Tag Archives: Cathy’s story

Cathy’s Story – Kidnapping, Rape, Abuse and Cover-up – Part 2

girl2Cathy’s Story of Kidnapping, Rape, Abuse and Cover-up~Part II

Posted on June 14, 2011 by chucklestravels

This is the continues from Part 1 of Cathy’s Story.

I twice attended Bob Jones University (BJU), a fundamentalist Christian college in South Carolina. I went for the first time in the 1980′s. After leaving BJU the first time, I went to a community college and received my nursing degree.  For reasons I won’t go into here, I moved to South Carolina. I wanted to get my Bachelors of Science in Nursing. Unfortunately, many of my credits from BJU would not transfer to other colleges. However, if I went back to BJU as  a student, I was promised those credits would allow me to obtain my BSN relatively quickly.  However, I did not realize how intrusive BJU was in its student’s lives, even those  living off of the Greenville campus! During that time, I became severely depressed and experienced extreme PTSD symptoms associated with the depression. I did not understand what was happening to me. But my most severe emotional problems were magnified when I went to Jim Berg for counseling while still a student at BJU.

In Jim Berg’s view, as I soon found out, people who had problems such as depression and PTSD were “un-spiritual” (his word, not mine). In the IFB world, depression is a sin. Taking medication for depression only covered sin. I plummeted into a even deeper depression. In June of 1996, during my last counseling appointment with Berg, he told me,

“I can’t help you, no one can help you, not even God can help you,”

because I was not making fast enough progress and still “deep in the sin of depression.”

I will not begin to deny that I was having some serious issues.  Unfortunately, being discouraged from taking medications for these issues did not help. I am by no means proud of this, but I went home from this appointment and overdosed on medication. I realize that it was clearly a bad choice, and that was wrong. I was not thinking clearly, I was angry and in deep emotional pain. Of course, I was admitted to the hospital.

While I was in the hospital, I received a letter from Jim Berg stating,

“I hate to add more to your concerns, but this all comes from the consequences of your own actions, as a result you will not be allowed to continue as a student at BJU. I pray that God will break you of your sin of self-sufficiency and stubbornness and make you a usable vessel for Him.”

Fortunately, I received in the hospital the medical care and kind of counseling I needed from the beginning.  To add insult to injury, I was chastised by the Independent Fundamental Baptist Church affiliated with BJU (the same church Jim Berg attended at the time) because I was receiving counseling from a psychiatrist and licensed therapist.  In the view of the IFB church, secular therapy was wrong, and therefore sinful.  I was mortified to realize that Berg betrayed my confidential talks with him by “sharing” my situation with the pastoral staff, family members, and others in this church and at BJU as well.  In my opinion, Jim Berg made himself out to be “a great caring, godly, humble fellow” who tried at the best of his God-given ability to “lovingly” guide me to “trust God.” This betrayal of my confidence began a painful and difficult process of leaving the church and my circle of friends and family. When  I finally decided to leave my IBF Church, I was especially afraid to leave because of intimidation, pressure, and threats of Divine Judgment. I was harassed by well-meaning church and family members. I was also pursued by not so well-meaning church leaders. Eventually, as a former member, I was publicly chastised and humiliated before the church.  Unless it was to talk to me about the “errors of my ways,” members were discouraged from any association with me.  It seemed that all my friends and most of my support system went up as it were a poof of smoke when they were needed the most.

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For a long time,  I actually felt that I left God Himself when I left the church. It was one of the most depressing times in my life. Few of my former church friends associated with me other than to tell me I was in sin. I felt further isolation and abuse and was fearful of the world. A well known Christian leader questioned me personally, and to others that were still in the church, about my salvation. One tactic that was extremely difficult for me to deal with was the “shepherding” philosophy. Other IFB churches may refer to this as discipleship groups.  As practiced in many IFB churches, this philosophy requires every member to be personally accountable to another “more experienced” or more “spiritual” person. To this person, one must “be transparent”, revealing all personal thoughts, feelings, and future plans. I now understand that this personal information is not used to help the member, but to control the member.

A few years after leaving the IFB church that I had attended, I again became involved in a  Shepherding Group that, at first, seemed harmless. I still did not understand that a person must be very careful about churches that insist members be accountable to some leader for spiritual and personal growth, especially if the group leader begins to demand transparency and accountability of the member regarding personal and or spiritual issues and personal decisions. The most upsetting thing that happened as a result of my departure from that group, took place when my former shepherding group leader, his wife, and several others members of my former church became involved in my current group. This particular group was disbanded by the leaders almost a year before this time due to lack of interest and attendance of group members. Furthermore, two people in this meeting were never involved with me the whole time I was in the church.

