Article from Cornwall Live

A woman in West Cornwall is using her traumatic experience of leaving Jehovah’s Witnesses, after being raised as one, to offer a new counselling service for former members of religious cults.

Laetitia Latham Jones, from St Buryan near Penzance, recently qualified as a crisis and trauma counsellor and set up Taking The Helm, which provides counselling for everyone from victims of abuse, to survivors of natural disasters.

But it is those who have left religious cults that Laetitia wishes to specialise in helping, drawing on her own childhood experience and being disfellowshipped from Jehovah’s Witnesses, a religion which she describes as having the traits of a cult.

In recent years, many former Jehovah’s Witnesses have described the religion as being cult-like, but fearing repercussions, most have done so anonymously.

Now, hoping to help others who have been shunned and left isolated after leaving religious groups, Laetitia has spoken out about what happens when you say you want to leave.

“I was born into a religious cult myself. Other people join them, but I had no choice.”

Originally from Kent, Laetitia says her parents became Jehovah’s Witnesses about four years before she was born. “They knocked on our door and caught my mum at a vulnerable time of crisis.” She explains.

“One of my older brothers had severe autism and had to live in a residential hospital at six years of age. After he left the home, my mum was obviously distraught and a Jehovah’s Witness called at her door.”

Laetitia’s mother started attending meetings, and her father could see it seemed to help her, so he accompanied her.

By the time Laetitia was born, the family were well-established Jehovah’s Witnesses, attending meetings at their local Kingdom Hall three times a week, and door knocking in the local area to try and recruit new members.

As a child, Laetitia was involved from the start. She recalls being taken out to preach every Christmas Day, something she hated because they received a lot of negative responses. She remembers a man shouting at her father, saying that his children should be at home opening presents rather than knocking on doors.

“By the time I was eight years old, I was out preaching on my own, with my parents calling on other homes in the same street. I was trained with good arguments for each subject that could be raised. I had a really good argument for evolution, and for not having or giving blood transfusions – even if it is for a family member.”

But preaching on Christmas Day was not the only thing that made Laetitia’s childhood different than most. “At school, I was kept out of religious assemblies and religious studies. We didn’t celebrate Christmas, birthdays, or Easter because we were taught they had Pagan origins.

“They feel that celebrating birthdays places you upon a pedestal and the only person you should honour is God.”

But for someone born into the religion, not having a birthday party did not seem all that strange:

“We were also encouraged not to associate with anyone outside of the religion and my friends didn’t celebrate their birthdays either.”

Although Laetitia would get in trouble for small acts of rebellion or asking too many questions, (like, ‘why have Adam and Eve got belly buttons in our pamphlet?’) she decided that she still wanted to be baptised as a Jehovah’s Witness.

“I was baptised at the age of 14 – full immersion in a pool at one of their conventions. At the time, I thought it was what I wanted. A friend of mine was baptised at 12 years of age, and I was quite close to her, so I asked my parents for the next two years until they agreed.

“The elders take you through a set of questions, to ensure you know what you’re getting into, but obviously at 14, you are still too young.”

If the elders thought being baptised would make Laetitia a more committed Jehovah’s Witness, they were wrong, because two years later, she had had enough and wanted out.

“At 16, I asked the elders to disfellowship me, because I wanted my own life, and I wanted my freedom. I was dating a young man who wasn’t in the religion, and he had all of his freedom and I wanted mine too.”

Laetitia continues: “I knew what would happen, I knew I had to choose between my family and my own life, because you are shunned once you leave. As I was young, I didn’t really appreciate the consequences, and the effect leaving would have on me way down the line.

“I was a rebellious child, and not looked upon favourably by my parents, so I thought it wouldn’t matter anyway. However, years on you realise it has a bigger effect on you than you thought it would.”

Laetitia says she was brought before three elders known as a judicial committee, who tried to convince her not to leave Jehovah’s Witnesses before the disfellowshipping. “I had been in front of them twice previously for various things, as I was not an obedient child. They tried to talk me out of it, but I insisted. I had my boyfriend, so I knew there was someone to support me. Maybe if I’d been on my own, I would never have asked.”

As soon as she left, Laetitia’s life changed: “Everyone you’ve known and grown up with shuns you. They don’t speak to you anymore. If they see you on the street, they will cross to the other side rather than speak to you, so you have to get used to that.

