Escape from Duggarville: How playing the good Christian housewife almost killed me
20 SEP 2014
Vyckie Garrison was once a minor celebrity in the Quiverfull Movement, made famous by TV’s Duggar family. As a devout, Bible-believing Christian and the mother of seven homeschooled children, Garrison spent 16 years, with her husband, publishing a newspaper for families on a similar path. Today, via a website called No Longer Quivering, she publishes resources for women leaving the movement. Recently she addressed American Atheists about her experience. This article is an abridged version of her remarks.
Whenever I talk about my escape from the Quiverfull movement, Christians immediately dismiss my experience by saying, “Your problem was not with Jesus or Christianity. Your problem was that you were following an extreme, legalistic cult. Let me tell you about my personal relationship with Jesus.” It can be extremely frustrating. I was in a close, personal relationship with Jesus for over 25 years. But rather than telling you about the beginning of my relationship with this man, I am going to spare you the long story and skip straight to the break up.
The end of my life as a “Bride of Christ” came after a visit to Bright Horizons, which is the local domestic violence shelter in my hometown of Norfolk, Nebraska. I went there for help in filing a restraining order against my husband, whose emotional and mental abuse against me and my children had escalated to the point that I was in the midst of a complete mental and physical breakdown. He had taken 6 of our 7 children to a town three hours from our home and was preventing me from having any contact with them unless I agreed to his terms for our “reconciliation.”
At the women’s shelter, I was given a form to complete … I wrote three pages describing the situation in our home, and after reading what I had written, the crisis volunteer said to me, “The judge will not grant you a protection order unless you actually accuse your husband of abuse.”
I told her that I didn’t really think my husband was “technically” abusive, and in fact, I had no doubt that he truly loved me and the kids. He always put us first … he basically centered his entire life around us! We were a good Christian family. The Bible commands husbands to “love your wives as Christ loved the church.” That’s the sort of godly man I was married to: a true patriarch who ruled his home according to God’s principles for marriage and family.
We had studied the Bible carefully, and knew so much about “Biblical Family Values,” that we felt qualified to teach others via our “Pro-life, Pro-family” Christian newspaper, The Nebraska Family Times. In 2003, we were named “Nebraska Family of the Year” by the Nebraska Family Council … and this was in recognition of our work to help get DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) passed in Nebraska. That’s not something that I’m at all proud of these days, but at the time, being named “Family of the Year” was enough to convince me that we were on the right track so far as marriage and family goes. I had become somewhat of a leader in what is now called “the Quiverfull movement” – Christian fundamentalist families who are dedicated to actually living out the biblical model for marriage and family in their daily lives.