Escaping a Sex Cult: Alyssa Wakefield’s Podcast Episode, Part 2

by | Jun 16, 2022 | Abuse, Podcasts | 45 comments

Escaping a Sex Cult: Alyssa Wakefield's Story Part 2

Let’s face the fact that fundamentalist Christianity in North America is basically a sex cult.

That’s Alyssa Wakefield’s conclusion in Part 2 of her story on the Bare Marriage podcast! Listen to last week’s episode, where she explains how she was groomed to obey her father and have an arranged marriage to a man she didn’t know, wasn’t attracted to, and was 10 years older than her. And how it ended up being abusive.

On today’s podcast  you’ll hear Alyssa share how she was raped on her wedding night, and how she had to let her husband use her body several times each day–even when she was sick. You’ll hear how even with 8 kids she had to have sex with him every Sunday before church, or he may be tempted to lust after the women in church who were all dressed up.

And you’ll hear Alyssa’s parents’ reactions when she wanted to get out and realized she was in trouble. Is it normal to want to die? Is it normal to be raped like this? “Oh, Alyssa, maybe you’re going through menopause. Oh, Alyssa, just submit more.”

This was riveting, and we need to hear her story (so similar to the Duggars!), because what’s scary is how mainstream this actually is. Yes, her story is extreme. But it’s a difference of degree, not a difference in kind. Our churches teach things on this spectrum, and it needs to stop.

So listen in!


Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:


Timeline of the Podcast

0:00 Preview and Context for today
2:45 Alyssa continues her story
5:15 The beginning of getting out
12:30 The truth shining through
19:00 Post marriage and healing
25:25 What happened when Alyssa divorced
30:55 Alyssa talks ‘modesty’
38:00 Is this just a sex cult?
40:20 Final thoughts on the theology
44:00 Interview with Sarah McDugal and the TraumaMamas app

I’m so grateful for Alyssa Wakefield!

She was so brave to tell this whole story. I gave her the choice to not use video, or to not use her real name, but she said that she wanted to reclaim her own story. For years she was presented at homeschooling conferences as the poster child for betrothals and courtships. There are videos of her story, as if it’s a fairytale.

But it was all a lie, and she was just saying what she was being told to say.

Last week and this week, Alyssa told her story the way she wanted to.

And if you have any words of encouragement for Alyssa, please leave them in the comments and I’ll be sure she gets them!

If you’re a mama leaving an abusive marriage, or you have friends who are, you need the TraumaMamas app!

My good friend Sarah McDugal created an awesome app for moms in trauma, mothering kids with trauma, trying to navigate leaving an abusive marriage and all that entails. Dealing with custody. Finding a  job. Finding a place to live. Talking with your biological family. Dealing with your children’s trauma. Dealing with your ex.

There’s a totally free version with a ton of resources, and you can pay a small amount for an upgrade and open up so much more.

Sarah tells us about it after Alyssa finishes her story, and I know there are moms in Alyssa’s situation who need this app! 


What if you don't need to control your kids and punish your kids to raise great kids?

Let’s look at evidence-based parenting methods that WORK that bring life, rather than break our kids’ spirits. Plus they’re easier on you!

Join us for a FREE webinar June 21 with Wendy Snyder from Fresh Start Families. Start your new parenting journey!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. A2bbethany

    Wow, I’m so thankful for the escape God gave me from that life! We grew up quite ignorant of the dark side of these groups. We were just outside of those beliefs, and primarily because dad liked being mostly normal Christian-American. While mom was much more actively seeking teachings that would put us into a bubble of our own. The Amish, the pearl’s, IBLP conferences, gothard(til he was exposed, then she lost interest in that).
    She had so much positive to say about “created to be his helpmeet”, I couldn’t wait to read it! When I did, I was really puzzled why she was excited about it, and sharing with everyone.

    I think her picture of God and Jesus’s freedom to live, was off. I definitely felt like her Christian walk of constantly reading the Bible and such, had no appeal. Hard to explain why, but I decided to put an emphasis on feelings with my Christian walk.
    I’m so thankful that my connection to praying was ultimately the thing that healed me and lead to independence.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I love how prayer helped you break free! Because in prayer you use your own words. You pour out your own heart. You listen. And God worked mighty things!

