May 24, 2011
Tom and Stephanie sit down with writer and author Ingrid Ricks and discuss her experiences of growing up Mormon and dealing with abuse.
Her website: IngridRicks.com
More information on her book: Hippie Boy Book
Podcast: Play in new window
By Tom Perry
Tags: abuse, belief, excommunication, Healing, Prayer, priesthood, religion
This kind of story makes me angry. I find myself wishing I could go back in time, find Ingrid’s step-dad and her bishop (the first one at least), and help her punch them out. At least I would like to tell her that she is going to be OK, that these men are idiots, that their behavior is inexcusable (and any religious justification for it is complete and utter bullcrap). I am really impressed out how Ingrid has come through all of this. Respect!
Thank you, Hermes. Your comments are so cool. I wish now I could go back and tell my younger self that everything was going to be OK, too. I also wish I would have been strong enough back then to Stand Up and shout out to the Church that it’s NOT OK to facilitate abuse. But I’m thankful that I’ve found my voice now. And am grateful to have the opportunity to share my story.
Absolutely fantastic! the interviewers were able to maintain their composure despite how “thematic” the history of this family! I am contemplating the correlation that may exist during these developmental ages involved and divorce. I was 11 when my dad cheated on my Mom and our lives began spiraling. I still CANNOT stand my wicked stepmother despite my disaffection. Well done and WALK TALL!
p.s. ewwww naturopath? is sure hope he didn’t recommend some quack detox therapy or chelation therapy. see previous SKEPTOID episode.
Not at all. He’s just focused on the idea that nutrition tied with good mental health can be beneficial. And given that the traditional medical establishment can do nothing for my degenerative eye disease, I’m definitely willing to give nutrition and an embrace life now attitude a try.
BTW…thanks for taking the time to listen to the interview and to share your thoughts. Sounds like we have a similar background.
I think that it is a lot more prevalent to have abuse in religious families than people think. I grow up in a LDS family that was very abusive. There was every type of abuse happening in my house. I grow-up not knowing that the abuse was not normal; I even had several friends that were also being abuse in their homes. I honestly think that the power that some men feel they have because of their callings or just that they have because they are the leader of the home is a breeding ground for abuse. I found out after I was an adult that all of my extended family knew we were all being abused and they as faithful LDS chose not to intercede.
I chose to stay in the LDS religion, marry a very faithful member, and I am raising my children LDS. It has been hard though because I have no illusions of perfect families and happily ever afters. I see right through others acts and I find I can tell when there is abuse happening in other homes. I even have to remind my own husband that he doesn’t have the only say in raising our kids, that his opinion is not the only one that matters.
I have raised my kids to think, form their own opinions, and hopefully never to carry on abuse because they think they have power over others.
I think that all people need to be aware of abuse and hopefully they will do something to help those in the situation.
I am sure you are right that abuse in religious families is much more prevalent than people think, perhaps more prevalent than in non-religious families, but even so, as I said in my comments to Ingrid, I think that happy, loving Mormon families are more the rule than the exception. Though I no longer believe the LDS Church is what it claims to be, I cannot deny that both my wife and I have very fond memories of growing up in our faithful, loving, Mormon families.
I know that there are well adjusted, healthy religious families; I am raising one.
The difference is that I have learned that I always need to speak up and say how I feel. I never let myself feel like I am being walked on or that I am doing that to others. The lines of communication are extremely open in my house and will always be so.
My husband, unlike my father, is a good and honorable man that listens to me and values my opinion. Even when I have to remind my husband that he does not have the only opinion in the house there is no comparison to him and the way I was raised.
I’m glad for you! Your current family situation is much more like it ought to be. Though I still think that family situations like yours and mine are more the rule than the exception in LDS families, I would agree that there probably are far more exceptions to that than there ought to be, and that the patriarchal structure and attitudes of the LDS Church are largely responsible for that state of affairs (as Randy indicated in his comment below).
I’m so glad that you have found your voice. So GLAD!!!
