Sunday, January 30, 2000
To All Concerned,
My story is not a new one.
I have written about it before, to a limited audience. However, this
Website provides a way for me to reach everyone
who may share an interest or who may be helped by it. I
would need to write a novel to reveal the full
implications and details of my whole experience. My purpose
here is to simply (as best and as easily as I
can) let you know about the unusual "half-wife" relationship that
Stewart Traill arranged for me to have with him.
First, sex was not
the primary thing, hence the term half-wife; the major implication was one
power and control. Stewart endeavored in
every way he could to diminish my own self-confidence and
self-respect in order to make me willing to lead
a dependent life, dependent upon his mercy and control. I
was his experiment, a hobby, he said. When
I helped him develop film in the darkroom Stewart would set
aside time in which he would hug me very close.
I'm sure he could feel my tension, my resistance. He
would tell me I was uncomfortable because I felt
I was losing control -- my will to his. Later, he would ask
me what I thought it might mean for him to 'take
care of me sexually." Thankfully, he allowed me not to
answer this question. I did not want to
touch it. I'd already shut down, anyway. My main interest was
trying to please, saying the right things, and
staying out of trouble, thereby finding what I thought might be
some level of happiness and stability in the
circumscribed life that I led, surrounded by him. If he was
holding me, he couldn't be angry with me.
He couldn't hold my hands and yell at me at the same time, or be
disgruntled with me.
You need to understand
that it was a gradual taking over. I was already convinced that this
the only way, and belonging to Stewart was my
lot in life, so to speak. There was nowhere to go. I really
believed if I left Cobu and sought shelter at
home, I would be using my family in a selfish way that would be
harmful to them.
Rather than rewrite
the many details or my experiences, I'm including only some of them in the
form of what I have written in the past, by way
of letters (both unmailed and mailed) and excerpts from my
Journals, which I started keeping as a way of
therapy upon leaving Stewart and Cobu. I'm attaching these
below my letter here to you. Finally, in
hoping that they will provide insight and shed light on this troubling
subject, I'm also including three professional
articles that helped me very much.
I will now close
this discussion regarding my "half-wife" relationship with Stewart.
bottom line: While I may not sound all that upset,
now, over what happened, it was all terribly destructive
to me, and I worked hard to recover and free
myself from the bondage, emotionally, physically and
psychologically. Regarding Stewart: Whether
he is sincere, or deluded, or cunningly deceptive is beside the
point and irrelevant. The fact of the matter
remains, he is a parasite who attaches himself and sucks the life
and health out of others in order to live himself.
He might be compared with the turn-of-the-Century
American industrialists who got rich with the aid of,
and at the expense of, the workers. Another way of
looking at it: There are the Hitlers and the
Saddam Husseins of the world, and then there are the
Stewart Traills. They all kill. Whether
it's the physical body or the spirit, or the mind, they all kill. They
take what is not theirs and either obliterate
it or use it to get rich and powerful, in their own minds at least.
With me, I felt Stewart took something that absolutely
did not belong to him. He used me for his own
purposes, and he nearly destroyed me.
I didn't know it then. I do know it, now.
Thank you for your
time and attention in reading this. My story is only one of hundreds,
as each of
us, whether we are presently in or out of Cobu,
has had our own hurts and struggles. None of them
deserves to be minimized or diminished in any
way. Each of our experiences runs deep and must be deeply
The following letter I wrote, but never sent, to one of the Gayle-helpers.
This was 1991. I had been out of Cobu for about six years. I was 34 years old and
only beginning to realize the significance of what had happened. After
writing it, I crossed out portions of the letter. Partly I wished to
edit, but mostly I wished to hide out of fear of being
misunderstood.I will note, following the letter, what I had crossed
out. I can still read it beneath the black marks.
Just follow the numbers.
November 10, 1991
Up to this point I have had a great fear of opening up any
lines of communication with anyone still in the Church of Bible Understanding.
I was so close to Stewart and have lived in fear of coming near him again.
But I am convinced that each brother and sister still there deserves a chance
to see life in the "outside world beyond the prison walls." And so I am In my letter S. = Stewart. I don't like
to say or write his name. It's too personal.
You want to know what kind of man you are dealing
with? One that is way out in left field to say the least. He wanted
to make me his half-wife. He talked to me about the vows I should make to
him in place of marriage vows, That was scary.
He would passionately hug me in the darkroom. He told me I should wear
bikini underwear instead of briefs after checking tosee what I had on.