  2. Meredith

    I finished watching Keep Sweet Pray and Obey last night on Netflix. Other than polygamy and beliefs about the afterlife, there’s no difference between the FLDS and patriarchal Christianity. Whether it’s horrible parents like Alyssa’s telling her to submit to her lecherous husband, or leaders in the SBC choosing to look away from the pastors who sexually abused women and children in their congregation. Those men are every bit as evil as Warren Jeffs, while pretending that because they have the *right* doctrine that’s all that matters.

  3. Codec

    “Some women go through menopause early”

    I hope that Ms Wakefield is doing better now. This is terrifying. I feel sick just hearing this.

    I find it terrifying that I could have been this husband. I feel terrified at just how controlling this guy was. Controling your dress your food your music that is some horror novel stuff.

    Is it weird though that it gives me hope? That if she can find real peace and happiness after such horrible events that others can and will continue to do the same.

    You talked about porn becoming the new purity culture. I would love to talk about that

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      She’s doing really well now! And so are her kids.

      You should have hope, Codec. The fact that you’re here and you’re listening means you won’t end up like an abuser. You just won’t. I see your heart every week, and I know that God is softening you and leading you to Himself. Just lean in! You are precious. He rejoices over you. Remember that.

  4. Andrea

    I had cousins who were raised much more strictly than me and my sisters, one of those houses where sex was a taboo topic for kids, but the dad made crass innuendoes. I think this is quite common in Gothard- type families, I’d love to hear what others say, because some of those innuendoes I didn’t understand until I grew up. After the Duggars truth broke, I looked back on my childhood experiences with my cousins and thought of them as the softer version. The two boys tried to walk in on me an my sisters naked as a game one summer, all three of us even though we ranged from ages 8-15 and even though we were their cousins. We had to be very careful about locking doors and making sure they weren’t peaking into the windows from the outside. They never touched us or tried to assault us, but trying to see us naked was somehow seen as OK, that’s why I said they were the softer version of Duggars.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yeah, that’s so icky. And I agree about the crassness. I have heard this with many fundamentalist men. Being crude and crass is a way to prove their manhood I think.

    • exwifeofasexaddict

      Uh, voyeurism is also sexual assault……
      I’m sorry you endured that, and that the adults didn’t protect you.

  5. Cynthia

    Is Sarah’s app just geared to Christian women, or is it for a general audience?

    I’m a family and child protection lawyer who often works with family violence cases, and my clients come for a variety of religious backgrounds. I do find that support and resource are essential. Some of my most horrible and heart-breaking cases over the past 26 years have involved moms who were traumatized and leaving violent situations, but who lacked enough support. They then struggle to provide the basics for themselves and their kids – shelters provide services that are truly needed, but they don’t always have room, they aren’t always the most comfortable situation for a mom with several kids and there will be immediate objections and complaints from the husband and his lawyer that the kids were unilaterally removed from the home. Even more difficult was the psychological aftermath of abuse. Sometimes, women who are traumatized are also dealing with substance abuse (and there’s some indication that 12 step programs are more geared to the needs of men and don’t do a great job of dealing with traumatized women). Some ended up in the sex industry because they needed to pay the bills and were easily exploited. Some had been so controlled from a young age that they had no idea how to function in society as adults and were essentially stuck as teens. What would truly make me want to vomit were the cases where the abusive ex, who wasn’t traumatized and who was often still working, was able to present a picture of being the more functional parent. Sometimes, they ended up with custody.

    When these moms were able to get support – some shelters were very good and had court workers and counseling as well as emergency housing, and I also worked with an organization that helped women from one community with practical arrangements and connecting to legal services – the outcomes were so much better. We were able to make safety plans, get through the initial difficult days and get to a point where everyone was stabilized.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It’s for a general audience! She has all kinds of links for all different countries/jurisdictions where women can get help. And lots of extra materials about walking with your kids through this trauma too!

