I was stuck - alone and scared half to death. I was in a strange city where I knew no one and had nowhere to live but my car. I was still married to, and running from, a man who was threatening me with the wrath of God Almighty, hellfire and brimstone, if I did not come back to an abusive home. Despite his threats to harm both of us if I did not return to my submissive role as wife, I crossed the state line to get away from him and his cult.
As time progressed, I found myself working a couple of jobs and living in my own apartment. Money was tight, and I was barely making it. It was rumored among old friends that my husband was still looking for me, but he was having no luck. A nasty, demanding letter would find its way from his hand to mine every so often but, as far as he knew, I'd vanished. It appeared I had broken away, leaped headfirst into the chance to start a new life, but I was haunted.
I constantly looked over my shoulder - trembling. When my head touched my pillow at night, I was plagued with terrors. As soon as I drifted off to sleep, I was running from a vengeful God and losing ground. I was being chased by terrifying angels and howling demons, all with one goal in mind: to throw me into the pit of hell where I belonged. I was being hunted, taunted, pummeled and raped. I was falling... falling... falling... I'd wake up panicked, sweating and short of breath. These dreams seemed so real, and it would always take me a minute to realize that I was in my own bed, safe.
There were no spiritual entities chasing me down.
My body was not being beaten and ripped to shreds.
There were no flames on my skin.
I would cry myself back to sleep, every single night.
Why did things have to get to this point? When did a loving God become the predator and I the prey? How did the Cross become so crooked? I felt completely lost. I knew where I'd come from, but I did not know where to go for help. Church counselors were equally as lost. My life was a mess and my situation was clearly over their heads, so all I could do was keep running.
• • • • •
Over the years, it has saddened me to see the lack of awareness in our world about religious abuse. What does the term even mean? Do people actually use scripture and a concept of God to abuse others? Absolutely!
Whether someone is being harassed and manipulated by a religious leader into accepting one particular brand of theology, or trapped and beaten into submission by a power-hungry husband who uses scripture to justify his behavior, it is all abuse. It exists all over the world, in extremist branches of every religion known to human-kind. It started back at the dawn of time, and still plagues the earth to this day. It affects more than just the minds and bodies of the victims on this earth. Religious abuse reaches to the far corners of eternity and alters perspectives of an otherwise loving Divinity until there is no safe place left.
This is a kind of abuse where the abuser has the ability to dangle the abused by a thread over an eternal lake of flames, with threats of "You'll do what I say or else." Scripture is used to demand submission and obedience even to the vilest of things. This is abuse that warps the reality of today and breeds a paralyzing terror of eternity, causing the present to become the hell that is feared so much. Yet, if the abuse is even acknowledged, many are terrified to speak up against it.
Through the telling of my story, I hope to shine a light into the painfully dark places that people are afraid to go. My goal is not to bash Divinity or destroy anyone's faith, but to simply give validity to the reality of religious abuse that so many people survive every single day - in plain view of us all. Some of the quotes and Bible verses that are used may be difficult for some to read in the context of this story, but each one has been chosen for a reason: to prove how twisted and damaging religious abuse and mind control can be.
My story is not a pleasant one. Far from the average experience of the American Faithful, this story is not for the weak or faint of heart. It is a story that I will tell with everything I have, however, with the hope that it will help someone break out of their captivity and find the courage to live.