G’day, I’m Troy. And I’m Brian. And we’re the hosts of I Was a Teenage Fundamentalist, an exvangelical podcast. We used to be loyal members and leaders in Australian Christian megachurches, but we’re not anymore. I Was a Teenage Fundamentalist is an honest and hilarious peek behind the curtain at the weird, the worrying, and sometimes traumatic world of evangelicals and Pentecostals.
We share our stories, we interview prominent guests in the global, exvangelical space, and provide a platform for others to tell their stories about their time in evangelicalism. Shortlisted at the recent Australian Podcast Awards, I Was a Teenage Fundamentalist gives you a unique global perspective into one of the fastest growing religions in the world from the people who actually lived it.
You can find us wherever you get your podcasts and iwasateenagefundamentalist. com
Kacey: According to Interpol, there are four main types of human trafficking. Number one, trafficking for forced labour. Victims of this widespread form of trafficking come primarily from developing countries. They are recruited and trafficked using deception and coercion, and find themselves held in conditions of slavery in a variety of jobs.
Victims can be engaged in agricultural, mining, fisheries or construction work, along with domestic servitude and other labour intensive jobs. Number two, trafficking for forced criminal activities. This form of trafficking allows criminal networks to reap the profits of a variety of illicit activities without the risk.
Victims are forced to carry out a range of illegal activities which in turn generates income. These can include theft, drug cultivation, selling counterfeit goods, or forced begging. Victims often have quotas and can face severe punishment if they do not perform adequately. Number three is trafficking.
For sexual exploitation, this prevalent form of trafficking affects every region in the world, either as a source, transit, or destination country. Women and children from developing countries, and from vulnerable parts of society in developed countries, are lured by promises of decent employment into leaving their homes and travelling to what they consider will be.
Victims are often provided with false travel documents and an organized network is used to transport them to the destination country where they find themselves forced into sexual exploitation and held in inhumane conditions and constant terror. Number four is trafficking for the removal of organs. In many countries, waiting lists for transplants are very long and criminals have seized this opportunity to exploit the desperation of patients and potential donors.
The health of victims, even their lives, is at risk as operations may be carried out in clandestine conditions with no medical follow up. An aging population and increased incidence of diabetes in many developed countries is likely to increase the requirement for organ transplants and make this crime even more lucrative.
Being recognised more widely in recent research, publications and media pieces, cults use many primary types of human trafficking and modern slavery. The details listed from Interpol in the before mentioned section are things we have heard over and over and over throughout the hundreds of episodes released on this podcast and this episode is no different.
Hello listeners, I’m your speaker Casey and for this week’s episode I sit down and talk with Tamara MC, a social scientist and linguist who explores how language is used to exploit vulnerable communities. Tamara MC is also a freedom activist for girls and women worldwide and has had her own experience.
in Becoming a Child Bride. In part one, we discussed Tamara’s childhood and family involvement. With a Sufi group in America. With part 2 focusing on Tamara’s experiences as a child bride. In part 3, we focus on Tamara’s escape and journey into further education. Where Tamara achieves her PhD. For early access to full length ad free episodes, please consider supporting the show at patreon.
com forward slash the cult vault. For only 1 a month. I also release researched deep dive episodes each month. With a focus on infamous cults, and on June 10th and 11th of this year, 2023, I will be doing a live session at Crime Con uk with none other than John atac. You can visit crime con.co.uk and get 10% off of your tickets to come and watch our talk and drink with us at the bar using the Code Cult.
I really hope to see some of you there. But for now, here is Tamara. So hello Tamara and welcome to the show. I’m really looking forward to chatting with you today about your experiences, but also about your education and activism work around the subject of human trafficking. Would you like to start by introducing yourself to the listeners?
Dr. Tamara MC: Yes. Hi everyone. My name is Tamara MC, and my last name is just spelled with two letters, capital M, capital C. And I, um, I’m really happy to be here, Casey, on the Cult Ball, so thank you so much for having me.
