A Little Secret About Me
I used to work for the mafia.
This is a true story, bear with me.
I grew up in and around Detroit and after I finished school, I went to work for a company owned by three men, two of whom were the late Billy Jack Giacalone and his son, Jackie Giacalone. Look up their stories online and you’ll soon see the name Jimmy Hoffa pop up; it’s strongly suspected that Billy knew where Hoffa is today, if you get my drift.
I can’t tell you what I did for the family except to say I wasn’t prostitute and I never carried a gun. The guys liked me because I didn’t care what went on in their offices and didn’t ask a lot of questions. I worked for them for about two years before Billy and Jack both went to jail and the company closed its doors. I’m not proud of those years or the work I did, but there they are.
Why am I telling you this?
Darn good question, thanks for asking. I’m telling you this because after I finally broke away from the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses and began looking at “apostate” websites online, I thought that many of the horrific details of what it means to be a victim of this religion were often missing.
There are many stories of the pedophilia and abuses that happen within the religion, yes, and I love everything I can read and find. I know that many ex-JWs would be lost without all the information out there, but I also felt that there was something of a gap when it came to talking about the terrible victimization that is created by the everyday teachings and practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses; their literature, their public sermons, everything. They create victims, not just through violence and molestation, but through attitudes, through an unspoken caste system, through small ways of oppression with the stranglehold they have on their members.
That soon became the slant of my blog on this website. Here I try to talk about how Jehovah’s Witnesses are not just inconsistent or “odd” but how they truly create victims out of the members of the religion. In the near future, that’s what I’m going to include more of on this page; victim stories revealing the shocking truth of what goes on behind closed doors. I’m going to be telling those stories from the victims themselves without any whitewashing or watering down of those stories.
So, again, the mafia thing?
Oh, right. Here’s the thing about victims of the religion; they aren’t always perfect. Shocker, I know, but sometimes when people come out of this religion they make questionable and even poor choices for themselves. Some go crazy like the kid in the candy store, wanting to make up for that overly restrictive childhood or lost years. They celebrate the most lavish of holidays and birthdays, smoke various forms of cigarettes, drink until they pass out, sleep with whomever they choose, etc.
Some are acting out of anger at the religion or family that they feel has victimized them. If a spouse kicks them out after they leave the religion, they vent their anger by sleeping with someone on the first date or getting into fights with strangers. They’re angry at having been abused as a child so they get drunk and then drunk some more.
Many victims I’ve spoken with also just don’t care about themselves. Many former Jehovah’s Witnesses have learned somewhere along the way that they don’t count, their feelings don’t even exist much less do they matter. They learned to have little self-esteem and self-worth. This in turn is reflected in their behavior. They don’t care about themselves so it doesn’t matter if they drink too much or have sex with someone whose name they can’t even recall. They don’t care if they hurt themselves so yes, they will try that joint or something else at a party. It’s called self-destructive behavior and it’s common in those who have been horrifically abused.
The point is that many people think that these poor choices somehow negates or minimizes the awful treatment that victims have suffered. Some victims are even hesitant to come forward and talk about their stories, as if getting drunk or getting into a fight when you’re in your 20s somehow means you weren’t molested when you were four. Because these victims haven’t always made innocent and moral choices, they assume this means they somehow weren’t innocent victims of immoral people.
Hogwash. Making poor choices yourself has nothing to do with what happened to you at the hands of someone else. It also doesn’t take away one bit from the actions of Jehovah’s Witnesses when it comes to how they treat victims of child molestation, domestic violence, rape, and so on. If a child is repeatedly beaten in the face by his father or molested by an elder over the course of several years, or a woman is beaten by her elder husband, or a child rape victim is asked if she enjoyed it at all, how does that person going out a few years later and getting drunk somehow minimize what those people did to him or her?
There are a few reasons why it’s important to say this when talking about JW victims. One is that detractors will often try to use the failings and imperfections of victims to minimize the horrific things done to them. “Oh sure, they were molested and abused as a child, but now they drink too much, so that somehow proves that their abuse wasn’t so bad.” Double hogwash. Think of how ludicrous that sounds and how self-serving it is for the abusers.
Another reason it’s important to talk about this is that many victims of the horrific policies of Jehovah’s Witnesses are hesitant to come forward and talk about their experiences themselves, for the same reason. They feel their own actions somehow minimize what happened to them or makes them the ones to blame. “Well, I went out and got drunk through my entire 20s and slept with a few people I regret sleeping with, so I guess I wasn’t really abused or somehow it was my fault.” Hogwash again. There is nothing to be ashamed of in being an imperfect person or in acting out, especially when you don’t know any better. It also doesn’t take away one bit from what was done to you or somehow alleviate the abuser from their responsibility in what they did. Period.
It’s also important to remember that when a person leaves the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses, they’re going to make their own individual choices about their behavior, their sexuality, and so on. These choices may be different than the choices other adults might make, but this doesn’t mean these people don’t have a story to tell or that they should be maligned by others. For instance, I personally am not a “let’s get naked online” type of person, but if other grownup adult people share naked pictures with other grownup adult people, that’s their choice. I’ve honestly never tried marijuana in my life (honestly), but if someone else uses it where it’s legal and acceptable, that’s their choice as well. Making choices that are different than you doesn’t mean you’re allowed to somehow dismiss that person’s story or their victimization, or criticize those choices and decisions.
So, the mafia thing?
Oh, right. Sorry. In my long, unpleasant journey from the abusive religion that is Jehovah’s Witnesses to where I am today, I didn’t care about myself at all. Ever. I didn’t care what I did, who was in my life, or even if I lived or died. Because of that, I worked for shameful people, lost my temper a lot, got fat, got skinny, worked out, lost muscle tone, ate like a pig, became a vegetarian, then a pescatarian (only fish for meat), volunteered at a local homeless shelter, drank heavily, stopped drinking, started drinking again, became a redhead then a blonde then dyed my hair black, had sex that is best described as regrettable (when you have sex with men who are abusive, you regret it one day, hopefully), dated abusive men, dated good men, ruined friendships, and finally went back to being a redhead. About the only things I didn’t do were drink and drive, take drugs, or get a tattoo. That last one I am considering though.
The good news is that those things are only part of my history and they don’t define who I am today. I eat healthy, do yoga and work out, make much better choices about relationships, don’t pick fights with strangers in the supermarket, and never get drunk. I’ve learned the value of my own life, my own intellect, and my own heart. God knows I’m not perfect; I still swear like a fucking drunken sailor and think impure thoughts when watching football, but those things are my prerogative. Besides … Gronkowski. ‘Nuff said.
I also look at the person I was in those past years and don’t even recognize her. Not physically, not emotionally. She wasn’t me, not even close. I’ve come to realize who she was and why; she was the woman I became because I was angry at the Watchtower and their horrific treatment of me, my mother, the other domestic violence victims I knew and the children who were being abused. I openly admit that I didn’t handle that anger properly and I have scars from those days; actual physical and emotional scars and I need to live with them, but those don’t erase what happened to me. Nothing I did takes away from the culpability of the Watchtower when it comes to their horrific abuses.
So it is with the victims. Making regrettable choices or choices that are different than what others might make doesn’t mean they’re not truly victims and doesn’t take away from the pain inflicted upon these ones. If those choices are unhealthy and hurtful, I would hope they too are part of the past and that a person takes responsibility for making better choices in the present. If there are scars then they too will need to be accepted. However, I won’t let anyone use those choices to criticize those victims or minimize what’s been done to them, not even the victims themselves.