Friday, October 12, 2018

Hephzibah House bulletin September 14, 2011

This is a response to the peaceful protest the survivors put on in 2011. 

Saturday, January 27, 2018


“Another condition of the promise Solomon develops in this passage is that correction must be consistent and repetitive. The verb for “beat” that he uses in this verse is not a one-time action. The verb calls for ongoing activity of beating.”

Ron Williams,   “The Correction and Salvation of Children”

I lay on my back on the thin mattress and look at the  metal springs and the sagging mattress of the bunk above me.  I am so tired,  my eyes are heavy.  My body jerks as the muscles uncoil from a day of intense labor.   My rough, calloused hands catch on the knit quilt as I pull the blanket up to my chin.  I tuck my arms in tightly to my chest,   a primordial attempt to find solace and comfort in my own embrace.  
it is 9:00 pm and the lights are out.  26 teenage girls lay  in utter stillness as the light of day fades and the shadows stretch across the crowded room.  You can cut the tension in the room.  There is not one soul sleeping.  Not one giggle,  not one snore,  not one yawn.  
The intercom crackles to life and the sound sends shivers up my spine.
“Liz,  come to the blue room”
I catch my breath as the bed begins to shake gently.  A ghostly , bony leg dangles over the edge of the bed,  then another.  Tiny Liz hovers for a moment as she slips the bathrobe at the end of her bed over her slight shoulders,  then slides to the floor.  Silently she pads to the doorway and heads downstairs.  In the shadows she looks ethereal. The last light of day lays a path before her on the scrubbed hardwood.  Her long gown trailing on the floor beneath her thick robe.  Her face down as always,  her shoulders slumped.    
“Hurry up Liz”  Miss Diana chides from the bottom of the stairs.
I listen  as she descends the stairs.  She reaches the bottom and I hear a door shut.  Waiting is agony,  I carefully comb over every detail of the day trying to predict whether I would be called down next.  It was useless,  punishment at Hephzibah house was so arbitrary.   
 Several minutes pass and then I hear the blows.  powerful thuds that seem to shake the whole house.  .  
I count.  One,  two,  three, four. 
Four isn’t so bad,  I realize I was holding my breath and gritting my teeth.  Five,  six, seven.  
Poor Liz,  she was only 12 and so frail  her  shoulders stuck out from her hunched shoulders like a little baby bird.  Her long, thick,  dark hair seemed decadent and out of place as it hung over her thin, pale face. 
 Liz rarely did her work quick enough or perfectly enough to get dinner.  Most mornings she had wet her bed and had to strip her sheets,  get them in the wash and wash her plastic mattress and get a paddling before breakfast.  She often missed breakfast.  Liz did not shower properly and staff would shove her back into the shower and scrub her pink while shouting how she was lazy and filthy and disgusting.  Liz could not seem to memorize her daily Scripture passages.  These passages cumulated each day,  each week,  each month and had to be repeated back to staff every Wednesday.  It took the entire day to test every girl’s massive amount of Scripture memory.  Liz failed every week getting more and more and more behind each week.  Liz, of course, was paddled for that.  Liz was also paddled every night for various other infractions.  As bad as Hephzibah house was for me,  I was fully aware that Liz was singled out for more vengeful treatment.  I wondered what she had done to be sent here.  What could a 12 year old possibly do to deserve this horrible sentence?   I had never seen someone as thin as Liz.  I flinched as I thought of that paddle hitting her small body as I counted more blows.    Eight,  Nine.  
Finally it stopped.  
I listened as Liz shuffled up the stairs slowly,  I imagined her pain as she gingerly lifted each leg up those stairs,  careful to not jiggle her wounded flesh.  She moved into the now dark room and I felt the gentle sway of the bed as she climbed back into her bunk.  Soon the bed was shaking with her silent sobs.  Her breathing was labored as she tried to stifle her sorrow in her pillow.  I longed to climb up into her bed and hold her and smooth her hair away from her eyes,  to wipe her tears and tell her it would be alright.    I was so cowardly,  I did not dare move.  I longed to speak to her, to look into her eyes,  I imagined that they would be deep and soulful.  Did not suffering deepen and refine us?
The intercom cracked,  “Sara,  come to the blue room”  
From across the room Sara’s dark form rose and padded toward the door.  