Kacey: Oh, it’s wonderful. It’s wonderful to have you here. I’ve read a few of your articles now, so to be able to put the context in those articles to a face and also to a story is going to be great for myself and the listeners today, especially as we’re having this conversation in January, which is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
And although this episode won’t air until March time, it’s still prevalent to be having these conversations and bringing awareness about all of these matters, which is exactly what you do with your writing and your work. And the group that we’re discussing today, this isn’t a group that you were born into, but one you became involved with during your early childhood.
Dr. Tamara MC: Yes, that’s correct. But I was only five years old when I became involved. So I really, although I have memories of my life before, I was still only five years old when it happened. So I was pretty much my entire childhood, I would say, was in this group, because during those five years, it was, I mean, children at that point are still not as young as I was, um, Sorry.
Yeah. So up to five years old, it’s just such a different phase from five until 18, for example.
Kacey: When you say that you have sort of earlier memories before joining the group, are these sort of typical childhood memories of like falling over and hurting yourself, or are they pleasant memories of ice creams and playgrounds?
Dr. Tamara MC: I would say probably a combination of both. My parents divorced when I was five years old as well, um, when my father joined the community. So up until five, my memories were of having a mother and a father who were both in the home and available. And so those memories are in very stark contrast what would happen afterwards besides joining the group.
But then my father and mother would be separated and I would then grow up with my single mother. And then Along with my father on his community. So they were very, very different lives and different memories.
Kacey: So when you first came into contact with the group that your father joined, it wasn’t a group that your family unit was a part of.
It was solely your father’s. choice to join the group separate to your mother?
Dr. Tamara MC: Yes, exactly. It was just my father’s choice. My mother was actually traveling for the summer when my father met this community and I stayed with my father in America. My mom was, went to Europe to go backpack for the summer with some of her friends and left me with my father.
It was then that my father met this community and the community. So it was only Um, met him and myself when we actually met the community and then when my mother came back at the end of the summer, my father had joined this community and had basically told my mother that he wanted her to join as well and then she refused.
It was something she was not at all interested in. And then subsequently they ended up separating and get to getting divorced.
Kacey: Wow. So that’s a significant summer in, in everyone’s lives, it seems.
Dr. Tamara MC: Yes, yes. Exactly.
Kacey: So, you mentioned that you, you stayed with your mother. You remained in her custody and, um, I’ve read in some of your writing that you would visit with your father, uh, occasionally, and then eventually you moved to be with him full time.
Um, I know that we’re going to be. Keeping some, um, specific details out of our conversation today, but, uh, would you mind giving us a little bit of a story into how that happened, that move from your mom to your dad and then subsequently into the community?
Dr. Tamara MC: Yeah. So, um, so after my father joined this community when I was five years old and they ended up separating, the community moved to another spot in Atlanta, Georgia, and my father followed.
And they eventually the community traveled and eventually they settled in Texas. And at that point when I was about six years old, I started spending time going between my mother and my father’s home. So I would be with my mother during the school year. And then I would be with my father during the summer vacation, which was a full three to three and a half months during the seventies and eighties.
And I would also be with him during the Christmas holidays. They were called the Christmas holidays then for a month. And so I was basically with my dad for about four and a half months a year and then my mother for the rest of the time.
Kacey: Do you remember there being a stark difference between your life in one part of the country and your life in the other?
Dr. Tamara MC: Oh, absolutely. There wasn’t, I don’t think there was many, if any, similarities between them.
Kacey: The 70s is kind of when the latchkey kids became a population of people. Would you consider yourself one of those, one of those children?
Dr. Tamara MC: Yes, I would consider myself that because after my mom and dad separated, my mother was a single mother and worked full time.
And so I was absolutely walking myself to school, walking myself home, making myself snacks and food when I got home. Um, turning on the television for a little while and doing my homework. So yes, I was a latchkey key. I was a latchkey key of the 70s. I
Kacey: imagine going to visit your father in the summer holidays was very different to that arrangement with your mom’s at your mom’s place because in intentional communities where people live together, there’s often people cooking, people cleaning, lots of people around kids groups, uh, lots of, lots of young people to run around with.
