V.P. Weirwille was a predator. I never fully realized the impact of this until the other day when I received an e-mail from a former member of The Way whose friend had obviously been a victim of "the Doctor's" sexual abuse.
She had been a vivacious and totally committed believer. She sincerely followed VP's teachings and was a shining example to her brothers and sisters. She worshipped "The Doctor", lit up in his presence and enthusiastically obeyed everything he said.
Then, one day, everything changed. She announced to her spiritual family that she had to leave, giving no explanation. She and her husband met with VP and she couldn't even look him in the eye. Her light was gone. She gave no reason for her sudden escape - just that she had to go. VP told her to work on her marriage, just as he had told me to do. She left instead, never to be heard of again.
What happened? I can only extrapolate from what was said to me but I think I know. I remember being that intrepid, vivacious believer until The Doctor got his hands on me. Then he twisted my sincerity into slavery and forced me to do things to him I would never do, much less imagine. He locked me in his lockbox and I was helpless to escape.
This woman fled and it's haunted her ever since, ruined her life, I'd say. Now she is a recluse, with no connections to family or friends or her past.
It could all be in my imagination. But I know the signs. And the story awakened my memory to a darker time in my life when I had nowhere to turn. I was one of the fortunate ones. I escaped. Some were not so lucky. The Way is strewn with casualties of women who were prey to Wierwille, Martindale and other "men of God." Some killed themselves, some disappeared. There but for the grace of God, go I.
I was always taught that predators preyed on the weak. But after hearing this story, I realize that's not true. Men like Wierwille prey on the strong - on the most sincere and devoted of followers because these are the most easy to manipulate. We are the most vulnerable because we loved most freely. Yes, we were young and we were naive but that does not mean we were weak. One has to be strong to keep a lockbox, even when it becomes a prison.
This sad story reminded me of the evil of such men as Weirwille. I know of other believers who still don't believe him capable of such abuse. They don't believe him capable of rape or cold-hearted manipulation. VP will always be their "man of God." Let the detractors believe what they will. For myself, I know what I experienced and I know what is true.
Thankfully it is all in the past, but every so often, something happens that reminds me of what I lived through. Of being a victim. Then I must pick myself up out of the despair and anger and remind myself of my strength. I am not weak, I wasn't then either. A beautiful flower is only plucked in its prime. I and other survivors like me need remember that it was our beauty and vulnerability that caused us to be "picked." I am trying to recapture some of that beauty, allowing it to shine with the strength that underlies it.