Kacey: Hello listeners and welcome to this third and final part on the mini series of Sufism and child brides. I’m your speaker Kacey and for this segment I’ve been chatting with Tamara MC, a freedom activist for girls and women worldwide, highlighting her family’s involvement in a Sufi group in part one. In part two we looked at Tamara’s experience as a child bride.
With this third and final part, Looking at Tamara’s escape and subsequent journey through further education to obtain her PhD. For early access to full length ad free episodes please consider signing up to patreon. com forward slash the show to support the podcast from as little as one pound a month and to see me live at crime con alongside John Aitak.
On June the 10th and 11th in London 2023, you can head over to crime con.co.uk and use the Code Cult at the checkout to get 10% off of your tickets. We would love to see there, but for now here is Tamara. I’m just thinking about what you described to us around your temporary husband’s justification for taking on another bride.
Um, and his instructions on how you will
accept the arrangement, um, and react to it. And also the religious aspect of his right to other wives and his religious right to make these decisions and not bear responsibility to you. Do you think that he understood the misogynistic teachings that it allowed him to exploit his position? Or do you think he truly believed that he was entitled to those things, to have plural wives, to treat you this way?
Dr. Tamara MC: I think it’s very difficult to speak for somebody else, so I don’t want to speak for him, but he had grown up in the community as a child, he was born into this community, so he had seen nothing else than men in plural marriages. He had seen as an example, the adopted father and how he treated, um, I mean, in terms of like his wives.
And so he had grown up with that. So, He didn’t, I don’t want to give him an excuse because there is no excuse because he was able to research it at a young age, temporary marriages. So we could have easily like researched other ways of being a man in the world too that he didn’t do.
Kacey: This is why it’s, it’s so important to have these discussions though, because it’s not, nothing is binary, nothing is black and white.
We need to look at all the grey spaces to understand all of these things. It’s, it’s not just what he’s seen his whole life growing up, but probably also what he’s heard in every, in every prayer session. And, and
dinner tables and in the leader’s home, how the leader is with his own wives and his own children. So it’s probably a combination of both things. And I think it’s important to look at all angles of things. And that, and as you said, it’s not making excuses for abusers, but it’s trying to understand how that happens in the first place.
Um, and we can’t do that unless we Explore everything. So what you’ve been able to give us as listeners. In your explanation there, I think that’s invaluable because we have to, we have to be able to understand the whole picture and, and not just sort of, you know, this is an abuser and, and you are telling your story because it’s so much deeper than that.
Dr. Tamara MC: Yes. And I would like to go back to that, that yes, he did see that, that was the example that he saw in his life, but he also had free will. That every human has. So at every point, each of us has the choice to make a decision. And so he could have made a different decision in every instance. These decisions were not like, okay, this is the only way you can go.
He actively chose to take on these multiple lives. And in our community, like the men mostly had, like I said, like maybe two to four wives. But, and they didn’t have as many temporary marriages, but he went on to like live this lifestyle of temporary marriages when he was in his much later years. So he had a choice at every moment of what he was going to do.
So I also don’t want to take away his responsibility because at a certain point we’re brought up with, with kind of whatever we’ve learned as a child, but then We also are given choice and to decide who we’re going to be as humans.
Kacey: Yeah. I suppose there’s a nature and nurture discussion to have around that.
And a person that coerces a 12 year old girl in the dark at midnight absolutely understands that they are doing something that they should not be doing. So again, just to, to go back to not making excuses for an abuser, for a, for a child abuser and somebody that has coerced a young girl into the things that, that happened during your involvement with that person.
Dr. Tamara MC: It’s the whole purpose of this marriage. Was for him to be with me sexually. And he knew that he couldn’t. So yes, it is. It was very much pre premeditated. It was preemptive. It wasn’t as if like suddenly somebody told him, Oh, you need to marry this girl on this night or whatever. Like he made the choice, like nobody told him to get married.
He snuck into my room, wanted to be with me sexually, found a way to do it within God’s eyes that it would be okay, and then continued to do it. So, so yes, he does have responsibility within this.
Kacey: Didn’t you decided that you We’re not going to accept being in a, a forced plural marriage. You have gone on to do some pretty incredible things.
Again, I think that that drive and that passion and that determination comes through because you actually have a PhD. I do. Yes. Um, I think that’s incredible. Absolutely incredible. Please tell us all about your journey on exiting the community completely and, and where you are today.
