true crime, Virginia

Double repost: the tragic case of Crystal Ragin

Here are two posts that originally appeared on the Blogspot version of this blog. I wrote the first one, not knowing anything more about the case than what little was in the paper. One of Ragin’s relatives sent me a private message. She was initially upset about my comments, but then told me more about what had actually happened and asked me to write more. So I did… and I am including the second post with the first. As usual, these posts are mostly unedited and appear “as/is” from 2014.

This is a truly tragic story…

I like to read The Daily Press sometimes.  It’s the newspaper I grew up with and I used to read the paper version of it every day when I was growing up.  Today, I check it a few times a week to see if anything interesting is going on in the area where I grew up.  Today, there was a very sad story about a woman who made a very poor choice in husbands.  Now she and three of her four children are dead.

Fort Eustis Army Sergeant Crystal Ragin was an exemplary soldier who was going to go to school to become a drill sergeant.  She was well-known for being very good at her job, responsible, punctual, and very hard working.  A mother of four, she had been married to her second husband, John Moses Ragin, since 2006.  They met in South Carolina, when Crystal was a guard at the prison where John Ragin was serving a 15 year sentence for manslaughter.  He had killed his childhood best friend.

Once John Ragin was released, Crystal, who by then had joined the Army, was free to marry him.  She did, and he became a father figure to the three children she had with her first husband, Mike Burton.  Then Crystal and John had a child of their own, I’Kaos.

John Ragin was apparently a very jealous and controlling husband.  He insisted on Crystal calling him often.  He never wanted her to go out alone.  He demanded that she live according to his wishes, which included swearing off eating meat.  He was very suspicious of the men Crystal worked with in the Army.

On August 19, 2011, John Ragin had apparently had enough.  He brutally murdered his wife and her three older children, Sierra, La’Kwan, and Rasheed, stabbing them 74 times, and setting their home on fire.  Then he took I’Kaos and went back to South Carolina, where he was arrested the next day.

Ragin now may face the death penalty and his son is being raised by his maternal relatives in South Carolina.  What an awful thing for that family to have to deal with… and what a terrible legacy that little boy now has.

I’m sure Crystal Ragin was a wonderful woman, based on the article written about her.  I wonder why she was attracted to John Ragin.  I can’t imagine finding a killer attractive, but I realize that these things aren’t always based on logic or common sense.  Sometimes people can change…  or so they say.  I can’t imagine I’d want to have my children around someone who had done time for killing someone, but I know that sometimes there are mitigating circumstances.

I just think it’s very sad that this woman, who had four beautiful children and a promising career, ended up with someone who obviously couldn’t control his rage or impulses.  I don’t know what Crystal’s reasons were for choosing to marry John Ragin.  It would be easy for me to blame her for being unwise.  But really, she just sounds like someone who trusted someone who was ultimately untrustworthy.  She and her kids paid the ultimate price for that choice.  Her young surviving son will now have to carry on with a father in prison or dead and a mother and siblings who were brutally murdered.

My experiences being Bill’s wife have taught me that people sometimes make very poor choices when it comes to finding mates.  Bill made a bad decision to marry his ex wife and he paid a dear price.  But at least he’s still alive and healthy.

Reading about this case reminds me of the old story about the scorpion and the frog.  A scorpion wants to cross a stream, but doesn’t know how to swim.  So he asks the frog to help him.  The frog worries about being stung, but the scorpion points out that if he stings the frog, they will both die.  So the frog trusts the scorpion and halfway across the stream, gets stung.  As the doomed duo start to sing, the frog asks the scorpion why he did it.  The frog says, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.  It’s nature.”

With some of these people, I have to think that it’s in their nature to be violent and controlling.  In some cases, no amount of love and understanding can overcome that.  I wish Crystal’s family much peace.    

AND the follow up piece… Originally, I had a link to the 911 calls regarding this case. Unfortunately, those were taken down. Listening to those recordings really drove home how dangerous John Ragin was and how Crystal Ragin and her children were completely failed by the Newport News police department.

How the police failed Crystal Ragin and her kids…

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about Crystal Ragin, a soldier at Fort Eustis in Newport News, Virginia who, along with three of her four children, was brutally murdered by her husband, John Moses Ragin on August 19, 2011.  The lone survivor was the youngest child, a boy named I’Kaos, Crystal Ragin’s son with John Moses Ragin.

I must admit, what I knew about that case was based on one article I read in the  Daily Press, which is the local newspaper for the Newport News area.  Though I was born and raised in the Hampton Roads area, I haven’t lived there since 1999.  I only occasionally read the news that comes from there, and that article from the Daily Press was the first I had heard of Crystal Ragin.  This morning, Ragin’s former sister-in-law contacted me on Facebook and asked me to take another look at the story.  So I started reading more about the tragic relationship between Crystal Ragin and John Moses Ragin.  What I’ve learned is very disturbing.