“With my parents, I was still living in the family home, so they had to interact with me as they usually would, but there was a definite atmosphere. They told me I couldn’t leave home unless I married, so I discussed this with my boyfriend and about five weeks later, at the age of 17, we were married and I was able to move out.”

Speaking about the adjustment that followed, Laetitia says: “When you are raised in a cult you do not realise how isolated you are from the outside world, so when you come out it is extremely difficult to learn how to mix with a community, to make friends and trust others – because you are taught to trust no-one in the world.

“Many people who leave cults are isolated and some have committed suicide, because they cannot handle the shunning and the outside world.”

Of course, Jehovah’s Witnesses vehemently dispute they are in any way a cult, and have a section on their website dedicated to explaining why they are not a cult, saying: “No, Jehovah’s Witnesses are not a cult. Rather, we are Christians who do our best to follow the example set by Jesus Christ and to live by his teachings.” The website continues to argue that they are not a cult because they ‘have not invented a new religion’, and ‘do not look to any human as their leader.’

Laetitia disagrees: “The religions viewed as cults interfere with your personal life. They control what you wear, what you read and what you watch on TV. We weren’t even allowed to watch Scooby Doo!

“In my research, I have discovered there is actually a checklist for cults known as the B.I.T.E. model.”

Having left her parents and the religion that she was raised in, Laetitia says there was domestic violence in her marriage when she was pregnant with her daughter, so feeling vulnerable she returned to the Jehovah’s Witnesses so that she could have contact and support from her family again.

She went through a process of being reinstated, where she had to attend church for six months without talking to anyone to prove that she was committed to being a member again.

After leaving her first husband, Laetitia eventually married again, but although her second husband was happy at first to attend the Jehovah’s Witnesses meetings, he soon realised after talking to an elder, that for them to accept him, he would have to quit his job as a policeman.

This prompted Laetitia to disassociate herself from Jehovah’s Witnesses for a second time, and disassociation results in the same treatment as disfellowshipping.

When Laetitia’s second husband retired from the police force, they moved to Cornwall with their son. She recalls visiting the Witchcraft Museum in Boscastle in 1996 where she was shocked by the ways that women who were branded as witches had been tortured by people who were supposedly Christian. “So I thought, if they teach that witchcraft is evil, but can perform horrific tortures, then maybe the other side isn’t as bad as they say it is. That’s when I began looking into witchcraft.”

With a love of morris dancing as well as developing an interest in Paganism, Laetitia was invited to train as a ‘teaser’ for Penglaz, the Obby Oss at Golowan Festival in Penzance. Her tutor turned out to be Cassandra Latham, who she had previously met at the Pagan Conference in 2003.

In 1996, Cassandra became the first person in the UK to have her occupation registered with the Inland Revenue as ‘village witch’. As a much respected wisewoman in West Cornwall, Cassandra was looking to not only train up a new teaser, but a wisewoman who could work alongside her.

Laetitia and her second husband eventually divorced due to their lives going in different directions.

As a village wisewoman living with Cassandra in St Buryan, it would seem that Laetitia could not be further away from her upbringing as a Jehovah’s Witness. However, when her father died of cancer five years ago, she attended her local Kingdom Hall following the funeral, to be somewhere he would want to be. She promised her father that she would return before he died and her grief at this time led her to become reinstated.

“Of course, when the elders discovered I was with Cassandra, all Hell broke loose, as you can imagine.” Laetitia remembers.

“They sent me a text to say they wanted to see me, and I visited the hall that evening, where two elders were waiting for me and brought up websites on their iPad with my pictures with the ‘Obby ‘Oss and Cassandra.

“They were angry and instructed me to leave Cassandra immediately, and called her an evil woman, and began questioning me about my personal life. I replied that she had been extremely kind to me as she gave me a home rather than see me become homeless after my divorce.

“I reacted angrily and shortly after that they instructed me to attend a hearing with the judicial committee of elders and I refused. The following day they called at Cassandra’s cottage and announced they were disfellowshipping me once again.”

Despite her reaction to the Jehovah’s Witnesses trying to tell her how to live her life, Laetitia says that she doesn’t hold any resentment towards her parents, who have both now passed away, following her mother’s death earlier this year.

“I don’t hold a grudge. They caught my parents at a vulnerable time, and I feel so sorry for them as they were taken advantage of. My parents lived and breathed that religion for 60 years, and now that I have more knowledge of cults, I can see they wasted their lives believing they would never become old or die, waiting each day for Armageddon and the paradise earth where they would live forever.”

