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The Escape

Over the past 9 months I’ve covered the subject of The Odd Life of Jehovah’s Witnesses quite thoroughly.  Although I will most likely continue to add to this blog, it’s time to move on to other subjects.

This week’s post is the first 1000 words of my forthcoming book, “The Escape,” soon to be e-published .

 

The Escape – A True Story

April, 2004 Time to Leave

Phil’s rage boiled up inside of him and his alter-ego, “The Commando,” glared at me from his eyes. For the first time in our 27-year marriage I was afraid of him. I knew with absolute certainty that he hated me and was going to kill me.

I knew why I was seeing “The Commando” instead of the Phil I usually saw. I had changed significantly in the past 6 months, and he felt threatened by the new me. I was definitely not the same girl he had married; I was no longer willing to be the passive, obedient Jehovah’s Witness wife. I had found my personal power and was expressing it boldly regardless of Phil’s or anyone else’s opinion.

For example, six months earlier I had joined an online community for Clay Aiken fans and had made friends outside of Jehovah’s Witnesses. These ladies embraced me, and I found that JWs weren’t the only people in the world that could show love. In fact, these ladies showed me more kindness and love than any of the JWs I’d known.

Additionally, through the online forum I had begun writing and receiving accolades for it. The self-expression involved in writing conflicted with the self-repression that is part and parcel of life in a cult. I was feeling powerful and free.

And then, probably the icing on the cake, I had recently traveled alone and attended a concert with these new friends in a distant city. We acted silly and fangirly, went out for drinks at night, and had more fun to the inch than I’d imagined was possible. I felt lighter, happier, and I had a bunch of new friends.

To Phil my online activity was tantamount to rebellion. Worst of all in his eyes, I had contacted and renewed my friendship with my disfellowshipped friend, Laurel. That alone could have landed me in serious trouble with the local elders, if he decided to tell on me.  I had distanced myself emotionally from both Phil and the cult of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Now all that remained was to remove myself completely from both.

However, my hand had been forced. I didn’t want to be the subject of one of those terrible headlines, “Man Who Killed Wife was ‘Nice Guy’ According to Neighbors.” My life was in danger, and I had to leave, not in 6 months or a year, but now. I didn’t let on to Phil that I was afraid, but I went online and told my friends about the change in my situation.

We quickly formulated a plan. Since I had been working as a home-based medical transcriptionist I could move anywhere and take my job with me. I arranged temporary shelter with Laurel and her partner. I purchased a plane ticket to Dallas where I would live with Alicia (one of my “Clay friends”) and her daughter until I could get my own place. I made up a story so that I could ship my work equipment to Texas without Phil being suspicious.

The next day I took my usual late-afternoon walk down to the lakeshore and stood there gazing at the familiar boat-filled marina while the cold wind whipped my hair and reddened my cheeks. I strolled through town and stopped by an ATM where I withdrew half of the $400 in the account. Then I continued along the shore path, looking out to the horizon realizing it would be a long time before I ever took this walk again. It was a beautiful place to live, but it had been my prison.

I quickly decided what I needed to take with me. Everything had to be either shipped or checked on the plane to Dallas. The eventual plan was for me to live alone, and being prone to anxiety attacks, I knew I would need distraction. Phil didn’t watch much TV, so I decided to take the TV and the VCR. He didn’t use the Internet, but he did research using a DVD of the Watchtower Society’s (corporate entity of Jehovah’s Witnesses) library of publications. I decided he could use his PC at work for those projects, so I wouldn’t be depriving him if I took the PC.

There wasn’t much more I could take except some of my clothes and a few books.

I wrote him a note explaining that I had left and giving him some practical advice: Close the checking account, change the utilities to his name, and so forth. I left him our only car and our cat. Although I loved my kitty dearly, Phil and Socks had a special relationship that I didn’t want to break up.

The next morning after Phil left for work I quickly unplugged and gathered the electronic items, packed my bags, and waited for Laurel to arrive. She was late, and as time ticked by my anxiety grew. I sat on the living room couch trying to read a book, but none of the words were sinking in. I was worried that Phil might pop in for some unknown reason and there would be a messy scene. Then the phone rang. It was Phil calling from work.

 

Conditioning

Many people wonder why an intelligent woman would remain in an abusive relationship for decades.

