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…


Science News

Evolution: Four aspects of human thought. PhysOrg: ' In new work presented for the first time at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Marc Hauser, professor of psychology, biological anthropology, and organismic and evolutionary biology in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, presents his theory of “humaniqueness,” the factors that make human cognition special. He presents four evolved mechanisms of human thought that give us access to a wide range of information and the ability to find creative solutions to new problems based on access to this information. ... These four novel components of human thought are the ability to combine and recombine different types of information and knowledge in order to gain new understanding; to apply the same “rule” or solution to one problem to a different and new situation; to create and easily understand symbolic representations of computation and sensory input; and to detach modes of thought from raw sensory and perceptual input.'

History: Napoleon not murdered, say Italian physicists. PhysicsWorld: 'The idea that Napoleon Bonaparte was murdered by arsenic poisoning appears to have been ruled out by new research by nuclear physicists in Italy. The team analysed samples of the French emperor’s hair that they had irradiated with neutrons and found that it contains about the same amount of arsenic as hair from several of his contemporaries — suggesting that the poison probably came from environmental sources such as wallpaper dyes, rather than from a malicious poisoner. ...'

Astronomy: Organics on Titan. Astronomy: 'Saturn's orange moon Titan has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth, according to new data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The hydrocarbons rain from the sky, collecting in vast deposits that form lakes and dunes.'

Mathematics: MathWorld gets a new look. Wolfram Blog reports on the newest upgrades at Wolfram MathWorld. Also, if you are a math geek, do not miss Wolfram Demonstrations. It's crack for mathheads, baby.

Marine life: Save the sharks! PhysOrg reports that extinction may be looming in the future of many large shark species.

The Good News

Denmark MPs: Iranian regime "must be nuts". Judith Apter Klinghoffer:
This time the Danes are more united and more determined to defend their own freedoms. This time the Danish press acted as one. 23 newspapers reprinted the cartoons on the same day. The message of defiance was clear and inhibited the ability of politicians to kow tow to Muslim "sensitivities."

Iranian failure to take this into account led to its humiliating rebuff. The Foreign Affairs Committee of the Danish parliament was about to visit their Iranian counterparts. The Iranian Parliamentarians notified their future guests that they will refuse to meet with them unless an apology for the republication of the cartoons precedes the Danish MPs. The Danes responded by canceling the visit. Cultural understanding, they insisted, is a two way street.

Judith's friend further reports that 'the committee unanimously refused to deliver an apology for what Danish free media prints, and has canceled the planed trip to Iran, and has on public TV said that the Iranians must be nuts (Yes, these were the words), to come up with such demands, and that there's no way Danish politicians are going to visit the country under such conditions.' Arutz Sheva reports similarly blunt language from the Danes: 'Ten members of Denmark’s Parliament have cancelled a trip to Iran following Iran’s insistence that they apologize for the publication in Danish newspapers of cartoons depicting the founder of Islam, Mohammed. A member of the Danish Foreign Policy Committee explained Saturday that the lawmakers had been asked to condemn the cartoons. “They can’t and they won’t,” she said.' Meanwhile, dozens of Danish newspapers have reprinted the cartoons in a show of support for free speech.

Progress in Iraq. And even the New York Times admits it. Sunni extremism is now in retreat.

France may boycott Durban over anti-semitic, anti-Israel propaganda. JTA: 'Nicolas Sarkozy said France would not participate in the Durban II racism conference if it repeated the 2001 anti-Semitic debacle. "France will not allow a repetition of the excesses and abuses of 2001," the French president told CRIF, the umbrella body of French Jewish groups, in an address this week.'

European book fairs to honor Israel. The good news from France doesn't stop with Durban. Turning back to A7, we learn that the largest book fairs in France and Italy are honoring Israel: 'In recognition of its 60th year of independence, the State of Israel will be the "guest of honor" at two of Europe's largest book fairs this year. Dozens of Israeli authors have been invited to France and Italy for the events. The two fairs, each of which regularly draws upwards of 200,000 people, will feature displays and activities about Hebrew literature and the culture of the Jewish State. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are expected to open the five-day Paris Book Fair on March 14 ...' And in Italy, the Turin International Book Fair will open on May 8 - the Hebrew anniversary date of Israel's independence - and will feature Israeli books and films.

Patriots demonstrate at Silver Spring. Tom the Redhunter reports on counter-demos against the leftists at the Silver Spring, Maryland recruiting station.

At US-Islamic World Forum, keynote speakers sound a new tone. The Belmont Club:
Tamara Cofman, who's attending the annual 5th Annual U.S.-Islamic World Forum notices that anti-US rhetoric is way down this year. Instead of fire-breathing anti-American keynote speakers, "the opening keynote was instead delivered by President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, who argued that Muslims in Afghanistan and Bosnia were right to expect and accept American military intervention to relieve their suffering, and America was just in coming to their aid."

