“In situations of captivity the perpetrator becomes the most powerful person in the life of the victim, and the psychology of the victim is shaped by the actions and beliefs of the perpetrator.”
Nikki, the name she has adopted, contacted me and asked if I knew about the abuse that occurs in “little family cults.” I have to admit that I knew little to nothing about such groups and am grateful that Nikki reached out to me. Not only did she want to tell her story, but she is also interested in getting in touch with others who have experienced similar families. This story is about physical, sexual, psychological, and spiritual abuse.
However, this was not a church or a community group. It wasn’t the Duggars with 19 children and TV cameras following them everywhere. It was a small family with a mom, dad, two biological children, and two foster children(who did not stay in the family for long.) Nikki now refers to her father and mother by their first names: Mark and Susan. She has left that family and does not intend to return.
Nikki said they had to have long hair. Unlike the Duggars, though, they didn’t have to wear long skirts because of the janitorial work they had to do. Let’s go back to the beginning.
Mark and Susan had two biological children. Nikki was born in 1985, and her sister, Christy, was born in 1984. In the spring of 1991, Mark and Susan fostered Kimberly and Brandon.
Mark sexually abused Christy and went to prison.
In the fall of 1991, Christy was walking to school with Nikki. They were allowed to attend school until 4th grade. Christy told the traffic crossing guard that her dad had abused her. Thankfully, the traffic guard reported this. Mark went to prison for 5 1/2 years.
The foster children were removed from the family.
The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, excommunicated Mark.
The family had attended this church for a few years. Nikki went through the confirmation classes. She told me that she was glad the church responded in the way it did.
The sneaky way that Mark was able to come home after prison.
The family lived in a 5th wheel camper until 1999. Mark was allowed to live in a popup camper on the same land as the 5th wheeler. This was a rough living situation since they didn’t have electricity and water for some time. They got electricity but never had any water. Susan could truthfully say that Mark wasn’t staying in their primary residence.
In 1999, the family moved into a house together with Mark. They kept the registry for the 5th wheeler and reported that Mark was living there. This living arrangement would lead to further abuse.
Keep it in the nuclear family.
Sometime in 1998, the police received another call about Mark. Mark and Susan told the girls that they needed to keep silent about anything going on in the family., They told them that no one would want to take the girls together if they were charged. So, the girls, fearing the worst, kept silent.
Sadly Mark and Susan never shared the cards and letters from they received from their aunt who cared about them. It appears that they didn’t want family members to get involved with the children.
The family-owned a janitorial company.
When they were young, the kids were expected to work helping with the janitorial company. By 2000, Christey and Nikki, young teenagers, were running the company. Susan worked for a non-profit group that served families of prisoners… On the other hand, Mark stayed home to do the paperwork for the company. The girls worked very hard and kept long hours.
Mark told the girls that he had installed cameras around the house and he could watch them. This caused them to feel like they were being watched and controlled at all times.
Mark started a Bible study with friends from prison but had some odd beliefs.
Since Mark was no longer welcome at the Lutheran church, he started his own Bible study. Doesn’t this remind you of pastors who are forced to resign from their church and decide they will start their new church? It should come as no surprise that Mark would have some odd ideas regarding the Bible
He believed in celebrating a Jewish Sabbath. He was authoritarian and confusing in how he implemented his beliefs in the family, For example, he decided that scented candles should not be allowed in the house. He let the girls attend a Baptist youth group where they made friends. Mark would reject their friends by saying things like “She’s too evil to be around.” or “Don’t let the devil into your life.
Abuse of the girls allegedly continued.
Christy was abused in 2001 and ran away from home. From 2001-to 2003, Nikki was alone at home with Mark and Susan. Nikki said those years were filled with sexual, mental, and physical abuse. In 2003, their grandmother moved into the house, and the molestations of Nikki stopped.
Christy got married as soon as she turned 18. She and her husband moved into the campers. She wanted to come home to protect Nikki.
Nikki marries at 18 and found herself in another abusive situation
She married her first husband because he demonstrated that he wanted to protect her from Mark. He became increasingly controlling. For example, he would take away her car keys so she couldn’t go out. She returned home to Mark and Susan. Mark told her to go back to her husband. She would not divorce him until 2009.
From 2006 to 2009, Mark and Susan became even more difficult to deal with due to drug abuse.
Nikki began to work for the janitorial company once again.
She worked in the company from 2009-to 2012. When I asked her why she returned, she likened it to Stockholm Syndrome. Since Mark and Susan owed taxes on the business, they decided to transfer the company to Nikki. However, after they withheld her salary because they claimed “she owed them money,” she finally decided to make a clean break and quit. She eventually became a store manager for a national company.
Due to panic attacks, Nikki eventually left the area and moved near her aunt.
She remarried in 2009 and divorced again in 2012. At this point, she had 4 children. She moved to Michigan, became a home health aid, and is helping to care for her aunt. She remarried once more in 2014 after moving to Michigan. She now has four biological children from 2 marriages and one stepdaughter.
She is so grateful to be with her aunt, who truly cares for her. When I spoke with Nikki, her aunt was in the background, supporting her and helping her remember the dates in her story. She is a lovely person who wants Nikki’s story to be told.
Nikki wants to help others who have survived a “little family cult.”
Nikki no longer goes to church. She subscribes to the motto “Do no harm.” She knows that there are many stories just like hers that rarely get told since each family cult is an autonomous group. She wants to speak with others who have gone through similar experiences and has set up a contact email
Nikki is a thoughtful and kind person who went through a difficult situation. Imagine living with your parent who went to prison for molesting your sister? She is strong, brave, and loving. I cannot thank her enough for being willing to share her story and point out a forgotten group of survivors.
I would be interested in posting other stories from folks who grew up in similar circumstances. Please contact me at email@example.com.