    • Amy

      As a DV survivor who divorced over a decade ago, one of the things that is still heavy on my heart is how the courts and legal system seems to be loaded against DV survivors in family court scenarios. I would love to see better legal education on all forms of DV and how it manifests in survivors, especially with judges and other court workers. I was court ordered to a co-parenting class with my abuser. The class was run by court services and was so horrific I couldn’t remember the real name of the class because I had referred to it as “court abuse class” so many times. I cried all the way home from each class and the only way I was able to finish it was because I had already established a relationship with a wonderful therapist who helped me write fake answers for the homework to satisfy the woefully ignorant class facilitator.

      • Cynthia

        The legal system has cases that it handles badly, by not always recognizing things like trauma or coercive control, or by mislabeling situations of abuse as “high-conflict” which tends to see it as a relationship problem for which both sides are responsible.

        In Canada, there have been some recent changes to the Divorce Act that help and Keira’s Law was recently approved to require mandatory family violence education for judges.

    • Hope

      Thank you SOOO much for your dedication to these women and children!

  6. Cynthia

    Listing to Alyssa and Sarah, and watching the Netflix documentary yesterday, I was struck by how the word “selfish” has been weaponized and inverted.

    We can agree that it’s great to think of others, not just yourself, and to show care and concern for other people.

    But when we are taught to love others as we love ourselves – well, that requires us to actually love and value ourselves, in order to be able to do that for others. What these women have experienced on a constant basis is essentially being told that they are not valued and their lives have no worth except to be sacrificed for others. Actually having any pleasure or enjoying something or having their own thoughts and feelings became something bad.

    In this form, accusing someone of being selfish has nothing whatsoever to do with showing care and concern for others. Rather, it’s just about telling girls and women that they are worthless, which is the opposite of showing care and concern for them, and ordering them to do the bidding of those with power. In reality, when women are able to have their thoughts and feelings respected and do things that make them feel good, they are actually in a better place to care for others, especially their kids.

  7. exwifeofasexaddict

    I’m so glad Alyssa spoke up. And I’m actually thankful that my ex was in the military, which kept us from getting so deep into the super patriarchal homeschool circles. I went far enough as it was. I was thinking about passing on the Jonathan Park materials to my niece and nephew, now that my kids have outgrown them, but I think I’m just going to destroy them. Vision Forum was such a bad organization.

    Alyssa, you’re so strong! I can’t even imagine where you got the strength to leave that relationship, after such a repressive upbringing. But I’m so glad you did. I hope your children see things for what they are and that they can finish growing up in a healthy home. I hope you have a great chosen family who give you the support you need.

  8. Emmy

    Can this thing what happened to Alyssa even be called an arranged marriage? I’d rather call it “stealing of a human being” (see Exodus 21 :16) which was a capital offense.

    • Andrea

      It’s called traffic in women. She was trafficked by her father and father-in-law.

      • Emmy


  9. Jane Eyre

    It’s very bad for people to get everything they want, especially from another person. That’s why the obligation sex message is so messed up – it hurts women and turns men into animals. We grow when we understand the difference between wants and needs, when we work to provide for the well being of our families, and when we understand that deprivation of a want is not a tragedy.

    Obligation sex doesn’t let men grow. It doesn’t tell them that they need to figure out how to handle their sex drives. It doesn’t tell them to provide for their wives’ needs in bed – both to be pleased and to, during certain times, not be intimate. It doesn’t let them grow. It turns them into spoiled teenagers with the sexual equivalent of Daddy’s credit card. All fun, all benefits for them, someone else pays the bill.

    I don’t think Jesus tells us to be the sexual equivalent of Daddy’s AmEx or men to be like spoiled teenagers. I think Jesus tells us that we will know each other by our fruits.

    Given that evangelical have very similar divorce rates to the secular population, despite massive social pressures against splitting, I have to wonder exactly how toxic their teachings are.

  10. Mara R

    Sex Cult and Idolatry.

    The leaders of this sex cult have made a graven image. They have carved out a god in their own image, in their own likeness, and have declared that this image is the One True God rather than seeking to find out Who that One really is in the Gospels.