In June of 2011, John assaulted Crystal and threw her to the floor.  She hit her head on a dresser.  The week of the murders, Crystal faced John in court on the assault charge resulting from that attack.  A judge found that there was enough evidence to convict John, but for some reason, decided to defer sentencing for two years.  This decision was especially strange, since Crystal Ragin met her husband in a South Carolina prison; she was a guard and he was an inmate serving time on a manslaughter charge because he’d shot and killed his best friend in 1991.  He was released in 2005 after serving just 14 years.  John Ragin already had a history of violence that, somehow, the court didn’t take into account.

After the hearing, Crystal Ragin filed a protective order against John, saying she “feared for her life”.  As it turns out, her concerns for her life were entirely valid.  However, it took over 24 hours for a Newport News Sheriff’s Department Deputy to attempt to serve John Moses Ragin with the protective order.  Between the time the order was granted and a deputy made an initial attempt to serve it, John Moses Ragin stabbed his estranged wife and stepchildren 74 times and then tried to cover up the crime by setting their apartment on fire.

By the time the deputy had arrived at the apartment to serve the papers, it was already a devastating crime scene.  This makes me wonder, too, how was it that the deputy didn’t already know about what had happened?  Don’t the police agencies communicate with each other?  Or was it the deputy who initially discovered the crime scene?  Given that there was a fire involved, I wonder why no one called the authorities until after the fire was out.  Didn’t the other residents at the apartment complex notice the fire?

Crystal Ragin called 911 on August 18, 2011, while she was at a Shell gas station with the kids.  John Moses Ragin confronted her and wouldn’t let her leave.  According to a Daily Press article, John Ragin was confronting Crystal because he wanted his son, I’Kaos.  He planned to take the boy to South Carolina and was blocking Crystal from her truck because she wouldn’t let him have their son.

Crystal told the 911 operator that there was a pending order of protection she had filed that hadn’t been served.  In the background, you can hear John Ragin repeatedly telling Crystal to “stop lying”.  He sounds very menacing, yet Crystal is very calm as she speaks to the 911 operator.  She sounds like a well trained soldier, keeping cool in a crisis.  I think if I had been in her shoes, I would have been hysterical.  I can’t imagine how very terrified she and the kids must have been.

Though Crystal Ragin had a protective order pending against John Moses Ragin, when a police officer arrived at the scene where he had been threatening her, they let him go. The second call is from maintenance supervisor Johnny Kennedy. He’s calling about the apartment that the Ragins shared, which looked like it had been on fire. Mr. Kennedy could see a body and was calling to report his findings.

Officer E. Jenkins of the Newport News Police Department was one of the police officers who came to the gas station after Crystal made her 911 call.  Officer Jenkins describes Crystal Ragin as obviously scared and “shaking”.  He called a dispatcher in an attempt to find the protective order that had not yet been served.  Somehow, despite looking for 35-40 minutes, the dispatcher was unable to find the pending protective order.  John Ragin claimed he knew nothing about it and, in fact, he said he and Crystal had had sexual intercourse the night before.

Crystal denied having sex with John Moses Ragin and claimed that he was “crazy.”  The police officer offered to escort John Ragin to the apartment so he could pick up his belongings.  Somehow, that didn’t happen and Ragin was able to get to Crystal and her kids, where he violently ended their lives.

I read an article from May 2012 about how angry Crystal Ragin’s family is about how the protective order was handled.  Apparently, because the protective order was signed late in the afternoon, the police department’s policy was to wait until the next day to attempt to serve it.  Ragin’s family asserts that the Newport News Sheriff’s Department’s tardiness may have played a direct role in the murders.  I don’t have any direct experience with Newport News police; I’ve never even gotten a speeding ticket in Newport News.  But if it takes them 24 hours to act on a protective order, I have to wonder how much good the order would have done in this case… or any other case, for that matter.      

Though it’s terrible enough that John Moses Ragin killed four people, it’s even worse that they really suffered before they died.  Crystal Ragin was stabbed 18 times.  According to Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn, one of the stab wounds went through Ragin’s face, “from one side to the other”.  Crystal Ragin’s daughter, Sierra, was burned so severely that her lips “curled back from her teeth”.  Sons La’Kwan and Rasheed were repeatedly stabbed.  Their deaths were not instant.  The medical examiner who testified in this case described the conditions that led to their deaths, noting that there were stab wounds in their heads, necks, and torsos.  Some of the wounds were so deep that they actually went through the bodies.  Rasheed was only six years old and weighed just 40 pounds, yet he had 27 stab wounds.

John Moses Ragin was charged and convicted with three counts of capital murder in the deaths of the children.  In the death of Crystal Ragin, he was charged and convicted of second degree murder.  He was also charged and convicted of felony arson and unlawful stabbing.  Though the death penalty was considered in this case, shockingly enough, Ragin was sentenced to three life sentences in the deaths of the children, 40 years for the death of his wife, a life sentence for arson, and five years for each count of unlawful stabbing.  The jury was unable to come to a unanimous decision to sentence Ragin to death, so he will spend the rest of his life in prison. 

