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Norm Wakefield’s daughter tells her story


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Alyssa, Norm Wakefield’s daughter, has just released the first of a two part podcast detailing how her father and father-in-law arranged her marriage to a man 10 years older than her. The first episode has been absolutely chilling. 

Norm Wakefield was an elder at Boerne Christian Assembly, and married his daughter to the son of Bob Welch, another BCA elder, and I think a big hotshot with Bill Gothard and DPIAT

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@Tangy Bee posted this in the Divorce thread on April 30, 2020.

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Some of the older FJers probably remember a popular blog called, Resolved to Worship. Blogger's name is Alyssa Welch. She grew up as a more fashion liberal fundie, but was definitely deep fundie with a courtship to go along. Her husband was older than her and I think he grew up more strict fundie. Most of her blog was pretty open about her beliefs and tons of photos of her beautiful family. All looked well back then. Well looks like she's divorced and uses her maiden name, Wakefield. Her Facebook page talks about "spiritual abuse". Very interesting. Her kids now go to regular school and her son Shelton is trying to start a singing career. He's not bad.

 

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Thanks for posting, I'm really interested to listen to this!

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Wow, that was intense. I can't wait to hear part 2. She talks a lot about how she's never been allowed to tell the full story before so I went back and looked at her blog on the wayback machine. It's interesting that even then her "love story" was presented in terms of "okay I know this *sounds* bad but God works in mysterious ways!" She at least by that point knew that the fathers had arranged everything behind her back. I wonder how many of the other "love stories" we've read are secretly like that and the wife just never fully finds out because her dad/husband know she'd be as disturbed about it as Alyssa clearly was. "We ran into them at the next conference, husband's family happened to be driving through our town and decided to stop for a visit, what are the chances," etc. And "I knew he was the one" as code for "I knew my dad had picked him and there was no backing out."

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The part where she ran out of the house and pounded on the car window begging her parents not to leave her alone with a strange man made my heart stop. That could have ended so very poorly for her. 

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Thank you, @Columbia -- this is going into the podcast rotation.

On 6/9/2022 at 7:45 PM, Columbia said:

Norm Wakefield was an elder at Boerne Christian Assembly, and married his daughter to the son of Bob Welch, another BCA elder, and I think a big hotshot with Bill Gothard and DPIAT

Yes, Welch the father was a bigwig in VF but was also part of Boerne Christian Assembly -- he may have been one of the BCA "elders" involved in turfing out Dougie in 2013.

OTOH, seems like the Welch sons haven't done too well when it comes to True Christian™️ marriage. Another son, Richard, was married to Kelly Leininger. They also divorced and Kelly -- now Kelly Greyson -- is trying to make a living as an actor and would-be influencer.

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I wish there was a transcript of the recording. I hate listening to podcasts.

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3 hours ago, indianabones said:

I wish there was a transcript of the recording. I hate listening to podcasts.

As I like to say, “I can read faster than I can listen.”

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It really depends on the voice for me. Some voices are like nails on a chalkboard. Like JillRod for example. But if the voice is nice, I could listen no Problem while I’m doing dishes or something. 

I was able to listen to the first part of the podcast and I do think it’s interesting. She makes good points about her parents teaching her not to trust herself, her feelings, or her instincts from a very early age. That’s important in these circles if you want to keep your kids thoroughly brainwashed. 

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16 hours ago, indianabones said:

I wish there was a transcript of the recording. I hate listening to podcasts.

I usually up the speed on my player; depending on the speaker I can usually listen at a rate comparable to reading speed. But that does nothing for people who ramble and repeat themselves. There's just no substitute for good writing.

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I loved her blog and the very first post I read was when she started to tell the story of their courtship. I always wondered why she never continued. Now we know. I have every post saved. She was a part of my exit from legalism even while she was herself still extricating and there was far more going on than she was revealing in her blog. 

40 minutes into Part 1 and my lunch break is over. I really hope that she and her beautiful children have found happiness.

Edited by nolongerIFBx
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1 hour ago, nolongerIFBx said:

I loved her blog and the very first post I read was when she started to tell the story of their courtship. I always wondered why she never continued. Now we know. I have every post saved. She was a part of my exit from legalism even while she was herself still extricating and there was far more going on than she was revealing in her blog. 

