Organized Religion Ruined Me: Part 3

Organized Religion Ruined Me: Part 3

I've moved on and I'm in a much better place. I will never do this to my children.

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If I looked back as a 10-year-old and was told that I would be where I was today, I would be shocked, but everyone says that. I honestly never realized that this church was a cult until I was 16, in foster care, and I had found an old secret diary I kept that Karen, Brenda, nor my mom knew of. I wrote things down as a kid that wasn't okay. I complained about how I just wanted to go to the movies, spend time with my mom, or just be normal. My mom was never around because she was constantly at Karen's house.

Karen had given my mom the job of housekeeper, personal assistant, or something like that. I wasn't sure what she did, but it kept my mom super busy. She would save up some money and then promise to take us to the movies, or Lake Winnie (a local theme park), but then cancel at the last minute because Karen needed her and that was more important. Not only did this job keep my mom away from us, but it also kept her apart from my dad too, which started their fighting. I would wake up early in the morning and hearing them fight about something. My mom had to go help Karen do something that Karen could do on her own, and my dad was mad because that meant that he had to stay home and deal with us.

My dad didn't have much of a job when we moved to Georgia. The first year and a half, he stayed in Oregon to finish up his project that he was working on, but then he got laid off, which gave perfect opportunity for him to move back with us. He was a programmer, a very smart man, but he was also just a distant quiet person. He didn't talk much, didn't like social interaction, and loved to stay in his "office area" (which was just the extra space in our small little trailer). He worked on a lot of radar, GPS stuff for boats and got paid good money for it, but he and my mom both had a spending problem. They blew through credit cards like there was no tomorrow. We didn't have much, but we always made it.

Our family wasn't a family once we moved to Georgia. We never really were in Oregon, but it got worse here. This church had completely brainwashed my mom into believing that she had reached the jackpot. She was easily manipulated into doing whatever they wanted, and she chose them over us every single day.

My oldest brother, Jacob*names changed for Confidentiality purposes*, got the worst of it. He was sent away by the church to a boy's home, which in my opinion, beat him into submission as well. He didn't have the best temper, but he got that from my mom. He wasn't okay with how the church was treating us, so once he stood up to them and pointed out the messed-up shit they were doing, they shut him up and sent him away. He was sent away for two years and the first six months of him being gone, we weren't allowed to have any contact with him. He came back a different person, but I can't speak for him and say what he's gone though, I can only speak what I saw and how I perceived it.

I only remember main things from this school because not all of it was bad. I had won the school spelling bee when I was 11 and I got a Nintendo DS and I was ecstatic. Karen and I shared the same birthday which was also nice. I felt special in that way. I had best friends too, and I got to spend the nights at their houses. Sometimes my mom would pay attention to my interests and would buy me a shirt that was my favorite color, or a new dress. We would go to the library a lot, where my other older brother volunteered. I was able to sneakily check out books from some of the library workers because they sort of knew the situation. Books that weren't Christian were not okay among this community, and especially with my mom. These library workers would let me check out some books in secret, so I could read something interesting.

I remember a lot of bad things as well. I cut my hair into bangs because I wanted them, and my mom never wanted me to have them because she said that I would look ugly with them. I didn't care, so one day I was home alone, and I grabbed a pair of scissors and just went to town. They weren't the best bangs, but I loved them because I did something on my own. When my mom finally noticed it, she beat me with whatever she could find and hit me wherever she could strike. I was only 13.

It's hard to explain what I went through in detail because frankly it's all one big blur. The five years I spent in this church was the same. My mom would beat us for no reason, then she would go help Karen and leave us at home to fend for ourselves, and our dad didn't do much either. It was all the same until March 29th, 2012. That day two detectives showed up and told my dad that he needed to come down to the station to answer some questions. He wasn't sure what to do, but he got dressed and told me that he would be back soon. That night he and I were supposed to go to a Father-Daughter dinner, so he told me to get ready by the time he got back. That was the last time I saw him.

Hours and hours went by and I had no idea what happened or where he was. Finally, my mom got home, with a big smile on her face, and told me my dad got arrested and that he wasn't coming back. I wasn't a fan of either of my parents, but I liked my dad more than my mom. I was 14 at the time, very hormonal. That was the end of the world to me.

Months before this, my dad had been offered a job back in Oregon and he planned on taking it. He only told me and my second older brother, Peter, and he said that he would take us with him to Oregon to get away from the church, and from my mom. He had planned to leave right after Easter, April 8th, in the middle of the night, and then send my mom divorce papers in the mail. It wasn't a solid plan, but it was a plan. I just couldn't keep my mouth shut. I was so excited to leave that I had told some of my close friends that I was leaving. Eventually, someone told Karen and Ronald, who then told my mom. That was when my mom decided it was time to spill the beans on my dad. She said she was "worried" about him taking me to Oregon with her because she caught him sexually assault me when I was little, around 3-5 years old. When she caught him, he stopped doing it, and she forgave him. Happy family, right? No. Not at all. Karen reported it to the police and he was arrested and sentenced to 30 years in prison I believe.