I am no fan of the death penalty, though I stop short of saying that it’s never appropriate.  I have no idea why the jury wasn’t able to come to a unanimous decision for death in this case.  John Moses Ragin is obviously an extremely violent and dangerous man and it’s very clear that he’s guilty as charged.  Moreover, Crystal Ragin’s family was hoping he would get the death penalty and clearly made their wishes known to the court.  Yet there were people on the jury who did not feel the death penalty was appropriate, so by law, the judge had to sentence Ragin to life in prison.

Perhaps the people of Virginia can take some comfort in knowing that John Moses Ragin will never be a free man again.  He’ll likely eventually end up at a supermax prison in Virginia’s coal mining country.  Though things may have improved there since 1999, it’s my guess that Ragin’s time won’t be easy if he ends up going to either Red Onion or Wallen’s Ridge prisons.  Given Ragin’s propensity toward violence, it won’t surprise me if he winds up in Wise, Virginia with the worst of the worst, like Lee Boyd Malvo, one of the D.C. snipers.  

In the wake of this case, the Newport News Sheriff’s Department now serves protective orders at night.   
As for Crystal Ragin’s family, there have already been more casualties related to this case.  According to Crystal’s former sister-in-law, two family members have already died with broken hearts.  The family has known no peace since the terrible day they lost Crystal Ragin and her three oldest children.      

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book reviews

Repost: The Half a Million Pound Girl… should have spent the money on psychotherapy

I am reposting another book review. This one was originally written for Epinions.com on August 21, 2012. I reposted it on the old blog on May 4, 2014, and am posting it as/is again today, because Sarah Burge’s infamous and embarrassing turn on Anderson Cooper came up this morning over breakfast.

Today’s review is dedicated to Epinions’ own vicfar, an Italian American who thinks America is full of “weird-o-rama” people. (I remember Vic got terribly offended when I referred to him as “Italian American”, even though he is both Italian and an American citizen. He doesn’t like being compared to the so-called “guido” stereotypes, I guess.)

A few weeks ago, I happened to catch an episode of Dr. Phil, a pop psychologist whose television show is kind of like a trainwreck.  When I watch Phil McGraw, I often end up yelling at the TV.  However, sometimes watching Dr. Phil is good for book recommendations, especially since I really enjoy reading about people who have “issues”.  And Sarah Burge, who along with Derek Clements authored the book, The Half a Million Pound Girl (2011), certainly qualifies as a person with “issues”.  I have Dr. Phil to thank for introducing me to Burge’s story, which sort of defines the term “charlie foxtrot”.  If you have any ties to the military, I probably don’t have to define what “charlie foxtrot” means.  Since it’s a somewhat profane euphemism, I’ll leave it up to your imagination if you don’t know.

Who is Sarah Burge?

Sarah Burge is a British woman has had lots of cosmetic surgery done.  She is also the sister of the late actor, Trevor Goddard, who had a role on the hit television show, JAG.  Burge was born with ears that stuck out, a defect she had always been ashamed of.  So, since her childhood, she had always wanted plastic surgery.

Burge is also a victim of domestic violence, which was perpetrated at the hands of a man who beat and raped her.  The man beat her so badly that she needed plastic surgery to repair all the damage he did to her face.   Oddly enough, Burge later married this man and bore his daughter, her second child of three by three different men.  She claims she hated him, yet she still married him.  And now their daughter, Hannah, also apparently hates him.

Burge claims that the surgery done after the attack, courtesy of Britain’s National Health Service, wasn’t to her standards; so she visited one of London’s best private plastic surgeons.  Since then, Sarah Burge has made a career out of being “a human Barbie”.  Over the past 20 years, she has had over 100 cosmetic procedures done, many of which were free of charge, as she has served as free advertising for certain British plastic surgeons.  Burge claims that the work she has had done is worth about a half a million British pounds, hence the title of her book.  Burge also serves as a consultant to people who want to have surgery done.  She claims that she is able to point them toward the best person to do the job, as it were, for the money they are able to spend.  Her services are free to those looking for surgery; if they actually follow through and get procedures done, the surgeons supposedly give Burge kickbacks.

Besides showing up on Dr. Phil, Burge has also been on Anderson Cooper.  On a show that aired May 22, 2012, Cooper allegedly told Burge “I try to be really polite to all my guests. I think you’re dreadful and I honestly don’t want to talk to you anymore.”  Burge responded by leaving the set.  Burge also made headlines in 2010 because she taught her then six year old daughter, Poppy, how to pole dance.  This year, Burge made headlines for offering the same daughter, now eight, $11,000 worth of plastic surgery for her birthday.