Laetitia is clearly happy with where she is now, and proud of her achievements – with good reason: “As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we weren’t allowed to go on to further education after leaving school. We were told that college would have wild parties, drug taking, bad associations etc. They didn’t want us to have a career as we were pressured to be ‘pioneers’ where you preach for 90 hours a month and have a small part time job to earn money.

“I wanted to be a professional dancer and my sister wanted to be a P.E. teacher, but we didn’t pursue those careers as it would be difficult without parental support.

“I attended college in my early 30s and did NVQ levels 1, 2 and 3 in Beauty Therapy, went on to attain Diplomas in Holistic therapies, I teach Reiki courses and now have my Counselling Diploma.”

Looking towards the future and hoping that her Counselling Diploma and her experience can help others, Laetitia says:

“I had a friend from childhood who was a Jehovah’s Witness and committed suicide at the age of 21. He was depressed, and he told the elders he considered ending his life, but received no help.

“My research and study of religious cults show that many people end their lives because they are shunned and isolated after leaving Jehovah’s Witnesses and other cults.

“I want to be there for people who reach out for someone who understands their problems.

“I could save lives in this way, just by being there, and I feel this is the reason for my life experience.”

Cornwall Live

Feedback:

My sister, just sent me over your article from Cornwall live. Thank you for sharing your experience, it very much reflects our upbringing as a JW. I build up the courage 5 years ago to leave, not disassociate as my mum is mental and physically disabled, which you know would mean I would not be able to talk to her. Cutting the long story short, I am now a mental health nurse, due to witnessing so many witnesses disfellowshipped through acts they did whilst mentally ill. It is not all roses as many believe it is and I am so glad you have found your way and shared your story. Kind Regards S.M.

I just wanted to say well done for your brave interview on cornwalllive – good for you being able to talk openly about repression and controlling organisations and how much I respect your decision to help others who fall into these traps – also ignore the trolls as some people have nothing better to do than continue the repression this way! Lots of love. L.F.

Thank you for your article . I’m glad you were honest. I’ve left after 30 plus years . I was unhappy about the secret data base of paedophiles. Since speaking out I’ve been shunned . My daughter no longer speaks along with ..4 grandchildren. It’s just ridiculous. So many are leaving , I’ve been trying to visit people as they leave to make sure they have food . The situation has got very bad over the last few years . But I’d like to say thank you . Much love. A.C.

Separation from Families

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

Image – Noteworthy The Journal Blog

Sometimes, facts about an atrocity need to be disected and spelt out bold and clear for all to see. Only then, when it is seen for what it actually is, will society rise up shouting, “Enough is Enough!”

Enough Is Enough highlights one of the most appaling acts of humanity; ‘Cultic Separation’ of families. This is where man-made religious laws, are used by groups, in the name of their leader or god, to coerce and overpower people’s minds, whereby parents will shun and have nothing more to do with their children, husbands from wives, wives from husbands, siblings form siblings, children from grandparents etc etc.

A survey conducted with 240 ex Exclusive Brethren members in 2012, revealed that 76% of this group, had family (Children, Father, Mother, Siblings or Grandparents) still in the group and thus were separated from them. If Uncles, Aunts or Cousins were included this number would rise. (Mytton, 2012)

There are over 1000 cults in the UK alone.

The compilation list on this page is from 3 questions asked of ex-cult members:

1: What family members are still separated from you?

2: How do you feel about the effects of the family separation?

3: The group were you part of?

Do you have family members separated from you by a religious group? Can you answer the 3 questions above? If so, please email me on contact@cult-escape.com and I shall add your facts to the list. (Use Anonymous/Initials or full name if you want).

Your contribution will help create awareness which can lead to people getting set free from the clutches of man’s control!

Thank you for your support

John Spinks

1: Separated from 4 grandparents, 2 Uncles, 2 Aunts and 10 Cousins since 1970. My Dad, Mum and brother separated from me since 1988. (32 years)

2: The effects: My family unit destroyed, missing out on decades of love and support.

3: Group I was in – Exclusive Brethren.

John Spinks (Liverpool UK)


1. When we left in 1960 I was separated from my brother and all my extended family apart from one aunt and one set of grandparents.

