I don’t even know where to begin. You’ve grown and lived and thrived and your life journey is a beautiful work of art, it almost feels wrong to bring up Quivering Daughters even just to say thank you. But I’m not speaking just for me, when I say, sincerely, thank you for writing through your journey, for taking care of us as we left our families, for writing Quivering Daughters and leaving the blog up. Your tender heart and kind words were the gentle encouragement we needed to start moving forward ourselves. You didn’t judge and yet firmly confirmed that abuse was happening, that we weren’t wrong or broken for feeling how we did – you opened up the doors to healing for so many more of us than you know.
And I just really, truly, with all the warmth in the depths of my soul want to say thank you. Thank you for being the big sister so many of us needed, even though it was and is heart wrenching and hard and messy and exhausting. Thank you for moving forward in your own journey towards healing and showing us that it’s okay to embrace ourselves and make our life what we need it to be.
You are a beautiful human being and Quivering Daughters and now your art + life journey, mean so much to me, and so many of us.
Thank you. Thank you for being gentle and kind and healing. Thank you for lighting the way for so many more people than you realize.
Today, No Longer Quivering published a 2016 housekeeping post where they noted that they changed their focus in 2015 (which is true) to be on the mothers leaving the QF movement and as a part of that they decided to remove the voices of the adult children from their website.
Those of us alumni who are queer and grew up in toxic environments similar to the Duggars started posting, alerting people to the danger it puts the children at home in. Christian Patriarchy, Quiverful, and ATI parents shun even the appearance of evil, and if word gets to them that someone on the internet (or anywhere) thinks their child is gay, it’s going to make life hell for that child, or worse. Queer kids living at home are already at a higher risk of abuse, homelessness, and suicide even outside of conservative families. They last thing we need is for people posting wildly in a comment section about the sexuality of children in the public eye, in a toxic environment they did not choose, who will be the ones to pay the price if or when this gets back to them.
As a result, those of us who are queer or allies in the comments section calling out these people were harassed, stalked, and told in not so many ways to shut the fuck up and let the adults have their fun. Caring about children in the same situation we were apparently means we’re bitter and have more recovering to do.
Meanwhile, Vyckie, who decided to let this go on, eventually started liking the comments that were clearly cruel and abusive to the queer survivors of this environment and later made another public post about how she isn’t responsible for anything that happens on her Facebook wall, even though she made the choice to allow this behavior and start off with a public post that everyone in the world can see.
I’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable with Vyckie in the years since I wrote for her, but this was the last straw. In the last couple days she has made it abundantly clear that her only concern is not for healing and safety of all who are escaping toxic christianity and the quiverful movement, but merely the adults and militant atheists who agree with her and enjoy making the children of the movement into a side show.
I wrote to Vyckie and Suzanne on the first day to have my posts taken down. Others soon followed suit and are continuing to do so – including Love Joy Feminism, and Homeschooler’s Anonymous. While NLQ is attempting to take credit for the elimination of alumni voices on their website, I thought it was pertinent to post the real reason for the removal.
This wasn’t NLQ’s doing, it was ours. We’re tired of being used by a woman who chose the quiverful lifestyle to garner a following and fame while patting herself on the back and putting kids still at home at risk.
When I was 19 I had the opportunity to write out…basically my life story and post it to a website with a lot of readers. It helped me start processing my life and was the catalyst for rethinking all the things I was taught and starting to see my abuse for what it was. I’ve requested the author of the site to take the articles down because I feel the site no longer represents or seeks to aid survivors of abuse like mine – but I still feel like my story – though I have grown and changed massively in the last six years – is important and can maybe still help people like me. So I’m posting it here. It was originally published in 6 parts, but I’m posting it in one fell swoop with handy navigation.
This was my start. I was just out of my parents house and still talking to them, facing a world of unknowns, and clinging to religion and the hope of a healthy family. Where I was then is still important, because it gave me the courage to become who I am now.
