The Shunned Speak Out
Location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Years Out: 5
Lee-Ann Harrhy developed a fear of being disfellowshipped when she was 10 years old.
"I said 'Mom you would never do that to me would you?' and she just said 'Well I hope you never leave Jehovah.' So I just knew right away, if I leave this I don't have my mother. " - Lee-Ann Harrhy
She was born in 1971, a third-generation Jehovah’s Witness. When her grandmother died, the family promised Lee-Ann she would see her in just a few years when her grandmother was resurrected. When 1975 passed, scores of disillusioned worshippers left the religion. Lee-Ann’s father, who wasn’t a member, made fun of her mother about the year passing.
Despite recurring doubts, Lee-Ann stayed in the organization because she didn’t want to lose a relationship with her devout mother. She made a promise to herself at 6 years old. "If I’m still here when I’m 40, this is bullshit," she said, referring to the current world which JWs believe will be transformed into a paradise.
"I used to think 'this is weird, what we do is weird.' But those thoughts scare you." - Lee-Ann Harrhy
Lee-Ann was date raped when she was 18 years old. She felt guilty about being raped and told the elders what happened. Instead of getting medical attention, the elders publicly reproved her, a JW punishment one step below disfellowshipping.
"I had no memories other than I woke up naked with the man having sex with me. I was just flat on my back passed out." - Lee-Ann Harrhy
She worked hard to get back in the organization’s good favor because she missed her mother. When she was 27, her mother, who had been continually abused by her father, committed suicide. Her mother had complained to the elders, but they only told her to go back to her husband. One day, after decades of abuse, her mother walked into a lake and drowned herself.
"My father was abusive and an alcoholic. My mom ran away from him half a dozen times, but the only advice she got was 'you're not allowed to divorce your husband.'" - Lee-Ann Harrhy
Five years ago, Lee-Ann left for good. She said she finally "woke up to the truth about the truth," with the help of a Facebook support group for ex-JWs. She says she still gets "brain wobbles," little instances of fear that the Jehovah’s Witnesses might be right.
"I never in a billion years thought there would be a time when I wouldn’t be a Jehovah’s Witness," she said.