Dr. Tamara MC: So after I left, I came back to my mother in Arizona. And I can’t even say that I know where my childhood went because it’s, it’s even a blur when I think about it. And my mother always wanted me to go to college and I was adamant, you know, from the time of my marriage, I’m not going to college. I just want to have babies.
Like that’s all I want to do. I just want to be married to this person. And so when I came back, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I started waitressing tables and For maybe somebody kind of who hasn’t been in my situation, waitressing tables, wouldn’t be as painful as it was for me, but I felt that I was still doing what I had been doing my whole life, which is serving.
And so I was still serving. And it just hurt. It just hurt my heart. And I was like, I cannot do this for the rest of my life. I have to find something else. I don’t know what that is. I don’t know how I’m going to get there. Um, but I ended up hearing that in college. I learned, like, that there was a class that I was really interested in studying in college, and I didn’t even know that they taught this class, and I was like, Oh my goodness, they actually teach that in college?
Like, I just thought they taught writing and math and all the things I didn’t really enjoy, you know? And I found out that I could take the class, and I went to the university, and I found out about it. It was a five credit course, and I ended up enrolling in college just to take that class. So my first semester, I just took that class.
But then when I took that class, I was like, Oh my God, I can take this history class and this political science class. And I just became so excited because I’ve always loved to learn. And on my community, I didn’t speak, but I was always listening. So I was just absorbing information. So on the outside, you would just think like, I’m kind of like, I don’t, I don’t know what the word is, but like, oh, this girl has nothing going on in her mind.
Fairy, fairy. But just, you know, but, but I had so much going on because I think when people talk all the time, they’re not able to learn as much. And I was just not, I was just always listening. And so I ended up then taking a political science class, a history class. And then it just kept growing that within like, I think the first, second, by the second year I was taking I think 27 credits a semester, which is like 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, which is 9 or 10 courses a semester, which a normal person would take like 3 to 5.
Kacey: Oh my goodness, Tamara.
Dr. Tamara MC: I was just like, give me more, give me more, I have to learn. And I ended up graduating college in three years as well, which is like.
Kacey: That’s a lot. I was going to say, I was going to say, did you get your PhD at 22?
Dr. Tamara MC: No, and I mean, the normal. You know, a normal bachelor’s degree takes four years because it’s like, I think 120 credits.
So it takes four years, definitely, if not five. And I did it in three years. And here was like this person that whatever education I had with my mother, like when I went to school, I didn’t even listen because. Like after I got married when I was 12, like I just shut down my whole world. Like I couldn’t even take in what was happening in my, like in regular school, because I was trying to figure out how my world’s like that were so disparate.
And. How I was going to get to Texas. So I had no interest. So I went from like having, like I still like when I go back and like people that have foundational things in their education, I’m still missing. It’s like I was educated, but I wasn’t educated. And so, so I went from that to completing college in three years.
And then after I completed college again, it was just like, Oh wait, I can go on for a master’s degree. What’s a master’s degree. Oh yeah. That sounds like, yeah, I want to do that. And so then it just. began and then after my master’s I never even knew like I didn’t even know what a PhD was. I didn’t even know anything.
But then I was like, Oh, wait a sec. I could get a PhD. What do I need to do that? And so I went on to get this PhD. It was never like initially a goal. It was just me doing this one thing that would lead me to the next thing. And I think that that is such an important lesson. That we don’t have to know where we’re going or how we’re going to get there.
We just need to know what is that next step. What is the thing I have to do right at this moment? I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I can guarantee you that that one thing is going to open up another door that is going to open up another door. And before you know it, you’re going to be led in this direction that you couldn’t even imagine possible for yourself.
Kacey: That’s such an incredible journey. I mean I have a friend who’s been on the show, Sam McKay, who’s completed his doctorate and he said it’s one of the hardest things, but it sounds almost like you just kind of were just like, I’m just happy to be here. And I think that that’s such a really positive mentality to have around further education.
What were your thoughts at the end of your PhD, were you like, okay, what’s next? And then you’re like, oh, there’s not really much else I can do.
Dr. Tamara MC: Yeah. So going back to your point, as I think that everybody else in the program was like, they knew they wanted a PhD, they knew they wanted a tenure teaching position, like they had real goals for themselves.
And mine was just curiosity and exploration. And like, like, I just wanted to learn. And I thought that the pinnacle of learning was getting a PhD, because like, Like, it’s almost like getting, like at the time it wasn’t like internet was like the way it is. Like, I don’t even think people need to go to school anymore, pretty much.