My thoughts

If you’re looking for a “weird-o-rama” story, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a weirder subject to read about than Sarah Burge.  I found her story, which is written in a conversational first person voice, to be alternately shocking and sickening.  She comes across as “barking mad”, as well as more than a bit narcissistic… one of those people who is superficially pleasant and charming, but underneath is entirely fake.

I get the sense that Sarah Burge must have suffered some very severe traumas that have forced her to try to become someone else.  While I could probably muster some pity for her if she weren’t a mother of three, I have to admit that I’m somewhat horrifed for her daughters.  Really, I try to keep an open mind when it comes to people raising their children, but because I am the second wife of someone who was previously married to a nutcase, I have to admit to being biased when I see parents who treat their children like moldable extensions of themselves.

I was truly disgusted to read about how Sarah Burge was raped and beaten to a pulp by her second husband and then chose to marry the man and have his baby.  She later proudly proclaims that her daughter, Hannah, has disowned her father.  While Hannah’s decision is certainly understandable, I can’t wrap my head around why Sarah Burge chose to make a man she claims is a brutal monster the biological father of the child she claims to love.  Seems to me that if you really love your children, you make a concerted effort to find both the best partner for yourself and the best co-parent for them, and then allow that person to be involved in the child’s life.  But anyway, Sarah Burge apparently isn’t concerned about the quality of at least one of her children’s fathers.  Sadly, her daughter has had to pay for it.  Burge has said that most men are not able to keep up with her, but I guess being a rapist and a brute is still, in some way, a turn on for her.

Aside from my shock and dismay over Sarah Burge’s life story, I will admit that The Half a Million Pound Girl is quite readable and, in some ways, even kind of fascinating in a grotesque way.  I think Derek Clements did a good job ghost writing this book.  And, to vicfar, I’d also like to point out that Sarah Burge is a Briton, not an American.

Overall 

I’m not sure if I would like Sarah Burge as a person, but I will admit her story is interesting in a trainwreck/tabloid sort of way.  If you like weird-o-rama stories as much as I do, you might enjoy The Half a Million Pound Girl, though I really think all the time and money Sarah Burge has spent on plastic surgery probably would have been more wisely spent on psychotherapy.  As one commenter wrote on an article about Burge, she is quite “whore-ifying”…

And here’s her clip on Anderson Cooper. Anderson always strikes me as pleasant, fair, and polite, but he’d had enough of Sarah Burge and kicked her off his show!

Yeah… weird-o-rama… and I can see why Anderson Cooper got irritated with her.

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book reviews, true crime

Repost: A review of The Poison Tree: A True Story of Family Violence and Revenge by Alan Prendergast

This is the last repost for today, I promise. I posted this on my old blog on September 30, 2015. I am reposting it as/is in 2020.

Back in 1985, a made for TV movie starring Justine Bateman was broadcast.  I didn’t see Right To Kill until sometime between 1989 and 1990, when I was a senior in high school taking a psychology class.  My teacher was big on showing us made for TV movies to teach us about psychological disorders.  Right To Kill was the dramatized story of Richard and Deborah Jahnke, two teenagers who were in trouble with the law for killing their abusive father, Richard Chester Jahnke.

Not long ago, I watched Right To Kill again on YouTube.  I decided I wanted to see if there were any books about the case.  As a matter of fact, there was.  In 1986, Alan Prendergast, who had covered the story for Rolling Stone, published The Poison Tree: A True Story of Family Violence and Revenge.  I got my hands on a used copy and just finished reading it this afternoon.

Right to Kill, a made for TV movie based on this book starring Justine Bateman.

Prendergast happened to base his title on one of my favorite poems, “A Poison Tree“, by William Blake.  I am not actually a big fan of poetry, but this was one I remembered from high school.  Since Richard John Jahnke and Deborah Ann Jahnke were Wyoming high school students when their crime was committed, it seems fitting that Prendergast would use “A Poison Tree” as inspiration for his book about their case.  It’s also just a very wise poem…  it says a lot in not many words.

In vivid, conversational prose, Prendergast spins the tragic tale of the Jahnke family, starting at the beginning when Richard C. Jahnke was an 18 year old private in the Army posted at Fort Brooke near San Juan, Puerto Rico.  He met 20 year old Maria de Lourdes Rodriguez on November 16, 1962.  They were on a bus.  Actually, Maria had gotten on the wrong bus; she was on her way to work at the phone company and was in a hurry.  She noticed the clean cut Yankee with huge blue eyes.  He noticed her.  The bus had engine trouble and soon everyone disembarked.

The clean cut Army private, a Chicago native who had just arrived in Puerto Rico, had been trying to do some sightseeing, but he got lost.  He needed help getting back to Fort Brooke.  Maria was the only one who would admit to speaking English.  She offered to help him find the right bus as she made her way to work.  Richard C. Jahnke said he would walk Maria to work under the guise of looking out for her safety, even though he was himself a stranger at that point.  Before long, they were dating.