I have to admit, I was really hesitant to start reading Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu – not because I doubted it’s good-ness (she worked with my friend Hännah on it, so I knew it would be good) but because I wasn’t sure I was ready to face the story I know so well, again. Devoted is about a Quiverfull daughter escaping, and Jennifer worked really hard to get the story, and the feeling, and capture everything it means to leave that environment right, without making it over the top. She did so beautifully.
It was painful and cathartic, as a former quiverfull daughter myself – I remember what it was like to leave and not say goodbye, I remember what it was like to have to clear my browser history, and feel like the eight of us who existed just weren’t enough. Devoted captures those experiences perfectly, and I think people who are curious about what it’s like to grow up in that environment, now have a way that they can understand.
If you’ve ever been curious about what my childhood felt like, this book is it. Read it. This is the book I wish I could give to everyone who wonders, or everyone who thinks maybe this lifestyle is totally awesome.
If you’re an escapee from this environment, Devoted is so good it hurts. Someone else understands, and I can’t put into words how good that feels. We’re not alone, we’re not freaks, and we are undeniably tough as nails.
Devoted comes out June 2nd. Go buy it. My copy is tear-stained, so.
Just because someone is smiling in public does not mean everything in their life is happy, perfect, and healthy.
I’m reminded of this, in light of the Josh Duggar situation, because both parent-like sets of people in my life see the Duggars as The Best Family Ever. And because the Duggars are good at being The Best Family Ever, it makes it hard for their fan base to see past the barrage of smiles and actually listen to what’s being said and taught and what the consequences of those are for the Duggar kids.
My family was a poorer, less popular, less business-savvy version of the Duggars. Bill Gothard aside, they believe basically the same things the Duggars do. As much as the Duggars want to tell you they just love kids and are totally not quiverfull, their line about just “doing what God wants them to do” re: breeding is quiverfull ideology, and my parents (like the Duggars) are quiverfull.
My parents spent my and my siblings childhoods training us to always smile and look/act/be happy even when that wasn’t the emotion we were having. Happiness was godly, happiness meant no one thought anything was wrong, happiness made my parents the go-to parents in our local community for child-rearing tips and advice.
So it pains me when people don’t see that the smiles are fake. They look at families like mine, like the Duggars, like countless others, and say “But look, they’re smiling! they’re happy! everything is obviously great!” as if the mouth is not a series of muscles that can be willed into an upside-down frown on demand, or out of necessity.
A smile does not indicate a healthy, happy situation. It doesn’t take much to see past the plasticity and into the tired eyes behind the upturned lips.
Just because a family is smiling on tv doesn’t mean it’s happy. Us quiverfull kids are great at smiling. Listen to our words and our silence, not our masked faces.
When I was 11 we came home one day to find someone we’d met at a homeless shelter/food kitchen/church thingy on our doorstep, with her infant. We’ll call her Missy.
I don’t know how she got our address, or why she was there.
But she was.
And I gave up my bedroom and moved in with my sisters and Missy stayed with us for a very long time.
She stayed with us through the aforementioned foreclosure, where my parents stopped paying their mortgage in lieu of paying someone else’s.
She stayed with us so she could get her two other kids (and nephew?) back in her custody.
Our house was foreclosed on and we were facing homelessness – not just for our family, but for Missy’s as well.
My parents traveled all over the city, and even a few hours north of where we lived, trying to find some place to live, but because we were being foreclosed on, no one was taking my parents + another family, because they didn’t trust they’d pay.
On the day we had to be out (the people who bought our house granted us an extra week or two on account of they were nice and we had a shit ton of people to move – although, Missy did most of the packing because….I think mom and dad were busy looking for houses and also hanging on to “god saving our home”) we had nowhere to go, we were looking at being homeless, and Missy was still going to follow us around.
