Family Cult

Estranged Siblings

"My father selected me to beat my siblings," says Jeanne.

"My older sister Jeanne was one of my main abusers. Being that Dad had so much to do, to abuse so many of the other adult kids, he put her in charge of the first-hand abuse that I suffered," says Sarah. 

Miriam views her older sister as complicit in the abuse she says she suffered. "Jeanne seemed like she enjoyed beating us. She learned to love it," says Miriam. "I'm sure it became a way of life for her."

"Jeanne wouldn't let me eat with the rest of the family. Jeanne would give me bread and water, if anything, to eat," Sarah adds.

Miriam describes a painful childhood memory. "My dad sometimes would reach down and hug me while I was being beat by my sister Jeanne. I was so confused," she says, face contorting in pain. "I didn't know whether he loved me or he hated me. A typical beating in my house that I received was my dad would come in and he would tell my sister Jeanne to go into the room with my mom. My dad would make me take off all my clothes, strip naked, and he would sit on my head, and Jeanne would beat me all over my body, my back and my neck, my legs, until I couldn't move."

"The way I dealt with it at the time and reacted to it: I would just grit my teeth together and tell God how much I hated him," Sarah declares.

Miriam and Sarah join Dr. Phil and Jeanne onstage. Nathan and their sister, Dawn, sit in the audience.


Noticing how uncomfortable Sarah appears sitting next to Jeanne, Dr. Phil asks, "Is it hard for you to sit near her now?" 

"Yes," she replies. "I just have a lot of post-traumatic stress, and I didn't actually even recognize her until I heard her talk. I've tried to block her out of my mind so hard. The nightmares, the older I get, get worse. I can't sleep at night."

"What do you remember her doing to you?" Dr. Phil probes.

"Just beating me, and when I begged her to stop, she wouldn't," Sarah replies, wiping away tears. "I would lay on the floor and she'd feed me tea so I wouldn't die and they'd have to bury me somewhere. That was her goal, to beat you until you were just about dead. I hated her so much. I would look up, and she'd keep beating me. I hated her, and then we got taken away, and everybody's like, ‘Forgive.' I want to forgive, Dr. Phil, but I don't know where to begin."

"What would trigger these episodes of beating?" Dr. Phil inquires. 

"They would make us lie in bed for five or six hours at a time in the day, and if we got up and went to the bathroom or moved or played or talked, he would come in with a belt and just beat us," Sarah replies.

"We couldn't ask for water," Miriam adds.

During a videotaped segment, Sarah explains why she has trouble forgiving Jeanne. "I don't hate her, but I definitely hate what she did to me," she says. "My sister Jeanne has told me that by beating me, she was saving me from something worse than what my dad would do to me. That is one of the biggest things that I do not believe."

"I haven't talked to my sisters a lot, but I carry a lot of guilt," Jeanne says. "I believe that I am the only mother those children ever had."

Nathan is sympathetic to Jeanne's plight. "My father would force Jeanne to discipline the other kids, because if she didn't, he would beat her," he says.  "Jeanne was not at fault for disciplining my brothers and sisters."

"When I was administering the punishment, I knew my limits. I was protecting them," she says. "I tried to reach out to tell them, ‘That wasn't me. That was some monster that was created, based upon a life-and-death situation.'"

"She was the worst victim of it all," Nathan says, fighting tears.

"I just hope she understands how badly she hurt me," Miriam says.

When the videotape ends, Dr. Phil turns to Jeanne. "You didn't deserve what happened to you. You were beaten and abused for years before they were even born," he sympathizes. "But there is a point at which we have to be just straight-up honest and acknowledge everything that's gone on."

Dr. Phil reads a list of the sisters' grievances against Jeanne. "What they say is you would beat them even when your father wasn't around. You would beat them until blood splattered on a wall. That [Sarah] stood in a corner for three days with no food or water. At least monthly, [Sarah] would get 300 lashes with a whip from you," he reads. "Do you acknowledge that those things did happen?"

"They need to be validated. Abuse did happen. I was forced to abuse my siblings," Jeanne responds. "That's why I'm here. I'm here to do what my mom and dad refused to do."

"Thank you," Sarah says.

"I'm brave enough to sit here before this audience and take the blame for what my mom and dad refused to accept," Jeanne says, weeping openly.

"Do you acknowledge that what they say happened to them " at your hand " did in fact happen?" Dr. Phil reiterates.

"I acknowledge it, but I guess in my shoes, I don't remember a lot of it like they vividly speak of it," Jeanne replies. "Some of it may be exaggerated, but I want to validate them."

"That's not validating them," Dr. Phil says.

"Exaggerated? No way," Miriam says. "There's not even words that can explain what you did to us."

"I can't even wrap my mind around what was done to you in that home. I can't tell you how sorry I am that that happened to you," Dr. Phil tells Jeanne. "It distorted your values. It distorted your view, and I want you to know that I have so much empathy for what you went through. You made bad decisions. I have no doubt that you made bad decisions, but at this point, you talk about, ‘They need to be validated,' which is a cold thing to say. Again, I think it is miraculous that you're even here, that you're even standing, and walking and being a member of society."

He turns to Miriam and Sarah. "One of the things that y'all need to hear is for her to say, ‘Yes, I did it, and yes, it was wrong,'" he says.

He addresses Jeanne. "You did become an instrument of hurt and pain and abuse for these girls and for Nathan. Do you acknowledge that you were in that role in their lives?"

"Oh, yes, definitely," she answers. 

"And do you acknowledge that in retrospect, it was a wrong thing for them to have to experience?"

"Yes, of course," Jeanne replies.