Maria and Richard got along well, even though Richard seemed to be the jealous type.  He was good at telling stories and had a lot of spunk.  And Maria lived with her mother, who was abusive and didn’t seem to care much about her daughter.  She was ready to move on with her life.  The couple got engaged to be married.  Thirteen months later, on June 6, 1964, they exchanged vows at the Church of Santa Teresita in Santurce, Puerto Rico.  They told everyone they were going to Jamaica for their honeymoon, but they really rented a cheap beach house on the southern part of Puerto Rico.  The lie seemed harmless at the time.  Later, Maria would come to realize that it set a tone of secrecy and lies that would one day destroy the couple.

Maria quickly got pregnant and, on March 16, 1965, presented Richard with a baby girl they named Deborah Ann.  Six months later, Maria was pregnant again, and Richard, who had just signed re-enlistment papers, had a new assignment at Fort Ord in California.  On June 27, 1966, Richard John Jahnke was born there.  The family was complete, even though Maria had envisioned herself with three kids.  It soon became obvious that her husband was turning into a monster.  By the time the children were toddlers, he was screaming at them, hitting them, and calling them filthy names.  He hit his wife, too.

Richard C. Jahnke terrorized his family, though they would get brief respites as the Army sent him on unaccompanied tours to other posts.  After a stint in Germany, where he failed to perform all of his contractually obligated duties, Jahnke was forced to leave the Army.  He traded his Army uniform for a gun and a badge provided by the Internal Revenue Service.  The Jahnke family continued to move from station to station until they landed in Cheyenne, Wyoming on Valentine’s Day in 1981.  They spent six hard weeks sharing a motel room while the finishing touches were put on the home the Jahnkes purchased.  It was located on the outskirts of town in an area where neighbors were rare and kept to themselves.

Things got especially bad in Wyoming.  Jahnke continued to be abusive to his wife and kids, though his son Richard had grown enough to be able to offer some resistance to his blows.  One bright spot in the younger Richard’s life was discovering ROTC.  Not long after he joined the high school Army class, a new teacher fresh from the service took over the program.  Major Robert Vegvary had done three tours in Vietnam.  He had visited Cheyenne and liked it.  Central High School’s ROTC program was in a shambles and he was just the man to revive it.  He became somewhat close to Richard J. Jahnke and had visions of the young man making a career out of the military. 

ROTC allowed the younger Richard Jahnke to excel at something.  Aside from that, he and his father had their guns.  Richard C. Jahnke was a big lover of firearms, a hobby that would eventually be his undoing.  Convinced that the world was full of cheats, liars, murderers and rapists, the senior Jahnke was always packing heat, even at the dinner table.

Deborah Jahnke had grown into a dramatic, artistic sort of girl.  She had a problem with acne and was thought of as “weird” by a lot of her classmates.  But she studied art and had a favorite teacher, Eve Whitcomb, who encouraged her to be creative.  Although Richard and Deborah were nothing alike, they clung to each other as their father raged and their mother did what she could to appease him, to include siding against her children who were regularly abused and beaten by their father.  The kids had asked for help of adults in the school system, but their requests for asylum fell on deaf ears.  In fact, they were punished for seeking help.

Finally, on November 16, 1982, Richard and Deborah had had enough.  It was the twentieth anniversary of the day Richard C. Jahnke and Maria Jahnke had met.  They’d gone out to dinner to celebrate.  Meanwhile, Richard John Jahnke put the family pets in the basement and selected a weapon.  He planned to shoot his father… protect his sister, his mother, and himself from the foul tempered, violent, 38 year old brute, once and for all.  While Richard J. Jahnke did the killing, his sister went to jail for aiding and abetting his crime. 

Prendergast does a great job covering this story, including all the facts and details while still making the writing colorful enough to hold the reader’s attention.  This is the first book I’ve read in a long time that I had trouble putting down and I managed to finish it within a couple of days, rather than the weeks other books have been taking me lately. 

In a way, this book is even a bit timely.  Early this morning, Kelly Gissendaner was executed.  Her children pleaded for her life.  Since they were also the children of the murder victim, Gissendaner’s husband, Doug, they were sort of in a similar position as Maria Jahnke was.  Her husband was murdered, but it was her children who committed the crime.  So not only did she lose her husband, she also had to come up with the money to pay for the lawyers who defended her husband’s killers.

As an Army wife and Air Force brat, I was interested in reading about the now defunct posts where the senior Jahnke had assignments.  As a true crime buff, I was fascinated by the story of how the court case unfolded and how local people in Cheyenne were gripped by this story.  The only thing I felt was missing were pictures.  I was curious to see what the Jahnke kids looked like in the 80s.  I understand now that they have long since moved on.   

Anyway, The Poison Tree is a solid read.  I recommend it to true crime buffs who don’t mind reading about a very old case.  The Jahnkes’ story shocked the people of Cheyenne, many of whom had a great deal of empathy for Richard and Deborah, who were clearly failed by the people who should have been able to help them escape the hell they were in before things got so violent and deadly.