I'm making it sound like my dad did nothing wrong when he did everything wrong. When he was questioned, he admitted to everything and took his sentence as it was. I don't respect him, nor do I keep in contact with him. I had little memory of what he did, but I always ignored it because I thought it was normal. My mom made it seem like it was okay that he did that to me, because through Jesus, she forgave him. Bullshit, like God would be okay with pedophilia. That's still her excuse today.

After that, we were questioned by several people, I was taken to a safe home to explain my memory of my assault, but that wasn't the end of it, nor was that the reason we came into foster care. My brother, Peter, had told them all about my mom's abuse. Long story short, the church tried to make us keep quiet about that, but I didn't care anymore. The day that we were supposed to be taken into care, it was just my little brother, Sean, and my little sister, May. My mom told us to pack our bags that we were leaving. We drove all the way down to Florida. DFCS found us and made us come back, so we did, and they showed up that night and we were taken.

I don't remember feeling sad about leaving. I was 15 and I saw it coming, so I already had a bag packed. After I had left, I visited the church often, because I didn't hate it. It was my life for a long time and it was hard to tear myself from it. I would visit a few times a year and keep in contact with some of my friends. I went to court a lot after I came into foster care. Mainly just custody cases, seeing if my mom was going to parenting classes, anger management, and if she had a job. She didn't do any of those things the first three years of us being in care. When it came time to terminate rights on my mom, she would play the deaf card and act like she didn't know what was going on. She would play dumb, honestly. So, the case went on for 5 years. Too long. She finally got her shit together when her final and last chance came, so she had a lot to show on how she 'improved as a parent' and why she should get my little brother and sister back. I was already 18 when it came time, and she also told DFCS that she didn't want me back anyways, so I was out of the picture. I had to testify for 4 hours on why I didn't think my siblings should go home. I won't go into detail on why I just didn't believe they should go home. My one reason was that she was still obsessed with the church. I didn't want them going back to that brainwashing place. From this, and that fact that my mom basically blamed them for everything, Karen was called in to testify. Let me tell you, for someone who preaches honesty and being Christ-like, I have never seen someone lie like this woman did. She denied everything that was asked of her and was extremely offended when the lawyer called the church a cult. She denied everything. Influencing my mom, called my mom insane and obsessive, and just…lied. That was the moment I knew I was done with the church. I was just done with Christianity, belief, and all other religions.

I'm 21 now and looking back on it all, I'm glad that Karen called the police. I'm glad my brother told DFCS about my mom. Without it all, I don't know where or if I would still be alive. I was in a deep state of depression whilst living with my mom, especially after my dad was arrested. I will never forgive this place for what they did to my family and how they pretty much tore us apart, nor will I forgive my parents for what they did to us. To this day, my mom still hates me and blames me for everything that happened, which I'm fine with. I know for myself that none of this was my fault, and I was protecting my siblings. I also know that the people who still attend the church see me and my siblings as "losing our way" and how we're going to be damned to hell when we die. I'm just sad that they let their church turn into something so awful, in my opinion. They started with such a good outreach.

I choose to stay away from this, for now, because I cannot handle it. If I were to have children in 10 years, I would take them to church, I would teach them about Christianity, but I won't ever let anyone influence the way I teach my children, the way I raise them, and I will never let that kind of abuse enter my home. I still have a lot of growing to do, but I already know so many things at such a young age, and I'm sad and glad that I have already learned so I can move on. There's so much more that I haven't included but it's probably best that it's not brought up because it's too much information, and it's not relevant. I'm just happy that I'm in a better place. I got adopted at 20, I'm in college, with a great job, amazing, caring, and understanding boyfriend, and a cute dog. I'm much better off than I was 10 years ago and I'm grateful that I was able to find my way out of a culture that would've suffocated me.

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I'm Not 'Spoiled,' I Just Won't Apologize For Having Great Parents

Having supportive parents is one of the best things that ever happened to me.

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When I tell people that I am the baby of my family, there is always a follow-up question asking if I am spoiled. As I was a child, perhaps the situation was a little different because I did not receive material things but instead got my way or rarely was punished. I was most likely spoiled rotten in that sense, especially by my grandparents. Fast forward to the age of 19 and I can say that my parents give me everything that I need, not necessarily everything that I want.

But I still don't think I'm spoiled.

I might legally be an adult, but my parents still provide for me. I may live at school during the semester, but my parents don't charge me rent or utilities when I am at home. My mom still does my laundry. They pay my phone bill monthly. When my mom goes grocery shopping, she doesn't have me chip in to help. She will make sure the bathroom is stocked with tampons or shampoo so I don't have to worry about it. The both of them make sure I have the sufficient needs to not be hungry, cold, or without shelter.