The plan was for me and my siblings to stay at my grandparents while my parents continued to travel anywhere to find somewhere who’d let a two-family-one-income household rent from them. It was a really terrifying day. Not knowing where we were going to sleep, or live, or if I’d see the people in my homeschool group ever again…
But then my grandparents mentioned that the house next door just went up for rent, and so my parents went over and the guy who bought the place just wanted the land, so he didn’t ask questions and said as long as we’d paid the rent we could stay there. So we did.
And the house was a 3 bedroom + bonus room, and one of the bedrooms had it’s own private bathroom and entry, so that was where Missy stayed with her 9 year old and infant (the timeline is fuzzy, because it was around the time we moved there that she got partial custody of her kids, but I don’t know if it was simultaneously, or a little later), and I eventually shared a room with Missy’s 15 year old. My dad put up a false wall in the bonus room because it was connected to the master bedroom and my sisters slept there, and my brother literally slept in a closet.
When Missy’s nephew joined our party, he slept on a futon outside my bedroom, in the dining room.
When I was 12 mom got pregnant again, which meant that pubescent Kiery got to take over everything again, except this time….not only was my mom telling me what to do, and having me run the house, but Missy was too.
I was cooking and doing chores not just for my family, but hers as well.
Let me mention this again: I was 12 years old.
I was taking care of two families single handedly.
I was not okay.
Eventually my parents confronted Missy about using me as her slave too, and set up a chore list so other people had to also cook and clean and do laundry. Mostly, just that Missy had to take care of her family’s stuff, and we alternated cooking days. Zero introspection on the part of my parents regarding…I don’t know, placing too much responsibility on a twelve year old.
My parents got mad at me for my “attitudes” (because I was adolescent, exhausted, run ragged, burnt out, and barely keeping up with everything, including school), and blamed it on Missy’s 15 year old daughter’s influence (because I shared a room with her – even though we weren’t close). Very little came of this besides my trying extra hard to be totally happy all the time.
It was Missy’s older child who alerted me to the fact that my period had started when I was studying in a tree with my brother, her cousin, and some of the other kids. My brother was very concerned, and I panicked. Missy had then asked me, at random, if I was pregnant or not because I would sometimes wrap my arm around my abdomen (because cramps. and no meds.), and I was mortified. Half because I didn’t know what sex was or how to do it, and half because that’s not something you ask an isolated twelve year old who just started having periods.
My parents paid Missy $40 a week to stay with us and homeschool her kids. That way, she could say she had a job to the CPS people, while still fulfilling her god-ordained plan to be a stay at home mother and educator. I…don’t remember this going well. To be honest I’m not sure if she even did anything more to educate her kids than through books at them, like my mom did with me, but I don’t remember. I was otherwise occupied.
Missy was, however, a far superior cook than my mom, and fish and frog-legs aside, she made some really good food. This is the only pleasant memory I have of her. Graham cracker cake and home-made Chinese food.
Shortly before/after my 13th birthday, my parents discovered that Missy had been abusing pharmaceuticals and kicked her and her family out.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved that I only had one mom around any more, and my own room. Also, my brother got to move out of the closet and into Missy’s alcove, which was nice…and I was maybe jealous.
The second stillborn happened two weeks before my 13th birthday.
After Missy, my parents decided not to let random families live with us again. Turns out my mom didn’t like having another lady in the house either.
My mom got pregnant almost instantly after the stillborn and I had to get my own rides to ballet (which meant asking my teacher to pick me up and coming home with my grandma). My ballet teacher was a wonderful adult to have in my life at the time. She made me feel valued and cared for at a time when I really needed it, because I wasn’t getting that from my mom.
In fact, that was often one of the things that hurt me so much as a child – I never had time with my mom, and I’d get upset and we’d have a mother-daughter day, but that would happen all of three times before she would get pregnant again and it would end and I just became an object. I tried to explain this to her once, but she never really understood it.
She spent so much time talking to and being there for other people, acting like she knew all the things about being a good wife (helpmeet), homeschooling, and parenting – but was never there for me, never there for her kids.