He asked me to open up to him about myself sexually. He encouraged
me to wear a bikini bathing suit and get a tan more than he ever encouraged
me to take time to read the Bible. I don't even remember him encouraging
me to read the Bible, Why did I go along with this? Because for 3 years
at least he had instilled in me the belief that I needed him
and the fear of what would become of me without him. I was used to
his "taking care" of me, his "superior understanding" of me, and I would
never be able to be happy with a "normal" man. He kept reminding me that
no one gets married in our church but I was lucky because he would "take
care of me." I was thoroughly convinced that I had no hope for any happiness
as a single Christian woman apart from him. I was thoroughly convinced
that I would never be able, or permitted, to be married in our church.
I belonged to him. And yet during my times of "rebellion" I had a great
desire to break free of him and his control over me. The last time,
the talked to me and worked on me until 5 o'clock in the morning to convince
me to come back to Princeton and accept his care. I was so torn.
I felt this was my "last chance." And yet deep inside, I was so disappointed
that I was going back to living under his rule. But I was "convicted" that
it was God's will for me, this was my lot in life, and it was therefore the
right thing to do. Looking back, I am very ashamed of my relationship with
S. At best it was totally inappropriate and at worst adulterous.
My work with my young friends in Kensington was undermined
by my unreal relationship with S. True he encouraged me to begin this kind
of ministry. There has always been just enough truth mixed in with
the strangeness of his ways to keep us thinking we were on the right track.
And my ministry was successful but only to a point. And I was happiest
and freest when S.went away on one of his trips. I loved it when he was gone.
I didn't have to prove to him that I was faithful and successful. I could
just be faithful and God gave me success. And besides, S. looked good because
"he made me what I was." In fact he directly told me that I "would
be nothing without him."
Below are notes I scribbled to myself after writing this letter.
I felt wrong in writing the letter. By the same token I
felt I needed to write it. My notes are hard to read,
so I'll decipher them. Again just follow the numbers.
(1) I always said I'd never tell anyone because they wouldn't understand.
I always said I would respect our "relationship." (I said this to myself,
not to Stewart.)
(2) Donna said he did it for power and control.
(3) Stewart said he did it for a hobby.
(4) 1 say he stepped way over his boundaries and he had no business experimenting
with me. He said so what -- I was happy, wasn't I? The end justified the means,
(5) It's too upsetting to dredge it up. He would explain it away just
like I did. No one would be ... my letter was sensationalizing it and missed
(6) [not show, it's on the reverse side]
Concentrate on the good -- my work with my young friends in
Kensington. I loved I don't want to dredge up all the awful memories.
It ruined my weekend. There's plenty for them to see wrong without me having to go through
About a year later, I wrote the following on January 10, 1993.
I've retyped excerpts here to save you the laborious
task of wading through the three-page original handwritten
entry. It goes as follows:
Well, I wasn't going to
write this because I feet so ashamed [of my unnatural relationship with Stewart]
and I would hate for anyone to read it, but I need to do it for my own sake
... I started comparing may experiences with Stewart to [sister's name withheld]...
he worked on her for about eight months. Only the beginning of those
months were "good" for her until he began trying to break her will.
From there on she was more distant and could even still speak to him ...
of wishing she could many (for which he sharply rebuked her). He began
working on me at my age 23 (when I began Kensington). I remember helping
him in the darkroom and the first time he gripped my hands -- both of them
-- and smiled (I could hear it in his voice in the dark -- that all-knowing
kind of I'm so sure of myself smile and you are just my little girl and have
a lot to learn tone of voice). I remember feeling alarmed but then
thinking well I guess he knows what he is doing and if he likes me well enough
to want to touch me then he won't jump on me for doing something wrong while
he's holding me. So I figured I was safe when he was holding me.
Now I feel so ashamed. Even though I remember clearly not being able
to relax, and not feeling at all attracted to him in a sexual way.
In fact I think I've developed a real wall of insulation from allowing myself
to feel that way toward any man. Anyway, last night I was feeling so
down. It was as if a lump of heavy clay had replaced any happiness
I might feel. And thinking about the way Stewart worked on me for over
three years -- my age 23 until I left at age 26 for good, brought tears to
my eyes. I felt I should not write down my feelings but this morning
I realized if I did not I'd end up wasting more of my life. the other disturbing
thing to me was that I felt powerless and like [be] knew better and it was
my duty to be for [him] what [he) needed at the time. . . [Stewart] would
say things like this is our secret although I don't remember him using the
word "secret" but that's what it amounted to. He would say how our
relationship was unusual and outsiders would not understand. Not even
brothers and sisters in Cobu. I'm not sure about Gayle. I always
thought or assumed she knew, but now I don't know to what extent. I
always thought our relationship was "right" because how could a man of God
like Stewart do something wrong and I had been conditioned to that since
I was 16 years old, And here this great man who knew so much would offer
this security to me. Plus he
thoroughly convinced me I could not rightfully and happily marry whether
in the church or not.
