Friday, June 26, 2015

The Scarlett R

This summer it will be two years since I began writing about the Family and some of my experiences. It's strange looking back at who I was then, and how it has changed in this short time.

My anger and paranoia has ebbed. I haven't completely lost the need to get things out, but it is definitely dulled. I guess I have come to accept certain things, especially that not everyone in the Family has experienced the same things as me, and therefore won't have the same level of anger in certain respects. Also, I realize that nothing has happened- I have been writing  but they really have no power over me, and they don't know who I am. And, I have been able to look at the group and other members from a different perspective. However, I notice that many former members are unable to see it from any perspective outside of their own long-ago experience. There are just as many present members who also refuse to accept that anything is wrong at all. Those of us who are willing to share the things that happened to us personally in the context of the cult are called liars, spiteful, vindictive, evil and hateful. Some people insist on believing that the group is one big pedophile ring and others refuse to believe there is any systemic abuse at all. Niether is correct.
For me, my rape, or more accurately my long-term sexual abuse is an integral part of my experience in the Family. They can't be seperate because the experiences are deeply intertwined. My life in the Family is a huge part of my abuse and it's aftermath. And my abuse is a large part of who I am, who I have been and where my life has gone. I never realized that until recently, and actually, I have spent most of my adult life refusing to remember or feel or even to accept that someone other than myself may be responsible for what happened to me.

I didn't start this as a blog about rape, and I don't want it to be about that. I have tried to veer away from the subject because I thought it isn't really a part of the Family framework. I guess I believed that it was only isolated incidents, or mostly just the dysfunctional families on the fringe who are no longer involved.  But I have to talk about it because no matter what other people experienced, if even one of us is abused within the cloak of Jack's family, then it is about the group as a whole.
Because really, what is the main thing that is emphasized by Jack and everyone else? It's unity, and "psychic unity" and the whole idea that none of us is an individual, but a part of each other, a collective whole. What is it Jack always said? "We are only as strong as our weakest block" Each one of us is a stone in the temple, and it can't be built with missing stones, or weak stones. The Family is supposedly praying and meditating for the "Unity of Israel" as well as unity and love among each other.

How, then, can any one of us say that past abuse doesn't matter? Or that certain individuals aren't important enough to stand up for? If you can stand there as a Family member and say that you "Love" your neighbor as yourself, and that you are a "light" and that your purpose is to spread light and positive energy in the world, then tell me, please, why is it so hard to put that into action? Why can't you ask the hard questions? Why are the things that have happened to some of us by others of us swept under the rug?
If you want to be a part of this family, and really want it to be something positive, then why not stand up for that, seek the truth, and change things for the better? Otherwise it's dishonest. And if you are not willing to accept that the bad things that have happened are a part of what the Family is and was, then you really are living in an illusion.

Those of us who have been hurt shouldn't have to hide and be ashamed. We shouldn't have to be afraid to feel, or afraid to express ourselves in fear of creating "broken shalom" or gossiping. I was raped and felt marked from the very beginning. I hated myself, and I was afraid to tell anyone because I was sure I wouldn't be believed, or that I would get in trouble. And I think those things could have very possibly happened. People were more concerned with Jack's image of them, and being "righteous"  than admitting they had a problem, or someone else in their clan had a problem. Everyone wanted, more than anything, to be special in Jack's eyes. So, people couldn't see, or refused to see things that were happening right under their noses.


To add insult to injury, being raped becomes a mark on a woman in the Family because now she cannot be considered a virgin. This makes her unsuitable for marriage, especially to a priest. Jack specifically went into this  when several women were discussing the origins of our souls during their Rosh Chodesh gatherings, and how being raped may affect the soul of your children. Just the fact that there were women in the family concerned about this should tell you something.

