Eloise G* grew up in a family unit with a mum, dad and brothers.
The now 25-year-old, lived in a normal house, on a normal street in the suburbs of California, USA. From the outside, they were just a regular family, however, behind closed doors, Eloise’ upbringing was anything but regular.
Before she was born, Eloise’s mum, a devoutly religious woman, knelt at her bedside and prayed to “know God’s name”. The very next day, two members of the Jehova’s Witnesses (JWS) turned up at her doorstep. It was a sign.
“I was also told I shouldn’t associate with “worldly” people that weren’t in the cult and was led to believe that the world is a bad place, trying to take me with it,” Eloise said during an interview with TheLatch—.
“We also learned about the “end of the days” and that Armageddon would take my family who wasn’t a part of the cult.”
Eloise, who is now married to husband, Pablo*, was born into and grew up as a member of the JWS, a millenarian restorationist Christian denomination with nontrinitarian beliefs.
Even though she was part of a cult, members were still allowed to hold a job “to make ends meet”, they were just not allowed to associate with anyone who wasn’t in the JWS.
Eloise, who had been doing a paper run with her mum since she was two years old, met Pablo when she was 19 years old after her parents divorced and she moved in with her father.
Pablo, who also sold papers, questioned her belief system and ultimately told her that she “had grown up in a cult”.
After forming a secret relationship with him, at the age of 19, Eloise left the JWS.
“When I met my husband, he told me I was in a “cult” and I was scared, to be honest,” she said. “I started to do some research, even though the JWS had taught me not to look up or Google “Jehovah’s Witness”.
“They told me that only “apostates” [a person who renounces a religious or political belief or principle] look up other stuff to try to get us out and not have everlasting life.”
Now, married and shunned from the organisation, Eloise speaks to TheLatch— about her upbringing and how it has affected her life.
Anita Anabel: Hi Eloise, thank you so much for sharing your story with TheLatch—. Firstly, can you explain what you believe the “Jehova’s Witnesses” is?
Eloise G: Jehovah’s Witness is a religious cult that twists the words of the Bible for their own benefit.
AA: What were you taught to believe while in the cult?
EG: We were taught about conditional love. I was told many lies about the Bible and who God was.
I was told I shouldn’t associate with “worldly” people that weren’t in the cult and was led to believe that the world is a bad place, trying to take me with it.
We also learned about the “end of the days” and that Armageddon would take my family who wasn’t a part of the cult.
AA: What were you taught to believe about life outside of the cult?
EG: That it was evil. We were also told that music from the world is evil and that everyone is out to get you and take you away from Jehovah.
If you go out into the world and aren’t part of the JWS, you will suffer.
We couldn’t even watch movies like Twilight or Harry Potter because anything with magic was bad.
AA: What were you taught to teach others about the Jehova’s Witnesses?
EG: We were taught to tell others the same thing we had learned — that these days wouldn’t last.
We would go door-to-door trying to convert others into the cult to get more people to join and would tell them that this is the only way to have “everlasting life and joy”.
AA: When in your childhood did you start to catch on to the fact your way of life was unconventional?
EG: When I went to a dance class and wasn’t being involved in the birthday parties because of my beliefs. Plus, we didn’t celebrate the holidays.
AA: You have now left the Jehova’s Witnesses. Why did you decide to leave?
EG: When I met my husband, he told me I was in a “cult” and I was scared, to be honest. I started to do some research, even though the JWS had taught me not to look up or Google “Jehovah’s Witness”.
They told me that only “apostates” [a person who renounces a religious or political belief or principle] look up other stuff to try to get us out and not have everlasting life.
I began to look up facts and in my research found that they had child molestation accusations against them. I knew a couple of friends who were in the cult who were sexually assaulted but didn’t want to come forward and so when I tried to say something, they told me to not say anything and “Jehovah would take care of it”.
They started to call me an apostate that I was in the wrong for trying to help my friends.
AA: Was there any backlash over you leaving?
EG: Yes, I was shunned. People I grew up with stopped talking to me and just cut me out of their life.
AA: Do you still see your biological family?
EG: My family left the cult, however, my biological mum is still a part of it and still reads their literature. We still see each other because she doesn’t agree with the shunning policy and my father died in 2017.
AA: How did you adapt to life outside of the cult? What did you find more challenging about the transition?
EG: Oh gosh, it was very difficult. I ended up suffering from depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I’m still scared to see people I grew up with, out and about.
It was hard to get a job and I had to realise, I wanted to better myself. I was taught in the cult to not get a higher education, like go to college, since we’re living in the “last days” and that “it’s not worth it”.
AA: How did you first learn you and your family were part of a cult.
EG: From my aunt.
AA: Do you know how your parents joined in the first place?
EG: My mum prayed to know God’s name and the next day the JWS knocked on her door with “answers”.
AA: What type of housing did you have? Did you live with others who were JWS?
EG: I lived with my mum, dad and brothers but it was my mum who was mostly dedicated to it more than the rest of us.
We lived in a normal house, however, being a part of the JWS was a pretty serious thing. We had to study their Watchtower and Awake magazines, and read the Bible every day.
AA: What about schooling. Did you go to school with other children from JWS?
EG: No, I was actually homeschooled my whole life.
AA: There are many misconceptions about the JWS. Were there any positives about growing up in a religious cult?
EG: It definitely taught me to see the “false” in “false religions” and it helped me to be more outgoing.
It also helped me to have faith in something higher.
AA: What about your own personal negatives?
EG: The shunning was horrible. We also didn’t have birthdays, celebrate holidays and I was always being told that I was never enough from the elders. It really hurt my self-esteem and it made me scared of the world around me.
AA: What were you taught about marriage, sex and relationships?
EG: We were taught that sex before marriage was bad. I was also told that masturbating was bad, however, I didn’t even know what it was. We were also told that if you masturbate you will end up a homosexual.
We were taught that if you hang out with the other sex by yourself, you better get married and two people of the opposite sex cannot be together by themselves unless they spoke to the elders.
AA: Do you ever find yourself thinking in the ways you used to when you were part of the cult?
EG: Oh yes! Seeing the bad in the world or when watching the news, I get scared and afraid like I have to prove every day what they told me was a lie.
AA: What do you think about the way cults are depicted on screen? Are there any real accuracies? What are the things they get wrong?
EG: It is accurate that people die in them. People do get hurt.
However, there are things that are wrong, like how people are usually at their weakest when the cult finds a person to suck in.
AA: Do you have any contact with the cult now?
AA: What would you like others to know about the JWS?
I would just warn people against it.
Unfortunately, a lot of people who leave this cult end up an atheist. They end up hating God.
I’m now born again and I’m happy about my relationship with God. I know that some of the people in the cult are good people, but they don’t understand what they are doing to others. They think what they are doing is right they don’t understand that they are tearing families apart and hurting so many.
*Names have been changed.