Sadistic Foster Mom a Devout Jehovah’s Witness

Sadistic Foster Mom a Devout Jehovah’s Witness

I had intended to do a summary of recent stories on Jehovah’s Witnesses in the news, but I can’t put this in as a story among others. It illustrates the extreme of a general tendency fostered by Jehovah’s Witnesses, however they may try to deny it.

Twice-divorced foster mom Eunice Spry, of Tewkesbury, Glos, has been found guilty at Bristol crown court of 26 charges of cruelty and assault. This Jehovah’s Witness has shown no sympathy for her victims, nor accepted any blame for torturing three children over a period of almost 20 years.

Spry, 62, routinely beat, abused and starved the two girls and a boy as punishments. The victims, now in their late teens and early 20s, said the devout Jehovah’s Witness forced sticks down their throats, made them eat their own vomit and rat excrement, drink washing-up liquid and bleach and locked them naked in a room without food for a month.

Spry claims that the children were possessed by the devil. Sandpapering their skin seemed like a good solution.

Child A, now 21, came into Spry’s care when she was five. She said: “We were regularly beaten. We were starved or made to eat blocks of lard, drowned in the bath and kicked down the stairs.

“Mum had an array of sticks and would beat us with them and kick us until we were bruised and collapsing with pain. If we screamed, she would push the sticks down our throats. The pain was unbearable. These things happened all through my childhood.”

Child B, a girl also now aged 21, said: “We had no friends. We were told not to speak to anyone.” Child C, a boy of 23, told Bristol crown court: “One summer, when I was seven or eight, we were starved for a month.

“We were kept locked in a room with no clothes on and had very little to eat.

“If we wanted to go to the toilet we had to do it in the corner. I remember being made to eat my own excrement off the floor.”

Spry, 62, who faces jail after she was yesterday convicted of child cruelty, wounding, assault and perverting justice, kept her savage regime secret by refusing to send the children to school. She taught them at home and rarely let them to leave the house.

The children were routinely punished for supposedly misbehaving by being made to swallow rat droppings, dog food, bleach, washing-up liquid and the antiseptic TCP.

Prosecutor Kerry Barker said that interviews with the victims resulted in a “horrifying catalogue of cruel and sadistic treatment,” but the case relied heavily on evidence from forensic scientists.

Police described Spry as intelligent and clever who had showed no emotion when she was questioned. Det Con Victoria Martell said: “Most mothers who’d been accused of such things would have shown something. She didn’t and it was quite chilling.”

Although a spokeman for the Jehovah’s Witnesses claimed that the faith does not tolerate physical abuse, her behavior was clearly fueled by JW beliefs. Fanatical Jehovah’s Witness Eunice believed the two girls and a boy were possessed by the Devil – she wanted to “purify” them. At a local Kingdom Hall, Spry made one of the children wear a sign on back which said: “This child is evil. Do not look at her or talk to her.” Did anyone intervene? Nah. This nasty woman was considered a pillar of her local community.

Yes, clearly this story is beyond the pale of any kind of acceptable behavior. Why does it matter that she was a “devout Jehovah’s Witness”? It matters because the authoritarian/perfectionist mindset of JWs contributes to the pathology of individuals like this. In such simplistically totalitarian groups (and JWs are not alone), there is simply more child abuse, more domestic abuse, more sexual abuse, and more violence.

Despite their “pacifist” beliefs about not fighting in wars (which really have to do more with their separation from the world and this “system of things” – like their refusal to vote), the internal dynamic of the followers of the Watchtower Bible and Tract corporations encourages behaviors of domination and control. In a very real psychological sense, they are controlled and thus abused, and often become abusers themselves. As any non-JW family member can tell you, kindness is not at the top of their list of priorities. This is especially so for men, although this case involves instead a woman. I hope to hear more about the background – I think the history here must be very convoluted.

I never saw an elder chastised for cruelty. I never saw a single JW interfere with physical, abusive “correction” of children (or women). The man is head of the household. This book excerpt describes a common situation that I observed in my own youth.

