She Is Rising

Writing out trauma comes with hurdles.  Sometimes I plow through.  

Sometimes I avoid.  I avoid the smells, sounds and feelings of the memory.  There is hurt in there.  There’s a scared little girl in there. She doesn’t want to have to feel it, but we do.  To bring our story to life, we gotta feel it. 

We jumped a hurdle tonight, plowing through a memory which triggered abandonment and shunning.   This memory triggered the aftermath of sexual abuse, and the compliance holding its hand. 

I wrote it.  I felt it.  I handled it.   I tackled it and re-visited this space, remotely viewing from outside, writing from inside, a duality of conquering memories.   

“Victim Speaks Out, While Cult Leader Awaits Trial”

“Told in a restrained but highly effective style, reminiscent of Kazuo Ishiguro’s brilliantly understated bestseller “Never Let Me Go”, “Cult Child” provides frightening insights into the methods and after-effects of religious coercion. Her fortress is no bigger than the space between her ears; but through quiet internal resistance, Sila halts her opponents and outlasts their ten year siege.”

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M. Dolon Hickmon is a freelance columnist for The Freethinker and OnFaith. He explores the intersections of religion and child abuse in essays published around the web, as well as in the pages of his critically acclaimed novel, 13:24 – A Story of Faith and Obsession. You can follow his writing on Twitter @TVOS1324.





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***Trigger Warning*** “The Maria Beating” Cult Child excerpt

     Mama leaves very early one morning to go to town. She lectures me the night before she leaves that I have to listen to Leis until she comes back. Mama says Leis is old enough to watch me, and that I am old enough to know how to act right. Mama tells Leis that if anything happens or I misbehave, she is to check in with Penny, or Penny’s husband, Rocco.

That morning Leis and I go down for breakfast together, and then we go to school. I feel a funny feeling in my tummy like something bad is going to happen today. I feel nervous and vulnerable without Mama on the compound. I have no one to run to if something happens. Mama sometimes spanks me if I act up. She bends me over her knee and whacks me on the butt with the paddle. But Mama doesn’t beat me all over my body like Sister Debbie used to in Massachusetts or like Sister Maria does when she beats me in class.

I sit at my school desk. They are all one piece, a chair with a rounded desk attached to it. They have a little wire shelf under the chair legs where we can keep our books. I watch Sister Maria come into the classroom. She is breathing hard from walking, and slams her books down on her big desk in the front. I feel her mood, and it is ugly, angry and out for blood.

My heart is already beating faster than normal as she has us open our Bibles to read the Bible chapter for the day. Sister Maria starts calling names down the row I’m sitting in, and we all have to read one verse from the chapter. Sister Maria always helps us through as we read because we don’t always know every word, like “propitiation” or “sanctification”. I struggle through one of my words, and today Sister Maria is getting frustrated with me.

Suddenly, as I’m trying to sound a word out the way she is telling me, Sister Maria waddles over to my desk and snatches me up hard out of my chair by my arm. She drags me to the front of the classroom yelling about me mocking her. Sister Maria thinks I’m not sounding the word out right on purpose. I tell her that’s not true, but she throws me over her lap. I can’t fight against her. She is too big. She puts her right leg over my legs, and I’m stuck there inside of her huge thighs with my behind right on top of her left one.

I scream loud when the first hit of the paddle connects with my butt. I am fading away from embarrassment because the whole class is watching. Sister Maria hits me over and over again, and I am screaming from the pain. I can hear her breathing hard. The sound of her breathing is deafening in my ear. The classroom is deadly quiet, and I hear the sounds of my own voice like they’re coming from someone else. My voice sounds like a faded echo, and I hear banging on the classroom door.

The banging mixes loudly with Sister Maria’s breathing as the next blow connects right above my ass, to the bottom of my lower back. I am throwing up spit and fighting to get away from her. The insides of my thighs go wet with hot liquid as I pee on myself. The room starts to fade.

     I am in someone’s arms, and they’re running down the hallway of the school house. I hear Leis behind us. She is asking over and over if I am okay. I hear a voice come from above the arms I’m in; a man’s voice, and realize that I’m in Rocco’s arms. I realize it was Leis yelling outside of the door and Rocco who kicked it open because Sister Maria had it locked. My lower back, butt and upper legs have pain shooting through them. Rocco tells Leis I will be alright. I am shaking. I press my head into his chest, feeling safe as he walks us upstairs and puts me on my bunk.