    This image is not made out of wood, clay, stone, bronze, silver, or gold. But it is every bit as weighty on people’s spirits. They carve this image by twisting and rearranging scripture beyond reason. Some use flowery words (Piper) to try to make the bitter imagery easier to swallow. But it is still false, abusive, and abhorrent.

    I thank God for Alyssa’s escape and her boldness to tell the truth and expose the lies and abuses.
    May there continue to be an exodus out of that Egypt and away from those patriarchs/Pharaohs.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Wonderfully put!

      I also love how Alyssa is steeped in Jesus. She did not leave the faith; she found it. And that is obvious as you listen to her talk. She makes those who stayed look ridiculous with all of their talk about God, because it is so empty. They have created an idol, like you said, and it looks nothing like Jesus.

  11. Amy

    Purity culture as a sex cult. What a great analogy. It would be interesting to have Jess and Devi from the Where Do We Go From Here podcast on as guests to explore that further.

  12. Allison

    I don’t remember how or why I recently ran across your website and podcast but I’m thankful I did. I’ve been listening from the beginning forward but listened to Alyssa’s first episode on Thursday then binge-watched Keep Sweet on Saturday. I ended up feeling, 1, dirty, and 2, appalled at the similarities of thought between fundamental Christians and the FLDS.

    Thank you for the work you’re doing.

  13. Moriah

    How can we find Alyssa on social media? You mentioned her social accounts a few times and I’d love to follow her.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’d prefer not to share. I told Alyssa that if she wants to share she can do so in the comments, but I don’t want to because I don’t want to send trolls her way. I just want to leave it up to her.

  14. Jess

    It’s likely I heard Alyssa‘s story, but it’s hard to say because the script was always the same! She has no interest, everything’s planned behind her back amongst the men who are shocked at her hesitation, she dutifully wrestles in prayer before surrendering and BAM falls in love. It never felt convincing to me after all the angst… it gave me big trust issues that God would make me fall in love with someone I didn’t want to. I just don’t understand why she would tell and write their love story as if it was wonderful?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think that’s part of being in a cult. That’s what her father and father-in-law told her, over and over again. In a way she had to believe it or she’d go crazy.

    • Jo R

      “I just don’t understand why she would tell and write their love story as if it was wonderful?”

      It’s called gaslighting.

      And frankly, the evangelical churches I’ve attended in the thirty-five years since I became a believer at age twenty-one probably all qualify as cults on at least some level. Lots of emphasis on taking the leadership’s word for things even when they don’t sit right with people (including some of the men, so it wasn’t all just a “well, you’re a woman, so it’s all in your head—or just your lot in life”), lots of rules about what’s right and wrong, lots of spiritual threats, very little grace, almost no freedom, lots of guilt and shame for being an individual instead of a mindless obedient robot. 🤮 🤮

  15. Elsie

    I’m in awe of Alyssa’s courage and resilience. Her story is an amazing testimony to the power and love of Jesus. Praying for healing and restoration for her and her children in this next chapter of their lives.

  16. L. W.

    He or your families haven’t threatened or carried out retaliation or harassment?

  17. L. W.

    Disgusting. Sounds like some “churches” and a couple of ‘Christian’ private schools that I attended. From the beginning, they taught that the total fall of man was because of the woman. BTY the woman that God gave to Adam, as an extra gift. So, all sin was started by Eve. Here’s a question for you sexist men & deceived women: Where was Adam whilst the serpent in the Garden was talking to Eve?
    Why didn’t Adam recognize that scene?
    But we ladies still must be careful, moral, and know that we’re accountable to God… Let our conscience [that God installed] be the guide!

  18. Hannah

    Can you provide the name of the book about financial abuse by Shannon Miller and a link to her website? I see the links to everything else mentioned in the episode but nothing for Shannon Miller. I tried googling her but didn’t know exactly what I was looking for. Thank you!

  19. Kate

    I loved that Alyssa called Evangelical Purity Culture as a sex cult. When I started telling my Fiancé the messages about sex marriage I received growing up he said it was like I was being raised to be a sex slave. Looking back, I couldn’t agree more.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It really is like a sex cult. Everything revolves around women’s sexuality.

