Monday, January 11, 2016

Birthing, Tess Willoughby, and the Great Commission (QF: The View from Here)

This series of posts results includes excerpts from information shared with a journalist in August of 2015 who had questions about the Quiverfull Movement as it related to the Duggar Family.

Find the Index of all posts HERE.

Can you elaborate on the experiences you've heard from survivors of the QF cult? The lack of healthcare, emotional and physical abuse, risks of so many pregnancies and births, girls being robbed of their own childhoods, shame surrounding bodies and sex et cetera. It would be great to flesh those as a little so the readers can really understand the terrible impact of these on the women that you've helped.

Pregnancy and Birthing, Response Part Six:

A summary of the saga of Tess Willoughby as it appears at No Longer Quivering

Tess married an attorney who was deeply indoctrinated in the beliefs of the Shepherding Discipleship sect called the Great Commission International (GCI). The cultic Evangelical group known for recruiting young college students sought to usher in Christ’s return by taking over the media, dominating US politics, and changing society by producing perfect families. Notable QF/P elitist Geoffrey Botkin spent decades in the GCI organization, then appeared among the ranks of Vision Forum’s anointed leaders after parting ways with GCI’s founder in 2002. 

The practices that Botkin brought with him required little tailoring to fit VF’s mission of serving as a “resource” for families who followed QF/P. Botkin’s own Visionary Daughters and their “Stay at Home Daughter” model (SAHD) found a zealous audience who found their romanticized ideas quite captivating. Though Botkin once boasted his “200 Year Plan” of breeding progeny and recounted praying over daughter Anna Sophia’s infant body as the “future mother of tens of millions”, ironically, these young women remain unmarried at the time of this interview. Unbeknownst to Tess, she’d married into this very same group that adhered to a highly rigid patriarchal belief system known for their severely abusive corporal punishment methods and heavy handed control that sent many into psychiatric care.

Tess shares her painfully candid experience with marriage and childbirth at, describing the unanticipated horrors she endured under the demands of the fanatical, counter-culture clustering of interests associated with the lifestyle.  As many who spend time in Quiverfull and “Biblical Patriarchy” soon learn, eschewing contraception, home birthing, homeschooling, and homesteading barely scratch the veneer of the rabbit hole of associated beliefs. From the tame edge of mainstream Right Wing politics. 

QF/P provides a forum for fringe beliefs that are granted legitimacy including white supremacy, homes apocalyptic survivalism, neocondederate movements, militias, and anything that promotes fear of secular culture which results in isolation from the evils of secular culture. Tess shares how her husband “lovingly compelled her obedience” through “physical force” as she catered to his every whim at her own pain and peril. Her story typifies patterns of isolation within QF/P as her husband, Nate, incrementally merged with the extreme fringe elements of the Patriarchal ideology: first from Calvinist to Theonomist to eventual paranoid isolation within his own submitted family as the only true church. As I’ve heard a nameless blogger once observe, “Salvation no longer comes through the Cross but through the womb.”

Tess describes the bruising she began to notice on the bodies of her children when her husband chose to employ the abusive teachings of minister Michael Pearl, though very similar practices of “child training” were already taught within CGI. She endured physical abuse and periods of unconsciousness, awakening with memory loss and wounds like those of her children. She notices, however, that her boys suffered more severe beatings than did her daughters. Nate mocked her appearance, and while acceptable as a breeder, he expressed disdain for her as a lover. Then, very shortly after raising the value of her life insurance, during yet another pregnancy, Tess learns that her husband felt entitled to initiate an affair with a coworker whom he also considered his wife.

Tess describes many home births that were accompanied by painful and life threatening hemorrhaging on several occasions. She passes fist sized clots which she picks up off the bathroom floor herself, saturates a quarter of a mattress with blood, and loses consciousness while no one attends to her, perhaps planning to collect on her insurance payout, should she have bled to death. She writes of screaming so intensely during a delivery that she frightened her young children. 

As many mothers have told me, after too many pregnancies in such close succession, Tess describes the profoundly intense fatigue and memory loss following grueling recoveries from more than one pregnancy. I’ve also heard other wives speak about what Nate required of Tess by requiring her to cook soon after severe postnatal hemorrhaging, barely able to stand and remain conscious because of anemia and dehydration. Accused of avoiding another pregnancy and forsaking her duty as a baby machine, she also writes of hiding in the bathroom at night to nurse her children.

As Tess names it, the “final break” with Nate followed her 33rd birthday when she awakened with the clear sense that she was going to die if she didn’t escape, announcing that she wanted a tubal ligation. With the help of her parents, she was able to move her six children who were all under the age of nine out of the home. She then took her newest baby who was not able to gain enough milk through nursing to a physician who diagnosed and treated Baby Maggie’s advancing failure to thrive.

A display of histrionic control tactics ensued, including Nate’s successful abduction of one of their daughters. Tess even describes Nate’s relentless manipulation on 09/11/01 as the World Trade Center crumbled. Over the phone, his soulless voice whined to her that the tragedy meant nothing. “Who cares? We’re talking about my life.”

Eventually, she was forced into a settlement that bound her to 50% of the marital debt that her husband had incurred with a second mortgage on their home of which she had no knowledge. This was in addition to $30K of legal fees owed to an attorney who abandoned her. She walked away from the marriage with only the items that she and her children took with them when they escaped. The court would not even grant her children access to their toys which they left behind. 

Tess describes the cruelty and injustice of the legal system and the great disappointment that she encountered while trying to free herself and her children from the endless nightmare. She found no justice, no advocacy, and no protection within the court system, though her husband typified a number of personality disorders in concert with a long history of domestic violence towards her and her children. Though many courts in a few States do attend to the threat of parental alienation to guard against it, Tess lost at least one of her sons to her now ex-husband who does little but parrot his expressions of malice towards her.

Through the Protective Mothers Alliance International, the writings of Amy Baker concerning parental alienation, and the desperate cries of many helpless mothers, with sadness, I recognize well the familiar outcome with which Tess must now contend. In my own professional work and in my involvement with the survivors of the Quiverfull Movement, I know that too many women face this same fate as courts now tend to favor fathers, regardless of abusive behavior. Unlike Tess, many women do not have families with the ability to take in many children when mothers flee such abusive QF/P marriages.

Women escaping abusive cults or cult-like situations with children have no chance to even draw a breath of relief, figure out how to survive, or even hardly unpack, before they are in a courtroom being ordered to hand over their kids to the crazy man who hurt both them and the kids. Once the abuser has the kids alone, even infrequently, he’s able to make sure that the kids do not ever become normal, and to turn the kids against his former partner in an effort to force her back, to force her to accept legal terms that are not in her best interest, or simply to torture her using her children.”

~ Cynthia Kunsman
The view of Quiverfull from my vantage
August 2015