Interview with a Religious Abuse Survivor

Much of what I cover here at DiL is about the struggle against religious oppression in the Middle East. What follows here, though, is an interview (or more properly, Q&A) with a woman who was sent as a teenager to a Christian "religious school" in America. The institution she attended is profiled here:

1.When were you first sent to Victory? What caused your family to decide to
send you there?

I was 15 when I was first sent to VCA. It was April 10, 1990. My parents sent
me there because I was suicidal and had been in the psych ward for two months
and they couldn’t afford it anymore.

2.How long did you stay at Victory?

I was there until Dec 17, 1991. I also did a short stay from Oct 1992-Dec 1992
when I was 18 because I tried to kill myself again. I was 18 though so I was in
this weird limbo space where I was not a staff, but also not really a “girl” in
the school either. Kind of like in VCA purgatory.

3. You are familiar with the information posted at the ISAC site (
http://www.isaccorp.org/victorychristianacademy.asp ). Can you confirm any of
these incidents from your personal experience? Is there any information on the
site that you believe to be inaccurate? Are there other incidents that do not
appear on the site? Have there been any significant developments since 2005?

Yeah, I was there when the stuff went down with Rebecca R. It was
downright funky how crazy everything got. Palmer went absolutely nuts over
her. He would call her into his office with a one-way mirror during school all
day long and keep the lights off and play this really loud classical music. It
was a trip. He only ate bananas for weeks and lost all this weight and preached
all these love sermons. I don’t know much about any recent stuff, I have kept
my distance since I left.

4. I understand that local and county authorities may be unable or unwilling
to zealously pursue some of the allegations against VCA. Have State of Florida
or Federal authorities been involved in any way?

I don’t know. I think they are untouchable due to some kind of Christian school
organization that Palmer is part of. There is a woman ... who was in
the school about 1992 who could tell you more.

5.The mind control techniques are really creepy, especially this "sheep and
goats" business. G. tells me that our mutual friend survived by
internalizing the idea that "I am a sinner". Can you share some of your own
thoughts about this? As a child psychologist today, can you shed some light on
this process?

I think children have to make sense of the world by blaming themselves so they
can trust the adults who are in charge of them. Because, how scary would the
world be if the adults who are in control are really, really wrong? At VCA
especially, all the lies they were feeding us were all about what sinners and
whores, so this would compound the shame and blame we were already feeling.

6. Returning to your own experiences, how did you survive? When and how did
you finally get out? Did you know all along that "these people are really
f*cked up" or did you have to go through a period of "deprogramming" before you
could recognize the abuse for what it was? What things helped you along the
way? And what things made it harder?

I was abused my whole life. My mother was very abusive and a rage-a holic when
I was growing up, so I was used to being abused physically mentally and
emotionally. So really VCA wasn’t as bad for me as it could have been I wasn’t
physically abused there, only mentally and emotionally so yes it was fucked up,
but not anything I wasn’t used to. I got out after I graduated by going to an
almost equally weird college in Pensacola, which was just as misogynistic and
Christian based.

It did take me a while before I realized that what they did was abuse too.
Doing acid and going on Dead tour helped me to see that the world can be a
beautiful place and to experience freedom as a right and a responsibility. I
think also I naturally have a kind of resilient and happy-go-lucky personality
which has helped me to deal with the experiences I have had in my life. I also
went through 9 years of therapy…

7. Has VCA ever threatened or attempted legal action against ISAC or
individual survivors for exposing abuse and misconduct?

Not that I know of.

8.Have your family and community been supportive of your recovery process? How
has your experience at VCA influenced your views of religion? What would you
like to say to parents who might be considering sending their children to VCA?

My parents have never really admitted that they had any kind of real
responsibility for this. They still don’t even really believe it was all that
bad. I just don’t talk about it with them. I can’t even really set foot in a
church and listen to a preacher without getting angry any more. I still believe
in God and Jesus but not any more than I believe in my spirits and ancestors
and the Goddess and Buddha… I don’t pray to God and I don’t really hang out
with Christians. I’m pretty leery of Christians in fact. It took me a long time
to get over the anger I had towards the hypocrisy and fear-based indoctrination
of that place…It took me a long time not to generalize Christianity as what VCA
made it out to be.

9. Are there other so-called "schools" like VCA? What is being done about
them? What else can we do to help?

Yes there are other schools. I don’t know what’s being done though…