Testimony of Rebecca Gonyaw, raised in Island Pond community

Extract from an article published byThe Burlington (Vt.) Free Press, June 18, 2000 titled:

The raid revisited: Island Pond community heals wounds from 1984

Rebecca Gonyaw, 17, did not attend Saturday’s gathering [raid gathering organized by 12 Tribes], but, speaking at her aunt’s Island Pond home, she remembered the discipline differently. Gonyaw was also a child of the raid. She was barely 2, and doesn’t remember much.

But she was raised in the church and left two years ago when her parents were told to leave the community because her two oldest brothers had voluntarily left the church. Her father has since returned.

Gonyaw says discipline was constant, and it was administered by everyone.

“It was hard; there was a lot of misjudging,” Gonyaw said. ”I always felt so bad about myself. I can’t be this certain way. Their goal is for everyone to be perfect.”

Gonyaw said church members considered her a ”wayward child.”

“I was the type that spoke my mind. … I got spanked by everybody,” she said, recounting stories of being beaten on her backside and on the bottoms of her feet. ”I was rebellious, but out here it wouldn’t be rebellion.”

She told of a life focused on chores — she stopped attending school at age 11. Chocolate was forbidden, as was television, sports and congregating in unsupervised groups of adolescents.

One time, her mother bought her a book at a yard sale, about the biblical story of Joseph and his many-colored coat.

“I love to read, and I read it, and then I let one of my friends borrow it,” she said. ”When (the elders) found out, they told her to burn it. I cried and I said, ‘Don’t burn it; I love that book.’ But she burned it.”

Life is different now. She has her own room, after years of sharing rooms with her six siblings. She likes to read romance novels, and is working toward her GED.

“I am not bitter against the community,” she said. ”I grew up with them. I do feel regret that I wasn’t able to talk to friends about things.”

More importantly, she says she doesn’t understand why the church didn’t back her family so they could stay together.

When her father returned to the church, Gonyaw’s mother, who is now in Colorado, was left to support the rest of the family on her own.

“I am upset they are breaking up families, because if the mother doesn’t want to be there, and the father does, they encourage the dad to leave the mother,” she said. ”They encouraged my dad to leave my mom. God comes first, but not in that way.”