40 minutes into Part 1 and my lunch break is over. I really hope that she and her beautiful children have found happiness.

Do you have a link to that courtship story? I never knew about her until last week, and now I’m curious to see how that story compares with what she’s saying now. 

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37 minutes ago, Columbia said:

Do you have a link to that courtship story? I never knew about her until last week, and now I’m curious to see how that story compares with what she’s saying now. 

I have a feeling her family makes her courtship story sound cute and funny. It seems like a lot of fundie families do that. Teasing a girl because she didn’t like a guy when she first met him. But changed her mind over time. There are so many courtship stories where we see the hesitation of the girl and they make light of it. 

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Part 2 is up. Alyssa told her husband at the beginning of their courtship that she didn't like him much and his response was "I'll win your heart." Which clearly didn't happen. She doesn't get too much into the specifics of her marriage but the long and short of it is that she was having miscarriage after miscarriage and being forbidden to use birth control or say no to her husband, while he was so bad at holding down a job that her father essentially supported them financially. Yikes. She says she started to think of leaving when she read a profile of a Muslim woman who escaped an arranged marriage and realized that it was the closest thing she'd ever heard to her own story.

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20 hours ago, Columbia said:

Do you have a link to that courtship story? I never knew about her until last week, and now I’m curious to see how that story compares with what she’s saying now. 

https://web.archive.org/web/20090416125802/http://resolved2worship.xanga.com/ - I haven't gone looking for just the courtship story but here's the wayback link.

 

 

Edited by nolongerIFBx
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Even if you don't like podcasts, I would recommend this. The hosts are a bit lackluster for me (though far from the worst I've ever heard) but Alyssa tells her story in a pretty compelling way, IMHO

I'll try to summarize it a bit under the spoiler tag for those who are unable to listen to it.

Trigger Warning: Rape and abuse.
 

Spoiler

 

{Note: I'm doing this from memory after listening to each segment once, and I'm skipping over a lot of the discussion of what motivates beliefs, what constitutes spiritual abuse, etc., so keep in mind that it's far from a verbatim transcript. I apologize in advance for anything I'm sure to misremember. Again, I encourage everyone to give it a listen if they can.}


Norm & Alma Wakefield, Alyssa's father and mother, were originally public school teachers.  They were "saved later in life" (which seems to be age 30 in their case), when Alyssa was 3 or 4.  She feels that a lot of young boomer parents in the 70s felt shame over the lifestyles they'd previously led, and latched on to the evangelical movement in an effort to keep their children "safe" from similarly damaging influences.  Alyssa grows up in southern California.

The Wakefields were heavily into James Dobson's Focus on the Family, and later Bill Gothard's teachings.  She talks about how the concept of "child training" became a hot topic among evangelicals in the late 70s and early 80s.  Alyssa describes being 4 years old, and insisting (as a little kid might do) that she wanted to wear her favorite raincoat to church, even though it wasn't raining. This led to an hour long spanking, the first that she remembers.  She also mentions that discipline sessions like that would end with forced hugs, which the child wasn't allowed to refuse any more than they could the spanking.  She talks about how it was used to break down the will of the child (she was viewed as particularly "strong willed" by her parents), and about how things like the post-discipline hugs, which were accompanied by "I do this because I love you" led to a lack of personal autonomy and agency.  Spankings "for disobedience" continued until she was 13 or 14.

There's discussion of how people were attracted to movements like Gothard's because he encouraged even stricter parental control than Dobson did.  Alyssa doesn't consider her father a cruel man by nature, but believes that abuse is basically inevitable in a patriarchal environment where the father is supposed to control/direct every aspect of the family, both in practical matters and in spiritual ones.  The courtship model was also something that came from Gothard, as Dobson allowed dating, albeit with the caveat that it had to be approved by the parents.

Her family were part of the very early stages of the homeschool movement.  Alyssa's parents decided to do so partly out of the belief that they could provide a much better education than their children would receive in the public school system, which Norm and Alma had taught in and were not impressed by.  They took homeschooling very seriously when the children were young, setting up a schoolroom in a spare bedroom (real school desks, maps on the walls, beginning the day with the Pledge of Allegiance), but also decided that Alyssa's education was over at age 16, because as a wife and mother she wouldn't need more than that (despite the fact that she would be expected to homeschool her own children).