Dr. Tamara MC: Yes, yes. So living with my mother, it was just the two of us. So we were a tiny little family. And then going to my father’s, there could have been between 100 to 150 people less. I mean, every year it kind of fluctuated. It wasn’t the same population. But maybe at the height, it was like 100 to 150 people.
So I would suddenly go from being an only child on my dad’s side, on my mother’s side, and my tiny little home and small life. To then going to my father’s with like a huge community of people where yes, we all did live together and ate together very communally. Again, like going back to the latchkey kid situation where I mostly ate alone because my mother, my mother would come home kind of when the five o’clock news began.
She used to try to come home by that time. Um, but I would eat my dinners alone. So it was in stark contrast in that way as well.
Kacey: Did this play any part in your decision to, to move over to Texas full time or was that something that as a child you didn’t really have any decision making or any contribution to?
Dr. Tamara MC: Well that’s a bit of a difficult question. Uh, I did not have a contribution at all when I was a child but when I did make the decision to move by that point I had been taught that that’s where I was supposed to be and that’s what I was supposed to do. So I had been in a coercive community for so many years that I thought that I had to live with my father.
And there was so much that had already happened after years of programming that I thought I had to leave my mother because my mother wasn’t part of the religion. She didn’t follow the lifestyle we did that my father did. That was supposedly the holy lifestyle that was going to get me to heaven. So, so, I don’t think that I could have ever actually consciously made, I mean, I made that decision, but I really couldn’t have made that decision because of my programming from the time I was five years old.
Kacey: Wow, there’s some holidays for an American child over here in the UK, they last around six weeks. Is that the same? Um
Dr. Tamara MC: No, I don’t know if I understand, but no, the summer was about three and a half months. And then the winter holidays were just over a month
Kacey: or three and a half months. That’s such a long time in the UK.
We break up sort of the last few days of July, and then all the kids are back in the first few days of September. So it’s sort of a six week period, but three and a half months, oh my goodness!
Dr. Tamara MC: No, so usually, um, we would break up at the beginning of May, within the first or second week of May, and then come back to school by maybe the third week of August.
Kacey: Your school years sound so much shorter then, in that. In that way, and also a significant amount of time to spend in an insular community with people who are feeding you a particular rhetoric. Um, and I guess that was what I was trying to, um, think about in my mind, how long do you spend in that community to then go home with the messages.
ingrained in you in that point. I think three and a half months is more than enough time to teach a child, um, a certain way of thinking.
Dr. Tamara MC: Oh, it absolutely is. And. I think because I was never with my mother or with my father for more than three and a half months at a time, it was extra confusing. So just as I would kind of get used to being at my father’s, it would then be time to fly home to my mother’s.
And then after three and a half months, it would be time to fly back to my father’s for a month and then back to my mother’s. So it was just this back and forth so that consistent. It was consistent in terms of this was my schedule, but the inconsistency in their parenting styles and the way that they taught me, I couldn’t, I would adapt, but then it would all change again.
And my whole life would be turned upside down again. And I’d have to relearn new rules and new ways of being.
Kacey: Being a child is confusing enough. I think without the, the turmoil that you’ve just Explained. And on top of that, if you’re thinking that by a certain age, Texas is where you are supposed to be to not only be with your, I guess in air quotes, your true family, um, or the place where you, the only place where you can be saved.
Going home to your mother every year, year after year, that must’ve been. Would you, would you say there was cognitive dissonance there, or is that something that you can’t really recognize as a child?
Dr. Tamara MC: No, I, I absolutely recognized it as a child. There was no way not to recognize it because the communities were so vastly different.
And there were so many rules in my father’s community. I had so many rules placed on me and my father’s community. Our schedules was different, the way of living, um, all of that. And my mother, on the other hand, was completely a liberal 1960s hippie from New York city who basically had no rules for me and just gave me time to myself.