One of my then- current church pastors asked me to meet him on a Sunday afternoon. He claimed he wanted to find out how the church could be of assistance to me because he had heard of my then recent surgery and beginning treatments for Clear Cell Chondrosarcoma a rare bone cancer. I had just returned to Greenville after being in another state for over two months for surgery and treatment.  I was still very weak and sick. When I went to the church that afternoon, I found my former Shepherding group leader and his wife there waiting for me. Soon the small conference room was filled with 8 other people. One of the pastoral staff was there, but quickly added he did not know me, “which is probably a good thing.” Only two others were ever directly involved with me. The others were people I did not know personally. I knew they were members of the church. None of these people, other than the Shepherding Group Leader and his wife, ever went to my Shepherding Group. I, in no way expected to experience this very painful “intervention”, or confrontation , by the leadership, which I now refer to as a “surprise party” or “gang-up.” I was lured to this meeting under false pretenses. I have heard from other former members that sometimes such meetings are in the home of an elder or other leader and sometimes in the home of the “problem member” himself. My “intervention” consisted of a hostile and accusatory “interrogation session” that lasted for 3 hours. The group’s objective was to persuade me to confess of the “error of my ways” and of my “need to submit myself to the discipline of the church.” They went on to question the reality of my medical condition. I was told to recant my “slanderous” charges against a “spiritual leader”, obviously referring to Jim Berg. I learned from previous encounters that if I became outwardly hostile during such a ‘process’ things would become worse.  I did, however, refuse to acknowledge any wrongdoing on my part. I showed copies of my oncologist surgical report as well as the actual XRAY film which clearly showed the tumor that was recently removed.

Even after all of the evidence I provided, a man who sat directly across from me and who had glared at me the whole time finally said, “Tell me about your salvation experience.” I finally lost it a little and replied, “No matter what I say, no one here will believe that I am saved. You worry about your salvation. Let God and me worry about mine. You are not the Holy Spirit in my life!”

After that outburst, the pastoral staff member said, “Cathy, you go across the hall with the women and we (the pastor staff member, my ex-shepherding group leader and the man whom I did not know) will talk about what we are going to do to help you or how we are going to deal with you. If I had not been recovering from major cancer surgery, I would have certainly handled this differently.  Most likely my response would have been to leave right then and there. I was hurt and bewildered by what the assistant pastor said. However, I did go across the hall with the women. The Shepherding Group leader’s wife then asked me about a family member who was also recently diagnosed with cancer. I was exhausted, but angered by then. I said something to the effect of, “Why don’t you call and ask him yourself?” They talked at me, not to me, for a few minutes. The Shepherding Group leader’s wife closed by telling me, “We all love you, lady.” I did not make any friends when I said, “I can tell how much you love me by all the lies you have told and the knife that is sticking out of my back!” Then the ladies went around the room and prayed for me to “repent” and asked God to “convict me of my bitterness.”

I did not stay for the whole prayer session. I just got up and left the room. When I went out into the hallway, I saw through a small window in the door the men sitting and talking around a conference table. At this point, I was tearful and angry. I knew, at this point, there was nothing to lose. I opened the door and asked, “Are you all having a good gossip fest? Why is it if you were talking about me, I could not stay and defend myself?” The assistant pastor said, “You need to submit yourself to the discipline of the church.” I asked, “For what?” He said he would get in contact in a few days and waved his hand as if to dismiss me. I told him not to bother. As expected, I never heard from them but instead, soon found that my name had been removed from the membership rolls.

© 2011 Catherine Harris

Cathy’s Story of Kidnapping, Rape, Abuse and Cover-up – Part 1

girlPosted on June 11, 2011 by chucklestravels

When I was just three years old, I was kidnapped by a very disturbed woman by the name of Cleo Smith.  I was so young, it is still difficult for me to remember all the events. However, I do have memory of Cleo putting me in her car.  At one point, I remember crying for “mama.”  This infuriated Cleo.  I remember she screamed at me, and told me to shut up.  I remember her car was a green 1966 Cadillac.  At one point, I remember telling Cleo that I needed to go to the bathroom.  That is when she hit me in the face and told me to shut up.  The problem was, I really did have to go to the bathroom, and due to terror, lost control of my bladder.  The next thing I remember was the car being on the side of the road and Cleo cursing at me, screaming, “You are a worthless damn kid!”  The next thing I remember, was being marched to the back of her car, Cleo opened the trunk, picked me up, and threw me in.  Those memories are so engraved in my mind, that I have nightmares about the actual kidnapping even all these years later. I went missing from a local grocery store while my biological mother shopped. She had just given birth to twin daughters she had three very small children with her as she shopped for groceries. I disappeared while she shopped — we would not be reunited for almost 30 years.

