Abuse Never Makes Sense by Lisa Hunt-Wotton
Some of you may know that I am going to France with my husband for 2 months. He has long service leave and we were offered a house in the South of France so we jumped at the chance to have a second honeymoon/holiday together.
So over the next 8 weeks I may post some content and reflections of France.
However, I get the sense that as I leave my country of origin I am going to move into a place of permission to write some more of my story. The trouble with writing your memoirs is that you get overly concerned about them effecting the people that are also in the story. I’m also very aware of those in my own world, it is more confronting to read an account of someones life on paper than it is to hear it. In the past my daughter has made me aware of this. “Mum you’ve told me that story before, but I found it much harder to read it”.
Its important to understand that these are my memories and my reflections. Today I will be writing a story from the perspective of a 14 year old Lisa. As an adult writing this I add my adult outlook but primarily it is coming from the understanding of a cult raised 14 year old girl set in the 1970’s. My story as a whole is way too overwhelming so I’ve decided that bite size pieces are more manageable for me and also for you the reader.
I write this to try to portray:
1: The depth of control that cult leaders have
2: The fact that Abuse NEVER MAKES SENSE.
It was 1977, my mother and her partner were in America on a ministry trip. My youngest sister, and I had accompanied them for the first 6 weeks of the trip for the holiday portion of the journey and had then flown home and into the care of my 24 year old sister and her husband who had moved into our house. Mum had another 5 months of ministry scheduled away from us. I realise now what a huge task that was for my sister. She was not only looking after her 14 and 13 year old sisters, she had her own 4 year old son and in addition to all of that was running the family business for mum whilst she was away.
Some back story: My mother and father had separated when I was seven, and I had only seen my father two or three times since then. I didn’t know anything about his personal life, or even where he was living. My brother in law who was living with us to care for us at the time, had a step father who was in jail, in my 14 year old mind not only was he a criminal as I recall accounts of him locking my bother in law in a cupboard, but he was also a ‘war criminal’ from ‘Nazi Germany’. This information was gleaned from years of overhearing stories. I’m not sure how much of that was true and how much was my overactive imagination. All I know is that as a child I was terrified of him and as a very small child would hide under the dining room table when he came around. I called him ‘Leo the Lion’.
So you can imagine my surprise one Sunday afternoon when the phone rings and it’s Leo the Lion on the phone. Sweet mother of pearl. He was supposed to be in jail and why is he calling me? I havn’t seen him since I was about 4. Apparently he had recently been released from jail only to find out that his wife was now living with my father. Yes my brother in laws mother was living with my father. What a mess. I of course did not know this.
Any way, Leo was raving mad and was on the war path trying to hunt down my father. He must have looked up our surname in the phone book and had come across our home number. The conversation when something like this.
Leo the Lion: Are you Joe Coopers daughter?
Leo the Lion: Well I’m coming to get you and to teach your father a lesson he will never forget
I have a shotgun here with me and I’m gong to find you and blow ..your ..head ..off. Then I’m going to find your father and blow his head off too.
He then fires two rounds into the air, or into the telephone box? Either way it was bloody loud. I had grown up around guns so I knew what I was hearing and I knew that he wasn’t joking.
I of course hang up and ran to find my sister and brother in law to tell them gasping and sobbing what had happened.
Let me segue now and explain what a normal weekend looked like for me.
Every Saturday night I was expected to be at the Russell Street City Mission for street fishing at 5.30pm, the street meeting started at 6.30 – 7.30pm , imagine 1940’s cult songs sung to a piano accordion and guitar blah…. Then when we had ‘fished’ and ‘caught some people’ or at least told them that they were going to Hell unless they repented. We then enticed the ‘people fish’ upstairs to find salvation where we had more songs, a meeting, an altar call and then the best part. Pancakes and hot chocolate.
Sundays started at 9 am with Sunday School or bible study depending on how old you were.
We then met at 1 pm for Sunday communion, this was a ‘big meeting’ that you had to be at or suffer the consequences. Finally we then attended a 7:30 evening Sunday Night meeting: AND you never missed the half hour prayer meetings that happened before each of these meetings. Nor were you late because if you were you would be punished. You could be punished for even being 1 minute late.
This left little time on a weekend for hanging out with friends. We fortunately only lived a few blocks away from the Immanuel Church in Canterbury and we had a large house with a swimming pool so a lot of the youth, friends and all of my cousins and aunts would come back to my house in between meetings for meals. There was always a very full house, lots of fun and yummy food.
This phone call came smack bang in between the two Sunday Services.
