Exit and Support Network

The Spank Tent

Even today, as a grown woman, I feel like a lightning bolt will come through the ceiling and strike me for writing one of the "stories" from my WCG childhood. This story is special to me, probably because it is actually my earliest memory.

It was 1973 in Jekyll Island, Florida at "the feast" so I couldn't have been any older than 2 years old. By the way, I remember my mother holding my arm, so I doubt I had been walking long, at least not well! Apparently I had been crying or misbehaving in the services (which were held in miserable heat under a big canopy tent) when I was taken outside for disciplinary proceedings by my mother. Bear in mind the fact that on 3 days out of the 7, we endured two services a day. Each service ran between 2 and a half to 3 hours or more in length. Unsuccessful in quieting me inside the service, she led me to another tent which she explained was the "spank tent" for unruly children. In fact, it was a tent solely designated for the spanking of children. I remember hearing what sounded like children being tortured; crying, screaming, pleading for mercy, smacking sounds, etc. I cannot explain how horrific a feeling that was; my own mother taking me to a "torture chamber" for children, condoned by "the church," put there by "the church." Hoping that my mother and "the church" would find it in their hearts to let me live so I would have another chance to redeem myself as something other than "spank tent" material, I quickly stopped crying (after quite some time in the tent) and was allowed another shot at permissible behavior inside the service.

"Children are to be seen and not heard" was a common phrase spoken to me and many, many other children by parents and church leaders. I only remember dreading those services and wondering what if I would be killed someday for being too loud. Young children have bizarre thoughts like that. Of course, common folks (those outside the church) often praised us kids for our impeccable behavior! Sure we were good!! We didn't want to go to "the tent!" As a mother today of a 5 year old son, it is not okay with me to spank him. I have such bad memories/feelings of the inappropriate discipline (from my own childhood) that I probably go too easy on my son. Either way, I'll take my chances. I would never want my son to feel like he was only worthy of love when he was being the perfect child. There were countless other children who endured this same "disciplinary attitude" and I hope they have realized that "the rod" is not as it had been misinterpreted by church leadership. If they had any idea the pain they've caused, surely they would be sorry! But maybe not.

By India - Child survivor of WCG (first name used with permission)
March 12, 2002

Read India's other story: Horrible Experiences at S.E.P.

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