And there was absolutely. She had no expectations for me in any sort of way outside of just being a good person. Whereas in the community with my father, there was huge expectations on me. Every moment of my day was being monitored. And with my mother, that was never the case. My mother just always trusted me to make the right decisions.
And my mother also, I don’t believe ever said the word no to me. Like she just never, it was always like, sure, honey, whatever you want. It just, it was just so different. They were completely different. So I didn’t, I knew that they were different. Of course, I didn’t know the word cognitive dissonance, so I wouldn’t have been able to place that at all.
And I would, I wouldn’t have even been able to place that until even much later in my life in the past five, 10 years. So it’s not like it was something that I understood, but I knew that. They were different communities
Kacey: in the time leading up to your decision to move to Texas and and reside there full time Do you remember how you?
felt being Away from that community and and how it didn’t feel like you should be anywhere other than Texas I imagine that’s got to be so hard on a child feeling like they belong somewhere and not being in that place and feeling like they have to get back there almost. But please do tell me if I’m speaking for you because I, of course, I have not experienced this so I am just trying to kind of, um, look at it from, from, uh, an outsider’s perspective.
Dr. Tamara MC: So yeah, so I think by the time I was 12. I made the very conscious decision that I wanted to live with my father full time. I thought before that that I wanted to live with my father full time, but I hadn’t really been able to actually articulate it or to really think about how I could do that. But when I was 12, I made it very clear to my mother that I wanted to live with my father full time.
And My mother actually, I just said that my mother never said no to me, but maybe she did say no to me in this instance. But my mother was like, no, you can’t live with your father full time. Uh, it’s just not going to happen. And I was in school and she said that I had to graduate from high school. And I was like, Oh my God, that’s going to be 18.
I’m going to be 18 when I graduate from high school, because there was actually no schooling in my father’s community. My siblings did not have any sort of Western education. They didn’t go to public school. And so what kind of hopping back to the past, but. Right after my father left my mother and he joined this community and lived in Texas, he married another woman when I was six years old and she already had four children of her own.
And so I had four step siblings immediately. And so that was also completely different because I was an only child with my mom. And then I’d go into this community and I suddenly had four siblings. And we all shared the same room. So it was like, I lost my space and suddenly I was in this room with all these kids who were pretty much strangers.
I mean, they were kind of strangers because my dad and stepmom married very quickly, so it’s not as if I knew my stepmother very well and her children before their marriage, but, um. So when I was 12, so I asked that my mother said, okay, you have to graduate. You’re not going to go live with your father full time because education was very important to my mother.
My mother also always spoke to me as a child that I was going to go to college, but I was like, What do I need college for? I’m not going to college like after I joined this community because that wasn’t something that the girls were ever taught in the community. The only thing we were taught was that we were going to be wives and mothers.
And so I didn’t even think that college was an option. And then I started kind of hatching this plan in my own head, like, okay, I have to graduate school. Okay, how do I graduate school? How do I get to this community quicker? And so I just kept thinking and thinking. And then I got into high school and it occurred to me, which had never been done, now it’s done quite often, but I spoke to administration and I told them that I wanted to graduate high school early and what could I do?
And they told me that I could take community college classes. They told me that I could take double classes during like my senior year. I mean, during my junior year, not my senior year. And so I came up with all these ways of doing it. So I ended up graduating from high school when I was only 16 years old, because I put all of that in place.
And so I was working really, really hard to be able to get to my dad. So it was something that I put in motion. And even though my mom kind of put these restrictions on me, I found a way to kind of get. away sooner, two years sooner, which was huge.
Kacey: Wow. That’s so impressive. Uh, that’s, that’s like a whole two years that you’ve crammed into, to like a very small amount of time. And it is not something that I think has lost you or been lost in you since you’ve experienced the community because you’re still putting education. First, and I think that that’s wonderful and, and we’ll get more into your writing as we go on.