In her early teens, Alyssa begged her parents to be allowed to go to college.  She wanted be a designer and start her own business.  Her parents, both college educated themselves, shut this down completely, telling her the only fulfillment she needed would come from marriage and children.  In the meantime, they made sure she was further isolated, closing off any chance at outside influences, even making their daughters quit a Christian youth group "because there were boys there".

Alyssa met Bill Gothard when he spoke at a local conference when she was 14.  She was one of several girls (including her sister) who were handpicked to go to lunch with him, something she's amazed their otherwise extremely overprotective parents allowed.  At the lunch, Alyssa was seated directly across from Gothard.  She describes the group as "very young, very southern California beach-looking girls" implying that Gothard selected them specifically for their appearance.  Over the course of the lunch, he asked Alyssa and her sister (14 and 16 at the time) to join him on mission trip to Russia.  Another girl, age 13, was invited to come to and live at his headquarters.  Alyssa never says whether she and her sister went on the trip to Russia, but comments that the other girl was 14 "when she started traveling around with him".

Alyssa and her older sister are later sent to Bill Gorthard's 8 week EXCEL program for girls in Dallas, Texas.  Alyssa is initially somewhat excited, knowing it's the closest experience to "going away to college" that she'll ever get.  There she meets Bob Welch, the "honorary bible teacher" and his wife, Yvonne.  Bob immediately pays a lot of attention to Alyssa, including quizzing her on things that she knows pertain to Gothard's courtship model.  The Welch family lives in Alabama, and at that point, Bob Welch and Norm Wakefield have never met.  Unbeknownst to Alyssa, Bob gets her father's number from the school, and proposes a courtship between their children.  He originally had his younger son Richard in mind.  At the time, Richard was 24 and "rebellious", so Bob decided that the right kind of girl, obedient but also "exciting" (which I take to mean "hot") would be the proper motivation to bring him back in line.  She says that out of 120 girls in the EXCEL program, Bob Welch zoned in on her, one of the youngest girls there, and she feels that she was being groomed.  She describes him as one of the most perverted men she ever met, but does not elaborate.

Norm seems totally on board with the idea of marrying Alyssa to Richard, despite the fact that Alyssa is still underage at this point.  She says that Bob frequently went around saying things like "Marry 'em young, raise 'em up right".  The two families arrange to meet at a conference.  Alyssa shakes hands with both of Bob's sons; Robert Jr., who is around 26 or 27 at that point (a decade older than Alyssa), and the aforementioned Richard.  Alyssa says she responded very demurely, not making eye contact (because she'd been taught that it was immodest to do so).  Alyssa learns much later that Richard, used to female attention, felt snubbed.  He tells his brother that he isn't interested, to which Robert replies "then maybe she's for me".

Despite all of this, Richard is sent to Norm to be "discipled".  Alyssa still doesn't know that their fathers are planning to arrange a marriage.  Apparently Norm disciples a lot of young men as part of his ministry, so this isn't considered out of the ordinary, and despite the fact that Richard stays with the Wakefield family, she has little interaction with him.  After a week and a half, Norm decides that Richard doesn't pass muster, and tells Bob the deal is off.  Bob is greatly offended.  Robert, however, sees Richard's loss as his gain, and makes his move 6 months later, with Bob Welch's approval.  At this point, Robert has been working for Gothard for 4 years, and is in seminary to become a youth pastor.  Norm decides that this one is son in law material.

