This page was last updated September 2020.
Since I came out in 2014 about the abuse I experienced in my large family, I’ve been working on a book about my upbringing. It was so complex, it gave me Complex-PTSD. Here is a list of the themes I will be discussing in this book.
My family was part of a movement called “Quiverfull.” This comes from the biblical passage Psalm 127, which says “Children are a heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is His reward, as arrows are in the hand of a mighty man, so are children of the youth.” This is interpreted by Quiverfull families to mean that all children are gifts from god or “blessings.” They also follow the mandate in Genesis, “Be fruitful and multiply,” which means to have as many children as possible. Because my parents left their family planning “up to god,” they would end up having 16 children in total. To clarify a detail: my two older sisters had two different fathers, and were born when my mom was 15 and 17. She would later marry my dad, who adopted the oldest two, and I am the oldest of the 14 children they had together. Because there is a seven-year gap between me and my older sister, I was often referred to as “the oldest of the second set.”
Homeschooling, home birth, and a home family business
For me, history was my mom reading an illustrated children’s book dramatizing the struggle of the Puritans and glamorizing their relationship with Indigenous people in my country. While I was homeschooled k-12, my younger siblings started attending a charter school in the fall of 2015. This was likely because I revealed my parents’ abusive tendencies the year prior, but I may never get confirmation on that. What I write here is what I know, which is that we were a homeschool family for as long as I was a part of the family. I also watched my mom give birth to 9 of my 13 younger brothers and sisters, at home, with the help of midwives. In addition to basically educating myself and supervising and caring for younger children, I was also my dad’s admin assistant for his businesses, starting at age 13.
Reality TV and other media attention
My family was first featured on The Learning Channel in January 2007, with a special we filmed in September 2006. Despite being witness to countless problems, the camera crew made our “alternative lifestyle” into a form of entertainment. My parents loved being in the spotlight, and afterward were more adamant about having as many children as possible. They always felt that they lived in the shadow of the Duggar family because they didn’t have as many children. We also did other media appearances, listed below.
2009 – CBS WE-TV The Secret Lives of Women
2009 – Reuters photo shoot
2012 – Fox21 local news spot
The house I grew up in was a gaslit one. Every aspect of my life was lived behind a mask. My parents called it love, and built a platform for themselves about how love is the greatest commandment in the Bible. What it really was will take an entire book to tell. To be gaslit is to have your reality overruled and undermined, squeezed and shaped – until you no longer trust your own mind. It is incredibly easy to gaslight children, as they are so malleable and trusting. If you homeschool and shelter them from the outside world, as my parents did me, it can be nearly impossible to ever find reality. Seeing through the intense levels of manipulation, as a young adult, was like waking up from a dream. I wrote some about gaslighting in this post.
In the years since leaving my family and their whole support system behind, I’ve been studying trauma and recovery at length. I’ve been dedicated to being in therapy consistently, and I’ve read many books to inform myself on it. I hope that my studies will pay off in providing insight and redemption to telling this story.
My parents used corporal punishment and not only followed the teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl, but bought their book To Train Up a Child by the caseload to hand out whenever people asked why their kids were so well-behaved. I should clarify that only one of the children, the most scapegoated one, got daily non-punishment beatings with a belt for a short time. I say this because my dad has tried to exaggerate my claims to make it sound like I’m lying about what happened. Spankings were common, but hey, at least they weren’t whipping us with belts. Except for one of the kids, for a short time, directly after the Pearls themselves visited and recommended it.
Competitive Christian Homeschool Speech and Debate
My main source of socialization as a homeschooled high school teen was competitive speech and debate. We traveled the country for tournaments. All our high school education revolved around the debate topics. I competed for 7 years, and everything about it is an ordeal to explain, because the debate world is such a unique thing. Basically we were taught to believe that comparing two conservative positions was the same thing as “learning to see both sides” of an issue. For instance, in our leagues (NCFCA and Stoa if you want to look them up), it was strictly taboo to bring up abortion in a debate round, because “we all know it’s wrong and it would be unfair to make someone argue for something that’s morally wrong.”
Right-Wing Evangelical Extremism
It’s no secret that in addition to everything, my parents are avid Trump supporters. Last I checked, my family flocks to Chick-fil-a to show how much they support companies that fund anti-LGBTAIQ policies and programs. This is rooted deeply in religious fundamentalism, in believing that homophobia and transphobia are justified. I never found out what their reactions to me coming out were, because I didn’t announce I was bisexual and queer until after we cut contact.
All of the above topics will be discussed at length in the book, along with several others. I will talk specifically about what led me to self-harm while living in that environment as a young child. I will explain at length what exactly happened with my parents alienating their oldest adult children. I will break down how patriarchy feeds on emotionally coddling children who are assigned a “male” gender and socialized as “boys” and demanding emotional labor from children who are assigned a “female” gender and socialized as “girls.” I will discuss how parents like mine keep their children from questioning the world they’re brought up in by Othering “the haters” – or anyone who voiced concern for the children. I will also bring up “The Love Brand,” something I discussed more in this post.
My work and recovery has a Patreon! Read more about it here.