2. The impact on my mother of losing her son was profound. For over 30 years she did not see him and could not understand why not as she was a christian. She saw him before she died but it was not a real reconnection and she died desolate. Her distress impacted on us all. We all missed out on years of love and support from our aunts, uncles, cousins and one set of grandparents.

3. The group was the Exclusive Brethren.

Jill Aebi-Mytton


1: Separated by being shunned from my daughter and two grandsons (her sons)

2: Missed out on the joy and love of family life with them. Also her siblings have missed out on their relationship with their sister and nephews.
We are now old and in ill health and need her support more than ever.

3: The cult is Jehovahs Witnesses

Anonymous


1. Separated from parents, brothers, sisters-in-law, nephews, nieces, uncles, aunts, cousins since 1977.

2. My kids have missed out on so much love and support and as a young mother, I could have so used my mother’s advice and help.

3. The group was the Exclusive Brethren.

Cecilie Palmer


1. Separated from just about everyone, 1st was the 60 split, then the 70 split when most left, all are in different cults as far as I understand, also appear to have Separation, and never seen since…..

2. I left in early 1973…. Parent + all 6 uncles and aunts have died, some years ago I understand, All 22 nephews and nieces [maybe more ?] + Sister have got married some years ago Understand all of there kids are married with kids. 47 – 60 years Separated is a long time, the odd times I hear a nephews or niece has died……….. This is a so say a religious system ?

3. The group was the Exclusive Brethren.

Philip from Cirencester


1. My mother, my father, my brother, his wife, my nieces and nephews and my grand nieces and newphews, my grandmother, all of my aunts, uncles and cousins.

2. I never saw my father again (from 1990 – 2000 when he died) as they refused to let us see him – even when he was dying. They didn’t even tell us that he had died until they had already buried him. I did see my mother a couple of times – one of the times she talked to my brother and I through the screen door. The second time was when the PB were going through their little exercise of trying to get people to return to their fold around 2003. The one brother that stayed in the brethren hasn’t made contact with his siblings (3 of us) since we went to our mother’s graveside in 2004.
It’s a pain that never goes away. One minute you are part of a big loving family and then you are dead to them as if you never existed.

3. Exclusive Brethren.

Shirley Anderson-Beere


1: Separated from twin brother and eldest brother and their extended families.

2: Missing out on family celebrations , closeness , not being involved in their lives.

3: Part of the U.K. LDS

Sharon Jagger


1: I have lost 6 children and their children – my grandchildren: 12 I believe 18 direct descendants in total. And numerous cousins.

2: The effects are really too many to list as 18 years later problems related to my upbringing still arise. The biggies are unimaginable grief. PTSD, loneliness, and difficulty living with other people.

3: Exclusive Brethren

Jilly Moxham

1: What actual family members have been separated from you? My mother and my father (20 years) and a sister that turned her back three years ago.

2: I was on my own at the age of 18, became pregnant shortly after. I had to figure out how to be an adult and take care of a child on my own. I had no college education and barely any life experience. So I made some really stupid choices along the way. My two kids and my husband have no idea what my parents are like. Let alone met them. My parents drove 5 hours to tell me they were moving. I called up my mother in law and said this is your chance, come meet my parents. So we pretended that she needed to borrow a dish. Lol. They stayed for twenty minutes.
I lost my sister for 17 years. I missed her kids growing up. And she dealt with some serious domestic abuse that was just swept under the rug.

3: What group were you part of? Jehovah Witness Boulder CO Hall

Linzie Sewald


1: My dear mum and dad, and brother, wife, and children. Multitudes of cousins of who I was very close too.

2: Great sadness by my husband and hurt for me. Children very scathing of my family and the eb’s and not entertain churches and religion of any kind, as if that’s what religion is tearing up families they didn’t want a bar of it. Myself a life of constant heart ache, a shadow I can never erase.

3: I grew up in the Exclusive Brethren, Plymouth Brethren.

Iris Taylor


1: Separated from father, sister, wife and two children.

2: The effects: sense of family ruined.

3: The group I was in was Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Robert Walker http://leavingjws.blogspot.com/


1: Lost contact with many relatives when the separation edict came in; uncles, aunts cousins etc. Both my parents had siblings who never joined. I lost all my neighbourhood friends too at this time. I think I was about 8. My 3 girls have never met 4 of their aunts, their fathers sisters although they oldest two are in their 40s. Two out of three never met their grandfather who lived in the same city. When their GF died on a Tuesday, he was buried on the Wednesday and we only found out the following Friday when someone told their GF’s brother who had never been in the EBs.

