Friday, November 20, 2009


I'm not going home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I'm trying to figure out what to do for that month between finals and the next quarter. I can't go home and I have little funds for travel but I'm open to ideas. I know I'm not the first to be in this position (far from home with limited means). My roommate is going home to New Jersey so I can't go with her.

This is what isn't said by ATI families. When you leave, you leave for good. It's worse than shunning in Amish traditions. An Amish adult can choose to go a different way, as long as they weren't baptized into the Amish Church, and they can still go home to visit. They're not banned or cut off. I was banned and cut off because I didn't want to be my mom or marry someone like my father. There's no autonomy. WE needs to do a special on kids who were QF or ATI and left. I have a paper to write so I can't take long on the blog but I will answer the questions I've received soon.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Purity Rings

18 Kids and Counting has presented a highly sanitized version of what many ATI kids go through in the movement (as regarding purity rings and courting). As I'm sure most of my two or three readers can imagine, I have some insights that I'd like to share about the reality of this system.

Purity Rings. The formal party line is that the girl should be given her ring at the age of twelve or her first menstrual period (whichever comes first). However, the build-up starts much earlier. I was six when my mom started telling me about the pledge of purity and how I was god's special flower and He had already chose the gardener for my flower. All of my sisters got the same talk at age six so I'm pretty confidant that this speech is handed out with the first grade ATI curriculum. At six, I was given a formal lesson on 'defrauding' men. Only, back then, I don't think it was labeled as 'defrauding'. My mom showed me pictures from a magazine (It was a copy of LIFE magazine) that had "pornography". The pictures were of Madonna. She told me that people who wore immodest or "gender confusing" clothes were "destroying men". In her own words, she taught me that when a man sees a woman wearing men's clothes, he feels threatened and unsure of his own responsibilities. When a woman wears immodest or revealing clothes, it tempts the man and causes him to betray his promises to his Creator just as Eve tempted Adam with the apple. There's no discussion about a man's accountability or responsibilty to use self-control. I think they get that talk from their fathers but, as girls, we weren't told that men should or could control themselves. If they sinned, it was our fault for causing them to sin with our immodesty. I thought it made men sound very weak and my mother actually winked at me in a conspiratorial fashion. There's a lot of that happening too, within the patriarchy movement. Women tell themselves that they let the men think they are in control whenever they're feeling really out of control. I'll explain that more another time but back to the rings.

When I received me ring, my father told me my sexuality was under God's authority. Only God could decide when I should give that gift away, to the man He had for me. Of course my dad would help me find that Knight in Shining Armor and let me know he was THE Knight. The Duggars are up-front with that part. The part they don't share is that Gothard tells fathers to make the daughters accountable to them. Yes, that's right. If a girl commits a sexual sin, she's not supposed to go to her mother or her sisters. If a girl has a sexual sin committed upon her, she doesn't go to her mother or her sisters or anyone but her father. If you have a good father, which I think Jim Bob is, then that works out fine, but what if you have a father who is more concerned about his image than his daughters. I've seen fathers marrying daughters to the highest bidder in this movement for their own gain. It's a dirty little secret in the movement but it does happen. Some fathers may really mean to be looking for the best place for their girls by choosing men with better homes and means. Few will admit that that's not always the best way to find a match. What about personalities or goals? It's not even the best system for the boys! One of my brothers was told he was marrying a certain girl. They were pushed together because it was a mutually beneficial situation for the futures of both families. A business deal, in reality, but oh hey look, these adorable kids of ours are only six months apart in age and of course they both want to live this lifestyle! They were tossed together for courting to begin, under the watchful eye of the parents, where they could never speek freely or engage in deep conversation. They married and were unhappy for the first year. They didn't even consumate the marriage for six months because they didn't know one another and my brother was too nice to "collect his prize". They had nothing in common except their faith. When my brother brought this up to someone in our church circle, he and his wife were sent on a retreat. They came back defeated and resigned to staying together "until they fell in love" with the commandment to start having children. It makes me so angry to think that any Christian advisor would tell a young couple who were so unsuited to start having children because there was no way to go back and undo their marriage vows. My brother and his wife had a child and found a way to like each other, but love took another four years and two children. They're still together and both families see them as a "success" story. They're even asked to share their testimony with other couples in the same situation. It's wrong! This is what happens when you take these choices away from young men and women. It's fine to have morals and convictions. If you want to wait for sex, then wait for sex. All I'm saying is it's wrong for parents to choose these convictions for you and a twelve year old is in no position to choose to let the parents have the authority on this for the rest of their lives. It would be okay if it were a "we'll help you save yourself until you're an adult and then it's your choice". That's not what is being said with a purity ring and courtship promise. What's being said is, "You will give the authority for these decisions to your father." until you are married (at which point it is too late to go back).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My e-mail questions