The Wakefields attend a conference in Alabama, where they stay with the Welch family.  One evening after dinner Alyssa's parents tell her that they're going to the store, and that she's to stay there and help Robert do the dishes.  Alyssa is 18 by this point, but has never been allowed alone with an unrelated male at any point in her life, and is terrified at the prospect; not only because it's been constantly drummed in to her that men are scary and not to be trusted (except of course for your father and later, your husband, whom you must trust implicitly), but also because she knows that if she's being allowed alone with him, it's because their fathers have essentially already brokered their marriage.  Alyssa rushes out to her parent's car, begging to be allowed to go with them, but her father refuses.  Alyssa is too beaten down (emotionally an physically) to disobey.  After they wash the dinner dishes Robert asks her to go on a walk with him, which Alyssa does, despite being nervous (it's dark outside by this point).  He tells her he thinks they should marry, and launches into a long speech about the will of god (none of it really pertaining to any feelings he might have for her).  Despite her parents many attempts to break her spirit Alyssa still makes her reservations known, ending the conversation by telling him that she needs time to think about it.  Robert is completely unconcerned by this; he knows that with both fathers on board, it's already a done deal.  Alyssa even tells him that she has a crush on a boy back home, and that she's not attracted to Robert, but he doesn't seem to care.  He waves away her concerns with an assurance that "I'll win your heart" (he does not).  The Wakefield family returns to SoCal.

Alyssa and Robert marry 10 months later, their primary contact during those months being letters.  Alyssa receives 6, all pertaining to theology as well as the various standards (modesty, etc.) that Robert expects from a wife; they meet in person only a few times.  She refers to her wedding night as being raped.

Robert has a very high sex drive during their marriage, sometimes initiating it three times a day.  Alyssa says she never refuses, having been taught that not only should a wife never, under ANY circumstances say no to her husband (lest he be tempted elsewhere), but also that she needs to respond enthusiastically every time. She's even encouraged to send nudes to him when he's away from her during the day in order to hold his attention (he will later use them to threaten Alyssa after they separate). She is pregnant at least 11 times, including 3 miscarriages.

Robert is not a good provider, and moreover keeps tight control of the money that does come in, to the point of Alyssa not having enough money for groceries. Robert constantly talks of being a full time minister, and Alyssa gently reminds him they have a large family he needs to take care of. She, of course, is not allowed to work outside the home. She's frequently told that supporting such noble vision as a ministry requires sacrifice, even though she and the kids are already down eating only one meal a day.  She goes on to say that all of her kids started working various jobs around age 12. She says that while she doesn't necessarily think that kids having a job is always a bad thing, having insufficient food at home should not be their motivation.

Because of these financial problems Robert and Alyssa end up living back at her parents house many times throughout their marriage.  In one case, it's shortly after the birth of their 8th child.  Alyssa describes going downstairs and breaking down in front of her parents. In addition to being post-partum, she's horribly sick with the flu, and running a very high fever.  She's rundown, underweight, and overwhelmed; still homeschooling the older children full time.  Despite all of this, Robert still expects sex as usual.  Alyssa tells her parents that she knows she's never supposed to refuse him, and that she has never, ever, done so before, no matter how many times a day he wanted it, but that he's hurting her.  She had passed out the previous night, she's scared, and literally feels like she's dying.

Norm Wakefield responds by telling his daughter "You know, some women go into menopause early".

Alyssa assures him that as a 35 year old with a newborn, she doesn't think that's her issue.  She comments that her drive might actually be higher than Robert's, but that sex with him never provided her a release.  After the conversation with her parents, she attempts to talk to Robert.  She still doesn't exactly tell him no, just that she's really sick, needs to rest, and asks if they can take a break for a few days.  Robert is aghast at the idea that she's expecting him to go to work without having had sex first.  Sex before church is also considered a must, because otherwise he might be tempted by the women there.  Alyssa is expected to have all of their children picture-perfect before leaving for church (and absolutely never be late, because they have to be an example), so Sunday mornings are especially stressful.  She believes that the culture of "never say no to your husband" ultimately led to Robert becoming a sex addict who felt that he couldn't be expected to function without it.

She broaches the subject of birth control with her mother, asking if it's acceptable under any circumstances, given that she's had multiple miscarriages and feels her body giving out.  She is told absolutely not.

Alyssa tells a story of how she once picked up a secular magazine somewhere (despite such things being forbidden) and read an article about a conservative Muslim woman leaving an abusive arranged marriage.  Alyssa is shocked by the similarities in their stories; a father-arranged marriage, an abusive, controlling husband who is ten years older, etc.  At that point Alyssa is around 27, already a "Christian mom of many" and she's extremely shocked that a woman from such a supposedly different background had a marriage that Alyssa believes sounds just like hers.  The most amazing part of it all is that the woman got away from her abuser.  Even though it's still years before Alyssa would leave Robert, she says that's when she knew she couldn't live like that forever.