We of course called the police immediately to explain the threat. We did not know where Leo was, or how close he was to carrying out his threat. So all of the children and youth were ushered into one room and the door was closed with no explanation. I can only imagine now how panicked my family was. All we could think about in that room was that time was ticking on and soon if we weren’t allowed out, we would be late for the 7 pm prayer meeting.
The police took this threat very seriously and told my sister to take my younger sister and I into a safe place for a few days away from this address until the police could find Leo and work out what was happening. So the house was evacuated and we jumped into my brother in laws car to go and stay a few days in safe house.
On the way we stopped in front of a strange address. It was now late at night and I was pretty scared. My sister and brother in law left us in the car with the motor running whilst they bolted across the street. Much to my amazement it was my father who answered the door to this strange house. This was the first time I had seen him in years and the first time that I heard that he was living with my brother-in-laws mother. My family were of course explaining to my dad all that had happened and were warning him that the police would be over soon and that he needed to be careful.
Fast forward to Thursday.
I have no idea what happened in the days following the ‘gun blast your head off phone call’, whether it was a vain threat or whether the police caught him. The whole thing just dropped off my radar. I had more things to worry about. I had missed the Sunday Night Service. Insert scary music.
Most Tuesdays and Thursdays after school I was required to attend a private meeting with Ray Jackson Snr. The cult leader. These weekly meetings were where he would lecture me, fondle me and tell me all the things that I had done wrong in the few days since he’d seen me last, but all of that is a story for another day.
This was ‘Big Thursday’, it was big because all the ‘big guns’ had been called in. That was always when I had been especially evil and unrepentant. Four or five male elders would join Ray Jackson in the office with me (there were no female elders).
On this ‘Big Thursday’ I had to explain why I had missed the Sunday night service.
Well, I thought that I would get off fairly lightly because surely I had a good excuse. I had tried to explain to the police that I couldn’t do what they suggested, I had to go to church that night. They, the police thought that I was in shock (or crazy) and were unbending in their insistence that we leave immediately. Church was not an option.
I explained all of this to the ‘Big Guns’ but alas, all the sad disappointed faces looked to the floor whilst we all awaited what punishment would be meted out to me by the ‘man of God’. In great humiliation in front of all of these men, me, fragile fourteen, had to lift my skirt, bend over his desk and receive a beating across my bottom with a long piece of wood he kept under his desk for such disappointments as this.
THEN, I had to kneel down in front of all of the elders and pray out loud, a prayer of repentance. It was lucky that I had a great imagination because most times I had absolutely no idea what I had done wrong. Not that it mattered. I had failed again. I was ‘stuck in a rut’ and had an ‘unrepentant spirit’. I spent a lot of time in that rut. I never knew how I got there or what actually I did in their, but according to the powers that be I practically lived in that rut.
My prayer went something like this: Dear Lord, (insert sobbing, having just received a painful beating), please forgive me for my disobedience. I repent for not attending the Sunday night service. I repent of not putting you first in my life. I repent of getting stuck in a rut of disobedience. I ask your forgiveness and the forgiveness of ‘the fathers’.
I share this story with you to help you understand that abuse never makes sense. They, the abusers, have ultimate control and they will do anything to exert that control.
Abuse is defined as the: systematic pattern of behaviours in a relationship that are used to gain and/or maintain power and control over another. You are not allowed to question or give excuses. That just means more punishment. It is always always your fault.
Physical: Hitting, pushing, biting, punching, choking…
Emotional: attacks on self-esteem, blaming, criticizing your thoughts feelings…. cursing, swearing,
Psychological: Threatening, throwing, smashing, breaking things, punching walls, hiding things, sabotaging your car.
Sexual: any non-consenting sexual act or behavior
It is important to note that many examples can be put into more than one category. I find it helpful to say emotional abuse plays on the persons feelings while psychological alters their reality and sexual often does both (Ref).
Now I understand abuse. THEN it was my reality and it was all that I knew. I realise now the idiocy of punishing anyone for missing a church meeting ever, let alone punishing a young girl who is bereft of her mother and has had her life threatened by a psychopath. Who is then further humiliated and shamed in front of grown men who did not come to her aid, who did not stand up and say that this is crazy behaviour.
These men were also complicit in this abuse by their silence and by their voyerisom of the event.
Abuse never makes sense and under no circumstances is it ever okay.
You can call:
1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732): 24 hour, National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.
◦ Lifeline has a national number who can help put you in contact with a crisis service in your State (24 hours)
◦ Police or Ambulance
◦000 in an emergency for police or ambulanceocan help put you in contact with a crisis service in your State (24 hours)
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