Ingrid, I really appreciated hearing your story, and I feel so sorry for what you had to go through. Your stepfather, IMHO, was a lesser man (as far as I can see) than your real father despite the latter’s unfaithfulness to your mother.
Many, perhaps most believing Mormons, have the mistaken idea that one of the main reasons people leave the Church is that someone in the Church offended or abused them or otherwise failed to live up to the Church’s standards of behavior or morality. It appears that in your case, this may actually have been one of the triggers (perhaps the main trigger) that started you on the path of questioning Mormonism and finding out that it is far from what it claims to be. Do you think that you would have become so disaffected with the LDS Church had you been raised in a faithful, loving Mormon family whose parents truly loved and respected each other and gave due consideration to each other’s opinions, feelings and inputs, as well as those of their children, and whose father did not try to abuse what he regarded as his priesthood authority and rights? There are such families; I hope you realize. Both my beloved wife and I were raised in such families, and have very fond memories of our childhoods and growing up in a faithful Mormon home. My wife is still a TBM largely because of that, while I regard myself as merely a cultural, no longer believing Mormon for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with any perceived mistreatment of me by the Church or anyone in it.
Though it is probably true that religious fervor too often tends to encourage or overlook the creation of a climate of abuse (especially ecclesiastical abuse), I am sure you realize by now that situations as extreme as what you experienced while growing up are more exceptions than the rule–even in Mormon culture, which so strongly caters to male dominance and authority.
I am glad that you are healing from the trauma of your childhood, and especially glad that you and your mother have managed to establish a good and healthy relationship with each other.
Thanks for your note, Gunnar1961. I do know several happy, healthy Mormon families and have a great relationships with them. Had I grown up in different circumstances, I’m sure I wouldn’t have some of the feelings I have. Though for lots of reasons, I never could have stayed in the religion. Organized religion of any kind doesn’t work for me – the idea that one group of people are right, which makes the next group of people wrong. Have you ever heard the Johnny Cash song about people dying in war? Can’t remember the title but its all about people killing and dying because God’s on THEIR side. That song says it all for me.
Thanks for your reply to my note. It pretty much confirms for me that you have the healthy, mature attitude I suspected and hoped you had. I agree with every one of your points!
i had to stop listening….i feel like i just walked in to an alternate universe where i am hearing my life told back to me and i was not at all prepared to experience this or have Ingrids memories and fears….i dont mean to sound dramatic but i’m serious…the interviews i was forced to have with my step father (he called them ‘family PPI’s”), not being allowed to talk to my mom privately, we werent allowed to lock to the bathroom door because it was seen as defiance, my journal was routinely read so as to sniff out possible gateways to sin, my brother was severely beat and spent much of his childhood in and out of group homes, i had physical altercations with my step father, my biological father was ex’d for adultery, my mom is pathologically devout, i wasnt allowed to be sick because it was seen as being manipulative and trying to control the family, i was threatened with mental institutions or juvenile jail if i failed to meet my spiritual goals and expectations….i could go on and on and on……….. i was even terrified to be baptized because i knew i would be an official member of the church and then the expectations would be even higher-i threw up before my baptism and was told it was Satan that was fighting for my soul… i was afraid to think or have spontaneous thoughts because i believed my step father could use the priesthood to read my mind……jesus effing christ…..fnnnnnnnnnck….i’m sorry i didnt finish the podcast but i just cant. dont get me wrong i’m not having a nervous breakdown or anything but THIS is literally way too close to home. i ended up leaving home less than 2 weeks after i turned 18 so i could escape the Church and my home life.
