by "Emily Sim"
My name is not Emily Sim, but you can call me that for now. For that is how I was introduced in the story sent in by my friend "Dana Scully". I'm not going to rehash the things she talked about. However, the goal of writing this is to give you a more complete story. And also, I think, to exorcise some of my own demons, as Dana has.
One of the things that makes what happened to us so terrible is, Samantha and I had already been subjected to severe abuse of a religious nature. Even though it was perpetrated by Satanists, and was much worse than anything that happened at Anytown ICC, what happened here often made each of us feel re-abused.
By the way, kudos to the "FBI Agent" who figured out who Dana Scully was. Even knowing that you and your partner know this, and that you've been conducting your own investigation, helps.
Now where was I? I apologize if this skips around a bit. I do have a minor head injury. And as a result of the childhood abuse, I also have what can best be called a fragmented personality. So you will be hearing from different aspects of me (also known as "alters"), some of whom are children, as we progress. This is not a digression -- it has direct bearing on my unfortunate experience in Anytown ICC.
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Let me take you back a few years.
As a squeaky new member, I was grateful when a household made up of church members "took me in" after my apartment was robbed. However, it was soon apparent that I was the low person on the proverbial totem pole. The other two members were, respectively, the household "leader" and my discipler, and they pulled rank often. They also belonged to a racially-based clique that did not include me. Thankfully we're all older and wiser now, and both of these women are my friends; I'm just giving you some background here.
When one of these roommates married, the household broke up and I was thrilled at the chance to move out. At first my new roommate, also my discipler, seemed wonderful. We will call her Melissa Ephesian. She seemed to understand that some of what had happened was emotional abuse, and even rebuked one of my former roommates for such actions. But little by little, I was to see Melissa change into someone else. It was literally as if there were two of her.
At first, it was little things, like joking that she often felt like she had two children -- me and her son. And as self-proclaimed "Mom", she always wanted everything her own way, and that was mean! She was scary because she wanted to be the boss all the time. (You've just heard from a child alter, by the way.) Eventually, this led to "discipling" sessions where she would drag out all my faults, real or imagined, and air them before our zone leaders.
For example, one of these ambushes had to do with the amount of time I spent in the shower, along with the fact that I was often late to work. The truth was that, as I have Attention Deficit Disorder -- a learning and behavioral disability resulting from my head injury -- I was very distractible and would read shampoo labels over and over in the shower. We had separate showers, too, so I wasn't holding anyone up; Melissa was simply annoyed with me, and decided it was a spiritual issue. So far as my tardiness, my boss was tolerant, and I think she understood that there was some kind of neurological problem before I did.
So, even though my boss was fine with it, I was rebuked for not being "a godly example to the world". There were disappointed looks exchanged, and heads were shaken at me. I was not being responsible. I said I would do my best to change.
Worse were the personal ambushes by Melissa. Over time, they became increasingly crueler, more invasive, and frankly irrational. She repeatedly "corrected" me for -- I kid you not -- walking too loudly. (A little clumsiness so far as motor control kind of comes with the ADD territory.) Trying to defend myself only brought on a barrage of words, most noticeably "rebellious" and "prideful", that somehow made everything my fault.
She also refused to notice when I made any progress, preferring instead to pick at the mote in the other person's eye -- ignoring the plank in her own -- until they were blinded and bleeding. I came to believe I was worthless, that nothing I did would ever be good enough. This and other attempts to cow me continued far beyond her official stint as my "discipler".
She was never challenged. It was a very one-sided thing. Every little complaint she had about me was treated like a matter of national security, while anything I said to leadership about her sin was pretty much ignored.
By the way, I should point out that Melissa was what the ICC calls "sharp" -- attractive and well-dressed -- and had also been a leader at one time. I believe this is why she was given deferential treatment, such as some leaders' intentional blindness to her sin. Some of you may recognize this as a common pattern in the ICC, which highly prizes appearance and image. To paraphrase Scripture, the right image covers a multitude of sins.
Toward the end of her time in the ICC, Melissa reached a point of arrogant meanness I can only call crazy, yet no one rebuked her. When I complained, I was told to be tolerant, because poor Melissa was struggling and just needed to be loved. If I persisted, I was told to "check my heart", because I "wasn't being loving".
