At 20 years old, a young woman was slated to be sold into marriage to man twice her age. For $25,000, in installments no less, her prospective groom was able to buy her. It would’ve been more, except that she had been sexually abused as a young child. As a result, her future husband got a “discount” as it were.
It sounds like something out of Saudi Arabia or some parts of Africa, doesn’t it?
Except it wasn’t. Her name is Jennyfer Deister, and she was a member of America’s blossoming Christian fundamentalist homeschool movement — the rest of the story, though, stands as is.
The Daily Mail reports that she was sexually abused in one of the four foster homes that she was passed through, before she was finally adopted by real-world cultists. Her family sold her to a man twice her age for $25,000. She said that she could’ve netted as much as $50,000 on the open market, but she was “damaged goods” as a result of her sexual abuse.
Jennyfer had no say in who she married, but says that her husband-to-be was a decent man.
Her story is not unusual. She’s like many young women who get lost in the cracks, trapped in the cultic underworld the Christian homeschool movement. Like Alicia Pennington, the “girl who doesn’t exist” because her parents never registered her birth, Jennyfer is a victim of a growing number of extremist isolationists who would just love to create their own Christian State.
Informal surveys of the movement, taken by Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out, found that 29% of respondents didn’t have access to their own birth certificate when they turned 18, and a full quarter couldn’t get a social security card. Little over half — 56% — of 18-year-old homeschoolers had a driver’s license by their 18th birthday.
Unlike Alicia and many of these homeshool alumni, Jennyfer knew she had these things. She’d been sent to Bible school in Quebec, Canada, and on missions to the Philippines, so she knew she had a passport. But she had no idea where her mother kept them. Even searching through a mountain of papers didn’t turn up the documents.
“My mother had a big oak desk and I went searching through all the files in all the drawers but I couldn’t find anything,” she said. She did find them — but only once she realized one panel of the desk didn’t match the others. “I got a pair of tweezers and pushed the panel up, and there they were in a secret compartment — my passport, state ID, social security card and birth certificate,” she said.
She finally fled on October 22, 2009, at just a little over her 27th birthday.
In the interview with the Daily Mail, she gave some insight into totalitarian nightmare of her upbringing:
‘Dating was a complete no-no. I might be able to have a parent-approved courtship and go places in public, but I couldn’t possibly do something like hold hands with a boy.’
She was forced to wear long skirts and blouses with high necklines and long sleeves. If she chose a skirt which went to mid-calf, she would have to put on knee-length boots so no leg was shown.
‘Even my swimsuit went down to my knees and had sleeves,’ she recalled. ‘I wasn’t allowed to shave. My grandfather felt that any part such as my legs that needed to be shaved should not be shown off in public.’
Her husband-to-be decided he wanted Jennyfer to go for one semester to a Christian university so she would never resent missing out on college life, she said. She was packed off to Harding University, a Christian school in Searcy, Arkansas, some 50 miles north of the state capital, Little Rock.
But that is where her family’s plans fell apart. Within a week Jennyfer met fellow student Tom Austin. Three weeks later he got down on one knee at a bench on campus and proposed.
‘I didn’t know at the time that I was arranged to be married,’ said Jennyfer. ‘But Tom had to go back home to Massachusetts when he found he had lupus,’ she said.
When Jennyfer returned to her family in California with the good news that she had met someone special, she was in for a shock. ‘I was told I could not marry him because I was already betrothed. I wasn’t aware of this!’
The man she was supposed to marry admitted he had never told her and he broke off their relationship. ‘Of course he wanted his $25,000. My mother told me I owed her it.’
Her life in the Christian homeschool movement didn’t prepare her at all for the world on the outside, she told the Daily Mail. This doesn’t surprise me; it’s not supposed to. Women are slaves at best to these people.
This happens right here in the United States. This isn’t some foreign country; this all transpired in California.
But you can’t tell the difference.
Homeschooling has its uses; the public school environment isn’t for everyone. But it requires heavy transparency, and the parents doing it should be held to at least some of the same standards that teachers are held to, which means an associate degree of some sort at minimum before you can legally homeschool.
Jennyfer current lives with her husband — the husband that she picked — and the two have decided not to have children. Of her faith, Jennyfer admits to being conflicted, but one thing is for sure: “The one thing I know is I am not a Christian.”
There needs to be stronger regulations on the Christian homeschool movement. Someone needs to shine light down that roach hole and sterilize it with equality and justice.
[h/t The Daily Mail]
Author’s note: Thanks to everyone for pointing out the typo in the title and the document. I have fixed them.