The next morning,  I took a chance and looked up into Liz’s eyes as  she climbed out of bed in the morning.  Her eyes were dark and vacant.   
I shivered. 

Had she come to Hephzibah house like this or had Hephzibah house done this to her?  
A few days later Liz disappeared.  
Miss Diana took pleasure in telling us that she had been taken to a mental institute.
“That is where you are all headed if you don’t get your heart right with God.” 

Somehow that seemed perfectly plausible.

~ excerpt from Susan Grotte's journal  

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Story of Baby S. as witnessed by Susan Grotte 15

Sundays at Hephzibah house were dominated by Church.

I sat in a metal folding chair trying not to squirm since I had no fat left to cushion the hard seat beneath me. I was in the last of 5 rows of 6 girls interspersed with 4 staff ladies. The Hephzibah girls and Hephzibah staff, along with their children made up the entire congregation in the little unfinished basement room. Behind me I heard the familiar sounds of little baby S nursing away during the service. It felt good to know that sweet Mrs. K. was behind me. She would not be quick to find fault in my posture or how my hair was curled. The rhythmic sounds of a suckling baby were soothing and normal sounds in this surreal world.

Back straight, eyes forward. I tried to pay attention to the long winded sermon and take good notes. Notes were turned in after every service and checked to make sure we paid attention to the service and were not daydreaming. If staff did not like your notes it was a paddling offense. Ron Williams had a theory that young people who were not engaged in busy work were lusting and enjoying lascivious fantasies.

My feet were cold and my back ached but otherwise the sermon was a nice reprieve from the normal stress of daily life at Hephzibah house.

Ron Williams deep voice filled the small room. He dwarfed the tiny podium.

Patti Williams sat on the left side of the room with all eight children in a row. There was always a well worn paddle laying on the seat beside her. It was not unusual to see her paddle her children for wiggling or making noise during the long sermons. The youngest was Seth, perhaps two years old and the darling irrepressible Benjamin was just four years old. I do not recall a service where that poor little boy did not get a severe beating. I was amazed how undaunted and happy he remained. Seth seemed dull. He just sat and sucked his fingers. He showed no signs of normal 2 year old curiosity and wonder. Maybe that is what a successfully broken will would looked like in a two year old. I found it profoundly disturbing.

Suddenly there was movement. I sensed rather than saw Mrs. K. stand up behind me. I dared not turn my head but up front Mrs Williams also hefted her wide girth out of her metal chair. It creaked loudly in protest. At just 40, Patti Williams was fat, slovenly and mean as a snake. Her grey hair in a stringy bun she stood looking back behind me towards the Mrs. K. and baby S. She had picked up the small paddle. A hard, tight smile crossed her humorless face. Mrs. K. had now made her way into my line of vision.

Mrs. K. was clearly upset as she carried her tiny baby towards the front of the chapel.

Ron Williams just droned on.

My stomach clenched. What was this???

Patti guided Mrs. K. into a small walled off area at the front of the room. The area was meant to be a closet one day. Now it had no door and served to store extra folding chairs. The two women entered the narrow room I had a partial view of the inside of the room but could no longer see Mrs. K. and the baby past Patti’s wide back.

Ron Williams kept preaching.

NO! Oh NO!”

I was frozen. Staring straight ahead and gripping my pencil in horror.


The baby SCREAMED.

We heard every powerful, stinging blow of the paddle hitting that tiny baby. It went on and on, every time there was a pause and I thought it was over it started up again.

Ron Williams actually stopped preaching. Grinning from ear to ear he made a fist and moved it enthusiastically across his body like a diabolical cheerleader, “Hit him again Sister! Hit him again!”

No one moved. No one DID anything. The babies cries were becoming strangled as he choked and he seemed to gasp dangerously between blows.

Go get that baby Susan!” The voice in my head was screaming, “DO SOMETHING!”

I stared straight ahead as Ron Williams resumed his droning sermon. I thought of twenty scenarios where I saved that baby, but I sat glued to my seat. My blood ran cold.

The crying stopped before the blows stopped. Soon Mrs. K. stepped out from behind the wall she was sobbing and clinging to her baby Patti was right behind her with a huge self satisfied smile on her corpulent face, now red from exertion.

