The Shunned Speak Out
Location: Thornton, Colorado
Years Out: 32
Debbie Dupuis was a fourth-generation Witness. Growing up, she had no Witness friends and her family moved around a lot. She started befriending "worldly" people at school. When a new friend invited Debbie Depuis to go for ice cream, her mother forbade her because the invitation was from a non-believer.
"Well I’m not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses," she told her mother before leaving with her friend.
When Debbie returned home from having ice cream, a group of congregation elders was waiting. Debbie told the elders that she didn’t believe the teachings and the family began a long, icy process of shunning her, though she still lived at home.
"My little sister was 11 at the time, and she was really confused and really upset and she snuck in my room to talk to me." - Debbie Dupuis
She recalls her father dragging her by her hair to a meeting at the Kingdom Hall and not being allowed to eat meals with the family. She started eating two meals per day: a breakfast that she could take on-the-go and lunch at school. Her classmates noticed that something was wrong and alerted child protective services, which placed her in temporary foster care.
Her parents decided to move back to Denver and asked the authorities to let Debbie spend the night with them one last time. The authorities agreed, assuring Debbie they would check on her. That night, her parents woke Debbie and took her with them.
At the new home, the shunning continued. When she started losing weight because of stress and missed meals, her mother took her to a psychologist. Debbie soon realized the psychologist was a Jehovah’s Witness.
She disassociated from the congregation six months before her 18th birthday. Once she turned 18, her father told her she "might as well just leave." She has been shunned by her family for 32 years, but says she is still not over it.
She has a son whom she raised to be a free thinker who is on his way to college. She says she could use a bit more education to make more money, but she’s otherwise happy. Despite the accomplishments, her voice was barely above a whisper, cracked by tears, when she spoke of her childhood shunning.
"I’m still broken," she said. "I’m never going to be whole without my family."