Exit and Support Network

How I Learned to be a Survivor

I had to endure a childhood built around the Worldwide Church of God. That has been the struggle of the last two years of my life--learning to be a survivor. I would like to share some of my experiences with those who are only just beginning their struggle. If you were raised in these Armstrong groups, it's a struggle that rips at the seams of your very soul, but there is hope and there is a power greater than yourself that will give you strength during the worst of it.

I spent most of my life on the verge of something--on the verge of growing up, but not able to make that leap into a joyous life that I could see others around me living. I lived my life in fear and it was ingrained in me from the very beginning. Every hope was a struggle because I felt guilty for wishing for good things for myself. Every challenge was frightening because I never learned to believe in my own instincts or talents. Those feelings are the hallmarks of a victim1, whether it's of abuse, crime or an abusive system. The key to understanding a mind manipulating group is fully realizing you were victimized and used for someone else's purposes and to fully feel the anguish and anger that come with that realization.

In the beginning of my recovery, I hated the word "victim." To me it felt like a label that described me as weak. I've struggled with the meaning of that word for a long while now and I've come to think of it in a new light. It no longer means that I am weak, but instead means that I carry with me battle scars from a battle that I have won. Make no mistake, overcoming this is a battle, but you can win.

I began my recovery journey two years ago with the help of the most special person I have ever known.2 My life has taken a new path since that time and I am now able to say without the least trace of fear that I was a victim of the WCG and I have survived.

I've often thought what is the one thing I would say to a survivor of these groups if I had the chance to make a difference? There's so many things I could say, but the most important is to learn the truth of what you were involved in. Read the OIU Newsletters and other articles and do your research. Read the Word of God3 and really listen to what it says. Pray for discernment and ask every question you can think of. Never stop asking questions and never accept something as truth that you cannot compare with the Bible and be confident in the answer. Most of all, find someone to support you who believes in the true Jesus and who believes in you. You will never find someone as close to you as the person who willingly walks with you while you change your entire outlook on life and God. God gave me someone like this to walk beside me as I began to heal, and He can find someone for you if you ask Him. Unlocking the fear that has strangled me all my life has given me the freedom to fly--out of a destructive group, into life and able to love.

By Rochelle - Child survivor of WCG
February 19, 2003

Footnotes by ESN:

1 Some prefer the word "target" instead of "victim" which denotes powerlessness. Tim Field, author of Bully in Sight has this to say: "The word 'victim' allows disingenuous people to tap into and stimulate other people's misconceptions and prejudices of victimhood. 'Target' correctly identifies that it is the choice of the bully to bully, it is not the choice of the target to be targeted." Read: From Victim to Survivor (Take Back the Power).

2 The author corresponded with someone in ESN for two years, an experience which helped her to learn to trust before finally seeing a professional counselor.

3 Many child survivors of apocalyptic Bible-based cults are unable to read the Bible for a long time, due to triggers (See: Common Emotional and Spiritual Difficulties After Leaving a High Demand Group) They may be able to read other books that present Jesus in a restful way, but this should not be rushed. Read: Recovery After Exiting a Spiritually Abusive Group.


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