But prior to your father’s involvement with the community, did your family have any association with any type of religion or were you brought up with any affiliation to any type of religious or spiritual practice?
Dr. Tamara MC: Yes, both my mother and my father shared the same religion at that point, and so they were the same religion, they didn’t practice, but it was very much part of their identity, and that was a big deal when my father did convert to a new religion, that my mother was like, no way am I going to convert to another religion.
So, that was a big deal for my mother. I don’t remember celebrating any holidays, like religious holidays. I don’t remember anything like that because we weren’t practicing in that way, but I do remember that our identities were that religion.
Kacey: It’s interesting how this story unfolded with your parents because the group that your father became a part of that moved to Texas to reside there is a Sufi group.
Dr. Tamara MC: Yes, correct. It was a Sufi group. Yes. And
Kacey: I think it’s interesting to find, uh, uh, an intentional community practicing Sufism in, Uh, very much Christian based part of America integrated into America’s Bible Belt. Is it common to find groups? that practiced Sufism in that area, or would you not be too sure about that because the community was, uh, just kind of existing inside itself?
Dr. Tamara MC: I would say it’s incredibly uncommon. We were the only community. We may be the only community. We were the first and perhaps the only. So yes, it was incredibly uncommon and, uh, not at all like any other sort of intentional community in the United States at the time. Um, since then, there have been other Sufi communities and there were kind of little pockets of communities that were growing at about the same time.
But our community was kind of involved in all of those communities as well. So it really was kind of one of the first Sufi communities in the United States.
Kacey: Um, so when you would visit Texas for summer for the three and a half months, did you just get thrown into the everyday routine that took place in the community with, uh, everybody kind of was there like a schedule, um, and what was life like day in, day out for all of the children that lived there?
Dr. Tamara MC: So that’s a really big question. And there’s so many places to go with that question. Yes, I was thrown into the community. Nothing changed when I came. It wasn’t like I had an introduction and kind of like my father would say, okay, honey, welcome. This is how our summer’s going to go. Like, you’re going to be sleeping in a room with all your siblings.
And you’re going to like, there was no introduction. It was just, I was thrown in and it was sink or swim. I’m And I had to swim. So, so that was incredibly jarring because I would go from my mother and kind of in a way being coddled in a way, because I was her one and only to suddenly like being one of many, and there was absolutely nothing that was specific to me.
It was just, here you are, you’re one of many, and you’re going to figure this out. And there was no way for me to figure it out. The only way I learned. I really had one mentor. And I mean, maybe I’m missing some during this conversation, but I will say that my main mentor was my sibling, my sister, and she was a year and a half younger than me but she lived in the community full time.
So she was actually the one we slept together we did everything together. That in every moment she would be teaching me, okay, this is what you do now. This is how you pray. This is how you eat. This is how we cut onions. So my teacher was, was even younger than me.
Kacey: Wow. Oh my goodness. And did you have set times that you had to wake up?
And you mentioned earlier on that. With your mom, I suppose apart from college, there were really no expectations for you, but you’ve already mentioned here with the community that you were expected to be a wife and you were expected to be a mom. So as a, as a, a child, when you visit for the three and a half months, are there expectations of you to wake at certain times or dress in certain ways and eat at certain times?
Dr. Tamara MC: Yes, it was include incredibly regimented, there was a schedule for everything, it might have been worse than being in the military, although I’ve never been in the military, so I can’t actually make that comparison. We had to wake up before the sun came up so depending on the time of year but usually between four and 5am, we would have to.
Get up and prayer, pray our morning prayers. But in additional to our regular morning prayers, we had even other prayers that we that we would actually pray. So sometimes we would pray in the morning for an hour or two hours. So we would always be woken up by somebody kind of screaming time to wake up at like four a.
m. And right after prayers and you. In order to get to the prayer house, we would actually have to walk in the dark and we kind of lived in the middle of nowhere. And so it would be like a 10 to 15 minute walk in the dark, where like in Texas they’re snakes and like, there’s, it was just it was really scary.