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domestic violence, psychology, religion

“Grooming” your wife…

A few days ago, a friend of mine shared a blog post with me. He shared it because he knows I am fascinated by fundies– particularly of the Christian type. The post, which I have now seen passed around on Facebook on Duggar Family News and now on YouTube, has a lot of people in a tizzy. Here’s a video done by Jimmy Snow (aka Mr. Atheist) about this very blog post.

Jimmy Snow talks about a blog post entitled 7 Steps to Grooming Your Young Christian Wife.

Jimmy is clearly shocked by the contents of the blog post, which was written by a guy who thinks he ought to be treating his wife like a child. The article, as well as the comments, even includes references to spanking the wife for disciplinary transgressions. For example, the author of this piece includes an example of a man named “Robert” who is 24 years old. His wife is 18. He wants to be in charge of her, but she won’t get with the program. He’s asked the blogger for advice in getting his wife to accept her supposedly “Biblical” role as submissive to her husband’s leadership.

What follows is a list of seven steps to indoctrinate young women into being “godly”, submissive, disciplined wives. And he does specify that she must be young. Prerequisite #3 is exactly that. See below.

And why is this? I think I know…

As Jimmy points out in his video, people under age 25 tend to still be in “development”. It’s a fact that most human brains aren’t fully developed until people hit their early 20s. A person’s judgment is still forming when they are in their late teen years. They are physically mature, but mentally and emotionally, they’re still a work in progress. Which isn’t to say that a person can’t be “progressing” emotionally and mentally beyond their early years. It’s just that a lot more of it is going on during the time in which a person is maturing. The author of the “Biblical Gender Roles” blog correctly points out that a woman in her 30s or 40s is a lot less likely to accept that her husband must be in charge. I would add that even though young women might accept this condition of marriage, some of them will eventually reject it when they get older and are more mature.

So then, after listing three prerequisites, the blog author continues with his seven steps to “groom” a Christian wife. As he delves into this post, he even points out how creepy the word “grooming” is to many people, and he specifically calls out “secular humanists”.

Many of us cringe when we hear the word “groom”, when it’s not pertaining to personal hygiene or cleaning up an animal.

But then the blogger goes on to explain why “grooming” is okay when it’s your “Christian” wife. Then he goes on to write about why spanking wives is okay.

I probably have a controversial opinion about so-called “domestic discipline” in that I don’t always consider it abuse. If the people involved are consenting adults and they have truly consented to living that lifestyle, knowing the potential risks that could befall them in surrendering their personal power to or accepting total responsibility for another person, then I don’t figure that it’s any of my business what they do at home. If they don’t consider it abusive that their husband is head of the household, who am I to tell the they’re wrong, even if I disagree?

What I find especially interesting is that so many people are quick to call spanking one’s adult wife “domestic abuse”, but they have no problems with spanking children. Even if a wife is being abused by her husband’s spankings, she is always in a better position to seek help than a child is. And yet, many people don’t have an issue with spanking children, and a lot of folks even think that if we spanked children as often as we did back in the day, there would be fewer social problems.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you probably know that I am not a proponent of spanking children in most situations. I see it as a last ditch thing that should only be used when every other measure fails, and even then, it probably shouldn’t be used. My father spanked me a lot when I was a child. It was pretty much the only method he used to discipline me, besides yelling at me (also not very effective, although often employed by frustrated parents). He’s been dead for six years, and I’m still angry with him about some of the things he did in the name of teaching me wrong from right. In my case, the spankings were usually abusive. They were always terrifying because he was almost always enraged when they happened.

Although I don’t remember being spanked once I got into true adolescence, I do remember that my dad was fine with hitting and slapping me until I was about 21 years old. The last time he did so, I told him that I would have him arrested if he ever laid a finger on me in anger again. It took considerable courage to tell him that, especially since I still relied on him at that point in my life. But it was a groundbreaking day for me. I decided on that day that anyone who hits me without my consent had better kill me. Children have no say over what an adult does to discipline them, and they are mostly unable to ask for help out of an abusive situation the way an adult can. Adults are usually bigger and stronger than children are. Women are also often smaller and weaker than men are, although there are certainly exceptions.

It always surprises me when I see people like Jimmy Snow flatly condemning domestic discipline as “abuse”, but so many other people are perfectly fine with physically punishing children. If you do a little sleuthing on the Internet, you’ll find that there’s a large population of people out there who are a little bit kinky and they enjoy exchanging power with others. As long as it’s safe, sane, and consensual, they don’t see it as abusive, even if other people think it’s “sick”. Some of those people also align these practices with Christianity. Again… not my cup of tea, but the brain is a fascinating and powerful thing. Some people, like it or not, get off on it.