The baby was quiet. A spooky unnatural quiet. I watched the little bundle for signs of life intently until I saw his little chest heave showing he was indeed breathing.

How hard would you have to hit a baby to make him stop crying? Why would we all just sit there and let it happen?

I realized I had not taken any notes for several minutes. Somehow, knowing I would be paddled for that offense gave me a bizarre moment of satisfaction . A form of penance for my cowardice.

Everyone took their places.

Ron Williams droned on.

~ By Susan Grotte

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Potty Dance

"Potty Breaks"  Susan Grotte: Memories of HH

Painful cramps rock my lower back.  I stare at the shoes.  Opening my eyes wide to stop the tears.  Twenty six pair of plain brown loafers,  scuffed and worn.  All facing forward,  all showing agitation.  Twisting,  stomping quietly.  Legs pressed tightly together as 26 girls dance in quiet agony.  The familiar potty dance.  Large and severe Miss Diana stands at the beginning of the line. her legs are like  tree trunks as she stands in her sensible black warden shoes,  scowling.   No one dared whimper.  The lined moved with intentional sluggishness. 

A slight girl in the childish blue polyester uniform and red knee highs steps out of the bathroom.  She steps up to Miss Diana and holds up her hands. 

Miss Diana sniffs, “I don’t smell soap”  

I washed Miss Diana,  I did!”  The desperate girl pleads for clemency.

That is a work duty for arguing.  Do you want to make it a paddling for lying?”  

The door had been ajar.  We had all heard and seen the girl wash her hands.  This was simply a power play.

No ma'am.”  The girls frail shoulders sag visibly.  She steps back into the bathroom leaving the door ajar while she carefully re-washes her hands.  She again walks up to Miss Diana holding her hands up.

OK.”  Miss Diana  gestures with exaggerated boredom for the girl to pass and the first girl in the waiting line steps up to Miss Diana who holds out a roll of rough industrial toilet paper.

  We were to indicate how many sheets of toilet paper we needed based on what business we had to accomplish.  Three sheets for pee and five for a bowel movement.  

I may need some extra Miss Diana.”  The blond girl blushed so deeply her scalp shone pink beneath her thin hair.  Miss Diana smirked and handed her three extra sheets.

Just full of it today, aren’t you Tina”  

Tina laughed,  a forced tight laugh while the corded muscles in her neck betrayed her urgent need.  She stepped into the bathroom,  careful to leave the door several inches ajar.   The sounds of explosive diarrhea filled the narrow hallway.  

I clench my fists,  I curl my toes,  I squeeze my thighs together for all I am worth.  
I bite my lip and look up the line,  fifteen girls still ahead of me.
Please God, please.  

Just then a girl cries out in anguish.  A dark stain slowly spreads out on the concrete floor beneath her.  There is a nervous shuffle then eerie stillness as Diana’s eyes settle on the puddle. 

Miss Diana bellows out for the other main staff lady, “Sharon!”  

Thin and pointed Sharon’s face peered around the corner.  Her thick bushy eyebrows raised.  Her long hair piled precariously on her head.  

We have a wetter!” 

Disgust drips from Diana’s  voice as she grabs little Lynn roughly and herds her down the hallway.  As she and Sharon leave dragging Lynn between them,  Diana commands the new young summer staff lady, Christie,  to take over the potty line.  Soon muffled cries and sharp whacks are heard as  tiny Lynn is paddled for her crime.  

Christie grabs the roll of toilet paper and with sympathy and compassion she quickly moves us all through the line.  Nothing felt so sweet as to finally sit on that toilet.  I looked at my scrawny  legs.  My knees were now the largest part of my legs.  I had to grab the sides of the toilet to keep from falling in.  I had lost 40 pounds in just 4 months and my 5’9 frame was down to just 88 pounds.  Little more than a skeleton,I looked at  my panties puddled on the floor around my ankles.  Several strands of short curly  hair caught in the plain white cotton. My body hair had been falling out as steadily as the hair on my head.  I hoped no one would notice the faint odor of urine as I pulled up my damp panties and washed my hands.  I had leaked a bit after all.  

