Hephzibah House Journal

Hephzibah House Journal
Susan Grotte's journal from her experience as a student at Hephzibah House, told in short-story form.

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


  1. I do not believe there are any words to adequately express my horror in the reading of this story. God help us treasure our children as precious gifts from Him.

  2. That is the error of Hephzibah House. The girls at Hephzibah House are regarded as no longer precious. Patty Williams referred to the Hephzibah girls as the "worst of the worst" justifying their horrible treatment.

  3. I'm so sorry for what you had to endure.

    Laurie Moody

  4. Susan, Patty Williams would no longer call you the worst of the worst if she could choke out a few brief words from eternity. Beyond doubt, any words she might be able to utter today would be cries for a mercy that will not be given to her. Her cries would make the ones you screamed out on that day you have described seem totally inconsequential. I do not hesitate to write these words because Jesus clearly told us that we would know them "by their fruit," and that many of them would come in that day saying, "Lord, Lord," but He would tell them "Depart from Me. I never knew you. In the Greek His words say, I never knew you in an experiential way." Patty carved out her own path in eternity, and it was most definitely one of destruction. How very, very sad and terrible. . . .

  5. Just reading this has left my heart painfully racing and my lungs struggling for air. I am so sorry this happend to you... I know those words are empty, but my heart truly aches for you. I am so sorry.

  6. I am so sorry for all you suffered.

    I am a blamed and hated child, whose "Christian" family still sees me as "the worst of the worst" which I never was and am not now. I always had a loving, kind heart and I still do. I was abused by my mother and hated by her and by my sisters who grew up enmeshed with my mother, sharing her opinion of me and her hatred for me. EVEN TODAY- and I am fifty years old, these "Christian" women still vilify me and regard everything I do with suspicion and mistrust.

    Like Anonymous Jun 10 7:43 wrote, I think a lot of "Christians" are actually going to be the ones who suffer the ultimate rejection. They convince themselves that God is cool with whatever they do because they are "saved", that they are superior to the people they hate, and that because they hate someone God also hates that person. If God is at all who Jesus claimed he was, these people (my family, the ones who send their children to these god-forsaken hell-holes, the people who run them, AND the people who turn a blind eye) will ultimately be rejected into "outer darkness", whatever that is.

    Yes, I remember some preacher who ran a place like this in Florida, speaking at an IFB church (Bible Baptist of Bradenton, FL) trying to raise money for his "home". He told everyone that the DCF in his county IGNORED calls from the teens under his care and told him that THEY DIDN'T WANT TO MESS WITH THEM. If that is not true, and I hope to God it isn't but fear that it is, then just promoting that everywhere he goes would be enough to keep victimized and abused teens from even trying to get help.

    When your own family calls you evil and abuses you, sometimes the only solace you can find is in partying or in a teen romance. That really sucks for these hurting teens, because now in addition to being called "rebellious" "disobedient" "liar" by your abusers they add the labels "drunkard" "doper" and "slut". Further, society recoils in disgust at the new labels, and now no one will ever help you or believe you. Apparently, if that preacher is to be believed, not even the state of Florida or the people paid by the state to look after your safety and well-being.

    Anyway, hugs to you, Susan. I have great sympathy for all you suffered. Sending you wishes for a complete recovery from all this trauma, SS

  7. I am a former student at Hephzibah House and I know that they never would have punished anyone unjustly! Dr.Williams loves all of the students there, even those who spread rumors!

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  13. God help you dear.