; like everything is fine, and as I was moving the laundry hamper out of his way he asked me again, "Why are you acting so strange"? I am proceeding to move past him into the hallway and he pushed me up against the wall and proceeded with his forceful molestation. Yes, of course I fought him and it was not like he was really able to "have sex" with me but enough happened, and I am incredulous, and fighting, and thinking, "this is CRAZY"! No one will ever believe me!
But, it is only natural. If you came home one night to find that you had been robbed, would you think you would be robbed again the next day? And if you were, if everything seemed to be back to "normal", would you really feel you were in danger of it happening again?? It was just too incredible. I just went back to being numb. I don't even remember what happened immediately after that.
I see, as I am writing, that I am looking like a really stupid person. I do understand that. But it literally did not enter my mind that this person, who lived right there, where anyone could find out, would do this again. But, again, I guess he was in his own little fantasy world.
I left, as I had run low on quarters for the laundry room, to the corner store. I was like one in a dream. I felt so unreal. I purchased a soda and got my quarters. Walking back home, I remember thinking what a beautiful, spring day it was. As I approached the apartments, I noticed a familiar looking van pulling into the parking lot. Coming closer, I recognized the wife of one of the elders, Brother "T" on the committee...the elder who had told me that, basically I deserved to be stoned to death.
She called to me and I approached her driver's side. She was so nice. She said that she had been worried as to how I was doing and had come to check on me and to take me to lunch, if I was free. I had not been able to talk to anyone in nearly 3 weeks...even my mom, so I gratefully accepted.
She took me to a really nice restaurant. She was so kind and friendly, and I felt she really did care about me. She asked me if I had been eating, and I had to admit that I hadn't, and she said I needed to eat and that I could order anything that I wanted.
After the food came and I was trying to eat, she asked me, "So, how are things going"? Somehow, I felt like when that single sister had come unexpectedly to see me, when she'd never visited me before, after I had married Tom. This sister, though always nice, had never really talked to me before, and here she was taking me out to lunch.
She said she could tell that I was really upset about something, and that I could talk to her. And stupid me, I broke down and blurted out all that had transpired just over an hour ago. She was very sympathetic, though a bit aghast, and then said, "You know that I am going to have to tell my husband about this, don't you"?
"Oh, no"!, I cried, "they will NEVER understand"!! And she put her hand on mine and said to not worry. That everything would work out.
I got a call from the brothers around the next day, saying that they had heard "the latest" and that we would be meeting again soon.
At that meeting, and I don't blame them, they were really incredulous. "We can understand one time and maybe we can stretch that to two times, but do you really expect us to believe that this could happen a third time?? That is just too much"!! Again, I said, " I understand how you feel, brothers, I went through it and I don't understand it either"!
They asked me why I hadn't reported it to the police. (I just couldn't. I couldn't endure anymore shame and humiliation, not to mention that nothing would happen to HIM, only MY life and that of my children, would be further upset.)
"And why don't you tell his wife"? (I just couldn't do that to her.) "And why do you continue to live there where he can get at you again"? (I was a single mother, on welfare, with five children, and had no money to move.) I was finally told that since I did not show repentance by saying I was "sorry" for my actions, and had not "obeyed" their counsel to their other requests, that they had no choice but to disfellowship me. I was so relieved that it was over. They had asked me, "why did I want to be disfellowshipped"? and I had said that I knew that it was what was suppose to happen; that I just “knew” that it was Jehovah’s will.
I went to the next meeting at the Kingdom Hall thinking that I now could not talk to anyone. I was told by an elder that I could not only talk to everyone, but that, until my disfellowshipment was announced, I could answer at the meetings. Wow! I spent the next week speaking with a few close friends "in the truth" to prepare them. I was feeling pretty good for the first time in a long while.
A week later, I attended the meeting, that would announce the elder's decision, with all my children. I sat in the front, with sisters I was friends with, per my usual sitting preference. All through the ministry school I felt the minutes ticking away to the announcement and I smiled through the anticipation. Finally, right before the service meeting was to begin, one of the elders on the committee came up to the podium and announced to the congregation that I was disfellowshipped for “conduct unbecoming a Christian”. I kept on smiling through the "ooh"s and aahs", the whispers and the stares. I felt “right” in front of Jehovah because I was accepting of his discipline.
At the end of the meeting, amidst the stares and the whispers, I said good-bye to my children and said I would meet them at home. We usually were given a ride home as our walk went through a long and desolate area but, of course, I would not be offered a ride now.
I remember well, the walk home. I remember feeling so alive, so free, like a tremendous weight had been lifted from my tired shoulders. With every step I took I felt lighter and more FREE! It was such a wonderful feeling! At the time, I attributed this feeling to "being right in front of Jehovah" because I had so heartfeltly accepted his discipline. Over the years, when I realized, through prayer, that I wasn't going to go back, I believe, with all my heart, that Jehovah, in his loving kindness, allowed all this to happen to force me to leave.