The answer is: Conditioning. And it starts young. I was conditioned by my mother’s passivity and coldness as well as my father’s verbal and sexual abuse to accept poor treatment without complaint. So when, at eighteen, I married a man I did not love and found myself bound for life to a likeable guy who regularly raped me, I accepted the situation. I didn’t even consider leaving him.

(Copyright 2013 Sally Cottle)

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13 responses »

  1. I get chills and anxiety just reading about your escape. (I bet this would make a great movie..)

    Reply
  2. William Roberts

    Sally, there are tears in my eyes reading about your brave move. I’m sure you gave up a lot of things that were dear to you, but we need to have priorities. I have enjoyed your blog. Hope you can keep it up in some form. “Good Luck”, (Glad I have the freedom to wish that for you.)
    …Bill

    Reply
  3. Stay strong Cousin! I am proud of you. Love Miriam.

    Reply
  4. confuzzledlyabi

    I doubt you’re short on interest, but if you need a proofreader, I am at your service haha.
    I always love reading anything you have to type.

    Reply
  5. Sally,

    I have loved your blogging, and look forward to your book.
    My best to you, brave one.

    Reply
  6. Thank you for your blog. I have read it in its entirety upon finding it today! I am in the process of breaking away and trying to convince my “born in” husband that life is so much better on the outside. These experiences give me strength and hope.

    Reply
  7. My goodness! I really feel for you! I left the Jehovahs back in 1975, after only 3 years of being a Watchtower slave.
    I have a great family and they stuck with me the whole time. I was the only one in the family to get brainwashed by the Jehovahs.
    Leaving those paranoid, sad-faced fucks was THE best thing that ever happened to me.

    Reply
  8. Baby, you are taking it all out on all witnesses and that’s not okay. I understand that you were (or still are) hurt and disgusted but not all witnesses get down like that. You might have gone through a lot of bull, being abused by first your father then your husband too but now you make it seem like it’s terrible for us all, we all live under tyrany and are all abused in all possible ways and all that, but it’s not really like that, you were just really unfortunate in your own case. I hope everything is going better for you now and I understand that chances are flat for you to return to the organization for any reason but I just hope that you fall in love with the truth again if you ever were in love with it to begin with and you have a much better experience in all aspects. I wish you nothing but the best for the rest of your journey and I hope you have more joy for that journey. With the most sincerity I ask that you please stop making it seem this bad because having to read things like this makes me feel bad for you but also saddens me that this makes all witnesses look like dirt without having been given a chance, please take this into consideration, much love, Mbali.

    Reply
    • I’d have to ask, if you are a loyal JW, why are you reading this blog? Tsk, tsk.

      Reply
    • Mbali,
      1. Sally is not your “baby.” The evident paternalism and condescension of that form of address speaks volumes against your point. (i.e. Witness men typically treat women this way: as inferior subservient beings. In fact, that is part and parcel of their religious belief.)
      2. How does relating one’s personal experience “make it seem like it’s terrible for all”? It doesn’t, but once again your comment seems to be revealing something about yourself and your own experience amongst the Witnesses. (As in: thou doth protest too much.)
      3. If this is Sally’s experience, which none of us have any cause to doubt, then she is not “making it seem this bad” she is relating how it was for her: with no “making it seem” involved.
      4. When the Awake! magazine reports on the pedophilia in the Catholic Church, do you write in and complain that they are making all Catholics “look like dirt without being given a chance”? If not, then I guess you understand my point.
      5. I don’t think Sally has ever ‘fallen out of love with the truth.’ She just came to recognize that a lying organization is not the custodian of truth.

      Reply
    • `I do not understand why you address her Baby? Fall in love with again, why would she ever go back. Is it if you walk like a duck or quack like a duck you are a duck. I thought you were told not to read anything but your flyers. so what are you doing on this site? Are you having doubts??

      Reply
  9. I’ll come to Sally’s defence (not that she really needs any help). She paints an accurate picture of life in the JW community. Some families are more liberal than others, but the overall attitude is exactly like she describes it. (I was baptised in 1949 and spent 40 years associated.)
    ….Bill Roberts

    Reply
  10. We’ll done Sis. We just woken up too. Disassociated in Feb 2014 after nearly 20 yrs. we know what you gone thru. Life has been so much better after we left. We still hate the idea that WT still holding hostage to many of our friends still in.

    Reply

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