Like, everything’s available. But at that point, everything wasn’t available. Like, it was in a university library.
Kacey: Maybe it’s the take in things for granted mentality that is coming into play here when I When I talk about how difficult people find further education, if it’s something that we just have access to, you know, I, I, I had access to my degree. Um, I have access to a postgraduate if I want to do one, maybe I will, maybe I won’t.
And of course there are hundreds of thousands of people in the world that just don’t have that opportunity, that don’t have that. choice to just say, maybe I will, maybe I won’t, just like off the cuff. Some people would do anything to have access to that type of education, to those resources. So maybe that’s why you just soaked it all up and enjoyed so much of it.
Dr. Tamara MC: I did. And like, I paid for my education all by myself. Like everything like I didn’t have anybody that supported my classes. I didn’t have anybody that walked me into university and said, This is how you sign up for classes like at that point. It wasn’t like online like you actually had to go and wait in line and hopefully get into your class and and all of that.
So I mean, and then at that point, even when I was in university, I still waitressed and I also did it. Multiple jobs. I had so many jobs, but I was working full time as I was studying. So I wasn’t just studying.
Kacey: Wow. That commitment to, to your education, I think that’s inspiring. And anybody that’s having a hard day, procrastinating with their deadlines, listen to Tamara, sit down in, in a, in a room and get your work finished and enjoy it as well.
So. You’ve written a number of articles for different, um, online papers, and I wondered if you could just give us a few examples of where people can find your work.
Dr. Tamara MC: Yeah, so in the past year and a half, I’ve become public with my story. Up until then, I’ve been writing my story for myself. So I have all of the writing within my computer screen or on paper.
Um, but I just began sharing my story. And so it’s only pretty much like the beginning of this new journey that I’m on and going public with it. I have written many articles. I’ve written for The Independent, which is actually your paper, or England’s, I should say. Yes, I wrote a story in The Independent that actually is about my child marriage.
I think that that was one of the first pieces that I published. I’ve written for Salon, where I actually wrote about Britney Spears conservatorship, and how it was very similar to how the girls were brought up in my community as well. Um, I have multiple different articles and different outlets, and you can just find me under my name, Tamara, T A M A R A M C, capital M, capital C, and also on my website.
I have a website, and it’s It’s still being built, so if you see any funny things on there, that’s why. But probably by the time this, this airs, it will hopefully be better built. And, um, yeah, and just on Twitter, I have my messages open if you ever want to reach out to me or any other social media. It’s just under Tamara MC
Kacey: I will make sure that I put the links in the episode description to all of those things. I know that you also wrote a review piece on Daniela Mestinac Young’s Uncultured, and Daniela is a good friend of the show and her book is such an invaluable contribution to cult education. Can we expect perhaps a publication in memoir form from yourself anytime tomorrow?
Dr. Tamara MC: Thank you. Yes, I did. I did do a couple of reviews as well as interviews with. With Daniela, and I’m also open to any cult survivor or child marriage survivor or coercive community survivor. If they have a memoir or book coming out, I would love to be able to help in any way by writing a review, doing an interview.
I’m doing several more of new books that are going to be coming up. In the next several months as well some really exciting things. Um, yes, and I have been working on my memoir for many years, but I’ve been really I have down a whole first draft and now I’m revising it and at the moment it’s titled child bride, and it does follow my life from the time I am 12 until I am 20, and it is about this marriage that I’m in and this community and I hope soonish to get it into the world.
I’m still waiting for my dream agent and my dream publisher. So I’m putting that into the world. So, so yes, but I also so believe in time, like I really wanted to go. Slowly and to make sure that I’m ready to tell my story and that I have the knowledge and I have my degrees, and I’m just in a really good place in order to tell this story.
So I very purposefully have waited to get to this point in my life.
Kacey: I think that’s another piece of important. Advice that listeners can, can take from our conversation today as well. A few cult experts that I’ve spoken to talk about the, the damages that can come from a person leaving their group and immediately trying to deconstruct or recover by going public with their story, which sometimes can do more harm than good.
It might be the perfect solution for an individual, if a perfect solution exists. I’m not sure that it does, so perhaps I should try and reword that, but, um, we should also consider that time reflection, um, and, and educating ourselves about terminology, dialogue, different models that exist around understanding how cults work, what cults look like.