The reason for the change in tone has been a grudging respect for successes in American foreign policy and Washington's new focus on Iran.

Read the post to find out where a certain well-known American fits in the picture.


Make Love, Not Jihad

V-day is Verboten-day in the theocratic Muslim world. Here's Robert Spencer at Human Events, via Muslims Against Sharia:
The ever-tolerant Muslim world is now condemning Valentine’s Day.

Jamaan al-Harbash, a member of the Kuwaiti parliament, has called for Valentine’s Day celebrations to be banned. “We call on the commerce minister,” he declared in a fine froth of moral indignation, “to perform his duties by banning celebrations of Valentine’s Day which is alien to our society -- and contradicts our religion’s values and teachings.” Another Kuwaiti MP, Waleed al-Tabtabai, chief of a committee in parliament that monitors “alien practices,” said his committee will undertake a study this week on how to stop Valentine’s Day from initiating the “moral corruption” of Kuwaiti youth.

Over in Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, the notorious religious police who go by the name of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice have banned red roses. The Virtue Cops have even ordered florists and gift shops in Riyadh to take any red item off the shelf, lest Saudi lovebirds associate red with hearts and start a-spooning. Nothing new in that: in 2004, the Saudi fatwa committee forbade Saudis from celebrating the day: “It is a pagan Christian holiday and Muslims who believe in God and Judgment Day should not celebrate or acknowledge it or congratulate (people on it). It is a duty to shun it to avoid God’s anger and punishment.”

This is not just an Arabian Peninsula thing, either. ...

Read the rest at the link. Happy Valentine's Day.
Make love, not jihad!


Morning Report: February 10, 2008

Terrorists in Iraq continue to lose ground. What's the difference betseen a leftist and a liberal? The Gray Lady's blurry vision.

Terrorist's diary reveals despair. Washington Post via MSNBC reports on the diary of an Iraq insurgent calling himself Abu Tariq, Emir of al-Layin and al-Mashadah Sector. 'Over 16 pages, the al-Qaeda in Iraq leader detailed the organization's demise in his sector. He once had 600 men, but now his force was down to 20 or fewer, he wrote. They had lost weapons and allies. Abu Tariq focused his anger in particular on the Sunni fighters and tribesmen who have turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq and joined the U.S.-backed Sunni Sahwa, or "Awakening," forces.' The diary was found during a raid on a safe house in Balad, Iraq, on November 3 by US forces. Full article at the link.

Adam Gadahn said to be killed. Bill Roggio, Long War Journal:
One day after a Pakistani newspaper reported al Qaeda propagandist Adam Gadahn may have been killed in the same airstrike that killed al Qaeda leader Abu Laith al Libi, the rumor remains unconfirmed.

Speculation over Gadahn's presence at the al Qaeda safe house in North Waziristan began on Jan. 29, the day of the airstrike. An unnamed US official denied Gadahn was killed in the strike. But on Feb. 7, The News reported, based on statements from Western sources, that Gadahn was killed in the airstrike.

Gadahn was believed to be en route to the village of Khushali Tari Khel to attend an "an important meeting with other senior al-Qaeda commanders for planning the so-called spring offensive against US and NATO troops in Afghanistan," The News reported. Two other al Qaeda leaders, Abu Obeida Tawari al Obeid, a Saudi; and Abu Adel al Kuwaiti, were also reported killed in the North Waziristan airstrike.

Totten: Assad suckers Obama. Michael J. Totten: 'Barack Obama is not a leftist. He is a liberal. The difference between an American liberal and an American leftist on Lebanon is enormous. I can’t tell you how many Western leftists I’ve met who ran off to Beirut where they endlessly excuse or even outright support Hezbollah. ... Obama’s problem isn’t that he’s on the wrong side. His problem is he’s the latest in a seemingly limitless supply of na├»ve Westerners who think they can reason with Syria’s tyrant Bashar Assad.' Go to the article in Contentions at Commentary for the rest.

Briefly noted. "The declining terrorist threat."

Commentary. Phyllis Chesler takes on Noah Feldman and the New York Times for its oddly selective sympathy for religious wearers of head coverings ... among certain religions, but not others.
Here’s an idea: In a gesture towards even-handedness, perhaps The Paper of Record might also agitate for the right of European Jews to wear headcoverings (kipot or yarmulkes) without risking being cursed, beaten, or knifed to death? Better yet: How about some even-handed agitation for the religious rights, not only of Muslims in Turkey, but of Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Ba’hai, and Zoroastrians, to practice their religions openly in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Indonesia—without being arrested and stoned to death?