As I have said before, there was a lot of emphasis by Jack on the conceiving the correct type of soul, and semen. He was obsessed with "the seed".
What it comes down to is that the man's semen holds the essence of his soul. A woman is, well, just an incubator when it comes to her baby's soul. A man's purpose is to increase his "house" (a lot of this comes from Pedersen's "Israel: It's Life and Culture"). Each wife and consequent child is another shoot on his tree. A wife joins the man's household, and becomes his family.
A woman's sexual history is of utmost importance because any time a man's semen enters a woman's body, the essence of that man's soul is there, forever. If a woman is not a virgin, then you cannot know which man's soul has been passed to that child. Basically, your child could be some other man's spiritual child. This is especially important for priests. Because the priestly line must remain pure, he is ONLY allowed to marry a woman who is a virgin. So, any woman in the Family who wants to marry a priest must divulge her sexual history so it can be determined if she is technically a virgin. It's not just sex- because semen cannot enter the body, then a woman who has never had intercourse, but got semen into her body, orally or otherwise, is not a virgin. On the flip side, a woman who has had intercourse, but has always used a condom may be determined to still be a virgin by the elders.
A man's sexual history? It doesn't matter. The only important thing is to make sure that your child from a woman is only yours.
So, understandably, there were women who were upset by this, and wanted to know about cases of rape in which the woman was forced and had no control of the situation. Jack's response was that it made no difference. Sex was sex, semen was semen. The raped woman has the further burden of knowing that any future child she has may contain the essence of her rapist's soul.
So, it's not the rapist who bears any consequence, it's the woman, and if she does the proper thing and lets the elders know her sexual status, she gets to walk around as marked "unsuitable".
I digress, but this is how the Family manages to further stigmatize a woman instead of the man who is actually responsible for his actions.


As hard as I've tried, I cannot separate my abuse from my experience in the family. It is all a part of who I am. My physical and sexual abuse was a part of my life. There is no separation, it is thoroughly intertwined. And if it is my story, then it is part of the Family's story. I will not marginalize myself because it doesn't fit what people want to see or believe. I have spent my whole life doing that. Honestly, I cannot reconcile the fact that I was raped, bruised, and there for everyone to see, yet no one noticed. I know I wasn't the same after that. Why didn't anyone notice? Why did my abuser as well as others be allowed to continue? It infuriates me. Finally. I spent so many years not feeling anything at all, refusing to acknowledge the things that were there under the surface. I had to push it away because I had to continue seeing this man well into adulthood. And every time I did I felt the same way he made me feel back then. All it takes is a little look or wink, or grin- and I feel disgusting and fearful again. I know when he looks at me he remembers every disgusting thing he did to me. I don't want him to be able to remember. It's like he owns a part of me I can never get back.
I did a great job keeping everything buried until more recently. Reading the other blogs and starting this one opened up a lot of dormant emotions and memories. I wanted to get the truth out there, but I didn't expect it to have the emotional toll it did. I thought time would lessen the memories, dull them. It hasn't, it's become an open festering sore. I still can't talk about it, but I can write about it a little bit, and writing some of these things still helps.

I know I briefly touched on the ways my abuse has affected my life, but at the time it was just starting to become apparent to me. Two years later I am just starting to deal with it, and trying to figure out how to do that. I have realized that time and distance does not erase what happened. It will just wait there, as raw as when it first began. I also realize that I can't deal with this while remaining connected to the same people that surrounded me then. They were such a huge part of my situation, and how I dealt with it.  I can't live with the constant possibility of contact with him, reminders, or interacting with people while pretending everything is okay. I really do need to make a clean break or this stuff will stay here forever.
I don't want to feel marked, or somehow wrong anymore..
The family says forgiveness should be the most important thing. We are not supposed to hold grudges, and need to learn to move on. A member can NOT have any unresolved issues against another member, or there is broken shalom, and it affects the entire Family negatively.
They are clueless. I suppose I am guilty of "broken shalom" because here is what I have that is unresolved against another person, and that I can't just "move on" from:
I have spent years being a shell of myself. I am unable to get too close to anyone. I wake up feeling like I am suffocating with his hand was over my face so I can't breathe or scream. The pain that came next when I thought I was going to die. When these things come back, I feel physically sick. And I can'r control when they come back, especially when I am sleeping. I can never quite shake the feeling that there is something wrong with me. It feels like everyone can see it in me, or somehow know. I still feel that I did something to cause it, even though I know, intellectually, that I had no control. It's the things I wrote about in the first couple months of this blog.
The hardest thing, even more than the rapes themselves was the awful realization that I was thoroughly alone. No one could see me, and no one cared. I know that if anyone paid attention, they would have noticed something. I couldn't say anything and I couldn't stop it. I needed someone to see and stop it, but no one did. That was on them. The fact that this man had access to me, and others is on them. And so it kept on happening for more than 2 years. People knew who the abusers were. As I have said before, being raised in the Family made it easy to lie and pretend that everything was okay. In a way, it was the family that groomed me to be the perfect target for this guy.  And he was protected while I was left alone. In fact, I helped protect him by not speaking a word about what was happening, to anyone, ever. I stayed silent until I began writing this blog.

Earlier posts about Abuse

Abuse

abuse

So while I have come to terms with other people's decision to stay involved in the Family, I have also come to terms with my own full experience. I may be labeled a traitor, or a liar or worse because I write this blog. But this is my story. This is my experience, and I grew up in the same Family every other member did. I see things differently than I did two years ago, but it makes me so angry that the Family has tried to marginalize those of us who have been hurt simply for saying what happened. Why would anyone want to be a part of something that values a person who hurts others more than the people who are hurt?