I held my hands up to Christie to smell as I came out of the bathroom.  She rolled her eyes slightly,  embarrassed as I was at the infantile ritual, and waved me on.  

Walking down the hall I see Lynn,  now crouched over a bucket scrubbing the concrete floor while Miss Diana berates and ridicules her.  Her dark hair spills out onto the concrete obscuring her face but I see her boney shoulders shudder as she sobs silently.  She has been changed into fresh clothes and paddled but her humiliation will not stop here.  

She is now diapered,  a point of which Miss Diana makes sure we are all very aware.  I had been so close to being the girl who wet herself.   Once again saved by a child who was weaker and smaller than myself.  Lynn was only 12. I felt sick.  I hung my head in shame and walked by poor little Lynn slinking back to my seat in the cold makeshift basement classroom.   

~ By Susan Grotte

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Blue Room 1981 By Susan Grotte

I sorted laundry into piles, the chug chug chug of the washing machines behind me gave the mundane task a pleasant rhythm.   The sun streamed through the window and the smell of bleach and detergent made even the moist heavy air feel clean.  
Ruffled baby jumpers, gym uniforms, my husbands work clothes and my sons Spiderman pajamas.  Each item reminded me that in the midst of this tedious labor was the dream.    Imperfect for sure, my large exuberant family filled my days with happiness and filled my heart with love. 
Frustration broke the mood as I spotted the diaper bag from last week’s trip to church.  The bag was turned over on it’s side, the contents spilling out of the open zipper.  There, half exposed, was the dreaded plastic bag.  I could see beads of moisture inside the bag that had fermented for days in the sunny room.  The bag held two year old Luke’s wet pants and underwear from an accident on Sunday.  
I took a deep breath and opened the bag.  The smell exploded in my face.  Sharp urine and pungent, noxious mildew mixed with a faint scent of detergent and the sweet warm puppy smell of a busy toddler.  Suddenly, I was in another place.  
     My heart pounded, the world was spinning, a meaty hand shoved my face onto the floor.   I was aware of the other woman, the one straddling my legs, messing with my skirt.  
     I gasped, cold rough hands groped my calves and thighs.  
     I tried to squirm or kick but the woman squatting on my legs had them pinned.  The large woman on my back grunted as she held my hands above my head, her knees were a vise  that smashed my face into the stale, old fashioned,  blue shag rug.
     I was aware of a peculiar and distinctive smell in this room as soon as I had entered it moments before.  Now; face planted in the sea of blue and green flecks,  helpless, panic overwhelmed my senses.  Were they lifting my skirt? 
 What was happening??  What were they doing to me?
Immobilized and vulnerable, I realized I knew the smell, a pungent mixture of urine and sweat.  FEAR.  
     Pastor Williams loomed above me.  I felt his presence but could not see him.  The air whistled and he let out a grunt of exertion.

The board hit my backside with such force I could not even scream.  I desperately sucked air back into my lungs even as I was aware of the whoosh of another blow descending.
I screamed.
      I thought of the pretty street lined with lovely Tudors with manicured lawns right outside that closed and shuttered window.  Only a few feet from me was a sunny day and regular people going about their regular lives.
     I was dragged to my feet.  Each of the female captors had a vise grip on my upper arms.  My legs felt like spaghetti.
     “Sue”, I looked up at Pastor Williams’ face, he was smiling, yes smiling.  His thick grey hair and broad face made him look as harmless as Gomer Pyle, deeply etched laugh lines made him look downright jovial.
     He chuckled.  Shaking his head as if amused at the antics of a beloved toddler.
     “Sue, no-one can hear you.  I will just keep going until you are quiet.  OK, Sue?”
     “OK,” I managed to respond in a low strangled whisper.
     “What was that?”
     The bigger goon who held my upper arm pinched hard.
“Yes Sir.”
     “Now lay back down and take your punishment like a good girl.”
     There was no way out- the women expertly maneuvered me back to the face down position on the floor.  Once again one straddled my legs and the other sat on my upper back pinning me to the floor and holding my arms above my head.
     While we assumed the complex position Pastor Williams spoke to me, his pleasant , cheerful voice belied the malice of his words, 
 “You are a runner Sue, but there is no where to run here.  The neighbors are my friends and have returned many naughty girls who have tried to go to them for help.  The police also are good friends of mine and bring back every misguided girl who manages to escape. Your days of running are over.”
He laughed. 
I heard the whistle of the board slicing through the air. 

