Episode 67: Dawne Knoch Anthony’s Escape from Abuse and Religion Is Paved in Song
Join us for a deeply moving conversation with Dawne Knoch Anthony, a courageous survivor of domestic abuse and religious trauma, who has redefined her life with resilience and strength. Dawne openly shares her experiences from her conservative religious upbringing to her transformation into an author and advocate.
The narrative unfolds with Dawne unspooling her early years in a religious household and her struggle-filled journey through relationships in a conservative environment. Hear her talk about the pressures of marriage, the challenge of raising and homeschooling nine children, and the debilitating depression that followed. Her tale takes a turn with her passion for writing fueling her to pen two books – one on Beethoven, her favorite composer, and a memoir of her life, all while grappling with parenting and a stifling marriage.
Dawne’s story transcends her personal struggles, transforming into a beacon of hope for others. As an advocate for survivors of domestic violence and religious trauma, she gives voice to those silenced by similar circumstances. Discover how her life post-religion has been imbued with meaning and purpose, how she raises funds for domestic violence shelters through recitals, and her unwavering optimism for the future. Tune in for an inspiring and enlightening dialogue that celebrates resilience and our incredible capacity to overcome and thrive.
Our guest for this episode is Dawne Knoch Anthony who left an abusive marriage and religion. She writes: “For most of my life, my identity was always tied to someone else. I was a daughter, a sister, a friend. Shortly after college, I became someone’s wife and then a mother. From the time I was very young, my identity was in the god of Christianity. I was led to believe that I was nothing without him. After years of seeking the truth about life and who I really am, today I am a free thinking woman who also happens to be a wife and mother. I have a Bachelor’s degree in vocal performance. I have sung with symphony and opera choruses and currently sing in smaller ensembles as well as solo work for various venues. I began giving benefit recitals to raise money for a women’s shelter. Coming out of an abusive marriage, I have a heart for women in difficult situations. I have also been deconstructing from religion over the last seven years and want to encourage others on their way out of the toxicity of religion.“
YWCA of Toledo Domestic Violence Shelter
Crisis Line (419) 241-7386 or (888) 341-7386
The Cocoon Shelter – Located in Bowling Green. Exists to provide safety, healing, and justice across the lifespan for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, their children, and all of those affected by abuse. 24/7 Help Line 419-373-1730
National Domestic Violence Hotline 1.800.799.SAFE (7233)
Read full transcript here
[0:00] This is Glass City Humanist, a show about humanism, humanist values, by a humanist. Here is your host, Douglas Berger. Today we have a deeply moving conversation with Dawne Knoch Anthony, a courageous survivor of domestic abuse and religious trauma, who has redefined her life with resilience and strength. Dawn openly shares her experiences from her conservative religious upbringing to her transformation into an author and advocate for victims of domestic violence. Glass City Humanist is an outreach project of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie, building community through compassion and reason for a better tomorrow.
[1:00] Our guest today is Dawne Knoch Anthony. She’s a former Christian and homeschooler of nine children. She was the victim of domestic abuse and religious trauma, and since getting out of her bad marriage and religion, she’s led a life of healing, rebuilding, and growth. She has adult children as well as six children that attend public schools, and she is a vocalist living in the Columbus, Ohio area, and she not only sings with the symphony and the opera choruses and special events, but she gives recitals to raise money for domestic violence shelters in the area. Thank you for joining us today, Dawn. Thank you. So, you know, I’ve given a brief biography of you. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself that maybe I missed? Yeah, I’m just a woman that’s trying to have my own identity. I think I had told you before that as long as I can remember, I was always my identity was either I was a daughter, a sister, a friend, then a wife and a mother, and I’m more than that. Those are great things, but just learning to have my own voice and know that I have worth just because I’m here. So, yeah.
[2:26] Now, did you grow up in a religious household or did you marry into it?