2: As an only child my friends and cousins had been an important part of my upbringing. I was so lonely as no EB kids lived close by. I remember hanging over the fence watching my friends play and also looking through a hole in the fence as well.

I remember sitting outside in the car when my dad visited one of his brothers briefly, so I was unable to talk or play with cousins who I had previously spent a lot of time with, who we shared Christmases and birthday parties with.

I remember coming to the conclusion that I certainly didn’t want to have children in that restrictive environment. I was fortunate to attend school to Grade 12, did well at school and got entrance to Uni and a scholarship to attend as well. I still planned to leave and go but loved my parents dearly. Unfortunately, my father died 6 weeks before my matriculation exams. I felt I could not leave my mother in the midst of her grief. My worldly friends from school all went off to Uni and again I lost good friends. I stayed solely for my mother for the next two years. Meanwhile I met a guy an EB who was later kicked out. Half his family were in, half out. His parents had broken up because of EBs when his Dad was told to kick his older brother out of the house at age 16. The mother left then too, leaving her other 8 children who had no contact with her even though she had been granted access by a judge. This screwed up the whole family I believe as I would class this as early childhood trauma.

I ran away from home to another state of Australia at age 20 but was cut off from my mother from 1972 until her death in 2006.

I married the ex EB guy and we were together 40 years and had 3 beautiful children. This impacted even their lives. They had one grandparent out of 4 and she had her own issues from leaving her children behind. I used to try to keep contact with my mother by writing letters and always visited when in the old home town but if the EBs knew I was coming she was shipped out of town. Visiting was always a quick five minutes at the front door where she was obviously fearful someone would see her talking to me.

Our kids never formed a bond with her. Eventually she lived with other EBs (she had no relatives in) and I totally lost where she was for about 5 years. I remember visiting the last time with my children in 1999 and my then husband I having to sit outside on a garden wall while the 3 girls got to talk to her in the front hall. I couldn’t even see her through the sun shining on the screen door. One of my daughters said she had tears running down her cheek and just kept looking at me.

A couple of years ago I heard she had tried to leave but was prevented. I have no proof of this but have no reason to doubt the story. I never got to visit her unchaperoned again.

They did tell me when she passed away and I did go to the graveside not the EB funeral. If she hadn’t died on a Friday afternoon so the funeral couldn’t happen before Monday morning first thing I would have been unable to make it up there.

Both my ex husband and I tried to connect with our “out” relatives after we left but it was difficult and I believe some even blamed us for how we or our “in” relatives had cut them off. I think for me it is easier since my mother passed away but the ongoing rejection and even grieving her alone has certainly contributed to a lot of heartache and anguish. I used to feel as if the first 20 years of my life had never existed. I never doubted my mother loved me as I was a very wanted only child after she suffered numerous miscarriages. I lived with the guilt of hurting her. I found her rejection of my children’s separate issue. Getting married and having children is something you normally share with your family. I felt we didn’t have that extended family to share with. I believe the traumas both my ex-husband and I suffered contributed to our marriage breakdown for two wounded people after 40 years together. I believe too, although our children were born out of the cult it has affected them to a lesser degree as well. There is so much family they have been cheated out of getting to know and they have grown up with two parents who experienced trauma at the hands of a cult which has certainly affected our attachment with them.

3: Exclusive Brethren

Beverley Richardson


1: Mum and Dad, 3 brothers and 1 sister and all their many children, Grandmother, Aunts and Uncles, many, many cousins and now great nephews and nieces.

2: My children have had no grandparents, cousins, uncles, aunts, and no reference to the older generation of relatives and their younger relatives. Personally I lost my entire culture, friends, family and reference to life and living.

3: Exclusive Brethren / PBCC

Jenny Dowding


1 I was separated from my extended family, father, step siblings, 2 grandparents, and cousins from around 1960. I was separated from my siblings and my mother in 1976.
2. Severe isolation when I first left. I had no friends, no support group. It was like moving to a foreign country without going anywhere.
3 Jehovah’s Witnesses

Steve Otta


1. My dad, my five brothers and sisters, my eight kids since 2013. There is been absolutely no contact except occasionally from my older brother.

2. For me, I spent a total of four months in a mental rehabilitation hospital because of nervous breakdowns and 2 attempted suicides.

3. PBCC

Peter Evans

Read More Here: Cult Escape