Last night I was watching episodes I had recorded of ‘Escaping Polygamy’. The show documents that work of three sisters who escaped and how they are helping other women to get out too and have a future.
At first I was watching to increase my own knowledge about what these women are going through, but I soon found fear being triggered in me too. I recognised that fear only too well, yes the theology of ‘the Order’ is different and how they have used their control by having plural marriages and many, many children, but the structure of a cult is the same. There is always the major controller, the one who makes the rules and that they have to be followed no matter what, and another very important aspect, that ‘outsiders’ cannot be trusted and the only ones who you can trust and build a future with is other cult members.
The bravery of the young women reaching out and actually running to get out to have better lives totally inspired me. I found myself intensely proud of these strong women, and of course I thought of the many ex members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who had to leave their lifetime of friends and family in order to leave the lies and fear and control and have a better future. The Order and the Jehovah’s Witnesses are identical in the shunning aspect. If you leave you are considered ‘dead’ in their eyes. Leaving means you are going toward certain death, this is not an idle belief – it is VERY real to members.
One of the first things I encountered when I left was sisters and a brother telling me and saying first ‘how could I leave Jehovah?’ and then very quickly on its heels ‘you’ve doomed your son to die at Armageddon!’ Leaving the organization means to them that you have left God, which is utterly not true. That I’ve doomed my son to death is their belief too, again completely untrue. In fact I have saved him from a life of being influenced for the worse by a cult.
The emotional and mental upheaval that those women have to face also resonated with me. A women who had left many years before met her younger sister, (who had just escaped) for the first time in 18 years and the younger sister asked how she managed to do it. She said ‘by putting one foot in front of the other’. That was profound to me, sometimes that is all you can do when you leave everything you know behind. When your family and friends will not look at you or greet you, when they send you ‘goodbye’ letters because they so strongly believe they will not see you in paradise if you do not return.
Learning how to get by in the outside world is difficult, but as was said a few times in the episodes I watched, ‘it’s worth it’. It most certainly is! Leaving the control of a cult is a huge step and often fraught with difficulty and pain, but just think with you ends the cycle of abuse. Generations after you will be thanking you for being that strong brave person they needed you to be.