Once she finally divorces, her father's primary concern seems to be letting her know that remarriage would be considered the sin of adultery, because she's still married before god.  She makes it clear that she did not leave Robert for another man, and that it's pretty much the last thing she's thinking about at that point.  She seems to have ended contact with her parents afterward.

She describes how she and her sister worked secretarial jobs at their father's church/ministry when they were teenagers, because it was widely acknowledged in their brand of evangelicalism that a minister (any minister, not specific to Norm Wakefield) could not work with an unrelated woman as it would obviously be too much temptation.  The secretaries were always the minister's wives or daughters.  She says that because of this she felt responsible, as a teenager, for helping to ensure her own father's fidelity in his marriage.  She talks about how the emphasis on purity culture, together with the constant admonishment that men could not be expected to control themselves sent very mixed messages, as did the idea that your father was supposed to be the "high priest" (those words) of the home, the only one an unmarried girl could trust to make life decisions for her, while at the same time being regarded as so weak that he couldn't work with an unrelated woman.

She believes that fetishizing purity before marriage, followed by the constant drum of sexual submission after you married created an atmosphere equivalent to a sex cult.  She considers all of the sex that occurred in her marriage to be rape, because she never had the agency to truly consent to marrying Robert.  She says that by the time they were left alone with each other in the Welch family kitchen she'd been "spanked into obedience plenty of times" and "there isn't any fight or flight left in you".

She apparently makes some comments about rampant sexual abuse among the "higher ups" at Vision Forum (where Robert worked for awhile), but the podcast chooses not to air it. The host says that it's because Alyssa mentioned people by name, meaning the show presumably edited it out for legal reasons.

{And also to TORTURE THE LIVING HELL OUT OF ME. But I digress...}

Alyssa says that reading the gospels and coming to the realization that Jesus actually treated women as deserving of respect was a revelation to her compared to the patriarchy she'd been brought up in, and this is something that gave her the strength to stand up for herself and leave.

 

Edited by AnnaSofia
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Thank you for the summary @AnnaSofia! I listened to the podcast, despite disliking that medium generally, so others might manage it. But your post lays it all out in chronological order and is so helpful!

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6 hours ago, AnnaSofia said:

rampant sexual abuse among the "higher ups" at Vision Forum

Well, there was DPIAT. There were also rumors swirling about Bradrick! at the time of his divorce from Kelly. When people are so hyper-focused on control and sex, like VF & its supporters, widespread sexual abuse would not be surprising.

Too bad Gregoire didn't name the names in the podcast. I'm sure she's afraid of litigation from the accused parties but whisper networks are not the best way to stop the perpetrators of sexual abuse or the harm they inflict. 

Thank you, @AnnaSofia -- I've listened to the first episode and your detailed summary is excellent.

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My curiosity is currently through the roof! We all know Dug is a predator. But I want the names of the others! Ugh. I understand but damn. I want the names….

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I remember all of those beautiful pictures of her family. Now knowing she was going through hell and actually wanted to stop having more kids....has me wondering who else might be putting on a show to fool everyone🤔

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38 minutes ago, Tangy Bee said:

who else might be putting on a show to fool everyone🤔

I suspect we'd recognize many of their names.

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On 6/11/2022 at 10:08 PM, hoipolloi said:

Thank you, @Columbia -- this is going into the podcast rotation.

Yes, Welch the father was a bigwig in VF but was also part of Boerne Christian Assembly -- he may have been one of the BCA "elders" involved in turfing out Dougie in 2013.

OTOH, seems like the Welch sons haven't done too well when it comes to True Christian™️ marriage. Another son, Richard, was married to Kelly Leininger. They also divorced and Kelly -- now Kelly Greyson -- is trying to make a living as an actor and would-be influencer.

Yeah I believe Richard Welch who married Kelly Leininger, is the eldest Welch son who Bob Welch and Norm Wakefield first tried to set up Alyssa with. 

In the podcast Alyssa says that her courtship story was told in videos and at conferences, does anyone know what videos she’s referring to?

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She said everyone complemented her and her family for staying so thin. While they were only allowed to eat one meal a day because her husband controlled the little money they had. It makes me think how many other fundie families are underfed due to money. 

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