Wow…Sinclaire. Sounds like our experiences are SO similar to mine. I’m so sorry you had to go through this, too. I hope that your life is better now. I think one way to combat this type of abuse is to start talking about it. In the Catholic religion, there is systematic sexual abuse by priests. I wonder if systematic physical abuse and oppression happens in the Mormon religion? I think speaking out is the only way to start addressing the issue.
i would have never trusted anyone in our ward to believe me. my step father was in high callings and also in law enforcement. i wouldnt have even known who to tell or what to say! how do i explain to someone that my father is extremely worried about my salvation, invades my privacy to “keep me safe”, and asks me questions about masturbation during family PPI’s and have them think this is a BAD thing. as far as i knew this was how mormons raised their kids ( if Bishops can get away with it why not a father) and since everyone else seemed happy in my SS classes i figured it was one of the only ones that was ‘resistant to the spirit’ and had earned this kind of structure. Luckily there was something inside me from a young age that knew TSCC was wrong…i knew i had to do my best to play the game, not tip anyone off and get thrown in a mental ward or shipped off to a wilderness camp…and that when i turned 18 i would leave and never, ever go back again. and other than a handful of family events and funerals-i havent been back in 19 yrs. i’m afraid of the Church on some level…i truly believe there is an evil force inside it….not a ‘devil’ but evil none the less…the evil of absolute knowledge. its the greatest deciever of all…it allows men to rarely if ever question themselves or the religion that grants them their authority.
and MIKE TANNEHILL aka TBM’s of the world-yes i left BECAUSE I WAS OFFENDED…and i obviously wasnt faithful enough, praying hard enough, reading my scriptures enough….blah blah…yup..thats why i never got a testimony or learned to see past the mistakes of priesthood holders and accepted them as the mistakes of mere “men”….
Wow indeed! When I read stories like yours and Ingrid’s, I feel so fortunate to have had the loving and supporting LDS family I grew up in. I’m sure that even most Mormons would agree that family situations like what you experienced while growing up are unacceptably abusive and extreme.
Ingrid, thank you for sharing your fascinating story. I really enjoyed it, except when I was filled with rage at Earl, both bishops, and the LDS “counseling” services. My blood pressure went up during those parts. My take on the LDS religion and abuse is this: assholes like Earl don’t need the patriarchal structure of the church to abuse people. He was going to abuse and may be abusing someone close in his life right now. But the LDS church provides him with a perfect environment to thrive. It gives him more and very powerful manipulation tools like your mother’s devotion to the church and it’s structure. It also gives him a support system for the abuse like not one but two bishops reinforcing and empowering his abuse. So I guess I’m saying it doesn’t create abusers out of good men, but it definitely makes abusers more effective. And lucky for me, I have a kind, gentle, and humble father that has accepted my leaving the church even with gentle love and dignity, albeit laced with sadness.
This brings me to my second point. When you are raised in a healthy, loving environment and the LDS church, most just accept the reality around you. You are in the proverbial fishbowl and if the water feels fine (unlike you where it was too acidic) there is no reason to get out of it and your whole world is that fishbowl. Most good, responsible people raised in this environment don’t leave because in this paradigm, being good and responsible is being an active believer. But, sometimes something will happen to jolt some people out of the fishbowl (for me it was Prop 8 coupled with learning about polyandry) and I found myself outside the fishbowl looking back at it and being blown away that I could have confined myself in that fishbowl for so long. I think that’s where you, in that moment in the podcast, seemed perplexed that any woman would accept life in the church. I don’t think you ever were swimming happily in that fishbowl in the first place.
And I’m so sorry that you have retinitis pigmentosa. My heart broke when I looked that up and saw the implications and prognosis. Good luck with that and again, thanks.
Thanks, Randy. So true…if you enjoy the fishbowl you are swimming in, it’s hard to see a reason to leave it. There’s no question that I drowning in mine.
I, too, am dismayed by the Church involvement with Prop 8. That kind of sanctioned discrimination is so depressing and so dangerous. Somehow we’ve got to come together as a world and stop judging and hurting others.
Thank you for your kind words re: my RP. It’s hard – but I’m hopeful that a viable treatment emerges soon (very soon).
