Exit and Support Network

Effects of Growing Up With
"The Plain Truth of Child Rearing"

I recently stumbled upon your website quite by chance. I read with interest what other surviving children had to say. How many of them seem to retain some faith in organized religion is beyond me and yet I am happy that they have found a way to feel God's love in their lives.

I am 48 years old, divorced with three children. I am not sure when my parents joined the WCG, but I do not have a memory of not attending services. When I was 18, I stopped attending and I have never gone back to either the WCG or any church. I do believe in God and God's presence in my life, but for me, this is a very private relationship and not one I need or want to share with "men."

What I remember most about those times was being confused and fearful. I never knew when I was going to get spanked or corrected. We lived in Tucson and under Mr. Reedy's regime we were constantly being reminded that we were evil and needed Satan beaten out of us. On top of that, I had the unfortunate status of being female. It was often drummed into my head that, as a woman, I had little or no options. I was expected to be someone's wife some day and do everything that man told me to do. When I showed a more than adequate talent at art, it was a source of pride for my father, but nothing was done to encourage me to pursue it as a possible career.

I was taught to look down on people in "the world" and to distance myself from them. A difficult feat in a public school system to be sure. My mother made all my clothes because the styles in the early `70s were way too daring for HWA and I remember sermons including the number of inches above the knee my skirts could be: Two inches, by the way. No more. I convinced my mother to make me skirts instead of dresses and spent the next several years rolling them up from the waistband on my way to school and rolling them down on my way home. By some miracle, I was never caught, but I lived in fear of the punishment if I was.

My father was a deacon in the WCG and as such, we had to present a good example. Ours was "encouraged" by a paddle my father had made out of birch. On the wall of our kitchen was a list of offences and the corresponding number of "swats" we would receive. These offences included such things as not addressing my father as "Sir" whenever he spoke to me or answering, "Yes, Sir" when he told me to do something (my mother was to be addressed as ma'am) to lying, chewing with our mouths open, etc.

One of the forcibly divorced women from our congregation used to bring her son over so my father could spank him, as he would not let his mother do it and he was too big for her to hold down. My father also made paddles for several church members because he was good at woodworking.

I lived in constant fear of demon possession. The WCG's explanation for everything was "demon possession." They (the demons) were all around and one only had to be non-vigilant at one point during their life and the demons would take over. The stories the men in the WCG told about seeing so and so and "they were obviously possessed" became our ghost stories.

I did not remember the spanking tent at the FOT until I read one of the accounts and, yes, then I remembered it and being taken there for "that look of rebellion" on my face. If I had one penny for each time I was spanked for the look on my face, I'd be a very rich woman indeed. I used to pray every night before falling asleep that God would make me a good girl so I wouldn't get spanked. It was a rare day in my life not to receive a spanking.

I also attended SEP [Summer Education Program] around `73 or `74. I did not have any bad experiences there, but I do remember GTA and a group of us girls (we were all about 14-15 years old) went over to his house on the grounds and sang him a song. Our counselors were really nice and we got along really well. But, of course, there were all sorts of rumors about sexual stuff going on when I was there.

It was with particular interest that I read about dissociative disorders. (DID) Although I had the good fortune to be guided to a particularly gifted therapist and have not had any problems with this in 16 years, I suffered with this most of my life. To read how others brought up in this cult experienced the same disorder has given me at once a great deal of comfort and a great deal of anger.

I've had a life-long struggle to feel worthy of my own love and not choose destructive behavior or relationships. To have compassion for myself has taken me a long, long time.
The long-term effect of being reared under the WCG's guidelines are trouble trusting in my own talent and ability, always feeling like an outsider, low self-worth and a fear of being "noticed."

I've never been able to comfortably seek out another church to attend1 because, while I don't believe in the teaching of Garner Ted or Herbert Armstrong any more, I am fearful that they were right about all the other churches too.2 So, in essence, I have created my own spiritual life within myself and do not trust other churches at all.
The WCG robbed me of a "normal" childhood, a career, and a good marriage.

I look around at my life now and I know that I have had God's grace and mercy, but just didn't know it. That is why I am here and not dead.

I have raised my three children to believe in themselves because I made sure they know that I believe in them.

Thank you again for your website. It is so validating and important to all of us who suffered in this self-serving cult.

By Claire - Child survivor of WCG
December 18, 2005

P.S. I am disgusted to read about HWA's and GTA's real personalities. That the misery and chaos they caused in other people's lives were a source of amusement to them makes me sick.

Footnote by ESN:

1 Read: Why is it hard for me to attend a mainstream church? (Q&A)

2 Read: What Were the Lies and What is the Truth?

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