It wasn’t just like okay just Pray in your room and go to bed. It was like, no, we had to walk to a building, get dressed, get fully covered. And we had communal bathrooms, so we had to wash ourselves before our prayer. So when it was cold or hot, whatever it was, we would then have to walk in the dark, kind of wet and kind of in bundled clothes, whatever that was.
And then after the prayers, the girls would then go into the communal kitchen and we would begin preparing breakfast. So the girls were in charge of the cooking and the cleaning. Mostly, maybe there was a woman who was kind of like the head of the meal for the day. And, but that person would kind of be.
managerial and just tell us what to do. So we actually did the labor of it and we would then cook for a couple of hours and then everybody would come and eat and then after eating we would have to clean and then after cleaning it would normally be about. prayer time again for our afternoon prayers. So we kind of have to do the same thing of praying and staying there and like doing supplemental prayers.
And then we would go back into the kitchen, prepare lunch and prepare lunch for two to three hours, serve lunch for like whatever that took and then clean up lunch, which would get us to about four or five in the evening. And then, um, And then usually at that time, maybe we’d have a little bit time to rest, like a half an hour or an hour, but then we’d have to prepare for our evening prayers and just kind of the cycle went on and then we would stay up praying until nine o’clock at night, usually.
And then sometimes we’d stay up all night praying. We had all night chanting sessions. And so often we wouldn’t go to sleep until well after midnight, but then we’d be awoken by 4. And so kind of when you look at this schedule. I was going to school full time with my mother, but my siblings were not so as you can see there’s almost no time for education for children.
So if, if there was maybe an hour in the day that there was free and a woman was like, Okay, I feel like teaching today. They would maybe teach, but that, that was definitely not a priority.
Kacey: As children, you must be absolutely exhausted during that 30 to 60 minute window. I was envisioning kids running around together, dusty and sort of the Texas, the Texas dirt, like a kibbutz maybe more so than, than this community.
But actually, it seems as if there would not be enough. energy in the children to do, to do much of that, especially if you’re being so sleep deprived, that must be so damaging for children during pivotal developmental stages as well, because sleep is, is so, so important to the, the, the development of children.
Dr. Tamara MC: Yes, that was a big deal. We were completely sleep deprived. Uh, we were told that we were lazy. If we felt tired, we were told like, That sleep meant that we weren’t strong. If we needed sleep, there was something wrong with us. Um, the way we were woken up was like just screaming. And like, if we didn’t just wake up immediately, like somebody would come and bang on the door and then bang on, like, like I always woke up immediately, but like my siblings sometimes didn’t.
And so it was really hard for them to get up. And so, yeah, no, but it’s completely something that is. commonly used in these coercive communities as sleep deprivation. So yes. And there was almost no play time. Maybe occasionally in the afternoon we could kind of run away, not run away, but run within the community.
Um, our community was absolutely beautiful. We had a lake and a waterfall and. So, and we had this huge grazing land. So when we had time, we would just run down this bill as fast as we could. And we jump in the lake or we jump in the waterfall and we just jump in with all of our clothes because we weren’t allowed to not be clothed in case somebody saw us.
So we did have like those moments of beauty, but really kind of our moments where. This sounds silly because we weren’t being children, but kind of going back to that playfulness that you said was in the kitchen, like when we were in the kitchen alone cooking together, we were doing very adult work, but the adults weren’t in the kitchen because they wanted nothing to do with the kitchen because they don’t want to cook or clean or do any of it.
And so we were alone and it was at that time that all of us bonded and we would have conversations and we’d laugh and we’d make jokes and we’d be like preparing. food and that was like our most joyous time, even though it was our most exhausting time, but it was where we could be kids, I guess, without adult supervision.
Kacey: It’s beautiful to, to hear you recall those memories. It reminds me of, of a read in Faith Jones book, sex cult nun, where she speaks about frolicking with her, with her siblings at their farm. And it was. Really refreshing within obviously the incredibly difficult themes of the book to read about those experiences because they shape who you are.