[2:31] Yes, it was a religious household. My parents, my mom had been brought up very religious. My father, not so much, but he had a grandma that took him to church, that whole kind of thing. And then when they met, they got very involved in the Jesus movement, if you remember what that was all about, kind of an answer to the hippie movement. They thought that that was so wild and rebellious. And so they latched on to what was going on in the 70s. And so, yeah, we listened to a lot of classical music because both of my parents were musicians, not professional, but they sang on the side. And my dad was super talented in just about, I mean, anything he put his hand to, he was a drummer, a dancer.
[3:21] But, so we listened to all kinds of music, but boy, Christian music was a big deal. So, and in the seventies, that was Keith Green, second chapter of Acts, those kinds of groups, yeah. So, but yeah, we were religious, and yet I would say not quite as fundamental as what I ended up in, although they were, but it just, what I found myself in later was so much stricter than what I’d ever had before. So yes, they were strict with my choice of music. I mean, I loved rock music in the seventies and eighties, but I couldn’t really listen to that in their presence. So I’d have to hear it when they were gone or I went to a friend’s house or something like that. So, but yeah, so they were strict with music and things like that. And yet I went to public school and, you know, it was fine for me to have all kinds of different friends and that. So I went to a lot of churches.
[4:27] A lot of different churches. We weren’t, I wouldn’t say church hoppers. My dad usually had a very good reason for leaving different churches. Either there was something theological that he had a problem with, or if he just felt like we needed a change that would help the family. So I look back and I think, well, that was good. And I did get quite an education with different churches because we were the gamut. I mean, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist.
[4:57] Charismatic, which was crazy, which I don’t think my dad was completely on board with it, but he had friends that were in those churches, so he was there to support them. And then the last church that we went to before I left for college was a Christian and Missionary Alliance church. And in fact, that’s kind of why I chose the Christian college that I went to.
[5:21] So I had been public schooled and I thought, well, I would really like to go to a Christian college and the CMA, that’s their abbreviation, they’re really missions-oriented. And so the missions conferences, the church camp, everything was about, oh, you should be a missionary. And so I started thinking that, even though I was a musician from the time I was very little, but I thought, oh, I should be a missionary. So I went to Christian College, which was CMA down in Georgia. And I got an eyeful of what Christian colleges really are about. So good people there. Most of my professors I loved. But the administration and those that made the rules, it was very, very hypocritical. So that was hard. I would like to say that was the beginning of the end for me in Christianity, because I think that laid the groundwork. But then I stayed in religion a lot longer, and so, unfortunately. But, and I did change my major while I was there. I went back to music. So.
[6:34] When you met your husband at the time, was that through school or? I was on a break from college, and I went to go see my old pastor from Ohio and his family for a break. They had moved to Orlando, Florida. And so I was there and then. The man that I met was in the Navy in Orlando, and he was friends with the family, unfortunately. But it seemed like, I mean, I really liked him. He was very charming and all of that. And I was.
[7:11] In a relationship back in school where my boyfriend had not returned to college, but I was having a lot of doubts and thinking maybe this isn’t the right thing for me. So, So I meet this young man in the Navy, and I thought, well, this is not going to go anywhere, but he’s just really nice to have as a friend. And I had broken up after that with my other boyfriend, and then the letters started and the phone calls, and then it developed into something more, and yeah, I wish it hadn’t. You know, hey, when you’re young and want to be taken care of, you know, I had in my background, the whole, my mom and dad really didn’t want me to date a whole lot when I was in high school, because they were all, you know, think about the future, keep your eye on school and all that.
[8:08] But also in the back of my mind was, you know, you only date to get married, and that’s it. And so, there wasn’t any let’s go out on a date for fun. It was always there’s an end game to this. And so, I heard that from my mom, but I heard it from church and youth groups, and then I get to college, and I swear everybody was preparing for marriage. So, yeah, there’s a, it was Toccoa Falls College, and there was a motto that said, where character is developed with intellect, which that sounds great, but not really. But a friend of mine had worded it differently where character is developed with wedding bells and she was right. So a lot of people just went there to get their MRS degree and not everyone, but it just kind of seemed to go that way. So, yeah. Now, when you did finally meet your husband and started a relationship, Did you, was he religiously conservative back then?