There was a family in my ward growing up who was a real mess. Two of their daughters were around my age and I remember being BAFFLED by how angry and horrible they were. Last year I went back to my hometown for my uncle’s funeral and found out that the step-father of that family had been sexually molesting all of the girls for their entire lives and that he was finally in prison because the youngest one of the bunch (the one girl who was his natural daughter) had gone to the police. Suddenly in that moment it all made sense… the anger in the girls, the chaos in the family… the boys always in trouble with the law. Thinking back on their angry faces makes me so sad. Also, I was angry with my parents. I asked them why they didn’t do anything. My mom said my dad tried to but nothing came of his complaint and so they just let it drop. She said something like, “What were we supposed to do, Heather?” Looking back I bet every single other person in that ward knew what was probably going on and did nothing. It boggles my mind.
How sad! It boggles my mind too that others in the ward knew what was going on and did nothing for so long (if true).
This is so awful, Heather. I know too many situations where abuse is blatantly ignored. And the consequences are devastating.
The abuse in my family was much more subtle and my stepfather was much more adept at seeming competent. The fact remains that though the bishops and stake presidents spent much time with my mother and stepfather, no one ever checked in with the kids. So, we had a mother who chose to side with her abusive husband over her children, a father who “knew” but was too checked out to protect us, and church leaders who believed that if everyone did a better job of living the gospel, our family would eventually shape itself up. And if the kids ‘fess up to what’s really going on in the family, well, that could get messy. Better not ask.
I think the church’s culpability is that they rely on unprofessionally trained clergy to provide “counseling” to it’s members. I think this is ecclesiastical malpractice. Because of my profession, I’m a mandated reporter, and had I been in Ingrid’s ward I would have called social services in a red hot minute. The real tragedy is there that in the LDS paradigm, children remain vulnerable to abuse.
Thanks for your note, Cam. Sounds like several of us have had similar experiences. Maybe if enough of us start speaking out, it will force a change.
Thank you for sharing your story. It touched me deeply. While listening I kept thinking I know president Hinckley addressed abuse pretty sternly some years ago. I found the talk from April 2002. http://lds.org/general-conference/2002/04/personal-worthiness-to-exercise-the-priesthood?lang=eng
He states, “How tragic and utterly disgusting a phenomenon is wife abuse. Any man in this Church who abuses his wife, who demeans her, who insults her, who exercises unrighteous dominion over her is unworthy to hold the priesthood. Though he may have been ordained, the heavens will withdraw, the Spirit of the Lord will be grieved, and it will be amen to the authority of the priesthood of that man.”… “I quote from our Church Handbook of Instructions: “The Church’s position is that abuse cannot be tolerated in any form. Those who abuse … are subject to Church discipline.” (Hinckley)
Hopefully this is happening less and less and the abuse your family suffered is not tolerated in the church today. I think the church has much better systems now to deal with this type of abuse than they did, but I’m sure that some men still feel their priesthood or their calling gives them the right to exercise dominion over others which leads to ecclesiastical abuse, which I still witness today. So we still have a ways to go.
Thank you so much for sharing your story. I pray the best for you and your family.
Thanks so much, RC!
Fascinating story – I was riveted.
For what it’s worth it appears that Earls fits the DSM IV diagnostic for Anti Social Personality Disorder to a ‘T':
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders fourth edition, DSM IV-TR = 301.7, a widely used manual for diagnosing mental disorders, defines antisocial personality disorder (in Axis II Cluster B) as:
A) There is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others occurring for as long as either childhood, or in the case of many who are influenced by environmental factors, around age 15, as indicated by three or more of the following:
failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;
deception, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;
impulsiveness or failure to plan ahead;
irritability and aggression, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;
reckless disregard for safety of self or others;
consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;
lack of remorse, as indicated by indifference to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another;
B) The individual is at least 18 years of age.
C) There is evidence of conduct disorder with onset before age 15 years.
D) The occurrence of antisocial behavior is not exclusively during the course of schizophrenia or a manic episode.