      • Jo R

        Maybe it would be more accurate to say it revolves around CONTROLLING women’s sexuality? Because it certainly doesn’t revolve around women ENJOYING their sexuality.

  20. Alan Patty

    I have listened to both podcasts with Alyssa.

    I have personally known the Walkfield family for 20+ years. Norm Wakefield’s ministry has blessed 1000’s of families worldwide – mine included. He has blessed 100’s of families I know personally. These families also know Alyssa very well. Were they talked to? Or with Alyssa’s siblings and their spouses?

    You surely realize that there are ALWAYS 2 sides to every story. You didn’t do the Christian community any service by only allowing one side to be so graphically and explicitly aired in a way that could only have one objective – hurt those that hurt Alyssa in the worst way possible.

    Many in our community have been praying for restoration and healing for Alyssa’s hurt and resulting anger, for her forgiveness and restoration of relationship with her parents. All in His perfect timing.

    To all the Sons and Daughters listening and relating to Alyssa’s story : Parenting is the greatest reward, joy and also the greatest challenge and disappointment my wife June (46 years) have experienced. Nothing comes close. We’d not in any way want to change anything – even our mistakes – which is how we’ve learned and grown, and hopefully, strengthen our relationships. We have had to be on our knees repenting and asking forgiveness from our children for harsh words and wrong actions many many times. There is likely more to come! :-). We do our best and strive each day to be just a little – very very tiny bit – more Christ like. Perfection comes only when we meet him in Glory! Until that day – please keep seeking healing as only Christ can give. Anger (unforgiveness) is a poison one takes wanting the other person(s) to die. Give that anger to Christ on the Cross who loves you and INTENTIONALLY created your family from the begging of time. Don’t let satan tear it apart!

    In Christ.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Alan, you say you’ve been praying for Alyssa to forgive.

      Have you also been praying for her parents to repent?

      That seems to be missing from your comment. Considering the huge numbers of stories of abuse coming out of Gothard families, I would hope that some introspection and prayer might lead people like you to realize that some repentance might be needed.

    • Mara R

      Of course there are always two sides to every story.

      And for years only the story that was told was by the MEN in Alyssa’s life. When Alyssa was held up in front of people back then, she was only allowed to tell the version of her life that the MEN approved of.

      FINALLY, Alyssa gets to tell her side as she truly experienced it and you are going to whine about there being two sides? She gets a chance to tell a bit of her side and you are freaking out about there being two sides?

      Yes, there are two sides. I’m glad we finally got to hear Alyssa’s true experiences here. You were NEVER going to hear Alyssa’s side through YOUR sources because her story doesn’t prop up the doctrine that your sources favor.

    • Mara R

      Alan: “Anger (unforgiveness) is a poison one takes wanting the other person(s) to die. Give that anger to Christ on the Cross who loves you and INTENTIONALLY created your family from the begging of time. Don’t let satan tear it apart!”

      I have to disagree here. God has give us our emotions. And he has given us anger for the times when we have been hurt and sinned against. It is not wrong to be angry at those who have hurt us and who are completely unrepentant about the pain they have inflicted, like Alyssa’s parents.

      Alyssa needed her anger to give her the strength to escape an abusive situation and an unrepentant abuser. Alyssa, by leaving the marriage was NOT the one that let Satan tear the family apart. It was the unrepentant abuser who was tearing the family, Alyssa, and her children apart through his abuse.

      Alyssa’s God-given anger gave her the strength to escape Satan who was trying to destroy her life by the hands of that unrepentant abuser. It gave her the strength to finally escape the abusive system that her parent had gotten themselves and Alyssa tangled up in.

  21. ellie

    God bless you, Alyssa! I relate so much to dad attempting to strip my agency and autonomy. Thankfully, the ‘sex cult’ aspect was not quite as strong in my family, but the control, spiritual, emotional, and physical abuse certainly was. What you shared about being labeled “rebellious” and led to believe you were not able to trust your heart or that you’re hearing from God hits very close to home. It took a long time and a lot of work for me to quit questioning myself, God, and what I thought was true. Not that it’s totally stopped, but it’s waaay improved. Praying for you and your 8 children. With love and empathy!


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