I think that that’s, that’s really important as well. And. It’s slow and steady that has got you to a place of, of, of retrospection and offering such a, an empowering account of your story to the listeners today of being somebody who from the age of five was groomed into thinking that the abuse that you were enduring was the path for you in life and then realizing that actually you had.
Sovereignty over your body, over your future, you had autonomy over yourself and you took all of that back by saying, uh, I will not be a plural wife. I will actually be my own person and I will get myself into a position in life where I don’t have to rely on anybody else. And I think that that’s so inspiring and an absolutely incredible tomorrow.
I feel very privileged to be able to speak to you about your story now that you feel that it’s the right time to, to tell it and, and to come forward with it.
Dr. Tamara MC: Thank you. Yes. And so I physically left when I was 20, I just turned 50 this year. So it took me 30 years to publicly tell my story. So this is in the short amount of time, but there was so much healing and there’s still so much healing that has to happen.
And so yes, so like people coming public with everybody has a choice to become public with their story whenever they choose, but I am. Like the tortoise, like I go really slow.
Kacey: I thought that when I said slow and steady, I was thinking of the little tortoise. Yeah, absolutely.
Dr. Tamara MC: Like, I always think of myself like that.
I am in a marathon, like, and I, and I, you know, I’m not like. I’ve actually run marathons, like I am so slow and steady and I can kind of complete anything. I can’t, I can’t like run in a race I would never do I could never do that, like in a, whatever a short, short distance race I would be terrible at it, but give me a marathon and I will just be there.
If it takes me 10 hours to run a marathon, I will run 10 hours like. So I just think that there’s such different pacing for all of us and to never rush our pacing because often in life, we see people moving so fast and so forward and making progress so quickly, but that’s not all of our past. There’s some people that can do that.
But there’s other people that have to just sit back and listen and watch and internalize and all of that is moving us forward. It’s just not on the external. Nobody sees it, but nobody has to see it because our work in this world is our own. It’s not to For other people to, to kind of say, Oh, wow, look at where you are and what you’re doing, which is nice to get those compliments, but with me, the way I’ve survived is by being okay with myself on the inside.
Like, I guess, I mean, this is maybe funny to say but I’ve always loved myself on the inside like I’m so proud of myself like I know who I am. And no matter like what a leader or somebody could say about. Not that somebody said that to me, but I know that I’m not damaged. I don’t even like the word broken.
Like, I don’t like any of that. I, all of us are so beautiful on the insides and just to remember that and. Just to stay within that little bubble within ourselves and nothing that anybody says on the exterior changes who we are. And so I think that that’s so important is that internal compass and that’s what’s always moved me is my internal compass.
Kacey: That’s that’s lovely. Thank you so much for that Tamara. I think. We can all take something from what you’ve just said, cult survivors and, and those just looking to learn or all of us together, I think can take something from what you’ve just said. And as we talk today, although this episode isn’t coming out this month, it is January, which is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
It’s actually Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery Awareness Month and I think it’s important to include that part as well. Can we be doing as a society to further our knowledge on human trafficking and modern slavery? And what do you think are the key things to look out for when it comes to identifying potential signs of human trafficking and modern slavery from your experiences?
Dr. Tamara MC: It’s such a tough subject because it’s a hidden world. And when I was in Texas, I was behind closed walls. And nobody really knew I was there, although there were people on the outside that spoke about us and wondered what was happening within this community. And so I guess that it’s like, at the time, even if those Texans who lived in the area, as they were kind of talking about what’s happening here.
But even taking that a step further, that if there is an isolated community where people are potentially being kept, and most specifically children or women, if there is a community in your area that you just are suspicious about,
like instead of being that polite neighbor and like being like, okay, what they do is fine and what I do is fine and just keep it separate, I think that in order to protect Women and children and people that are being trafficked is. To go outside of that politeness and to really inquire, and there is the National Human Trafficking Hotline that if anybody thinks that someone may be a victim within the United States, this is within the United States, and I think all countries probably have a similar service or not all countries, but to kind of look at the service within your country, but to kind of maybe make a report, even if you’re not sure, and Being trafficked like it can be broken down into labor trafficking and sexual trafficking into sex trafficking as well.
And so, in my case, I was both I was labor trafficked and I was also a sex, I was also sex trafficked as well. I sexually exploited, which they often go hand in hand. But I guess it’s getting nosy. I thought kind of sounds like but I mean maybe somebody could have saved our community if this whole operation had been broken up, and I know that it kind of was like at the time like people did try to break it up but it never quite broke up in the same way that it could have.