What alternative did I have because he had "spoiled me"? I was so fortunate
that he would show an interest in me. That was his attitude which he instilled in me and
I accepted. I guess because I took all of this for granted and had
nothing to compare it to in normal life, I still take it for granted. I think,
how could this have any great effect on me? I guess I should talk to
someone who would know and who would have a better perspective on it than
I do . . My relationship with Stewart is something I never, never talked
about to anyone, Cobu or outside ... I just feet so lonely in this and I
want to tell someone. And I want to make him (Stewart) accountable
... I always want to write intellectual letters to [Cobu members], clinically
describing what happened and giving a clinical diagnosis or whatever.
But what I've just written is the truth from me ... of what happened and
how it has made me feel and the effect it has had on me as I see it and feel
it. I think this is the first time I ever wrote it down ....
I had written some of it down, rather bluntly, in the crossed out, unmailed
letter. I'd just forgotten. And I did receive the opportunity
to tell the Gayle-helper sisters during their visit to California on a camera
sojourn just a few weeks later. We met in a restaurant for dinner in Fairfield,
California, on Sunday, January 17, 1993. Following our meeting, I wrote
January 20, 1993
The sisters were so enthusiastic about grace when we met Sunday
that to even try to begin to explain what I am enclosing for you to read
would have been impossible. This information is applicable to the Church
of Bible Understanding( I got it from GC Mennonite Women's Concerns) and
I hope you will read it. If you don't have time, at least read the underlined
portions. You will get the most, however, by reading in its entirety.
Then if you would like, give it to Stewart to read. But I wanted
you to have a chance to form your own ideas and thoughts, and whether or
not you pass this along to him is up to you. You may feel obligated to do
I don't mean to trivialize God's grace; however, it's kind of like telling
someone with an open wound that God's grace is sufficient without first binding
up the wound and then insisting on God's grace. Or like telling a starving
person that God loves them, but forgetting to feed them. Or like telling
someone who had been overpowered by their pastor to forget about it because
God has grace. What disturbed me for your sake was that I don't recall ever
having seen you and the sisters appear so programmed to hammer one point.
You and Shelly were always so flexible on what we talked about. I could always
talked to you to some degree on a personal subject. Not that God's grace
is unimportant; again, I am not trying to trivialize it. But you seemed nearly
unable to discuss anything else. Or you were somehow not free to (permitted
to) discuss anything else.
Now that I've been outside the Church of Bible Understanding for some length
of time, I've found some new reference points from which to understand my
unusual and very difficult half-wife relationship with Stewart. It has only
been in the last six months to one year that I have begun to try to understand.
I just found myself feeling very angry at him, like he had taken something
that really didn't belong to him. He had no business forming a half-wife
relationship with me. He directly told me he had taken a chance, that it
was sort of an experiment (after I was so far into the relationship that
it was too late for me to back out, not that he ever gave me that option.).
He never gave me a biblical foundation for what we were doing. It was "all
psychology" to put it your way from Sunday. And me like a true dummy never
asked him for any justification for our relationship and rarely doubted him.
What did I know? He was the Man of God.
Another point I would like to make. There was apparent sincerity on Stewart's
part; although there were times, in fact many times, that I sensed I was
more of a project than a love of his. One thing I know for sure, we, including
Stewart, were and are so isolated in the small world of the group that any
distorted viewpoints quickly and effectively permeate the group, especially
when they come from the chief shepherd. I know that he worked hard on me
to break my will and conform me to his expectations. I have learned well
(often from his tirades and from being coldly ignored) what was acceptable
behavior in his opinion and what were the right things to say "to stay out
of trouble." I learned to hide my true thoughts and emotions. I lost touch
with my inner self and my own inner voice telling me, "Hey wait a minute,
Let's take another look here, is this right, is it true?" The reason I left
was I couldn't take it anymore. I remember going to my room one night and
realizing, finally, that this just wasn't going to work with Stewart. That
I just couldn't do it. And I ran away (escaped) the next morning. I love
my parents and I wish I lived closer to them, but realizing the hold Stewart
had on me, I think the best thing I could have done was to come to California,
3,000 miles away.
