My name is Tera Winker. I am a survivor of the Independent Fundamental Baptist cult. It has taken me a very long time to have the courage to tell my story of abuse. My story is not an isolated story for this cult. There are many children that bare the scars of their abuse; but, they have been silenced like I was silenced. My hope is that others who have been abused in this cult will read my story and find courage; courage to speak out against their abusers; courage to free themselves from the bondage and abuse.
I will begin my story by talking about my Stepdad. He was a longtime student of Hyles Anderson College. Eventually, he graduated with much praise and admiration from the leaders at the school and church. He was known as a good, godly Christian who won many souls to Christ and brought many to church. But, I knew the truth!
My Stepdad started molesting me when I was 12. It wasn’t long after this that my mother started getting on to me about my Bible reading. She said my Stepdad was unhappy that I had not been reading the Bible like I should and felt I needed to be punished. It was at this point that I told her what was going on – my Stepdad was molesting me. When she confronted him about it, He said I was a liar. However, my mom put all the “red flags” that she saw together, and believed what I said as truth. My Stepdad threatened me and told me that if I told anyone outside of our family, that my mother would go to jail with him and my siblings and I would be split up in foster care and would end up in a worse situation than my current one. I believed him and felt like I was in my own prison.
Once I told my mother the truth about him, the abuse then changed to physical, emotional and verbal. He would constantly grope me and I would beg him to stop, but he would not. I told him to do “that” to his wife and leave me alone. He said, “I wish I had married you instead of your mother.” I was so grossed out! (I was only 8 when he married my mom and the night before their wedding I cried and begged her not to marry him. She did not listen, and the abuse towards her started on their honeymoon and never stopped.)
One Sunday morning, I decided to stand in my pastor, Jack Hyles, counseling line. I told my pastor that “My Stepdad was touching me wrong.” (I was so ashamed of the details of my abuse, so that is all I could tell him at that time). He said, “The next time your Stepdad tries anything, get in his face and tell him he is wrong and immediately tell your mother so she can step in and stop the abuse”. I left his office feeling empowered with this new plan. I felt that I had the support of my pastor. (Deep down, I knew I would be punished severely for standing up to my abuser, but I did not care anymore. I wanted him to know that he was wrong and that my pastor knew what was going on.)
A few days later, I was in our kitchen working on my history fair project and he started putting his hands all over me. I begged him to stop and he would not. I then told him what he was doing was wrong and that I was now going to tell my mother what he was doing. He jumped up from the kitchen table, ran down the hall and told my mother that I had “just talked back to him” and “had a bad attitude”. He then told her that she would be spanking me with his belt while he watched. I was horrified that she would not let me explain, only his words mattered. So the punishment began. He said, “Bend over.” I said “No, I did not do anything wrong, you did.” He then hit me across my face with as much force as he could muster (he was a military man with great strength and knew how to administer great violence). I saw stars and almost blacked out. He did this more than 30 times, telling me to “bend over” and my telling him “no” as he continued to administer severe blows to my face. My mother finally stopped the beating; however, my face was no longer recognizable. After this, I was told to stay home for four days from school to give my face time to heal. My Stepdad then told my mother to go to the store and purchase some concealer make-up in order to cover up the bruising to my face and my black eye. Many people at school asked what happened. I told them I fell on my face and hit the corner of our hallway (that is the story I was told to tell). I lived in fear that if I told anyone the truth, my Mom would go to jail and we would be split up and put into foster care.
My best friend’s father took a picture of my face and tried to call the police, but I begged him not to due to what my Stepdad told me. I did not want to be the reason my family was broken up. My abuse continued for many years and maybe I will share more at a later time, but for now this is all I can share.
Many of the leaders at the church and schools knew about my abuse. I felt helpless and alone. I did open up to my pastor, Jack Hyles, and told him more of what was going on, but he told me, “It sounds like he was just fondling you, so let’s try to get you moved to Bob Jones academy.” Instead of helping to stop the abuse, he was trying to get rid of ME; to send ME away. I did not want to be moved away from my friends and family! Why couldn’t the abuser move away?
My mother is still married to my abuser and, I have recently taken steps to pull away and not be a part of their lives.