[9:17] Like, was he religiously strict? He went, he was raised in a Christian family and he was actually going to the church of my former pastor. So it was a Christian Missionary Alliance church. Yeah, he wasn’t what he ended up turning into, you know, he he was a Christian yet not so, Fundamentalist, so I didn’t see that till much later. So.
[9:46] And then you homeschooled your children Yeah, was that put it entirely on you or did you did you have teaching experience before doing it or or that was just something? That was expected for you to do it was something that I was interested in doing because I had met a family back in Ohio that they homeschooled their girls.
[10:10] And I thought, well, that would be interesting. And so I wanted to do it, but then it became more of a, with every child that was added, it was getting to be too much. And yeah, I was the sole teacher. I did all of that. And the only support that he ever was was when there was a yearly convention, a homeschool convention, and then he could parade his little darlings around the convention and see, look what I did, which he didn’t, he didn’t teach. And I would be in the middle of a lesson and he would, unfortunately, was working from home the last several years that we were still married and working from home, but he’d always come through the room and interrupt or tell one of my kids, hey, you want to go to the tool store with me or whatever? I’m like, I’m trying to teach a lesson here. So it was very difficult. And oh, you would ask something else about the homeschooling. Oh, teaching. Yeah, did you have any previous teaching experience? Only experience was I had private music students. I used to teach flute and voice. And so that was it. And then, you know, I had my degree from college, but it wasn’t I didn’t have a teacher’s certificate. No, so.
[11:31] And of course, I was always feeling like, you know, I was inadequate So I would go to the homeschool conventions or I would go to support groups sometimes and you know, Tell the other ladies, you know, hey, is this something you feel like and they’re like, oh, you’re fine, you have everything you need because of god and, all right, and and then uh, of course in your your biography, uh You stated that you had nine children. Yes. Was that part of the religion to have that many kids or did that just kind of naturally happen? It kind of happened that, you know, in the homeschool movement, that’s kind of pushed, not all homeschoolers. I know that there are atheist homeschoolers and all of that, but the homeschool movement that we found ourselves in, or I found myself in, was super, super conservative and as many children as possible, no birth control. And it didn’t start like that. It didn’t, you know, but once… We had lived in Delaware, Ohio, and that was where my support group was. Once we left there and we moved into the country, then I really didn’t have the support anymore and he just started talking like, no, we just got to trust God for these children. We’re not going to stop his blessings. All the while, I was drowning and very, very tired.
[12:59] It wasn’t something that you enjoyed was having so many kids. That actually caused bad feelings for you? I love the children, obviously, and I still do. And I couldn’t imagine life without them. But yeah, while I was in it, the more that came, the worse I felt. And so I would say by the time the seventh child was on the way, I had fallen into a very deep depression. But that was the other thing. Even if I said something, it was either ignored or, you know, you just trust God. It was always trust God, you must not have enough faith. And going to a therapist, the talk of postpartum depression or regular depression, it just wasn’t encouraged at all. Oh, I was just gonna say too, what I didn’t tell you in the biography was that I had three miscarriages as well. And one of those, I nearly died. In fact, it was so close that it took, I had a midwife for the last few children and it took me to say, we gotta talk to her now. And she luckily lived about a block away from me and she came and she said, you gotta call the squad now or she’s not gonna make it. So, and his answer to that was more kids.
[14:23] So yeah, it just, it didn’t stop. And the midwife was very upset too. And I love her, we still talk, she’s a Christian lady, but even her beliefs and how much she loves children, she knew I shouldn’t have any more kids, but yeah.
[14:42] But the husband did not support that and when those miscarriages occurred Did you get blamed for them or did they just say well that was just God’s will or it was more of a yeah It’s God’s will he knows best, you know So and of course what I didn’t say was that the my ex was a huge Narcissist and so I didn’t even know what narcissist was for a while until I started looking it up and thinking. Oh my goodness His face could be in the dictionary next to that word.