Sara, I know you have a good mind, and I think you must sometimes think of
these things, if at no other time, then when you are unhappy and perhaps
feeling alone. That's how I was. If you find you need the security of the
group and Stewart's leadership (whether harmful or not), then you will stay
there. Leaving is scary because you feel and have also been taught you are
leaving God. Leaving is a difficult thing to do and it takes a long time
to work through things once you leave. But it's a decision you may make someday.
In any event, there is life on the other side. And it can be interesting
and fulfilling.( And maybe God's grace is sufficient to extend there, too.)
It, too, can be difficult, but it's also very liberating. I was amazed at
how even the Bible could mean more to me, when I read it, finally. The expanded
horizons are wonderful. And the chance to learn and experience new freedom
of thought and ideas. That's why I kept saying I was using the mind God gave
One other thing. We used to talk about a meaningful, interesting life with
peace through Jesus. Now it appears your minds are set not only on God's
grace, but on death. It seems that you think in terms of it doesn't matter
if your lives are lacking enrichment here on earth because you are going
to die soon anyway, perhaps in two minutes. Except, from what shelly tells
me, Stewart has a very nice living quarters, well-planned, nicely built,
with all the extra amenities. Does this seem like a double-standard to you
as it does to me? Enough said on that subject as it is one of those taboo
subjects about Stewart, which we all learned not to mention. And if it was
mentioned, it was only by those who desired to be contentious and find fault.
I'm just making an observation.
If you want to call me it's okay to call me at work. I wasn't able to talk
but we could figure out a time for me to call you back from home. I was glad
to see you and Gail(sp?) and Linda. I used to be afraid, but this time, although
I felt apprehensive, I really looked forward to seeing you.
P.S. And I wanted to tell you about me and Stewart so you and the sisters
would know, for your own protection and freedom. When you read the enclosed
materials you'll understand more what I mean. And there's more where that
Here is the information which I included with the above letter.
You will see that I had underlined the parts I felt were
the most applicable, hoping that at least the highlighted
areas would be read. I have just reread these articles, and I
still feel they are especially relevant and insightful. They
were provided to me by the General Conference Mennonite
Church Women's Concerns Committee.
As an introduction and to set the tone, I would
like to extract a section from Shirley Souder's article "An
Introduction to Professional Abuse" and include it here, remembering
that Stewart, acting in his capacity as our
pastor, was a "professional."
Definition of Professional Abuse
Professional abuse has
been called by many names: sexual misconduct, power abuse, undue
familiarity, sexual exploitation,
adultery, authority abuse, seduction, scandal, and sin. Essentially,
Professional abuse is crossing
sexual boundaries in a professional relationship. [Emphasis added]
The professional may be
physician, psychotherapist, pastor, teacher or professor, workplace
mentor, or attorney.
The professional relationship is based on trust and is characterized by a
abuse is primarily a matter of power and control, not of sex and sexuality.
Sexual invasion can he
experienced through any physical contact, bodily movement, or
verbalization that uses
sexual expression to control and intimidate the less powerful person in the
added.] Such invasion of boundaries is disruptive to the professional
Boundaries define us.
They indicate our limits -- where we begin and where we end. Boundaries
differentiate us from others,
showing us where we end and where the other begins. They help us
physically and psychologically, from others.
In our society, we learn
gender-based messages about our boundaries. Generally speaking, men
given permission to challenge
sexual boundaries and women are taught to accept the challenging
behaviors of men as normal.
Because of the distorted messages that we have teamed as men and
women in our society, boundary
violations may not be immediately recognized as such.
There is often a period
of testing in which the more Powerful one it? the relationship rests to see
she "will accept his secret
redefinition of their relationship as one that might include sexual
contact. " [Emphasis added.]
In the context of a trusted professional relationship, she is likely to
experience his testing
as confusing, often doubling her own perceptions and rationalizing the
experience as nothing at
all. Depending on her earlier learnings, she may feel empowered or
disempowered to defend
her boundaries. Those who are disempowered by prior life hurts or
may be particularly susceptible to exploitation by the professional who is
The frequency of professional
abuse is not clearly known. Statistics tend to be conservative
who are victimized tend to be reticent to disclose the mistreatment due to
guilt, or loyalty conflicts.
Those who are offended are prone to rationalize their behavior as
permissible and unharmful,
denying or minimizing the exploitive nature of the activity. [Emphasis
added.] ... It is not unusual
for offenders to be "repeaters" who exploit a number of people over a
period of time- Due to
the secretive nature of the activity, the extent of the maltreatment may
be apparent initially,
following a single disclosure.