I ask myself pretty often how things will change if I walk away completely. I wonder if these things will be easier to come to terms with. I know no one wants to hear about this stuff- it's uncomfortable and icky. But I have to, at least right now. The old ways aren't working anymore.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Boundaries

Subtlety is a prevalent characteristic of the Abensur Family in many aspects. So many things seem to walk a fine line; Cult vs kooky offshoot religious group, brainwashing vs teaching, harmful vs benign...I suppose arguments can be made on either side. To outsiders it is not as clear as other groups like the Branch Davidians, or the FLDS or the Moonies, to name a few. The family exists in regular society. We don't visibly separate ourselves or look different. We hide in plain sight. We appear pretty much like everyone else, except often there is something just a little bit "off"; something you can't quite put your finger on.

To put it simply, people in the Family have crappy boundaries, in their personal, professional and spiritual lives. I never noticed before, but as my thinking has shifted, I can see how people's "normal" personal boundaries were changed and eroded. It didn't happen overnight, it took years and 2-3 generations to create the dysfunctional boundaries that exist as the norm today. And they really are the norm- for people fully involved in the Family, the lines are blurred, deliberately. They aren't even thought about or questioned, they are just a part of everyday life. Of course, the present generation of 20-50 somethings have grown up in the midst of this and have been programmed from birth in most cases.

There are numerous aspects to this and I am unsure where to begin. Looking back at what I know of the group's beginning, I think that Jack targeted young people from somewhat dysfunctional families who already had poor personal boundaries. When Jack's sexual relationships came to light in the 80's, the people who chose to stay despite the truth were the unhealthiest and neediest of them. In some ways, while the "big blowup" created a lot of havoc and stress, Jack was left with the ideal bunch of people to continue his fantasy with.
Yet, he didn't outwardly become authoritative, as so many Hickmanites love to point out. He would never publicly or directly give orders. (I think he did to his inner-circle of men, but not the general family). He didn't prohibit people from speaking to their families or friends outside the group. He supposedly encouraged education and questioned authority. These things are said any time someone questions whether this group is a cult. I remember saying these things myself: "Abba never told us we HAD to do such-and-such" and "There is nothing negative in any of his teachings, in fact it's all very positive..." blah blah blah

But he did do all those things- he gave orders, and influenced every decision, and he retaliated against those who rebelled or spoke against his authority, whether it was behind closed doors, or indirectly through the covenant, teachings or other people in positions of authority. He very systematically broke down people's boundaries and autonomy. By the 3rd generation the children were raised with a completely altered sense of self from birth. The fact that we are "hidden in plain sight", and essentially living a double life with so many secrets is even more damaging, in my opinion, than a group which separates itself from society completely.

So, back to boundaries- how are they broken and manipulated in the Family? I was jotting down some thoughts earlier and I realized this may be a subject that covers several posts. I suppose the first thing to mention is the covenant, since this is the framework of the Family, and the agreement our parents signed themselves and their descendants onto.
If you are unfamiliar with the covenant, you can access it here: The Covenant of Shoresh Yishai

If you read it, it speaks for itself. By agreeing to this covenant, you are giving up your right to your own autonomy and property and possessions. Yes, every person still owns their houses and earnings (for the most part), but it clearly states that you are to give up anything that the elders demand without question or grumbling, if they decide you have more than you need and someone else needs it. This has in fact taken place, many times. There are also individuals and families who were directed to take a person or whole family into their household if the Abba or elders decided it should be.
You are also to get permission from the elders before you take on any debt, such as car loans, mortgage, education or credit cards. You are to get permission before marriage. The covenant lays the framework for the Family leadership to control every aspect of your life, which goes far beyond any legitimate religion or church. And our parents and grandparents did this willingly and happily for us to be born into and raised in.
I could write plenty on each bit of the covenant, but I believe it is somewhat easy to understand even if you don't have a background in the family.

The covenant is the framework- it directs us to live by the "rules of the Family". It's these rules- the constantly evolving and shifting rules that really get into the personal aspects of our selves and our lives that step over any line that could be called appropriate.
I talked a little bit in a post about some of the rules around sex and marriage. Having to seek approval and permission before marrying is intrusive enough, but Jack went a lot further by dictating how couples are to to have sex and interact with each other.

