Survival After the Suffering

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Testimony by Vennie Kocsis

My abuse story is not “typical”, although who is to say that any abuse is typical. My story is a bit different because I am a survivor of ritualistic cult abuse. I share my experiences openly with the intent of connecting with others who have been abused. It’s important to me that we come to know there is healing and survival after the suffering.

In 1973, my mother took me and my siblings, left our father and our family home in San Diego, CA and drove across the country to Ware, Massachusetts where she joined a religious cult called The Move. I was three years old.

While at this facility my family was separated from one another and each placed into different classification units on the compound. The next four years of my childhood became a nightmare filled with ritual beating sessions, sessions involving casting out of “demons”, molestation by multiple men, slave labor working on the compound from dawn till dusk, methodical listening to hours of tapes of preaching, and an overall hopeless existence of disassociation as my body and soul tried to cope with what was being done to it.

When I was seven, for reasons not completely clear at this time, the leaders of the cult decided to shut down the Massachusetts division. They re-located many of us to another division of their cult in Delta Junction, Alaska. My family was re-united, but life would never be the same for us. The damage had already been done. In Alaska we were trained to prepare to die for “christ”, that the “communists” would eventually come to america to ask us if we believed in jesus, and would subsequently shoot us if we answered yes. We were trained to be martyrs for their religion. We were taught to shoot rifles and survive in the deep woods since we would eventually need to hide there. The list of offenses against children continued in Alaska with molestation, severe beatings and extreme labor. When I was thirteen my sister suffered an incident which caused the cult leaders to banish us from the compound. Her suffering turned out to be our savior.

Life back in the “real world” proved to be an extremely difficult adjustment. We had to learn simple things that other teenagers found natural, like how to shop in stores, learning current trending music and television, something my siblings and I had never learned to do. We struggled with understanding having social skills and many other life skills which caused integrating into a “normal” society quite painful. We hid our shortcomings as much as we could, to avoid being laughed at and criticized by our peers.

I am currently writing a novel recounting in detail my life growing up in this cult. It’s been a little over five years in the making. The details of my experiences are not easy to write out. It takes quite a lot of soothing and damage control to get through recalling many of these experiences. I feel much strength to be where I am at this point in my life. Many of the other children abused by this cult have grown up to be adults with severe substance abuse problems, extreme mental illness and in some cases, even suicide. Many cannot even talk about what happened to them. There is a handful of us who are able to speak to one another about our experiences, and we provide a network of support to one another as we are able. Being a survivor of ritual abuse can require a special understanding. Having connection with others who have experienced this level of abuse and survived is a worthy support. It can be difficult for the average person to wrap their minds around a story such as this.

I tell my story because I am a survivor, and I know the damage done when a child is stripped from everything which makes them pure and innocent. I care about what others have experienced and how we all can become functional and find self love after the pain.

I spent many years angry, asking why was I made to suffer so much. I wallowed in self pity and hatred, carrying bitterness and ugliness inside of me. I lashed out, got into a life of crime when I was a young adult, struggled to be a functional parent and much more. It is a very difficult road out of this pain, and many days I deal with flash memories and moments of trying to escape haunting images which can sometimes have a mind of their own, emerging uninvited to float around in my brain. It’s been a long journey of redefining habits and behaviors, ending self abuse and accepting that my past experiences do not have to define my current day to day existence. I believe that it is because of the horror I experienced in my childhood that I am able to carry immense compassion for the suffering of others.

Every time I meet someone who has survived abuse, I am inspired even more to continue telling my story. Their survival inspires me to continue on, as excruciating as it can be to re-live this trauma every time I dig in to recall it. Most of all, they inspire me to continue to Love and care for every single human who has been hurt and carries the scars of being violated.

Thank you for taking the time to read and understand my journey. I welcome open conversation, thoughts and sharing of individual experiences. I will always lend support as I am able. May we Heal.

6 thoughts on “Survival After the Suffering

  1. Are you still in Alaska? If so, what part?

  2. Thank YOU for reminding me that we can all help each other heal and become whole again, no matter how different our individual experiences with abuse. I wish you all the best.

  3. thank you for taking the time to both share and read my story. I’m no longer in Alaska 🙂 – We are survivors!

  4. I was born into the Move at the Ware farm. I was born in 1974. When I was six, after the closing, I and my family moved to Haines, Alaska. Covenant Life Center. Another, different farm. While I was brought up uber religious, worked extremely hard and had to go to church often, I did not experience your abuse. I never was taught communist were going to come. I never was taught to use a gun to defend myself, however, I did take a Hunter Safety Course as a class for credit in High School, and I got pretty darn good at shooting squirrels in our attic. I got bullied by other girls in my class. Boys tried to kiss me. We played just as hard as we worked. We had good, organic food on the table. Clothes to wear. Warm houses. Fresh air. I had a solid relationship with my parents and I fought authority as any strong willed teenager would. I chose to leave the Move when I was 18. I had my share of troubles. A bad marriage. divorce. Two beautiful kids. You know what had I not been raised the way I was, I don’t think I would have had the strength to “survive” the life I lived when I left the Farm. In fact I suffered more abuse you could say after leaving then when I lived there.

    That being said, I don’t diminish your or any other person’s experience at any number of the Farm’s because I am sure they are real and happened.
    I know of several people who re-count the earlier days before I was born and it saddens and shocks me because I never experienced what they describe. Every single Farm was in of itself it’s own entity with their own rules and governing under a blanket of the Move as a whole.

    It makes me sad that I hear your story and other’s who didn’t fare well and were “cast out”. I feel ashamed that some were treated so badly while others had a relatively good life. It makes me mad that such tragic events took place and good people were scarred for life.

    I took away from my experience a life-long lesson of how I didn’t and did want to treated. To stand up for myself. To honor the good in me and to treat others kindly because you never know what your going to face in your life and we each have our own path to choose and walk.

    Faith M. Tuohy

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