New evidence points to the fact that children often develop Antisocial Personality Disorder as a cause of their environment, as well as their genetic line. The individual must be at least 18 years of age to be diagnosed with this disorder (Criterion B), but those commonly diagnosed with ASPD as adults were diagnosed with Conduct Disorder as children. The prevalence of this disorder is 3% in males and 1% from females, as stated from the DSM IV-TR.
( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisocial_personality_disorder#DSM ; retrieved date of post)
Thanks, Fred. I agree completely!
You’ve just made my day Ingrid!
Thank YOU for your bravery and integrity in telling us your powerful story.
Am I wrong is sensing truth, justice, and healing following in it’s wake?
Everyone has a different way of dealing with unpleasant times in their lives. I had chosen to look to the now and the future and only remember the happy times in my past. Ingrid’s memoir, Hippie Boy, brought back unpleasant memories. Up until that point the only memory I had kept close was the day that I moved out. I was walking around with a couple of my new roommates in Jackson, WY. The feeling of an extremely heavy weight had been lifted off of my shoulders, and I felt as though I was walking on air.
Unfortunately, history does repeat itself. I found myself married to an alcoholic, who was verbally abusive. It took many years for me to have the courage to end that marriage. Shortly after that, Ingrid mailed me the first draft of Hippie Boy. When I read the manuscript, I realized that I was a lot like my mother, not in a religious sense, but in the sense of trying to keep the peace by being submissive and not standing up for myself.
Since then I have learned to stay true to myself. Ingrid’s interview made me cry. It forced many of those unpleasant memories back into my thoughts. I read a lot of the comments and discovered that there are many individuals that have had difficulties in their past, but have found a way to overcome them and move on. It is my hope that Ingrid can get her memoir published soon and it can help people take a look at their lives; where they are and where they have been, and find a way to better their lives and the lives of those around them.
“I read a lot of the comments and discovered that there are many
individuals that have had difficulties in their past, but have found a
way to overcome them and move on. It is my hope that Ingrid can get her
memoir published soon and it can help people take a look at their lives;
where they are and where they have been, and find a way to better their
lives and the lives of those around them.”
I think you have touched on the most important lesson from Hippie Boy. My favorite part of Ingrid’s story is the point at which she realizes she has it within herself to overcome, to save herself. When she describes going at it with Earl and landing punches, fighting back against all of the abuse, something really clicks and wakes up that primal instinct in me to fight back, work through, and overcome.
Participating in this interview with Ingrid was a real privilege. Getting to know Ingrid and speaking with her on this podcast has been an amazing experience.
I’m with you Connie. I hope to see Hippie Boy published, sooner rather than later. The overall message is very important.
Connie and Stephanie,
Thank you both for your amazing support of this story. Steph, I so appreciate the opportunity to discuss it with you and Tom.
Connie, it made me cry when I read your note and thought about just how much our experience as children has affected your life as an adult. But it’s also incredibly inspiring that you’ve been able to finally stand up to abuse, walk away and reclaim your power and your life.
This is the message that I hope comes through in HIPPIE BOY — that we all have the power within us to fight back against abuse, verbal or physical. And that we can create the happy, healthy lives we deserve…starting NOW.
Thanks again for your notes and encouragement.
I definitely have found my sense of truth along the way, and through the process of writing HIPPIE BOY, healing has for sure occurred because it opened up a dialogue in my family. I think the only way to heal from something is to address it openly rather than hide it or bury it deep inside. I also think that giving voice to an issue such as abuse under the guise of religion is the only way to drive change.
Thanks for your note.
You’re very welcome.
Thank you again for giving so many a voice!
Your story and the voice it has given you are powerful tools that will help so many others, Ingrid. HIPPIE BOY is a testament to the truth since the story continues to heal those in it and those who hear of it. Think of the many more who can come to understand themselves when it is published. I was so touched to read Connie’s comment and to hear you say how your relationship with your mother has strengthened. Carry on, Ingrid. You’re one of those people who makes lemonade with her lemons.
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