Bent But Not Broken

                                                                                 by Rachel Phillips, ex-member Remnant Fellowship

10 Years, a decade - seems like so long, yet like the blink of an eye. 10 years - thatís how long Iíve been a survivor although at times I didnít feel like I was, surviving that is. 10 years, 3 years longer than I was in those chains yet I struggle still to this day, have triggers and have to shut down the lies in my head. 10 years ago this past Saturday, March 9th, I decided to take back my life, my mind, my soul from a cult called Remnant Fellowship, located in Franklin, Tennessee.

Yes, you read that right, a cult. Some may think that to fall into the grasp of a cult you must be weak-minded, you must have a sheep-mentality and be oblivious. Well, I can tell you that I am not weak-minded, I am not a follower and I am not oblivious to what is going on around me, yet I still fell victim to a cult. There are so many stigmas associated with that word, cult, so many misconceptions by people who think they know better, but the truth of the matter is that you donít know till youíve lived it.

I was simply following my heart, I wanted to be with the man I loved and at first, things really didnít seem dangerous or even too "out there" so I stayed. I was married to this man within the cult, had 3 of my 4 children with him within the cult. But as with all false things the good came to an end pretty quickly - the love bombing ended, the manipulation and shaming began, the twisting of the truth for gain was common practice by the leaders, the constant mind games and eventually mind control was fierce. By the time I started questioning what I had gotten myself into I couldnít just walk away, I was stuck. I had a family that I knew I would lose by walking away. Things had become emotionally and mentally dangerous for any who questioned Remnant leadership and their practices. If you considered leaving that is when the mental torture ramped up. I literally battled with myself over leaving for 3 years before I finally had built up enough strength and courage to get out. I knew it wasnít just going to be me saying ďok, I think Iím done and Iím not going to be coming backĒ, keeping my family intact and just moving on.

The difference between a church and a cult  like Remnant Fellowship is what happens when you try to leave. A church would wish you well and pray for you, a cult uses everything within its power to shame and scare you into staying. This is what all who want to leave a place like Remnant face, having to stand up to a culture of shaming in the name of God that is beyond belief. I had to be very careful that no one knew of my plan - NO ONE! I couldnít risk being found out and have to endure the ďcounselingĒ that would ensue, the increased shaming and inevitable punishment. I had to pay attention to how others had escaped and manipulate my own escape.

And on March 9, 2009 I made my escape, but the battle wasn't over. I had to fight for my family, my children. I asked my husband to come with me, I told him that I knew we could have a happy life together if he would just come with me, but he refused, "That's just not an option for me". My heart broke into a million pieces that day, but I had to be strong and hold it together, I couldn't show any weakness. God showed up for me that day, held me together and helped me stand my ground. Eventually my ex-husband got custody of the kids through the courts (cults have big pockets to afford endless litigation - they protect the flock out of self-preservation).

I fight everyday for my kids, I pray everyday for my kids. Life has not been easy since I left, but I have been free from the chains that bound me in a prison of becoming a mindless clone, a shell of the person God created me to be with a Stepford Wife mentality. There have been countless times I have been excluded from my children's lives, attempts to fully replace me and determined opposition to keep my time with them to a minimum. But my children know that I love them. My daughter has told me that I am the strongest person she knows and she wants to be just like me - a fighter. Definitely my proudest badge of honor.

For those of you that know someone who has survived Remnant or a cult like it, or if you yourself have walked away, some things to remember: Just like with any other survival situation, there is never complete 100% healing, there will always be scars, always be things that trigger the pain, always be those pesky thoughts of doubt and fear, but there is hope. There is an enormous desire for community and to be accepted and loved for who you are. Be sensitive to the healing process.

If you're a supporter, don't give up on them, they need to know you won't leave them when they mess up, that you won't shame them for their shortcomings, and affirm and affirm and affirm them again for who they are. Let them talk about what they went through when they are willing to, don't shut them down because this is one of the greatest avenues to healing (and don't question them if some of the things they say change, perception and realization can become clearer the more you analyse and process memories, just take them at their word because big things, confusing things happened to them that they may not fully understand or realize for many years later).

Don't say things like "I would never have done something like that" or "I don't understand how anyone could get mixed up in that" because all that does is shame them and sets them back on their healing track. If you can't be there for them, give them support and stand by them, then walk away before you get involved. They have been abandoned by those they loved, that were the only people allowed in their life and abandonment is painful for anyone, but someone that has experienced it in such a deep way as being shunned by the community they belonged to is agonizing.

For those that are survivors - take every day as it comes, cry the tears if they are wanting to flow, be angry if you feel angry, be sad if you feel sad, and remember that there will be days that are amazing and full of joy too. Cling to those who support you and allow you to grieve the loss of the life you had because even though you are better on this side you still had a life that is now gone. Take time to discover who you are, what you like and embrace the freedom of having a choice. Please don't forget that you have nothing to be ashamed of - you were taken advantage of and manipulated to doing someone else's bidding, but if you feel ashamed use that as an outlet to reflect on why you feel that way and address it.

Don't rush the healing, it takes time - I've been a survivor for 10 years and I am still healing. Try to avoid things that trigger you, if possible. I know its impossible to avoid them all together, but don't place yourself in another situation that will continuously trigger your pain - this will only deepen the wound and delay your healing. Find a good therapist who can offer you an outlet and suggestions to help you on your path to healing. And find others that you can relate to, it helps to know you are not alone. You are not alone, you are not a bad person, you are a survivor, you are a fighter and you have the ability in you to make a difference in this crazy world.

Now, I want to brag on God a little. If it were not for Him and His love, I would not be here. He created avenues for me to gain the strength I need to leave and keep my mind and my soul intact. What I find to be completely awesome is that He helped me see that in spite of the magnitude of the evil I was up against, I could safely make it out. He used my mom, in the background, to help me make it out - she prayed and had a large prayer chain praying over this for 7 years, she never gave up hope that God would answer these prayers. He used the personality traits He gave me to help me see things for what they really were and have the desire to risk everything to be out from under the oppression that many still see as their salvation.

He even used my love of good food to help me make my escape - I had NEVER had an issue with weight until I joined the cult, but they created the fear in me of being overweight in order to control me. When I could no longer enjoy the foods that I had once loved, I knew I had to go (haha). He opened the floodgates of friends after my escape so I wasn't alone. He directed my paths to find a place to worship Him and hear the wonderful news that He actually LOVES me and remind me that He doesn't use shame or guilt as a way to reach hearts, He uses love.

If you'd like to share this, please do so. I have made it public to be a help to as many as possible. And if you'd like to talk, I'm here, all you gotta do is reach out.  Email Rachel here.

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