8 Nov 2010

Jehovah's Witnesses abuse survivor and author educates public on tactics and dangers of cults

Mile High News - Colorado October 8, 2009

Finding hope in a hidden journey

Local woman's childhood experience chronicled in documentary

By Meredith Knight

For three years Brenda Lee kept her childhood diary wrapped in plastic and stuck in a log in the woods outside of her home, so that her older sister and mother could not break the book’s lock to discover the secret thoughts of a girl growing up in a particular religious community.

Decades later, Lee still has the small blue book with yellowed and stiff pages covered in the round writing of a 12-year-old girl. It sat on her kitchen table next to a second book, “Out of the Cocoon,” the memoir she wrote of her childhood in a strict Jehovah Witness community and subsequent escape to Colorado.

Lee’s story is featured in a WE channel documentary, “Secret lives of women: Cults,” which first aired in September.

“For me, I never wanted in. I always wanted out,” Lee said.

When Lee was 9, two Jehovah Witnesses came to Lee’s door and asked her mother to start studying the Bible with them. Lee’s mother, a Sunday school teacher at the Methodist Church in their rural Pennsylvania community accepted the offer.

Within six weeks, Lee said, she was no longer allowed to play with her cousins because they were not members of the congregation. She was told the Easter bunny and Santa Claus were not real and that she would have to give up celebrating birthdays because it was a form of self-worship.

“I had nobody to talk to for the next 10 years,” Lee said. The person closest to her age in the community was 19 years old.

Although she attended public school, Lee was not allowed to visit her secular friends outside of class. Summer vacations were long, hot periods of total isolation, Lee wrote.

Writing was how Lee found solace. It was a way to communicate her feelings, even if it was only with herself.

At 12, Lee wrote a story for a creative writing assignment in school. In the story, Lee’s character murders her mother and father.

“My teacher didn’t see it as a cry for help,” Lee said, although she got an A.

When Lee expressed her desire to leave the religious community to her mother, she was placed in front of a council of three elders who took turns shaming her until she told them she believed again.

In a way, Lee said, social isolation may have been a blessing. If she had friends, or a significant social support system like her older brother and sister, it might have been more difficult for her to leave, Lee said.

Lee’s aunt from Colorado Springs was the first person to ask Lee how she felt about the family’s conversion to become Jehovah’s Witness. Lee said she immediately began crying.

The aunt’s message to Lee was difficult, but clear, hang in there until you’re 18, and no one can legally make you stay.

“The next eight years were a countdown,” Lee said.

A few weeks before her high school graduation, Lee ran away from the compound and stayed with a friend’s family.

She took a minimum wage job at Wendy’s, got an apartment with two other women and scraped by eating the food Wendy’s customers left on their trays until a roommate qualified for food stamps.

“I was just basically left to flounder … my mom told me that I would become a prostitute and a thief because Satan had a hold of me,” Lee said. Her family offered no support and soon no contact.

Through the help of her aunt, Lee moved to Denver and attended business school. She now works as an executive assistant.

Lee decided to write her memoir for her son, who is now a music major at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

“I thought it would be a good way for him to know me and to know his history,” Lee said. Lee’s son has never met his grandparents.

She called her memoir a warning about the susceptibility of people to cults and other similar organizations.

Lee still has had no contact with her mother, sister and brother, or nieces and nephews. Her father is still allowed to talk to her because he was never baptized into the Jehovah Witness community.

Lee said her decision was always family versus freedom.

“Freedom was way more important to me,” Lee said.

Brenda’s Seminars

Brenda Lee’s purpose is to inform and educate the public about cult involvement in communities across the world. She offers free seminars to anyone who has been involved with a co-dependent cult, as well as anyone simply interested in learning more about them. Her seminars are available for any number of people, or anyone involved with organizations such as churches, colleges, high schools, activity groups or book clubs.

During her seminars, Brenda briefly shares her life story, and addresses topics such as how to identify toxic organizations, the eight points of mind control and who is most at risk of joining a destructive group. She will also answer any questions people may have, provide handouts.

To learn more about these seminars, when and where to attend, or how to get involved, or to read more about her book, contact Brenda Lee through her Web site at www.OutOfTheCocoon.net.

This article was found at:


No comments:

Post a Comment