This may sound strange. You see, I never did feel really RIGHT about being in the organization. I loved my dear brothers and sisters but I was so unhappy overall, and it was so hard for me to be so denying to anything my children wanted to do. And, with the beginning situation with Gene just after I was baptized, to the disfellowshipping, I had seen and been through many things…the unchristian behavior, the gossip, the lack of love…and I had always attributed it all to Satan. I would want to just "give up" many times...like when I had to call for a ride to the Hall 3 times per week and it was so obvious that no one wanted to pick up me and all my children. One elder, Brother Y, from the first congregation had even approached me after a meeting when I was 8 months pregnant with my last child, and told me that it was MY responsibility to get to the meetings...that "the brother's were tired".
Unfortunately, after my disfellowshipment, the gossip did not stop concerning me. Many "not nice" things said about me came to my attention. I was not too troubled, as my relationship with Jehovah became much stronger once I had to rely on Him completely, and not on the opinions and judgments of the brothers and sisters.
I did my best to help my children through this difficult time, taking them to the meetings, once my car was fixed, and mostly encouraging them to think for themselves, and telling them that I would now respect their right to make their own decisions. They have done remarkably well, though the scars of their past run deep.
It has been 14 long years and I have done a lot of growing. My loving JW mom is still loving Jehovah and loving me. You see, she dedicated her life to Jehovah and not to a man-made organization. I thank Jehovah every day for my beautiful mother.
One of my brothers, "Paul,"still speaks to me and is very loving and supportive but he will only call from his work or from my mother's house when he visits her so that "no one will find out" and be "stumbled". My other brother does not speak to me. I have not seen him in 14 years. I invited him to our family reunion, at my father's request, as he has not seen his children all together since 1959, and he called me and said that I should "know better", and "how could you think that I would let MY family associate with YOURS"! Even though I had made it explicitly clear that I would absolutely respect their choice to not speak to me, and that I would not speak to him, or any of his family, just so that he and his wife and their children, whom I have not met, could see our father and my children, who have missed him being in their life dearly. It just broke my father's heart. He is not well, with a serious heart condition, and I was hard pressed to comfort my father, explaining the JW stand on disfellowshipped persons, and that my brother was just doing what he felt was right in front of Jehovah, and that I would probably have felt the same way before I came to be in this position. As Joe Peschi said in the movie, WITH HONORS, "you'd be surprised at how different the view is going out than coming in".
One of my sons is now a baptized JW, and I was not invited or even notified of his wedding, even though, at the time, neither he nor his wife were yet baptized. He even returned my "CONGRATULATIONS" on his wedding, card, unopened, with "please do not send me any more mail". Oh, well.
Some Final Thoughts:
I truly believe that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely". I believe that we are each responsible in front of Jehovah for our actions and our decisions. I believe that the gift of FREEDOM of thought, our perceptive and cognitive powers, our conscience, and Jehovah’s word, are some very precious gifts from Jehovah, and that if we allow others, be it via sermons, or publications or actual personal advice, to determine our thoughts and actions and decisions, then we are disrespecting the gifts of Jehovah.
The freedom of choice carries with it, personal responsibility. When we need direction from others in every facet of our lives, this is a worrisome thing to me. It means that we have not only given away our freedom of choice but our FREEDOM; and in doing thus, we have passed over our responsibility for ourselves to another.
The Apostle Paul said, "When I was a babe, I acted as a babe, but now that I am a man, I have done away with the traits of a babe". A "babe" needs constant direction and protection, because he doesn't know any better. But there comes a time when we are expected to "grow up" and "do away with the traits of a "babe". We all went to kindergarten, did we not? And then on, progressing through our education. Should we still be "in school"? When do we no longer need an organization to "guide" us? And who is "guiding" them? The JWs say it's Jehovah, but, as Jehovah is a god, "not of disorder, but of peace", how do we account for the many trying and heartbreaking experiences in the congregations, and the problems within the Society, whether admitted to or not?
Finally, as one dear sister commented, "It is so scary how much the organization controls us, to the point of family members turning on family members. It reminds me of the days of Hitler. Before his takeover, the German people were very family oriented but, after, family members turned in and on one another, all to "prove" their loyalty.
Remember, please, Jehovah's loving provision of his son's sacrifice for us to have forgiveness of our sinful state and that we cannot "earn" our way into his kingdom. That "life's waters are FREE. That "no one comes to the Father, except through ME" . (Jesus) Remember the fruitages of the SPIRIT: Love, Joy, Peace, Long-Suffering, KINDNESS, Goodness, Mildness, FAITH, and self-control. Spirit is not determined by endless rules and the judgments of others…and the FEAR that you may be next to be singled out as BAD or as an APOSTATE, because you disagree with the brothers on something. We all stand alone in front of Jehovah. "For each one will carry his own load".
I close, now, with sincerest wishes for your spiritual health and growth. I encourage you to take a quiet walk to a meadow or woods and bask in the wonder of Jehovah's glory. Watch the clouds change shapes as they drift by. Listen to Jehovah's precious song birds and watch the honey bees as they toil. Talk with Jehovah, he will hear you, for he truly is a wonderful and loving god!!