But yeah, but it’s all over it’s it’s within all of our communities. It’s all over the world. It’s in the United States. It’s in the West. It’s not only outside of the West and it’s I mean, it’s in our nail salons. It’s in, it’s in so many places where we go that we don’t necessarily see what’s happening.
But whenever somebody doesn’t have a choice and when they don’t have a choice to leave, when they’re not being paid wages, um, when they’re not being paid at least minimum wage, and when they don’t have freedom and choice. of their work situation, their family situation, their home situation, then that’s a sign that something’s happening.
And we can’t stay quiet because by being a bystander, that allows this to continue.
Kacey: We all need to adopt a little bit of our inner curtain twitcher. That neighbor across the road who knows everything about everyone and if there was ever a crime committed on your street, they would be the person to give the police key information on the whereabouts of people involved in the crime that night.
And I think we can all just, uh, get a little bit, get a little bit nosier, ask some questions, make, make people feel uncomfortable. And if you feel it’s necessary, make a call. To the appropriate and local authorities that can, with potentially an inquiry, especially if there are vulnerable people involved that cannot take those measures themselves.
I think there is some incredible work happening around the world in terms of prevention of human trafficking. But as you said, it’s a hidden world. So it is. An uphill battle to identify communities where this is happening, let alone prevent it from happening. And if we all educate ourselves a little bit more and we all make a point to watch out for those things and then call the hotline when there’s an actual case of potential human trafficking and not when you think that Wayfair or some furniture company is trafficking kids through the sale of their wardrobe online or whatever flavor of the month it is with, uh, with QAnon, then I think We can make some real difference in the world.
So, that’s coming from somebody that has experienced those things. You’ve said Tamara that we can all just be a bit nosier and I think that that I, I want that printed on a t shirt. I think that sounds great. I want that on my coffee cup. I want that on my car. Um, and I think that that might even be the, the caption for this episode.
So thank you so much for your time, Tamara. Thank you for offering your story to the listeners, for writing your contributions online to articles around cult education and awareness. Thank you for the release of your memoir, whenever we get it, and we’re not in a rush. We are going to finish the marathon whenever we, whenever we get to the finish line.
And I can’t thank you enough for The bravery in putting a spotlight on the subject of child sexual exploitation, human trafficking and modern slavery. So thank you so much, Tamara.
Dr. Tamara MC: Thank you so much. And I just wanted to say this little saying, which is the eye doesn’t see what the mind doesn’t know. So the key to all of this is that in order to see human trafficking, to see any of this, we have to be educated.
So like through shows like yours, that is the only way that people can begin to learn because there’s no way that somebody could have. was happening to me if they didn’t even if they didn’t even understand what human trafficking was like, it has to go back to that. And when I just go back to thinking about my childhood when I was in Arizona at school, I had all the signs of a little girl that had been trafficked.
But there wasn’t a single teacher that had been educated on what to look for. So kind of going back to what we can do is education of teachers, of schools, of public servants, of like people in hospitals, of doctors, like it just extends like, like, like where are these children going to potentially go? Or where are these humans, if they’re not even children, like when they go to a hospital and their signs, like what to look for.
So it really Extends into this education, and so podcasts like yours are so, so important for people who have not been part of these communities to become aware of what to look for in their everyday life. Because when you start looking, you’ll start to see things that you never saw before.
Kacey: Thank you so much, Tamara.
That’s a fantastic way to wrap up our conversation today. I appreciate you and your time, and I hope that you enjoy the rest of your day.
Dr. Tamara MC: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.
Kacey: Take care, Tamara. Goodbye.
Dr. Tamara MC: Okay, bye bye.
Kacey: That is the end 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 at cultvaultpodcast at gmail. com or follow me on Twitter and Instagram at cultvaultpod. I’m your speaker, Kacey, host of the Cult Vault Podcast.
Dr. Tamara MC is a cult, child marriage, and human trafficking survivor and activist who advocates worldwide for girls and women to live free from gender-based violence. Her…
At the end of 7th grade Tamara MC was forced to marry a much older man in secret. Beginning at the age of 12, she spent her school years in classes and her summers as…
She was 5 when her father joined a cult. She was 12 when she was forced into a child marriage. Today, she is telling her story.
Dr. Tamara MC is an Applied Linguist who researches language, culture, and identity…