It’s not all negative, uh, the, the things that we discuss on this show. And it was the, uh, the cult mediator, Pat Ryan, that taught me to really ask people about. the whole picture, you know, not just all of the bad bits, but the good bits too. So, painting that image of running down that hill and, and the waterfall, that’s such a lovely thing to picture.
Cause again, I was picturing Texas dirt and dust clouds, but it sounds like it wasn’t like that at all.
Dr. Tamara MC: No, we were in the hill country, so it’s incredibly green. So there was huge trees and water and, um, and yes, there are so many beautiful points too. And I think like, I think the beautiful points just go back to like, we had like a girl tribe.
It’s like all of us young girls. just stood together, worked together, did everything together, laughed together. Every time one of the girls was in pain, we were all in pain. And so going back to my life now, outside of this community, I miss that most. I miss that community of girls and women who are just always there that no matter what, Like now I’m alone in my house, for example, but I was never alone on the community.
If anything ever pained me, I just sit there with my sister and we talk about it or one of the other girls. And it’s like, we were just each other’s cheerleaders. Like whenever something bad happened, we’d be like, yeah, yeah, that’s horrible. How could that person do that to you? So it’s like, it was just this like camaraderie that I’ve never experienced in life again.
And I don’t think I can ever experience that again. It’s like. It’s unique. It can never come back in that same way.
Kacey: guess that’s kind of why a lot of people that have these types of communities within, uh, destructive groups stay for so long or maybe never really get the opportunity to, to move away completely. And I, it gives me like goosebumps hearing your story about that, especially because you mentioned earlier on that you were constantly monitored, 24 7 you were monitored.
Except from this time where you were able to build a foundation of, of trust with people that you knew wouldn’t harm you and would actually, you know, be there to help you rather than put you in a situation where you might feel exploited or abused, even though you were like kind of being labor trafficked during that time of, of, you know, feeling, feeling all of those good things with your, your group of sisters.
Dr. Tamara MC: Yes. And so we were being all of. So I’m speaking about the teen and tween girls. And so we were being labor trafficked by the men, the leaders and the women of the community. And so no, we couldn’t trust any of them, but we all trusted each other. So we were a band of girls that just stuck together. So in that way, we had zero power, but we had power within ourselves because we had each other.
Kacey: That’s incredible. It’s given me sort of a Handmaid’s Tale vibes, you know, where all the women come together and decide that they’re just not going to take it anymore. So you mentioned that there was No time for education. I suppose the group’s main, uh, thought around that is that you don’t need mainstream education, your education should, should be focused on prayer and the teachings of the, of the religious scripture.
So, Were you kind of perceived any differently for having pushed yourself and being ambitious with your education and managing to graduate high school at 16, or was that something that never played a part with your time in the community?
Dr. Tamara MC: Well, I think that’s a couple of separate questions. So going into the first part of that, the children were educated in Some days and sometimes that it’s not that they were never educated, but the focus of was on religious education because that religious education is what was going to take us to heaven and to God.
And so kind of mainstream Western education was not going to help us and
our community was quite anti West. So everything about America was considered evil, so kind of everything within our community was considered holy. And so there was a very, like, a huge, like, divide between, kind of, we were living in America, but our community didn’t consider themselves American, even though everybody was, like, American.
Not everybody was.
Kacey: That’s so interesting to think about, because I don’t know if this is just stereotypes or, you know, what’s come through to me and here in England through the media, but Texas is very much sort of like a make America great again, almost nationalist thinking state. So it’s really interesting to think about this group residing in, in Texas and claiming that they don’t really appreciate any of the American values, but they’re going to live in that, in that state anyway.
That’s fascinating to me.
Dr. Tamara MC: It is completely fascinating. We were in complete opposition. Um, the closest town to us was maybe 20 to 30 minutes and then even the closest grocery store was maybe 30 or so minutes and the closest store was called Piggly Wiggly which is kind of this brand in like Texas and kind of that area.