Some folks have figured out my e-mail ( or I gave it to them. They have good questions but they have many of them and they repeat. I think it would be easier to answer them all in one reply here since they are so similar.

Where did you go when you left your family?
I'd answer that question with a question- which time? In my family, you were never supposed to leave the unit unless you had permission from my dad. That was one of the things I struggled with very early on. Even routine things like a trip to the store had to be with a member of the family and cleared by my mom or my father. It was hard to get time to yourself, outside of the house. Alot of times, I would just go to libraries or school playgrounds to sit and think. The night I ran from my "beloved", I ran to a sympathetic neighbor. When I left for good, I went to family outside the movement. They are still conservative Christian but not ATI or QF. They graciously allowed me to stay with them for a year while I adapted to society. This flows into the next question I get.

Were you prepared for "normal" life?
That's a big, fat NO. Other than being trotted out for working on "our mission" (which was to evangelize and save souls by getting them to follow our beliefs), my entire life was centered around our house. I didn't have outside friends. I wasn't allowed to socialize with the neighborhood kids. We only got to know our neighbors to one side because they were elderly and by my father's estimation "harmless". We didn't do public school or sports and we didn't work outside the home. TV and radio were forbidden. We had Sunday School and that was our "socializing". I do have close friendships with my closest siblings, or I did before leaving. The main problem as I see it is that I'm really easy to take advantage of and I have to be careful with my "servant's heart". I was trained to serve and give which is great if you're surrouded by people who have an interest in your outcome, but it's not so great in "the world". It took me a long time before I could say "no" to anyone and feel not guilty. I was also not prepared for managing my own money or knowing how much it cost to live in "the real world". My health suffered for a while because I had been so sheltered that I didn't have a healthy immune system. My parents were non-immunizers (very common in ATI families) so I had to get those shots to get into school. I am terrified of men because I was taught that men outside ATI were no good and that's hard to shake off. Friendships with boys feels dirty even though I consciously know it's not and that limits me. It may be a good thing study wise. haha I struggle to do what I'm doing and make it work.

Do you miss your family?
Every day.

Are you still Christian?
I think so but I'm trying to figure out what that means to me.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Was I QF?

My therapist asked me a question that I had trouble answering. It was an easy question, or at least it should've been an easy question. "Were you QF?"

Was I? My parents were, but was I? How much of myself should be defined by my parents' choices? It's like that show Big Love, where Sara says she's not a polygamist and her friend says she is because she lives with them. Is she a polygamist because her parents chose polygamy and she's living it? In the same vein, would the Duggar children or Bates children be Quiverfullers because their parents are famously QF?

When I was a child, I didn't know if I would let God decide my family size or if I would trust in him to determine that. My parents told me I was but I didn't make a conscious decision to do that. I'm sure I've always been Christian but I don't know if I've always been or still am a literalist and conservative Christian. My parents chose our clothing because what four year old "purposes" to wear modest clothing? You're dressed in what's made available to you because you can't do your own shopping or sewing. That drives me crazy when certain parents say, "they have a conviction to dress this way" or act a certain way. It's not a choice if it's all you know to be. I didn't know pants were really an option. I knew they were for people "of the world" but I was never asked if I wanted to wear them. Just like I was never asked if I believed in God or how I believed in Him or what I believed of the Bible. It was assumed for me. Now that I'm an adult, part of this journey is deciding what is really "my" belief and what is my history. How much of who I am is defined by who my father is? I need to be careful about also running from things because they remind me of what was because it doesn't have to stay that way.

It's hard because I wasn't taught to think about what *I* wanted.