Sunday, May 3, 2015

Elizabeth Drake's Indomitable Spirit

I was born into the Jehovah’s Witness religion.  My mother and father were converted by my mom’s older brother, who raped her when she was younger.  There were four children in her family.  Her other older brother was associated with an “apostate" (a former witness who denies Watchtower doctrine).  There were so many knock-down, drag-out fights in my family over this religion, that my grandfather hammered a nail in the door frame at eye level.  My grandfather stated that if you couldn’t keep your religion or your politics on that nail, then you were not stepping a foot across that threshold.  

Grandma cried way too many times. My mother threw away the Bible and the Cross that was given to her on her baptism.  Then, while attending a family gathering, which was a huge deal to my extended family, my mother told my grandmother that she would never return because she found "the Truth" (word used by the Watchtower organization to define Jehovah's Witness doctrine).  My parents were married in June, 1972. Two weeks later, they were baptized.

I clearly remember my mother always sneaking phone calls to my grandmother.  I believe I was about 5 years old, when I next saw my grandmother, at a family gathering on the 4th of July.  For the first time, my parents “bent the rules” to see my grandparents.  

It was a HUGE family gathering and I met my cousins for the first time.  Oddly, although my cousins are Jehovah's Witness and one of them was the daughter of the uncle who converted my parents, I was never allowed to play with her.   She was just about the same age I was and I was very excited to run and play with her.  

My grandparents had mole guns out ready to catch moles. My grandfather's lawn was his pride and joy. After a rousing game of "dare" and "double-dog dare," my cousin reached down and accidentally pulled the mole gun trigger.  It shot off her first finger.  I was TERRIFIED.  She was taken by helicopter to a children's hospital, but I can’t remember which one.  My grandfather was transported to another hospital, because this caused him to have a heart attack. This was the first time I heard “the blood issue” (the rule given by Jehovah's Witness leaders that members of the organization must refuse blood transfusions) over and over again.  

I was blamed for the accident.  As a child, I blamed myself too. My parents stated that she could very well die.  I remember my grandmother very clearly in an oxygen tent and whispering that if she dies it is "God's will."  She had a HUGE "no blood" sign on her bed (well, it was huge to a child) and on her arm.  Afterward, my parents recalled that day to my grandparents, whenever they were invited to a family gathering near a holiday again.

Growing up was very lonely.  I was an awkward child, more of a bookworm than a social butterfly, one might say.  I had no close friends to speak of.  My parents would always say, "so-and-so’s parents aren’t 'good association' (Jehovah's Witnesses view of other members in good standing)," or "they don’t have a good 'field service' record (door-to-door proselytizing)," or that "their meeting attendance is 'poor.' " So I devoured books, instead of making friends. 

My older brother was my only companion and as such, he took advantage of our many times by ourselves.  By the time I was seven, he was "dry-humping" me (the act of sexual movement with clothes on).  My parents caught him doing this many times.  I was continually molested until the age of twelve.  That's when I told my parents.  By this time, my brother's friend Eric Stafford was also molesting me, even while we were out in "field service" (door-to-door proselytizing).  

When my parents found out, I was beaten with a telephone cord on the inside of my thigh.  I blacked out (became unconscious) at fifty strokes.  To this day, I don’t know when those beatings stopped.  My brother and his friend never touched me again.  However, I suspect that my brother is continuing to assault my little sister, who is now forty-one, even continuing to abuse her up to the present time.  They live in the same house, go on private vacations together and he pays all of her bills.  I walked in on them a couple of times.  I have a strong suspicion that he was molesting her, because he stood her in the same position as he stood me, when he molested me.

My father had a hot temper and making him violently angry was a simple thing to do.  If the room wasn’t clean, I could expect a beating.  I cannot tell you how many times I was whipped with the cord.  My father began beating me, when I was about seven years of age.  

My little brother was born in 1983.  To this day, I still believe that my mother was suffering from post-partum depression after she had him.  He had allergies so he cried a lot.  My mother couldn’t take care of him so that became my responsibility.  I grew up cooking and cleaning for a household of six people, including myself.  I remember my father asking two elders how he could handle me as he and my mother were at a loss, not knowing what to do.  The elders, Dale Self and Pete Martin, said “split her lip open. She can’t talk if she has a split lip!”  I remember how much I trusted Pete.  He used to give us two M & M's (candies) every meeting.  How that hurt!