I lay on my bunk after Leis looks at my butt and back. I hear her say, “Oh my”, and I know it’s bad because it hurts so much just to lay there. The pain is screaming from my lower back. I am lying on my side, and Leis rolls up a blanket to support my back so I can fall asleep without accidentally moving onto my back. I fall asleep, and Leis brings me dinner upstairs later. She tells me Mama will be back really soon.

I fall to sleep before Mama returns. She wakes me up a little to look in on me, holding the lantern up high as she looks at my back. Mama is real mad. She kisses me softly on my forehead, and tells me that after tomorrow Sister Maria will never touch me again. I hear Mama tell Leis she will stay home from school to sit with me tomorrow as I fall asleep. I dream about hunters chasing me through the woods, trying to kill me with bows and arrows. I hear the whoosh of the arrows as they go by my head, and I am running as fast as I can through the woods. All night, I run from the hunters in my dreams.

After Mama has a talk with Sister Maria, she doesn’t single me out so much in class anymore, but my hate for her has settled in deep. My hate for a lot of things has sunk in deep inside of me. None of the other kids say anything to me about the day Sister Maria beat me in front of them. It just goes unspoken like it didn’t happen. A couple of the kids are a little nicer to me than they were before.

I feel proud that Mama can make Sister Maria stop being mean to me. Leis says that Mama will “kick Sister Maria’s butt” if she touches me again. We giggle when Leis says it. The frost comes to bring a conclusion of my ninth year of living on this wretched planet, and I finally get a chance to get a little silent revenge on with Sister Maria.

Hearing and Seeing – a “Cult Child” Excerpt

I might be four now, or maybe I’m five. I have already forgotten when my birthday is, because we don’t celebrate birthdays here. Time has come together in one long, continuous rope. It has no end, and the beginning is lost inside my mind. I am either too exhausted to think, or I am floating somewhere else. Doctors will say one day that I floated into my own mental realm where there is no pain.

Mama never looks at me, so I just eventually stop looking at her during church services and at meal time. I go from hoping, to accepting that this is how it is. I don’t remember the exact moment that I gave up hope, but it must have come at some point because I became like a robot most of the time just moving and doing whatever I was told.  Jeremy is always with the boys, and he never looks at me either when I catch glimpses of him. I know him right away because his hair is white blonde, and it falls over his forehead. He’s a little bit taller than the other boys too.

I feel the most interested in church when we are singing hymns. I love singing the harmonies and listening to the sound of my voice.  I am always fascinated with the reverence I see in people’s faces around me. Sister Lucy with her hands held high, tears running out of the corners of her closed eyes. Or Brother Jake, laughing to the ceiling as if he’s having a personal, gleeful conversation with God. I lift up my hands like they do, mimicking their motions. I stare at the ceiling, trying to see or feel God, but he never shows up or even talks to me.

I know I can sing in tune perfectly. I sing songs like the “Jesus Loves Me”, one that Mama taught me in California, and “This Little Light of Mine.” I hide my light under a bushel by poking the finger of my left hand beneath my right palm, and I shout “Oh No!” I often get glared at for shouting the loudest. In my head, I don’t sound so loud, and I don’t understand why people always say I am purposely loud. I don’t think to remind anyone that I can only hear in one ear, and no one else seems to know or care that the loudness might be because I can’t hear.

I get impressions sometimes, feelings that don’t feel like they are mine. I see the truth about people; like when Betty Lassiter was lying about being in the haystack with a boy. I watched her face when the ministry made her stand up in front of us during one of the special meetings they call when people do bad things; when she cried, saying that it was not her that Brother Alfred spotted in the haystacks with Daryn Munford. Yet behind my eyelids, I can see her and Daryn clear as day in the stacks, with their hands inside of each other’s shirts. I see them as if I am standing right with them; the plaid material of the shirt Daryn has on and the gray handkerchief on Betty’s head.

Then there’s the time when Daisy Harper walks past me. I hear her mind say, “Stupid Sila is staring at me again.”

I answer out loud to her, “No, I’m not!”

Her face turns red and shocked as she hurries away from me.  I am unable to control the impulse to defend myself. She tells Sister Debbie what happened. I lie, saying it didn’t happen. I shrug my shoulders, and act like I don’t understand what Sister Debbie is asking me. I am learning the art of lying to try and stay out of trouble.  It will come to fit me like a second skin, especially when I sense a potential beating. But the day the pregnant woman walks past me, my ability to see and my inability to control my reactions cost me severely.

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