They do all of these things because they want what is best for me.

While they pay my student loans, I give them money to cover it as well as a little extra each month for different expenses. If we go out to eat, I do offer to pay but often get shut down and end up leaving the tip instead. I help around the house and sometimes make trips to the store for food or cleaning supplies, not asking for money to be paid back.

I have a job that gives me decent hours, but my parents understand that money for a college kid is tough.

I pay for my own luxuries such as makeup, cute clothes, even to get my hair cut. Spoiled is typically defined as "damaged by having been given everything they want." Do I want another dog? Yes. Do I have one? No. Do I want a swimming pool in my backyard? Yes. Do I have one? Again, no. That is because both my mother and father still believe in working for what you want and even their daughter doesn't get a free pass unless it's her birthday or Christmas. Do I still have everything I could ever need? Yes.

My parents do the exact same thing for my brother and sister who are older than I am.

I know if I have a problem, whether it be financial or crucial, I can turn to them for help. A lot of people my age don't have parents like I do and I am extremely grateful for them and everything that they do. Thanks, Mom and Dad.

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We Need To Stop Treating Arranged Marriages Like Business Deals

We need to stop treating marriages like business deals where the groom gets dowry in exchange for his willingness to marry and the bride gets a husband in exchange for dowry.

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When I was thirteen years old, I spent my summer break at my cousin sister's place. She spilled steaming hot tea all over her thigh leaving a huge burn scar. The first thing my aunt said to her was "What would your future husband think about that scar? You should have been more careful." My cousin was just fourteen.

Growing up, we are made to believe that marriage is the most important thing in a woman's life and is going to be her biggest achievement. I thought it was hideous how we were made to believe this and pressurized to get married in fear of what society would think until I realized just how hideous the process of an arranged marriage itself is.

According to an IPSOS survey conducted in 2013, 74% of Indian marriages are arranged. Being the youngest sibling and cousin, I watched a lot of my older family members and relatives getting arranged marriages. Having spent most of my life in India, I have witnessed no other marriages than arranged marriages. It is funny to me how people have a checklist of superficial expectations like stereotypical beauty standards and unrealistic salary expectations. From publishing ads like "In search of a slim, tall, fair, very beautiful, homely girl who knows how to cook and sew" in the newspaper, the process of finding a groom or bride through an arranged marriage couldn't be more misogynistic and sexist.

Surrounded by all this, I penned down a poem in hope that we would stop treating marriages like business deals where the groom gets dowry in exchange for his willingness to marry and the bride gets a husband in exchange for dowry.

I

The glass bangles on her wrist jingled as she placed a plate of laddoos in front of the guests,

She wondered if this was the family that would finally pass her parents' tests.

"Oh! She is as fair as milk" the boy's mother exclaimed,

Her cheeks flushed to the color of scarlet under her dupatta as trained.

"He is too short" to her mother, he didn't appeal,

The deal wasn't sealed.

II

When no suitable match was found, the search was still profound.

"Hush," the girl's mother whispered "Don't tell them about the burn on the leg of the bride"

"What man will marry her once he finds?"

Another man arrived, tall, fair, and handsome- he was perfect,

Except that huge mole on his cheek which left him imperfect.

"The mole doesn't complement his face" to her aunt, he didn't appeal,

The deal wasn't sealed.

III

Still no luck in finding a groom,

Her father placed a matrimonial ad.

"Searching for a suitable groom, engineer or doctor, 25, fair, slim, vegetarian, no disabilities" the ad read,

The ad was published in multiple newspapers so that she could finally be wed.

Another boy arrived, but this time the tables turned,

"What? She can't cook?" the boy's mother was left concerned

"Oh, what a shame" to his parents' she didn't appeal,

The deal wasn't sealed.

IV

When everything had been tried, a Jyotish was consulted,

Vastu remedies for delay in marriage he suggested.

"Fast for sixteen consecutive days, the kitchen shouldn't be in the southwest."

Yet another boy arrived, tall, fair, slim, no moles- he seemed the best,

With everything from their checklist of expectations checked, everyone seemed to be impressed.

"But his earnings are so less," her father was left depressed.

To nobody he appealed,

The deal still wasn't sealed.

V

The number of grooms decreased as her age increased,

The girl walked in with a plate of laddoos, but this time from the southeast.

"Oh my god, the bride can't cook," the boy's mother noticed,

Thankfully the burn on her leg went unnoticed.

Double the dowry was demanded,

Her father's savings made sure the groom's family didn't leave empty-handed,

The girl's mother approved the boy, so did her mother's mother,

And her uncle, his wife, and their daughter

Even to the distant relatives, he appealed,

The deal was finally sealed.

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