A person who is legally able to get married can consent to “domestic discipline”. I may not agree with his or her decision to allow a spouse to discipline them with spankings or other punishments, but it’s not my place to tell them they can’t or shouldn’t. Ultimately, it is their decision. What’s sad about these fundie Christian marriages, though, is that a lot of the people who are in them don’t know another way. They have not been exposed to life beyond the religion they were born into, and a lot of them have not been taught critical thinking skills– hence the blogger’s comment that “grooming” a wife to be a disciplined Christian helpmeet is not going to work unless she’s young, and from a very sheltered upbringing. If she’s been exposed to another way, she probably won’t accept it.

In any case– I’m not sure that what the author of the Biblical Gender Roles blog is proposing is really the same thing as two consenting adults entering into a “domestic discipline” relationship. It sounds to me like his advice to “Robert” and his ilk is to “manipulate” their young wives. That practice, probably IS abusive, because it’s done in a deceptive, underhanded way. The very fact that the women have to be “young” and therefore naive and tractable, is kind of sick and creepy. These men simply want to marry children who have reached legal adulthood who will do what they say without question. That’s abusive.

In a weird way, because they have been on TV, I think the Duggar women might have escaped worse fates than they would have otherwise. If they kept being raised in an isolated community, with no exposure to “normal” people and worldly ideas, the daughters, especially, might have wound up being stuck in marriages in which they are treated like children and expected to obey their husbands without question. I think that being exposed to the world because they’ve been on TV has made them a little less subjugated than they could have been.

Look at some of the choices the Duggar daughters have made since they’ve been married. Jill Dillard wears pants and has a nose piercing, and she’s been photographed wearing what most women would consider modest swimwear but, for her, is probably scandalous. Jinger Vuolo moved to Los Angeles, where she wears pants and has had her hair cut. She’s only had one child so far, although she’s pregnant with her second. Her husband doesn’t take orders from JimBob Duggar, nor does Jill’s husband, Derick. Jessa Seewald is still close to home, but she obviously has a strong personality and is not being controlled by her husband, Ben, who has a milder personality than she does. I don’t know about Joy Anna Forsyth’s situation, but her husband makes his own money flipping houses, rather than working for Boob. Had they not been on TV, God knows who they would have married, and what they’d be expected to tolerate. And it would all be behind closed doors! Since they’re famous and a lot of “normal” people are watching, there’s somewhat less secrecy and weird shit that would go unnoticed or called out. On the other hand, Michelle Duggar had a somewhat normal upbringing and she willingly submitted herself and her children, especially her daughters, to what many might consider an oppressive lifestyle.

Anyway… like a lot of people, I was kind of grossed out by the Biblical Gender Roles blog and its tips on “grooming” a Christian wife. It’s definitely not something I would be interested in, and I’m grateful that I was raised by people who would not want that for me, either. But, I must admit that it makes for interesting speculation and a temporary diversion from all of the other doom and gloom headlines that are currently circulating. And now that I’ve written today’s tome, I think I’ll take Arran for a walk and get some fresh air… then practice my guitar.

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book reviews, true crime

A review of Out of the Darkness by Tina Nash

Several years ago, when I was still writing this blog on Google Blogspot, I had several Irish readers. One of them alerted me to a book about a shocking true crime case that took place in Penzance in Cornwall, England. The book, entitled Out of the Darkness (published October 2012) by Tina Nash and ghostwritten by Ruth Kelly, sat in my Kindle queue for five years after I ordered it. I like to read true crime, so it’s unusual that it would take me so long to read a true crime book. This case was genuinely horrifying to me, so I kept putting off reading Nash’s story. I just finished her book this afternoon, after which I dozed off into slumber. The doorbell rang and I got a terrible cramp in my calf, fell out of bed, and slowly managed to stumble to the front door, only to be met by a guy in a T-Mobile lanyard, asking me if our Internet was “okay”. Yeah, it’s okay, but now I have a really sore spot on my calf, and I’m still a bit stunned by the book I just read.

I’m happy to be finished reading Out of the Darkness. I probably didn’t need to wait five years to read this book, but the case is no less horrifying to me now than it was when I first heard about it on my original blog. This is the story of a classic domestic violence abuse case with an absolutely ghastly end, although it’s not the worst it could have been. Author Tina Nash only lost her eyesight instead of her life. However, her ordeal was truly appalling. I imagine it continues to be appalling years onward.

What happened?

Tina Nash, who lived in Penzance, Cornwall in England, met Shane Jenkin at a party when she was a teenager. He was a “hottie”, at six feet four with black eyes and a powerfully built body that proved he took a lot of time chiseling it at the gym. Tina was instantly attracted to him, but one of her friends told her she should leave him alone. He was bad news. In fact, at the time of that party, Shane Jenkin had only just been released from prison, “for stomping on a guy’s head and giving him brain damage,” as Tina’s friend told her. She added, “He’s a bloody psycho.” Tina spent a couple of hours talking to him about their favorite rapper, 2Pac, but then Shane tried to rape her. She was still attracted to him, although that night, she ultimately took heed of her friend’s warning and steered clear of dating him.