Just like this really traditional, you can just think of it from the name Piggly Wiggly and like We were a community that didn’t eat pork or anything like that. So kind of to think like that was the name of the store. Uh, And so even just the second we left the community and we walked out, we were stared at because we didn’t look like anybody else.
We dressed differently. And a lot of people in our community were international too, so not everybody was American. There were lots of international people as well. So, so that being said, so we were just kind of this really insular community like unto itself. It was like, Nothing else in Texas, nothing. I can pretty much say that and probably.
Not like much else in the United States either, or even in England at the time.
Kacey: Like you can imagine it sticking out like a sore thumb. And yet I don’t know that I’ve ever come across anything where I read about such a group in Texas and would be able to say, this is the group that we’re talking about today, which is all really interesting.
Um, But something I did want to ask you about before your, your move over to Texas full time, the longer you visited your father in Texas and went back to your mother’s, Did you find yourself sticking with prayers at your mum’s house and, and, and the, the dietary requirements of the group and the clothing, uh, or was this something that you kind of left at the community and went back to the more liberal way of life with your mum?
Dr. Tamara MC: When I was 12, I made, again, the decision. That I was going to dress full time, like how I dressed at my father’s, I was going to pray all of my prayers full time. And so beginning at 12, when I started going back to my mother’s, I dressed in the same clothing, mostly I was still very covered up. And I did all of my prayers, but I did them all alone.
And even like, for instance, in my afternoon prayers, like I’d be at school, so I’d have to rush home and do them. And So I was living the life. I lived at my dad’s when I went to my mom’s and it was really hard because I was the only one doing it. And so I had nobody to pray with. I had nobody to talk with about what was going on.
My mother didn’t see it. I did all of my prayers in my bedroom. She didn’t know what I was doing in terms of my clothing. She just thought that. Like I lived in Arizona, so during the summer it would get up to 120 degrees, which is like really, really hot. We live in the desert, but I would still like be covered in long sleeves and long pants.
And so my mom would notice that and would be like, why don’t you wear shorts, honey? And I’d just be like, I don’t like them. So, so she didn’t quite understand what was happening.
Kacey: I think sometimes with growing up and being a teenager and body image and everything, maybe she put it down to. Going through a phase of not feeling comfortable with your body, although I would argue that actually nobody ever really feels 100 percent comfortable with their bodies because of everything that happens in society.
Um, but that’s just me going off on a tangent.
Dr. Tamara MC: So let me just go back to something. So, so in that, that was how I primarily was, there were certain times like where I kind of rebelled and then decided that I wasn’t going to dress like how I dressed at my dad’s at my mom’s. So I had little pockets of times where I didn’t dress in the same way and I did become more rebellious, but then I’d feel so guilty.
And then I would then return to it. But inside of me, I just wanted more freedom, but I knew that I couldn’t have it. So I’d have to stop myself from it. I wished more than anything that like I could wear a sleeveless shirt and like I could wear some of the same dresses that the girls wore to the dances, but I couldn’t.
Um, I wanted more than anything to be a cheerleader. I just loved dancing and I loved cheering and I was and but I couldn’t because of the outfit because I couldn’t wear the short skirt so and besides that I couldn’t dance but it was just something I always had this longing like when I would see the cheerleaders like oh what I wouldn’t do to like have pom poms in my hands and that short little skirt on my body.
Kacey: Looking around and dancing and singing and celebrating the, the school football team.
Dr. Tamara MC: Yeah, I mean it wasn’t about football because I didn’t know a thing about football, but I just wanted to jump up and down.
Kacey: That is the end of part one of this mini series on Sufism and child brides. For more information on Tamara’s work, you can visit tamaramc.
com. To get in touch with me, you can find me gmail. com or follow me on Twitter and Instagram at cultvaultpod. I’m your speaker, Casey, host of the Cultvault Podcast.
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