In the early days, when Jack was leading his followers to a warped version of orthodox Judaism, he introduced the laws of Niddah. Here is a brief explanation of what that is:  Niddah
I believe that the purpose Jack's little journey through Judaism was twofold; he became obsessed with it himself, and because it was a great tool to determine just how far he could intrude into people's lives. To no one's great surprise, his followers jumped in with all they had. For people who were mostly from some form of Christianity, following strict halacha was an all-encompassing task that took a great amount of time and effort.
Niddah now told couples when they could and couldn't have sex, sleep in the same bed, or touch each other. Jack of course, took it a step further. He added many rules that he claimed were kabbalah, and had to be followed in order to ensure that the children produced had the right kind of soul. Jack loved to use fear tactics related to people's children and their souls. You wanted to do everything right or your child would be born with a "demonic" soul, and would never have the potential to be a part of the kingdom. And there were so many ways to get one of these demonic souls, and it was every parents' worst fear.
So, one rule was that when you were having sex, you had to make sure there was no artificial light in the room, such as from a streetlight outside, or a digital clock. The reason for this, according to Jack, was that artificial light gave Lilith (the evil first wife of Adam) the ability to come in and steal semen from the man. This would be used by her to create little demon souls to populate the world. There are many different legends regarding Lilith in history, including Lilith in the role as a succubus. However, Jack certainly gave it his own spin.

Another intrusion into people's personal lives was the directives to have sex in certain positions only- namely missionary, or even better, the biblical way: the woman approaches the man, starts at his feet, and crawls up to be lying over him. Any other way is considered animalistic and from the "Left-side", meaning, of course any conception could result in a demonic soul. Seriously, the rules went into that much detail.
Having sex while a woman was "niddah" aka "unclean" would also result in the man being unclean. The laws of Niddah were stressed often, because following these laws exactly was the only way to guarantee you would not create a demonic soul. It also gave jack another tool to objectify women, and place them in a category as he saw them: creatures who had the power (which he hated) to influence and control men sexually, who would lead them astray and result in them being "unclean". Jack was a misogynist through and through, but that is for another post.
So, Niddah was taken very seriously. Every little thing was stressed over and analyzed.Women would call Jack just to explain to him what they saw in their underwear and ask if it was okay to have sex with their husbands. I'm not even kidding. Sex between married couples caused more stress and anxiety than can be explained. And even then- even if you did everything "right" and "purely", you could still end up with one of these demonic-soul-children if god decided you weren't righteous enough. Jack loved this control he had over relationships and families.

Don't forget, Jack was the one who got to go up to Guf (the place in heaven where souls wait to be born) and personally select adomic (the right kind) souls to be born into the Family.
Jack was supposedly celibate, and as such was always in a state of purity because he was never in a situation to be marred by a woman's uncleanliness.

Ultimately, by raising their children in this structure, they taught them (us) that it is okay for other people to intrude into the most personal aspects of our lives, and tell us how to live and act. We were also taught that whatever we had was for someone else to use if they decided. We were taught that our bodies and our souls did not belong to us, and that we were here for god's use, no matter what that was- and of course, there was always someone there who decided what god's purpose was, like Abba or the elders, or our parents while we were kids.
Even our thoughts were not our own. Just like other religions, we were taught that god sees and hears everything. Nothing can be hidden from god. But we were also taught that we were special, and had special energy and power- our prayers were more powerful, our our energy came back with consequences, good or bad. Basically, we grew up believing that the things we did or said or thought had a great impact because of who we were.
I specifically remember being taught that our thoughts were important- that it was important to learn to control them. I was told that if I think negatively about someone, that somewhere, that negativity, or negative thought, becomes real. Also, because of who we were, we had to be extremely careful how we thought, especially towards our parents or authority figures.

Who remembers all the teachings about the Watchers? These are the aliens/fallen angels who watch us constantly, and plant thoughts in our heads, and influence our actions. We have to take extra care to be righteous, be pure, pray and meditate, and control our thoughts so that the watchers are unable to penetrate and plant their own thoughts in us. We also had to thoroughly examine our own thoughts and intentions to be sure they were truly from us, or from god, and not the watchers.

There are so many ways that our basic boundaries and sense of "self" were altered that I am afraid I can't touch on all of them here, but it is a quick overview. I would appreciate feedback if you can recall other ways this was done. There is a lot I don't remember or wasn't around for in the early days.
Some other related teachings, or concepts in the family is the whole topic of "Death to Self" that we were taught, and the idea that if we are comfortable in our lives, then something is wrong with us spiritually, and must change.

And of course, there is Martyrdom. We are all to become martyrs (in more ways than one) if we are ever truly going to walk with Yehoshua in the Kingdom of God.