~ By Susan Grotte

Monday, March 5, 2012

Connie White

To Whom It May Concern: My name is Connie Staie White. I am the daughter of Pastor Byron Staie, Fundamental Independent Baptist. I am am also a former student of Ambassador Baptist College. Seventeen years ago, while attending ABC, I served a summer session at Hephzibah House in Indiana with Pastor Ron Williams . I was absolutely dumbfounded at what I discovered there. The day-to-day mode of operation within this facility reminded me very much of a what I would expect to find in a Nazi concentration camp. Never have I seen humiliation and psychological tactics so skillfully employed. The staff carefully spread the word that one girl was ”contagious” with an STD. All girls knew they had to wait a certain length of time before using the toilet after this girl. The girls were then made to watch scary movies about the AIDS epidemic and how ”easy” it is to catch AIDS. Today, as a registered nurse and director of nursing, I see this practice for what it is, a form of bullying and psychological abuse.

Very few girls had periods while at the falicity. It was public knowledge when a girl did have a period. Pads were rationed and carefully monitored as though they were a controlled substance. I personally do not remember having a period while I was at the facility. However, my period has been (before then and since then) as timely as clockwork.

The girls were required to work in storehouses with delicious looking food and other fancy donations. However, these items were used for the Williams' family only. The girls ate out of unlabeled cans. Whatever was opened is whatever was served. I feel very confident in saying that the girls were served canned dog food many times. The girls were allowed to choose small portions or large portions. The amount of food in these portions routinely changed. If the girl chose large portions, they would sometimes be given more than any adult man could eat. If they did not eat every bite, they would be punished. Similarly, if they chose small portions, the portions may be just enough to feed a toddler.

If the staff decided that a girl had an ”attitude,” she would be punished by not being allowed to make eye contact with any other girl. If the girls had ”misbehaved,” they were signified by what they wore to church. This way, the church members knew that they had been ”bad.” Interestingly, I never once saw a single girl misbehave the entire time that I was there. Yet still, they were routinely punished. Although I was a staff member, my personal phone calls were monitored. Pastor Williams quizzed me about my bowel habits as well. The living conditions were so suppressive and inhumane that I wet the bed while working there. Before you consider recommending this facility to a family, please consider how our Father disciplines. Yes, whom the Lord loveth, He chastens. Please remember however, to consider the whole Scripture. Proverbs 29:21 ”He that delicately bringeth up his servant from a child shall have him become his son at the length.”
Connie White

Friday, February 24, 2012

Wilva Roach

This has made me very upset, how could a staff lady who has been there for 6 years say nothing goes on at HH. I am a former staff and yes stuff did go on. Some of the staff had "teacher's pets" while the other girls were treated unfairly--I have seen it. Sarah (former staffer) really forgot to mention some other things that I think are abuse-- eating outdated food, denying necessities and food from the girls, the prison line for the bathroom, 3 minute showers and yes some of the lesser liked staffers like me had to abide by that same rule. I had food withheld from me because rumor was that I was a diabetic which didn't occur until well down the road after i had left HH. Unless things had drastically changed, there were forms of abuse there. I mean scrubbing brick floors on hands and knees sometimes with a toothbrush-come-on! I felt really bad for these girls and when my contract ended I worked about another 6 mos. and decided to end my job there as a staffer. Oh and the demerits for stupid stuff just so the girls had to write sentences--I felt for many of them they seemed liked they were always in "trouble". Treats were withheld from them and they had to sit in the same room while the others ate the treat in front of them. I could go on and on--but I won't. Let me add too, I didn't know Lucinda, but she's had it hard in life it seems so by the time she reached HH it may have seemed like a safe haven to her. She's come through some rough stuff so the abuse that she may have endured at HH was "baby stuff" to her. I feel for her "blindness" to the abuse that was at HH. By the way when I left HH I asked for newsletters to be sent to my house and the first one i got was a statement from Patti saying the Devil got another one of the hearts of a staff member. She was referring to me.