I lived with Cleo until I was 12 years old (When the police became involved in my life, although not because of my kidnapping).  Cleo owned many rental properties in Philadelphia, near Temple University.  Ironically, my biological parents leased a home from Cleo and subsequently had some legal dispute with her.    Cleo took me to a 110-acre farm she owned about 25 miles outside of the city.  Cleo owned this home under an alias; she also used an alias for me, Salina. Cleo had no legal documents for me that showed guardianship or an adoption. In fact, there were no records found of anyone born or adopted in the US by the name by which Cleo gave me.  Unfortunately, Cleo died before the investigation of my legal status was completed.

In 1967, the farm was in a very rural area of Pennsylvania.  There were no Amber Alerts, no CNN  or up-to-the minute news broadcasts.  Most people got their news from the local newspaper, a small number of TV stations (with rabbit ears), the radio, or by word of mouth . At the time, most people would not believe a woman would abduct an older child, but only babies. Cleo was never a suspect in the original investigation of my disappearance. Even if she had been, I am quite sure she hid her tracks by taking me to the farm .

It was at that time, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (now known as the IFB) Church became a part of my life. An IFB Pastor would eventually adopt me after the police became involved. He kept telling me many times throughout the years that Cleo had come with me  to the church he was the Pastor of . He said she claimed that she had found me abandoned in a rental property in Philadelphia. He says that he did tell her she should have called the police instead of just keeping me. She told him she never had, or did have, any intention to do so. This Pastor and his wife did not officially adopt me until only a few months before my 18th birthday. It seems they wanted to receive as much foster care benefits from the state as possible.  My “room” was a bed pushed into the corner of their basement. I asked my adopted father many times over the years why he did not call the authorities. I never received a satisfactory answer to my question.

Cleo was a close follower and financial supporter of Dr. Carl McIntire, who was a fiery fundamentalist leader at that time.  McIntire was a contemporary of Dr. Bob Jones, Jr, and was granted a honorary doctorate from Bob Jones University

I had been horribly abused by Cleo and her lover and farm hand, Lou. As as a result of the ensuing investigation at this time, I learned  that Cleo was not my mother. I heard for the first time that I may have been abducted because, with Cleo’s various interviews with the police,  she continued to change her story as to how I came to live with her. The nightmares that I had for as far back as I remember, were not just scary, they were true. I was enrolled in the Christian school associated with my IFB church for most of my life as a student. I did go to two other other IFB schools for a short time. Cleo was able to enroll me by telling these schools she had lost my birth certificate and would order another one from the state. I attended each of these schools for only one year, as Cleo could not provide my birth certificate to enroll the next year. When I was 14 Cleo died while the police investigation was on-going,  taking her secrets with her to the grave.

I was glad when Cleo died. But I never received any professional counseling.  At the time, I was so angry to find out that my life was a lie, from where I came from to what my real name was, that I was not interested in learning any more details. I still believed that my biological parents abandoned me, as Cleo and others told me. I decided I just wanted to get on with my life. I had symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) back then, but of course, did not recognize the symptoms, nor did anyone else as those things were rarely discussed publicly in those days. I did not know what was happening.  When my adoptive father who was a Pastor, and the Youth Pastor, found out about the nightmares and flashbacks about the abduction, and the years of sexual abuse I suffered at the hands of Cleo’s lover, Lou, I, was constantly told not to dwell on it.  When the nightmares persisted, the Youth Pastor, who graduated from Bob Jones, told me that I was “just bitter.”  He repeatedly drew connections between the nightmares plaguing me and rebellion.  Brother Dave then would quote:

“Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. “  I Samuel 13:23

In his mind, and the mind of others, the nightmares, flashbacks, fearfulness and crying spells were because of my refusal to “put the things which are behind.”  I was yelled at and told to “stop having sour grapes.”  If I was not smiling, or looked downcast, Brother Dave would yell at me that I was a witch because in his view, the only reason I was still having problems was because I was in rebellion and refused to give it all over to the Lord.  It did not take me long to stop talking about my past whatsoever.  I worked so hard to “forget those things which are behind” as I was told. I never mentioned it again. The nightmares and flashbacks lasted for many years . I sincerely wanted to be a good Christian.  Completely believed what I was taught; that the IFB were the only one’s who were living Godly lives.  I believed that members of other Churches, and certainly mainline denominations’ salvation were in question.  If perhaps they were able to slip under the fence and find the way to get saved, they weren’t living right.  As a result, I put considerable effort into forgiving and forgetting the abuse, torture by Cleo, and rapes.