|My Life as a Witness
By Barbara Curran Castillo
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Barbara Curran Castillo, and I am a survivor of the
Jehovah's Witnesses. Yes, I said a survivor, because that is the way I have come to understand my
experiences with this particular group. I truly believe, had I remained with them much longer, I would
have either died or been killed. If this is hard to understand now, it will become quite clear as my story
progresses. When I was 2 years old, my mother was admitted to the hospital for a broken eardrum
inflicted on her by my father. In the bed next to her was a nice lady named Emma, who immediately
upon meeting my mom began to tell her about her religion, one filled with wonderful, loving people.
One guaranteed to be a ticket straight to everlasting life in paradise should she join. Mom did. She
started studying almost immediately, and soon was a dedicated and baptized witness. She did all the
things a good JW woman does, went to every meeting, in Field Service every weekend, and began to
teach me to do the same. I learned to read with the "Paradise Book" and by age 4, I was knocking on
doors with mom.
As I got a little older, and started school, I began to see how different I was from other kids. I had
never had a birthday party, and wasn't allowed to attend those of my classmates. I was not allowed to
wear the current fashions, and so was ostracized by other children, because I looked and acted
different. I had no friends, except those who were witnesses, either. Christmas was unheard of in our
house, and I always hated going back to school on the day after vacation ended, because all the kids
would ask me what I got, and I would have to reply, "Nothing." I tried to explain that we didn't
celebrate Christmas because it was a pagan holiday and therefore against God, but of course no one
wanted to hear that, and it lead to more alienation.
Oh well, at least I had my friends in the Kingdom Hall right? Wrong! I was a strong-willed child, one
who wanted to be sure I was in the right religion, after all, we were sooo different from all the other
people in the world. I would ask questions, ones that any other person, adult or child would ask if they
began to see what I did. I was quickly branded a "bad association", and a "disobedient child". Since
my mother was raising me alone, and she was a woman, it was decided by the elders that I needed the
strong hand of a man to teach me right from wrong. My mother, being a bit weak willed, and also a
devout Witness, agreed to allow them to punish me. I won't go into details except to say it was not a
pleasant experience for me. Also, Mom was a sickly woman, and often hospitalized, and when she was,
I had to live with the different elders until she recovered. This was a real nightmare. One of them
treated me as a maid, at age 10, and made me sleep on the floor. He said I needed humbling, and that
a bed was too good for a willful and haughty child like me. Needless to say, I developed low self
esteem that has taken me years to get over. The sad part of it is that to the end, my mother has always
believed that I am a bad person, because I refuse to be a Witness.
When I was about 12 years old, my mom's trust fund, which we had been living on so that she could
full time Pioneer, ran out, and she decided that we should go on welfare. She owned our home,
though, and was told by one of the elders that she wouldn't be able to get welfare because of that. He
suggested she sell him the house for $1.00 and then he would be her landlord, and allow her to live
there and pay him rent. I protested, asking her to get a worldly lawyer to check it out, but she didn't
listen, of course. She sold him the home, and that's when the real problems began.
First, she found out that the Elder had lied about her not being able to get welfare if she owned a
house. Then the man began to pressure Mom to move us out and to another state. Mom of course,
refused, since she loved our home, and that is when the break-ins began. Yes, someone started
breaking into our home on a regular basis. Nothing was stolen, but our things were vandalized. Mom
told the so called Landlord, and all he said was "Well, if you are that worried, just move." I finally
convinced Mom to bring formal accusations to the Judicial Committee of Elders, but the Landlord
blamed ME for the break-ins, saying that I probably was just being a rebellious teenager, and had paid
some of my high school friends to do it. Since he was an elder in good standing, they believed him.
After that, I could no longer even pretend to be a loyal witness. Things got really bad between Me and
Mom then, because I refused to go to meetings, and when I was 16, I moved out and got married.
Miraculously, the break-ins stopped, since he had no one to blame anymore, and he realized she was
never going to move out.
Over the years, Mom and I had an on and off relationship, since I was being shunned by the Witnesses
for leaving, and she considered me a really bad person, going so far as to tell any friends of mine she
met that I was not to be trusted. In 1986, she helped my Ex- husband get custody of my two children,
by testifying against me in court, at the suggestion of the Elders. I would go into details, but that's a
whole other story. Suffice it to say, when I needed her most, she chose them over me, as she had
always done. It wasn't her fault though, it's just the way that witnesses are taught to be.
I tried really hard to fix things with Mom, as time went on, but she always pushed me away, saying she
didn't need me, she had Jehovah. Her health was getting worse, and a couple of years ago, the
pressure to move and the break-ins began again, since this Landlord had gotten a really high offer on
the house. This time, he hired a crazed drug addict to break in once a month when Mom got her
Social Security check and beat her up and steal her money. This went on for about 6 months. The final
time, she was also raped. This being too much for her, she allowed the Elders to move her into a
nursing home. I didn't find out until six months after the whole thing happened, since she refused to
contact me. I discovered what happened when a social worker from the nursing home found my
number hidden in her things and called me.
Sadly, about a year ago, Mom (who is epileptic) had a seizure in the home, fell and hit her head, and
went into a coma, and has remained so ever since. The Elder landlord sold our family home, and I
have been responsible for Mom for the last year. All her witness friends deserted her, and I moved her
into a nursing home closer to me. She has been unconscious for a year now, and I have a really hard
time visiting her, since it brings back so many memories.
It has been 15 years since my last meeting, and has taken me as long to heal. I was in therapy for a
while, and have learned to overcome the feeling that I am a bad person. It took years of hurting
myself and pushing others away to do this, though. I also realized that Mom was pushing me away
probably to protect me from the landlord, who would have done anything to get what he wanted. This
is why I say I may have been dead if I had stayed.
I have a pretty good life now. A good job, nice home, and some really good friends. Feeling good
about myself is a great thing, too. But that's just not enough for me yet. I want to do something for all
the people out there who have been or are still victims of this cult, especially the children. Over the last
year, I have met many people via the internet who have suffered as I have, and worse. I discovered
something wonderful: I AM NOT ALONE.
Well, that's my story. Thank you for reading it.
Please send me your comments via e-mail.