[15:14] But yeah, he just got worse and worse. And I would be going through a miscarriage or something, but he had it much worse. Or if I was sick, oh, he had it much worse. If he had allergies, he was dying. There was one time, I think I only had three kids, but I had strep throat and we had no insurance, which is a whole nother subject. There were so many times we had no health insurance. So that was scary. But this time we didn’t have insurance. And I luckily knew a doctor that had been in a choir I was directing. He made a house call. He said, you’ve got strep. And I was really, really sick. He leaves, the husband comes home and says, why aren’t you doing the dishes? Why aren’t you getting up? And I mean, I literally could not move. But that’s what I dealt with. It was just, his problems were worse. He knew everything. He was a genius, and so, yeah. And he was an amazing follower of Jesus, which when I look back, I was the one that was more devoted than he ever was. But now he uses that as a, you know, I’m the godly person here, and look, she left.
[16:29] So- So basically he was just a mean asshole that used religion to justify his actions. Exactly. And he still does it to this day. So yeah, but at least I don’t have to live with them. For more information about the topics in this episode, including links used, please visit the episode page at glasscityhumanist.show, Well, you left that bad marriage and religion, was there a specific event or incident, or was it just the culmination of everything that you’d gone through up to that point? I think it was the culmination, I really do. And like I said, when I was in college, I really felt like that was laying some groundwork for me to start questioning.
[17:22] Not just other Christians. Because I have a lot of people that have said, Well, you know the church those people they hurt you that’s not God, well, I started to examine the whole thing and I realized the questions I had as a very little girl about, how ridiculous the Adam and Eve story was and how insane it was that he caused genocide and flooded the entire world and the animals and the children that were slaughtered by the the Hebrews and all that I had those questions as that a, Little girl, but I was scared to ask and so I started asking those questions. I would say in college.
[18:05] But then I still was quiet because I was afraid of the alternative. I was afraid of losing that, I guess my hope for afterlife my of Christian people I knew that I was afraid of losing any of that. So I still stayed quiet. But then when I started to wake up to what was going on in the marriage, it just kind of went hand in hand. I not only was going to divorce a person, I had to divorce religion. And it was scary, but it also felt more free than I’ve ever felt. And ironically, the scripture says that we have freedom in Christ. And I’m like, no, it’s actually opposite. I mean, you’re what does it say? Paul says, when you were slaves to sin, now you’re slaves to Christ. Well, that’s still slavery, isn’t it? So I wasn’t truly free. And so, yeah, it was a combination of things. And then right before the divorce was final, I remember I was at a friend’s staying with them for a little while while I was trying to find a place to live and, I was outside at night and they were in the country. No lights on, gorgeous stars and expanse and I remember looking up in the sky going.
[19:29] You’re really not there. You’re nothing and From that time on I had just given myself the green light to go. Okay, we have a new life. So.
[19:40] And how did you finally leave? Did you like escape, like run away, or did you get some outside help to leave, or? Yeah, I had, my parents were very, very encouraging. They financially couldn’t help us out and didn’t have a house for all those kids. But I had a very good friend from church from years ago that we grew up together, and she’s now an atheist. But she and her husband had a great big house and no kids, just dogs. And she knew what was happening. And she said, when you can get out, you have a place here until things simmer down. And I had gotten a lawyer by that time. And she said, you need to get you and the children out when he’s on one of his business trips. And I was scared to do it. You can imagine all the things that I thought of, you know, how long is this going to take? Am I ever going to be able to come home? Am I going to be accused of kidnapping the children? All those things. And I didn’t want to do any of that. And I wasn’t setting out to hurt him. It was just all I could think of is I have to get out.
[20:54] And there was no way I could leave without the children, because then I would have been abandoning them. And so my lawyer had said, hey, get the kids and go at least until the papers have been served and we figure out some kind of an arrangement so that you feel safe.
[21:12] So unfortunately, he kept avoiding being served. And so we were out of the house for a good four months.
[21:24] So me and nine children and I had, you know, I didn’t have a job or anything like that. So I was relying on friends. I didn’t stay with my first friend too long, but I stay with a voice teacher and, you know, my husband today, he’s been my friend from high school.