Nothing really changed about my life, until my high school years.  My father would kick or punch a wall next to my head and/or leg to intimidate me and keep me “in check."  When I was in my junior year of high school, I wanted to date a young man.  He was a good guy.  I was forbidden to see him, because he was not a Jehovah's Witness, so I was disappointed, but accepted my "fate." 

My senior year was a year from hell.  My brother was exposed by another family member as a pedophile.  He was taken in front of the elders and accused of raping a 3-year-old, as he was changing her diapers.  We were forced to change congregations.  The new Judicial Committee from the next congregation we attended heard what happened.  We were okay for a while, then suddenly, we were moved to a third congregation.  Again the elders were told what happened.  Nothing was done at all, in any of three halls.  NOTHING.  No reproof (disciplinary action resulting in loss of privileges), no disfellowshipping (expulsion from the Jehovah's Witness organization), no announcement to the members of the congregation.  Nothing.  I explained to my parents again that this situation happened because I was not taken seriously. They, again, called me a liar and I received a whipping at sixteen years of age.  “You are being a sensationalist,” they said.  To this day, both my father and my brother are in good standing within the congregation and, to my knowledge, no one in the congregations knows what really happened.

Shortly after this, around 1994, I again expressed a desire to my parents to be in a romantic relationship.  I asked them if I could visit other congregations to see if there were any 'brothers' interested in me.  Being overweight and living in a tiny town didn’t leave much hope for me. My parents told me that I was not going to be congregation-hopping in order to find a spouse.  They said that, “Jehovah will provide one at the due time.” I was distressed to say the least.  I waited patiently for years. 

In 2000, I started working for a bank in a large city.  I needed to leave work early enough to travel back to the tiny town where I lived in order to attend congregation meetings.  I met a man at the bank, in March of 2001, that I thought was so dreamy and so very perfect.  He started attending meetings and became an "unbaptized publisher," in short order (a new convert who is allowed to proselytize, if they are conforming to Jehovah's Witness standards).  In September 2001, 3 days before his scheduled baptism, we were married by an elder in his home.  We were told on the day of his baptism that he was not allowed to get baptized.  They never told us why, only that we would talk about it at the next meeting. We never returned. I didn’t go to a meeting for over two years. 

My marriage was horrid. The violence done to me was terrible.  No one was there to help me.  I was on my own.  I had seven restraining orders against my husband within a two year period.  In 2003, I miscarried a baby when he backed a car into me and terminated the pregnancy.  

That same year, he moved us to California by car.  By the time we reached Woodburn, I changed my mind and wanted to return to Vancouver.  I was so very broken as a human, as a mother, as a woman--everything.  He stopped on the road and made me talk on the phone with his mother.  

He moved our medically fragile baby to the back of his car.  He knew that I would follow my baby to the ends of the earth, as I had been the one to care for her since her birth.  I tried to stop him.  I begged and pleaded with him to stop, as he drove off dragging me down the road.  

After a call to the police, I called my mother and begged her to help me get my baby back.  I wanted to come back home.  I would do anything.  She told me that she would talk to my father.  They called me back soon after and stated that there was nothing that they could do for an "apostate (a former member of Jehovah's Witnesses who renounces their doctrines)."  I was devastated.  

Within three hours, the police had captured my abusive husband and Child Protective Services (CPS) had taken my daughter into custody.  I made the trek down to Woodburn and came back to Vancouver. I slept in the car a total of ten nights before I could get into a domestic violence homeless shelter.

I found out about ten years later that my parents “reported” me to the elders for marrying "outside the Lord." (Jehovah's Witnesses are not allowed to marry "outside of the faith)."  They made the announcement of my disfellowshipping, shortly after I was married.  No one listened to me.  No one called me.  No one heard what I had to say.  They stated that I must prove that we were "clean" in our dating (having abstained from sex) before we were married and that he has since moved on. 

My father and mother have never established any sort of relationship with my children.  My father and my brother are still in good standing and my mother is a regular "pioneer." (works in full time ministry)  I have not had one call from my friends, while I was in "the Truth," (What Jehovah's Witnesses call their religion)  They go out of their way to ignore my calls. They are still manipulative and strike out all the time.  It saddens me.