When I was twelve years old, my nineteen-year-old sister married a Jehovah’s Witness, and one year later she delivered a beautiful baby boy. Sadly, Jon would come to know at a tender age of one the frustration I experienced sitting on that anthill during those long sermons in the Kingdom Hall. When Jon started fidgeting, his father grabbed him by the arm and literally dragged him to the restroom to beat him. Jon’s beating became such a ritual that when his daddy reached for him during a meeting, he knew it meant a beating. He cried and pleaded “No, Daddy” as he buckled his legs, refusing to walk willingly to meet his fate. Everyone in the Kingdom Hall could hear his screams. The sound that echoed from the blow varied; sometimes Jon’s father used his hand, sometimes a belt. After ten or fifteen minutes, they would return with Jon hyperventilating, desperately trying to catch his breath. Beaten into composure, he would sit still for a while longer. Usually he stared motionless into space, his eyes bloodshot from crying. If fate smiled on him, Jon fell asleep in my arms for the duration of the meeting. If not, then back again to the restroom he would go for another beating and the cycle continued, until the closing prayer. One heart-wrenching day in particular is forever seared into my memory. My sister confided in my mother, father, and me that Jon, then two years old, had asked his father to hit him on his hands with the belt instead of his buttocks. When asked why he wanted to be punished that way, he replied, “Because my butt is too sore.” Within a year, my sister had another child and his fate, sadly, was no different than Jon’s. Meanwhile, my sister’s husband was rewarded for his devotion to the faith. He was made an Elder.’ – from Out of the Cocoon: A Young Woman’s Courageous Flight from the Grip of a Religious Cult by Brenda Lee.

Punishments are inflicted – even at the Kingdom Hall itself – to try to create the perfect submissive JW child who will never make a mistake of any kind. That kind of situation was the subtext of a poem I wrote about how I learned to re-imagine my role in order to navigate through difficult situations. My mind was always my realm of freedom. As a child, there are some things you can’t escape. I was hit with a belt, but not nearly as much as some others. Sticks are also common, since they seem to remind people of the “rod.”

While the actions of this horrible woman are not typical, they are on the same continuum. The protective paranoia of the group, which considers all “worldly” authorities to be ruled by Satan, discourages reporting to outsiders. They don’t trust psychologists, psychiatrists, or child development specialists. They don’t trust the police or the legal system or any part of government. They discourage reading outside their publications, and think that education is a waste of time and energy. People who are so controlled sometimes do odd and destructive things, like this. She would have been horrible without the JWs, but this gave her the ideology and rationalization, and the cover, to do it. She was also able to pull the kids out of school (for “home-schooling”) when concerns arose about their neglect, possible starvation, and the environment of “austere” parenting. Children, who may grow up thinking that abuse is “normal,” should be better protected.

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. – C.S. Lewis


7 thoughts on “Sadistic Foster Mom a Devout Jehovah’s Witness

  1. What a horrible story. Even growing up a JW myself, I was lucky to have decent parents. It was only when I was older and out of the JWs that I found out one of the little girls we used to play with was molested by her stepfather. It explained a lot about her behavior. Her mother even claimed that the girl had seduced her step father. She was around 10 years old!

    How do you gather all the JW related stories in from the news? I’d like to start doing that.

  2. I have a lot of sources. I have Google alerts set for Jehovah, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Watchtower. There are also JW and religion news sites that I check every so often. Former JW friends send me things, and I am on a few newsletter lists from different sites and groups. JW-related forums and blogs sometimes have interesting discussions, and you can check sites like Technorati, too.

    I don’t follow the news stories obsessively, but when something strikes my eye (or as my son likes to say, “bites my eye”), I try to post and respond in some way.

  3. I, for one, refuse to believe it. There are no weirdos or extremists among Jehovah’s Witnesses just like in the Catholic Church, right?

  4. Healing means letting go of that which you need, that which has hurt you. My need for my mother has caused me to intimately suffer her own pain, fear and insecurity— the same feelings used by the witnesses to draw her in, used against her, to hold her hostage. The hope that she has always nurtured, used to keep her close. I may never know her outside of this context, but it important that I know myself outside of it. I was born a jehovahs witness; moving into the world means leaving the hatred, suspicion and blame behind; learning how to live without the need for these things… Learning how to want and need love, knowledge, progress and light…

  5. It’s funny to me how people are so blind as to believe that someone who calls themselves religious (whether it’s Jehova Witnesses,Catholics, or Baptist, or whoever) and commits such acts of evil can truly be categorized as though belonging to any religious identity. In every religion there will be members who deviate from their beliefs but that does not mean everyone is that way. I believe everyone should worry about themselves and the members of their church. After all it is each individual who will have to account for his or her actions and not the group as a whole.

    1. Yes, what you say is valid in the largest sense. However, when someone’s pathology is intimately related to the context of a particular community, it’s helpful to look at that as well. Abuse and violence and mental illness are statistically greater among Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s easy just to say that if someone can act this way, then they are automatically not categorized as a member. But when the community destabilizes people through its internal dynamics in ways that are easily recognizable by any psychologist, then there is more to the story. I’m not saying JWs are the only ones, but – I understand how something like this could have happened.

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