[21:43] He actually got a cabin for us for a while, just different places. So we went and overstayed our welcome with other friends. So yeah, it was scary. I mean, I don’t want to get too far ahead, but it was a long divorce and the ex was trying so desperately to take Children away from me. He wanted full custody. So yeah, yeah a lot a lot of situations like that that’s what they used they use the children to try to keep you in the in the marriage and and, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, well I ran out of money and places to go. And when I didn’t, he couldn’t believe it.
[22:27] (Clip of Dawne singing “By and By” in 2022)
[24:26] On to happier things. You are a vocalist, and you sing with the symphony and opera choruses, and you mentioned you’d always been interested in music. Were you always a vocalist, or?
[24:42] Yes. Yeah, from the time I was about four years old, my dad had me on stage singing, and sometimes I sang, with my parents, but a lot of times I was just doing the solo thing, so. And then, of course, I got into choirs and then in college.
[24:59] And I majored in vocal performance, minored in flute. And then, you know, I got married. And unfortunately, he was in the Navy, so we were not in any one place too long. But wherever I was, I tried to sing with different situations and people. So, yeah. Yeah, and you do use your voice to give back literally to raise money for local domestic violence shelters. How has that worked out for you? Have you raised a lot of money? Well, I would say, first of all, so far I’ve only had one recital and I’m currently working on another one, which is in a few months. But yeah, I do believe that we may, I don’t have a final count what the last recital brought in, but it definitely helped them a lot. So, and I’ve been able to use some of my musician friends to help me out with that as well. So. You also let us know that you’re writing a couple books. Can you give us any information about them? Or will they be out on Zoom? I should say in all my spare time, because you can imagine with a house full of kids, first I should say about my arrangement. I have six kids that still have to go back and forth between us and their biological father.
[26:23] Which is sad, but it is what it is. So we’re week on week off. So on the weeks they’re not here, I’m either desperately trying to clean up the mess they made from the week before or trying to just recover. So it’s been hard to sit down and write, but I have taken it back up again over the last few months. And usually I have to leave the house to do it because sitting at home trying to write, I’ll find something that I have to do. So the library, the coffee shop are great places. But yeah, one book that I’m really trying to get finished first is one I started when I was married to the ex. And that was a hard thing because he wanted to edit. He was always looking over my shoulder. And the book is about Beethoven, who is one of my favorite composers, but it’s a.
[27:19] How would I say, it’s a time travel type book, a little bit of historical fiction, so I’m putting some accuracies in there, but anyway, when I was writing it before, I couldn’t write it the way I wanted to write it, because, you know, it just wasn’t up to his standards, and he honestly was jealous. He was jealous of my time, and he was jealous of Beethoven, who has been dead since 1827. So, yeah, there’s a little bit of that narcissist coming in, too. Yeah, I was taking time away from him and focused on him. Yeah, exactly. And every child that came, which you’d think he’d pick up on the fact the more kids she has, the less time she has for me, but I just kept having kids. And yeah, he would use that against me, too, that, oh, well, you’re all for the kids. Well, so back to Beethoven. Yeah, I am writing that now. I would say I’m about halfway through and not going to give any.
[28:22] Other spoilers, but it’s been an enjoyable time of writing for me. And then the other book is what I told you earlier, and that is I do want to write some kind of memoir of my life and how how things were when I was young. And I do wanna talk about the old marriage, but my biggest thing is to talk about how I got out of religion and my hopes for the future and helping other people. So, because I know there’s a lot of people out there that feel alone and are afraid to come out as atheist or agnostic. And.
[29:05] And that’s precisely why I’m interviewing you today. Yeah. To give people the hope that if they’re in a situation similar to yours, that there’s a way out. That they can get out if they work to do it. Right, right. And it’s hard, because when I was in the midst of everything, I didn’t even know I could find help. I really didn’t know that and really also when you’re in religion you kind of go on autopilot and, you, That’s one way to say it Also, I felt like I had blinders on and it was the only way that I could survive was just to forget, the idiocy of Christianity and.