Because we had been friends once, for however brief a time, I had a sincere desire to do what I could to help her. So I gave in, tried to be understanding, and continued to take the abuse like a good little disciple should. ;-)
One evening, I have this flash of being in my walk-in closet, the door weaving as Melissa yanked savagely on it, while I tried desperately to keep it shut, to "keep the monster from getting me", as my child alters tell me they saw it. Her cruelty and bitterness had escalated to the point of physical violence! The only other thing I remember from that night is the image of her rising like Leviathan off the living room floor, shouting that I always thought I was "so PERFECT! SO PERFECT!!" That was shortly before the closet incident. I have forgotten the rest because, as victims of Satanism learn to do so well, I dissociated. I sort of left my body. I was there, but at the same time I wasn't.
Badly frightened, I drove to the home of Francis and Elizabeth Pollidori, then my zone leaders. Surely they would at least offer a compassionate ear, and would not tolerate sin of this magnitude. When Francis opened the door, I began spilling my story to him. "Melissa is acting crazy," I began, telling him she had threatened me physically and that I didn't feel safe. Slowly, I realized the expression on his face was anything but compassionate.
"Emily," he began. "Why are you slandering Melissa? You know she's struggling right now! I can't believe you're doing this! Now repent, go home, and tell Melissa you're sorry!"
Once again, just as in childhood, I was the scapegoat. The one who was always wrong. This had been the case for quite some time now, but it really slammed home this time. I thought the Pollidori's were my friends. It was devastating.
By scapegoating, I mean the practice of taking out the group's frustrations and problems on one or a few individuals because they are different or vulnerable. Either the group's problems are blamed on the scapegoat, or he/she is treated as inferior and sinful in general. This happens in severely dysfunctional families, and that includes church families.
In the highly dysfunctional church family we're presently concerned with, specific manifestations of this are:
If they are disabled, this list includes refusal to believe them without "proof" from an agency or doctor.
At least in the zone I was in, scapegoating was not exactly unusual. And interestingly enough, my path often crossed those of other scapegoats...
When I was finally allowed to disciple someone, I was assigned to Dara Kernoff, a severely bipolar young woman with a violent temper. Through no fault of her own, she could easily be sent into a towering rage by the smallest thing. In other words, I was given the person no one else wanted to deal with. Though she needed someone mature and stable, she was assigned to "anyone who would take her". Since I had befriended her (which I was praised for, as if it were something heroic), that meant me.
In a way, it was as if the church was palming us off on each other, because it wanted neither of us. The objectification went so far that people confused us, even though we are five years apart in age, she is blonde, and I am decidedly brunette. In fact, my Bible talk leader frequently called me Dara, and her Emily! Already busily avoiding Dara, a significant percentage of our zone also began to avoid me! Dara was viewed as "unwilling to repent", though legitimately disabled, and it was as if the stain of her imagined moral deficiency extended to me now.
During my time with Melissa, I went to a brother who was then a professional counselor. I paid him approximately $25 per hour to be told I was a "taker" and the conflicts in my life were the result of my own sin. (He later learned more about my condition and sincerely apologized for that snap judgment, something I wish more people in the ICC were capable of doing.)
I would go home to you-know-who after these sessions, and she would demand to know what we had talked about. For those of you who don't know, everything discussed in any therapy session is confidential. Therapy is a private place where you work out your deepest fears, issues, etc. and you are supposed to feel safe there. Melissa wanted to control even this.
One fine Saturday afternoon, I returned from a session, and she started in. When I refused to tell her what we'd discussed, she argued that I was to "be open", and that a disciple "doesn't have anything to hide". If I didn't have anything to hide, she said angrily, I should feel comfortable telling her EVERYTHING. This battle of wills ended with me on the floor, thrashing and literally shrieking my lungs out, looking for all the world like a toddler having a tantrum. In fact, as I discovered a couple of years later, that is exactly what was happening. An inner child, terrified out of her wits, was indeed having a tantrum.
"I can't talk to you when you're like this," she snapped, and that was the end of it. Tag, Emily is it. Again.
One evening, I had a breakdown and finally found relief. Our evangelist, Sullivan Biddle, had preached a midweek sermon on harshness, and how it needed to stop. (That was in the days when sermons still directly addressed sin.) The injustice of it, the hypocrisy of the church saying things like that and letting Melissa go on simply because she was "sharp" and had been a leader, got to me. But I didn't break down until someone said something snappy, which I don't even remember. I crumpled to the floor, wailing like a brand-new widow. I couldn't stop. I tried, but the wailing wouldn't stop. It had a life of its own.
Perhaps it was the first true sign of life I had shown in a long time.
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A true Christian sister found me like that, in the hallway, and showed real compassion. Instead of rebuking me, she held me. When I'd calmed down sufficiently to speak, I asked for Sullivan Biddle. I told him of my situation. He was outraged that such a thing was happening in his church, and he said "This WILL be taken care of!"
