Author details her escape from patriarchy

Cait West - Author of "Rift." Photo by Teri Genovese.

Cait West had no control over her life, her body, and her choices as a child and young adult. No, she wasn’t trafficked. No, she wasn’t enslaved in the ways we might understand those terms.

Instead, she was part of the Christian Patriarchy movement. “I was told that I would be a wife and mother, never go to college, and would stay home until marriage,” said West, who lives in the Grand Rapids area.

“Rift” book cover. Courtesy art.

Christian Patriarchy an ideology positing that God is masculine and the ultimate patriarch and thus offers a pattern by which to live. Fathers are the patriarchs, mothers submit to fathers in all things, and children obey and follow the vision of the father. Along with Christian Patriarchy is the Stay-At-Home-Daughter movement that says daughters must remain home until marriage to a man chosen by their fathers.

She records her journey from obedient daughter to young woman married to the man she loves in Rift: A Memoir of Breaking Away from Christian Patriarchy, which came out April 30 and is published by Grand Rapids-based Eerdmans Publishing Company.

“I am emotionally ready to tell the story in a meaningful way,” said West, 36. “A big part of my processing is knowing that it wasn’t my fault. Healing isn’t about getting to the finish line, but a lifelong process.”

She fears for our society and especially women. “We are seeing restrictions on healthcare for women in the laws created now around women and the overturning of Roe v. Wade. These are the kinds of things that affected me in the Christian Patriarchy movement—I had no bodily autonomy, was never taught the idea of consent, and didn’t understand that I had personal rights as a human being,” said West.

What West is referring to is the introduction of bills in states like Ohio, Georgia, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and South Carolina that provide personhood for fetuses from the moment of conception, with Georgia’s having already passed. Here in Michigan, West Volunteered to help get the Reproductive Freedom for All proposal passed.

“Laws are taking away women’s agency over their own bodies and what they can consent to, which is a really dangerous trend. What was once a fringe movement is now becoming mainstream,” she adds.

Her principal goal for Rift is that those who grew up like West, who experienced abuse, who struggled with churches that were harmful places “feel seen and validated that their stories matter and their struggles matter,” she said.

“Women and children in these closed groups are silenced and not seen by the outside world. I want to bring awareness and connect with people to bring about change to prevent abuse and deal with it when it happens,” West said. “The ideology of patriarchy hurts all genders.”

Editor’s note: According to “Abortion is legal throughout pregnancy in Michigan – there is no ban or limit on abortion in Michigan based on how far along in pregnancy you are. If you are under the age of 18, a parent or legal guardian must give you permission to get an abortion in Michigan.”

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