[29:51] You know forget about the abuse that was happening even though it was there and I mean also the religious trauma, I would not allow myself to believe that was happening. And so once you can get to a point of recognizing this is wrong, then you can start to reach out.
[30:11] So, but yeah, there’s a lot of people out there that may not have as much support as I did. And that’s, I don’t know, I hope that these interviews help. When I was spending so much time without my kids on the weeks I didn’t have them, first getting out, I was watching lectures and debates. I would say Christopher Hitchens was my absolute favorite.
[30:41] But then I would link to other atheists and realize, wow, There’s some people out there that have had quite a past and quite a story when they were in religion, they got out. So it’s helped to just. You know, YouTube’s been wonderful. It helped me a lot to find different people. So, in fact, the group in Columbus, which I don’t get to go to very often, I found them because Richard Carrier, do you know that name? Oh, yeah, yeah, I’m familiar with them. So I had been watching his lectures. And lo and behold, at the time, he was in Columbus. And so I didn’t get to meet him in person. But we connected on Facebook. And I said, Hey, This is my story. How do I find a group of people that could be supportive? And so that’s he told me about the omnipresent atheist group and uh so That’s led to some great friendships, Yeah, the columbus area. Yeah, they do have a number of uh, free thought groups in the area the humanist community of central, ohio um the present uh atheists and.
[31:52] And yeah, so that’s I mean, like I said, you know, I used to live in columbus and, That’s where I got started and you ended up in a good area. It’s not overly religious. Right. Well, unfortunately, what I didn’t tell you is we live an hour from there. So we’re in Podunk, Fredericktown, which is very, very, very red, very, very pro-Trump, very religious. And so it’s it has been hard for us because we can’t get to Columbus as much as we’d like. And when I’m there, I’m singing. I don’t usually have a whole lot of time to reach out. But that’s why Facebook’s so wonderful, because we can at least message each other and all that. But yeah, here and where we’re at, it’s very hard to find people that we feel comfortable with opening up. We have met a few, but we found a lot of people just kind of stay to themselves because it’s a very hostile environment. So, what did they say? There’s no love like Christian hate. And that’s what we feel like. So. Okay, Dawn, as we wrap this up for today, is there anything that we have or haven’t touched on that you want our listeners to take away from your experiences? Oh, I think mostly just keep going.
[33:20] You know, if you’re looking to get out of, Well, first of all, if you’re in danger, if you’re a woman that’s in a situation, just know there are shelters. I mean, there’s a shelter close by where we live and the shelter in Columbus that I’ve been raising money for, they are amazing. So that’s first and foremost, get out of the abusive situations. But as far as if you’re trying to get out of the religious community, it can be done. And there’s people out there that’ll come by your side. So. Yeah, okay. Well, I I want to thank you for your time today and and you know Keep keep us in the loop when your books come out and when your next recital comes out and we’ll we’ll put the links up and and send it out and promote it for you and, Hopefully get some more people interested in your story and and use it to for themselves to get out of religion Yes, And it’s not just a matter of getting out. It’s what can we do to? To Make a difference in our world because I you know, there’s a lot of people say well, what’s your purpose if if you’re an atheist? Well, I’m making my purpose. I’m making meaning out of my life by helping those around me. So, It’s definitely not an empty existence at all. And I’m excited for the future. So, All right. Thank you very much. Appreciate it. Thank you so much.
[34:49] Thank you for listening For more information about the topics in this episode, please visit the episode page at glasscityhumanist.show. Glass City Humanist is an outreach of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie. Surely can be reached at humanistswle.org. Glass City Humanist is hosted, written, and produced by Douglas Berger, and he’s solely responsible for the content. Our theme music is Glass City Jam, composed using the Amplify Studio. See you next time.
Transcript is machine generated, lightly edited, and approximate to what was recorded. If you would like perfect transcripts, please donate to the show.
Written, produced, and edited by Douglas Berger and he is entirely responsible for the content. Incidental voice overs by Shawn Meagley
The GCH theme is “Glass City Jam” composed using Ampify Studio
This episode by Glass City Humanist is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.