Brave Client Story

My journey with HOH began after I woke up one morning in agonizing tears and paralyzed by fear, guilt, and shame. The memories that woke me up were new to me and I did not understand what was going on in me. I searched online for people or groups who specialized in polygamy and/or fundamentalism recovery and quickly landed on the HOH site. I called the phone number and left my name and phone number in the voice mail. My plea was heard and answered by Tonia Tewell.

I was born into and raised with FLDS beliefs and values. My story began when I was an infant. There were several rituals that were performed on me that are not discussed and strictly forbidden to be discussed. Because my mother asked too many questions, the church prophet ordered my dad to kill her and his newborn son, me. I spent my childhood running and hiding from the people who were sent to kill us. Many times I would be pulled out of bed and told to grab a few things and get into the car quickly because they found us and were on their way to kill us. Many times I was told to get home from school or play to find out we were moving again because our lives were once more in danger.

Twenty-five years later I reached a point where I decided I would never run away again. I no longer cared if they found and killed me. I was tired of running. I had learned that I was not allowed to have friends because I would be moving soon and had to hide. I learned that I did not have to be accountable for life’s difficulties because we were moving and hiding soon — leaving everyone and everything behind. I learned to lie about many things. In order to survive, I learned to eat food from grocery store dumpsters and take clothing from donation bins. I learned that rationalizing these behaviors taught me that lying and stealing was acceptable behavior and I quickly became good at it.

I spent many years in therapy to overcome the trauma of being hunted, correcting my compulsion to lie, learning about stealing and to feel safe. I was not prepared to fully understand and deal with the infant memories of the ritual sexual abuse.

Holding Out Help has been the first group to not judge me and to continually express acceptance and understanding. I still have feelings of anxiety and fear that HOH will, like all other people and organizations in my life, tell me to leave. I get to learn how to trust. I get to learn that I matter. I get to learn that I am safe. I get to learn that I can have friends. I get to learn that I do not have to lie. I look forward to the day I do not feel intense fear, judgement, and shame. I get to do these things because of the immense love, kindness, and acceptance that HOH keeps showing me and others with similar stories. I have faith that one day soon, I will say I am healed and will better understand what it feels like to be normal.

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