Indeed it was. I was moved in with another sister in record time, and this one was kind, and treated me like an adult. For a while, I blossomed. I felt safer than I had in a long time, and grateful to God for His deliverance.
I heard that my former zone was finally seeing Melissa as she truly was, and though she had a very short (spiritually) sane period, she went (spiritually) crazy again and left the church in a rage. Everything was, of course, everyone else's fault. I was vindicated. Nobody apologized for scorning me when I was telling the truth about Melissa all along, but it didn't matter. I wasn't crazy. I hadn't imagined it. Though it did hurt that I'd seen this for two years, and hadn't been believed, but when a leader moved in with her and saw it, the leader was believed immediately.
One of the really strange things about repressed memories is that they will often stay repressed while you are still in danger or under stress. But when you feel safe, they will often come hurtling to the surface like a submarine missile and blow your life to bits. This happened to me. Dana didn't tell you about that part, which is why I mention it now.
The seizures Dana described in her story were real. I had been sleep deprived and very busy for a sustained length of time, and my guess is that this aggravated the heretofore unknown head injury. (The first struck after a long, sleepless night in Dallas, at the annual Evangelism Seminar.) However, I believe they were aggravated, in turn, by sudden feelings of panic. The missile was surfacing.
The memories came slowly, but when they came, each one blew away part of what I had seen as reality. Trusted family friends had raped me. As an eight-year-old, I had been beaten with a crucifix while someone screamed that God hated me, that He would never accept me, I could never be good enough, and I was going to hell. (This put the church's unrealistic demands in a completely new light, and I realized that the legalism was designed -- perhaps unintentionally, perhaps not -- to make you feel exactly those things that I'd heard that Satanist screaming.) Technically, I wasn't even a virgin, having been raped repeatedly, and even impregnated in illegal experiments. I was no longer the person I had been for so many years, and I could never be that person again.
Fortunately, that meant I could never again be a lemming who did whatever she was told, following the crowd wherever it went. I had been subjected to mind control and torture, and through God's grace had fought it successfully. That was enough tolerating evil because "you'll go to hell if you don't do it our way". I was not going to be controlled by anyone other than God now.
You can read in Dana's story how some in the church feel about that, but it is not a decision I can go back on. My illness forced me to set limits, even if people said this meant I was "uncommitted" and "didn't want to be a disciple". And knowing about this part of my life forces me to seek the light all the more fiercely, because I have seen the darkness so clearly. I will never again let a human being tell me what is and is not God's will. As I told Dana, the ICC is not God. Only God is God.
Storms have a way of washing away irrelevancies. What is left is only what is needed. I feel that God sends storms sometimes, so that we can let go of the lies we cling to as if they could give us life. They don't, and He knows that.
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I titled this article "The Ghost and the Darkness", because it is about something God meant to be beautiful, but which, like the lions in the film, became evil and began to devour the innocent.
I choose to remain in the ICC until someone kicks me out because there are still roaring lions among the sheep, and the innocent are still being devoured. Like Dana and Samantha, I remain for the sake of the sheep. Especially those who don't understand how real the Satan they claim enmity with is. How he worms his way into hearts, and deposits little termite-eggs of pride which can turn sheep into roaring lions.
I don't pretend that I can save this church. I don't want to try. Only God is capable of doing that. But as long as He calls me to stay here, I will continue to tell this story.
To paraphrase the slogan from Dana's favorite TV show, "The Truth Is In There". In God's Word. And nowhere else. Seek the face of God, and he will reveal himself to you. Seek the will of man, and that is all you will find.
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Dara Kernoff has since left the ICC. There was a brief "restoration" after she finally found helpful medication, and did very well in a rehabilitation program. At first, she was radiant and shockingly together. But she soon began to get worse again, and -- I'm taking an informed guess here -- probably realized this wasn't a healthy place to be. Once again, proof that different/disabled does not mean stupid.
The only time I hear from Melissa these days is the semi-annual why-haven't-you-left-yet call, which I always let the answering machine deal with. It's a personal crusade of hers to get as many people as possible to leave the Boston Movement. Ironic, I think, that someone who tried to cow others into absolute subjection to this machine should now have a vendetta against the ICC. The way she goes about it reveals her true motive, which is not to help people escape from an oppressive system, but to Be Right. Or, as my child alter put it, to be the boss. So I resist. When I leave, it will be my own choice.
But one good thing about these calls is this: They remind me of the unfinished business I have here, the business of forgiving before leaving. Because unless I forgive, the darkness will devour me, as it has Melissa Ephesian.
Love and God be with you,
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©1998 by "Emily Sim". All rights reserved.
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