(Authors note: This is part of a continuing series of the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) movement, a group considered by it's former members and critics to be a cult (which is a label I feel is not undeserved). For more posts on this dangerous group, visit my page, Exposing the IFB. If you have a history of childhood abuse, proceed with caution when reading this post, it goes into explicit detail of some rather horrific abuse of minors.)
In 1971, a pastor and his wife named Ron and Patti Williams founded a homeless shelter for women in the town of Winona Lake, Indiana called Hephzibah House. Some of the residents were simply homeless, others were addicts. Ron Williams had gotten involved in social work due to his previous job with the US Public Health Service, and was familiar with the lives of addicts. Though this kind of charity may sound like a great place, Ron William's violent side started showing not long after.
During the days when Hephzibah House was still a shelter for adult women, as compared to the shelter for teen girls sent their by their families who were members of the IFB movement for "rebellion", there was still abuse going on. Women who violated the shelters rules were regularly beaten. This quote is from the site, Former Hezipbah Girls:
"In the early days, Hephzibah House (HH) took in adult women who were either homeless or had alcohol or drug addictions. Ron had previously worked for the Health Department dealing with women with these same issues. During this time, the women living at HH had often come there voluntarily. In the article "Discipleship and Discipline at Hephzibah House", former Times Union staff writer Gina Smalley gives us the following information.
Fomer residents also talk of the punishment. A 37 year old Warsaw woman who lived at the house briefly when she was 25, said she was given "eight whacks" by Williams on the buttocks for talking after a 10 p.m. curfew. The woman said her flesh was bleeding after the paddling and that she still has back pain. "I'll never forget it," she said."
That's right, a 25 year old women being beaten so severely, the injuries still affect her.
After Hephzibah House became a home for "wayward girls" in the late 1970's, it only became worse. The house stopped taking adult women in, and started only accepting girls from 12 to 18 years old (though some of the adult women stayed on as staff members). The abuse described by some of it's former residents sounds like something out of a POW camp.
Here's a few examples, the following are quote from the Former Hephzibah Girls site
The "Blue Room"
Beatings would literally take place every night at bed time:
" Once the girls were in bed for the night, it became a waiting game, as each girl waited for her name to be called, indicating her turn to be taken down to the Blue Room. Each girl knew what was being done to the girl who was called down. They knew from having experienced it themselves. They also knew what was happening because they could hear the cries coming from the girl who was being beaten. These girls were beaten to the point of having bloody, oozing wounds on their backsides (buttocks, legs, and backs). These bloody wounds often had to be bandaged. The proof of these bloody wounds was evident in the trash cans, as girls would see the dressings from another girl's wounds. Several former students have recounted the story of one particular girl who got up from her folding chair to see that she had bled completely through her bandages and through her uniform onto the chair. This girl was one of the few who was able to successfully run away from Hephzibah House."
Ten foot tall fence built to keep the girls from running, and guards to keep constant watch:
"Around 1984, the Hephzibah girls were moved to the new facility at 2277 East Pierceton Road, Warsaw, Indiana. This new location was set up as part of a compound, which included a church, school, and staff houses. Ron Williams and his family lived above the facility which housed the girls. The backyard at this facility was completely fenced in to keep the girls contained. In approximately 1989, a 2 foot extension was added to the top of the already 8 foot high fence. This was done after another girl tried to run away. In addition, when the girls were taken to school or church, the entire walk there was within the fenced in area. There were also male staff members who "guarded" the gates and doorways when the girls were going from one building to another. Girls were often taken away from schoolwork and homework to help out with building or cleaning projects."
Staff would actually flee with the girls in the middle of the night sometimes to avoid legal prosecution or attention from local authorities:
"There have been several instances when Ron Williams and staff have had to take the girls and flee. They have literally loaded up the girls and taken them to neighboring states to hide in churches until things have calmed down. At times the number of students at HH dipped very low as a result of investigations or allegations. The number of students always rebounded though, as nothing ever happened to Ron or staff."
Humiliation and severe psychological abuse, including girls being denied basic activities like going to the bathroom:
"In addition to the physical beatings, there are many other instances of outright abuse that are far worse than that. The humiliation, the forced vaginal exams, forced enemas, lack of any privacy even for time to use the bathroom. The girls were oftentimes starved as a form of punishment, they were made to do extra work duties, write sentences, or be shadowed. Shadowing was a very embarrassing punishment doled out by the staff ladies. Once on shadow, a girl could not so much as look at any other girl. She was to be a literal "shadow" of her assigned staff lady. She could not speak, look at anyone, or participate in any type of activity. She was to sit on the ground facing the wall at all times. There were several girls who were on shadow for months on end, with absolutely no interaction whatsoever with the other girls. "
"Girls were kept from using the bathroom, and then singled out and forced to wear diapers. Girls were humiliated at every opportunity. Whores, sluts, rebellious...these were all words that were thrown around as descriptions of why we were there in the first place. On drugs, living in the streets, pregnant, or dead...this is what we were told would happen to us if we left Hephzibah House. It was a daily battle that messed with our minds and has left long lasting scars. The affects of this type of emotional and physical trauma carry on for years and years "
Believe it or not, there's more to the details of the abuse that went in Hephzibah House, which is denied by Ron Williams, and bloggers within the world of the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement, despite many former residents coming forward with similar stories, read more in part 2, to be released Sunday night.
Until then, read more about the IFB movement, and it's cult like culture, and history of abuse of children from posts that I have written based on countless hours of research, and from the blogs of IFB survivors, who are passionately working to expose this dangerous group. Without some of those bloggers, this series would not be possible, I'm grateful to them for their work.
Later edit: (part 2 can be read right here).