Tina had two sons by different fathers, the first of whom she had when she was very young. She seemed to be raising them mostly alone, after a series of what she terms “dead end” relationships. She comes across as a bit blue collar… someone who isn’t particularly educated, but is not unintelligent, despite making some truly terrible personal choices. She’d seen her own mother beaten and terrorized by a long string of physically violent and emotionally abusive men. One of six children, Tina explains that none of them knew which or how many of them shared the same father. None of the men who had impregnated her mother stuck around, so Tina and her siblings grew up in public housing and were raised on money paid by the government. And yet, she was doomed to make the same mistakes her mother made years later, and that would cost her dearly. Although her friend had warned her about Shane Jenkin, she still found him irresistible. They started dating.

There were times when Shane Jenkin was everything Tina could ever want in a boyfriend. She mostly seemed physically attracted to him, describing him as a “giant teddy bear”, despite his violent proclivities. She also described times when he was “kind” to her, bringing her gifts, and treating her as if he loved her very much, keeping her on the classic cycle of abuse that keeps victims coming back for more.

Those episodes of kindness were interspersed with terrible episodes of violence in which he would insult, berate, degrade, and beat her. One time, he got so angry at her that he destroyed her car, which she needed to be able to get to work and run errands. Another time, he destroyed her disc jockey equipment (her dream was to become a DJ). After each episode, when she was left looking beaten and bedraggled, Shane Jenkin would scoff at her in disgust, shaming her, and saying, “Just look at the sight of you.” And yet, after every breakup, Tina inevitably invited Shane Jenkin back into her life.

On the night of April 20, 2011, Tina’s life was forever altered. In a fit of extremely intense fury, Jenkin wrapped Tina up tightly in a duvet, then beat her senseless. Afterwards, he gouged out her eyes with his fingers, and broke her nose and her jaw. She woke up with her right eyeball dangling from its socket. Her left eye was smashed. Despite her dire need of medical assistance, Shane Jenkin refused to take her to a hospital, so she waited twelve hours before she finally got help. Needless to say, she is now permanently blind. It later came out that Jenkin had watched a video depicting someone having their eyes gouged out. A physician told Tina that Jenkin would have had to use extreme force to do the damage he did to her.

Shane Jenkin is now happily locked up for the rest of his life. He was initially given a six year prison sentence, which he would not be able to begin until he convinced psychiatrists that he was no longer “mentally ill”, which supposedly would be very difficult for him to do. However, Tina says that Shane wasn’t “crazy” when he brutalized her and took her sight. He wasn’t drunk or under the influence of any drugs. He was simply consumed by rage and an extreme attraction to violence.

A BBC news story about Tina Nash. She is now completely blind, and her ex boyfriend, Shane Nash, was the last thing she saw.

My thoughts on the book

Out of the Darkness reads as if Ruth Kelly mostly wrote it the way Tina Nash told it to her. The writing is technically correct, but it isn’t particularly sophisticated. In a way, that is probably a good thing. As a reader, I got a sense of the type of person Tina Nash is and how she ended up in the situation she was in back in 2011. Yes, Tina Nash did things that were not very smart or responsible, but she comes across as a basically decent person. She certainly never deserved to have her eyes gouged out by her boyfriend.

Of course, reading this story, one wonders how a single mother of two sons could continue to stay involved with a violent monster like Shane Jenkin. The night he blinded her was definitely not the first time he’d abused her. There are quite a few instances detailed in the book. Each new instance was more terrifying and violent than the last. And yet, somehow Shane Jenkin would talk his way back into Tina’s arms. She’d forgive him, even when he’d held her prisoner in her own home or beaten her or destroyed her property… Every time, he’d convince her that he was going to change.

If I had not ended up an “overeducated housewife”, it’s very possible that I would have been working with people like Tina Nash. One of the degrees that makes me “overeducated” is a master’s degree in social work, and there’s work for social workers who are willing to deal with domestic violence cases. I think it would have been very difficult for me… as I know it’s difficult for people who do choose this type of work. Like a lot of people, I wondered why she kept forgiving Shane, but then as a wife to a man whose former wife abused him, I understand that, too. Abuse victims aren’t like regular people in normal circumstances. Still, it’s frustrating to read a story like this one. Shane Jenkin was clearly very dangerous, and this fact was clear long before he took away Tina’s eyesight with his fingers. I shudder to think the effect this has had on Tina’s children.

Anyway… I’m glad I’m finished reading this book. I’m also glad I read it, because it is a classic case of a domestic violence taken to absolutely gruesome extremes. Out of the Darkness is not a bad cautionary tale, and probably wouldn’t be a bad case study for someone learning how to help abuse victims. However, the story itself is pretty frustrating and sad, and I know I felt like shaking Tina and telling her to wise up, even though I knew that she’d already heard that from her friends and loved ones who were watching this unfold in real life. File this one under “cautionary tales” about dating bloody psychos.

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