Cathy’s Story of Kidnapping, Rape, Abuse and Cover-up~Part 1

When I was just three years old, I was kidnapped by a very disturbed woman by the name of Cleo Smith.  I was so young, it is still difficult for me to remember all the events. However, I do have memory of Cleo putting me in her car.  At one point I remember crying for “mama.”  This infuriated Cleo.  I remember she screamed at me, and told me to shut up.  I remember her car was a green 1966 Cadillac.  At one point telling Cleo that I needed to go to the bathroom.  At this point she hit me in the face, told me to shut up.  Problem was, I really did have to go to the bathroom, and due to terror, lost control of my bladder.  The next thing I remember was the car being on the side of the road and Cleo cursing at me, screaming, “You are a worthless damn kid.”  The next thing I remember was being marched to the back of her car, Cleo opened the trunk, picked me up, and threw me in.  Those memories are so engraved in my mind, that I have nightmares about the actual kidnapping even all these years later. I went missing from a local grocery store while my biological mother shopped. She had just given birth to twin daughters she had three very small children with her as she shopped for groceries. I disappeared while she shopped — we would not be reunited for almost 30 years.  

I lived with Cleo until I was 12 years old, when the police became involved in my life, although not because of my kidnapping.  Cleo owned many rental properties in Philadelphia, near Temple University.  Ironically, my biological parents leased a home from Cleo and subsequently had some legal dispute with her.    Cleo took me to a 110-acre farm she owned about 25 miles outside of the city.  Cleo owned this home under an alias; she also used an alias for me, Salina. Cleo had no legal documents for me that showed guardianship or an adoption. In fact, there were no records found of anyone born or adopted in the US by the name by which Cleo gave me.  Unfortunately, Cleo died before the investigation of my legal status was completed. 

In 1967, the farm was in a very rural area of Pennsylvania.  There were no Amber Alerts,  no CNN  or up-to-the minute news broadcasts.  Most people their news from the local newspaper, a small number of TV stations, (with rabbit ears) the radio, or by word of mouth . At the time, most people would not believe a woman would abduct an older child, but only babies. Cleo was never a suspect in the original investigation of my disappearance. Even if she had been, I am quite sure she hid her tracks by taking me to the farm 

It was at that time, the independent fundamentalist Baptist (now known as the IFB) church became a part of my life. An IFB pastor would eventually adopt me after the police became involved, kept telling me many times throughout the years that Cleo had come with me  to the church he was the pastor of . He said she claimed that she had found me abandoned in a rental property in Philadelphia. He says that he did tell her she should have called the police instead of just keeping me. She told him she never had or did have any intention to do so. This pastor and his wife did not officially adopt me until only a few months before my 18th birthday. It seems they wanted to receive as much foster care benefits from the state as possible.  My “room” was a bed pushed into the corner of their basement. I asked my adopted  father many times over the years why he did not call the authorities. I never received a satisfactory answer to my question.  

Cleo was a close follower and financial supporter of Dr. Carl McIntire, who was a fiery fundamentalist leader at that time.  McIntire was a contemporary of Dr. Bob Jones, Jr, and was granted a honorary doctorate from Bob Jones University 

I had been horribly abused by Cleo and her lover and farm hand, Lou. As as a result of the ensuing investigation at this time, that I learned  that Cleo was not my mother. I heard for the first time that I may have been abducted because with Cleo’s various interviews with the police, as she continued to change her story as how I came to live with her. The nightmares that I had for as far back as I remember were not just scary, they were true. I was enrolled in the Christian school associated with my IFB church for most of my life as a student. I did go to two other other IFB schools for a short time. Cleo was able to enroll me my telling these schools she had lost my birth certificate and would order another one from the state. I attended each of these schools for only one year, as Cleo could not provide my birth certificate to enroll the next year. When I was 14 Cleo died while the police investigation was on-going,  taking her secrets with her to the grave.  

I was glad when Cleo died. But I never received any professional counseling.  At the time, I was so angry to find out that my life was a lie, from where I came from to what my real name was, that I was not interested in learning any more details. I still believed that my biological parents abandoned me, as Cleo and others told me. I decided I just wanted to get on with my life. I had symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) back then, but of course, did not recognize the symptoms, nor did anyone else as those things were rarely discussed publicly in those days.. I did not know what was happening.  When my adoptive father who was a pastor, and the youth pastor found out about the nightmares and flashbacks about the abduction, and the years of abuse I suffered at the hands of Cleo, the sexual abuse of Cleo’s lover, Lou, was constantly told not to dwell on it.  When the nightmares persisted, the youth pastor, who graduated from Bob Jones told me that I was “just bitter.”  He repeatedly drew connections between the nightmares plaguing me and rebellion.  Brother Dave then would quote

“Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. ”  I Samuel 13:23

In his mind, and others the nightmares, flashbacks, fearfulness and crying spells were because of my refusal to “put the things which are behind.”  Was yelled at, told to “stop having sour grapes.”  If I was not smiling, or looked downcast, Brother Dave would yell at me that I was a witch because in his view the only reason I was still having problems was because in rebellion I refused to give it all over to the Lord.  It did not take me long to stop talking about my past whatsoever.  I worked so hard to “forget those things which are behind” as I was told. Never mentioned again, the nightmares and flashbacks for many years . Sincerely wanted to be a good Christian.  Completely believed what I was taught that the IFB were the only one’s who were living Godly lives.  Members of other Churches, and certainly mainline denominations salvation was in question.  If perhaps they were able to slip under the fence and find the way to get saved, they weren’t living right.  As a result, I put considerable effort into forgiving and forgetting the abuse, torture by Cleo, and rapes.

Read  part 2 of Cathy’s Story here 

Read part 3 of Cathy’s Story here

© 2011 Catherine Harris


27 thoughts on “Cathy’s Story of Kidnapping, Rape, Abuse and Cover-up~Part 1

  1. “Rebellion is as the sin of witch craft and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.”

    We’ve been seeing rebellion quite frequently as of late with the IFB, haven’t we? Rebellion, as well as total disregard for the LAWS established in our country and states, not to mention the rebellion against, and blatant misinterpretation of the holy book they claim to revere. Witches, huh?

    Stubbornness? I would say so! The absolute refusal to admit any wrong doing and circling of the IFB wagons that we are witnessing proves to be the prime example of stubbornness. Are the lot of them iniquitors and idolators, too?

    thank you so much for sharing Cathy’s story.

  2. I think of you story often and it is type of Cinderella IFB story, except the Prince that saves you is an IFB pastor who doesn’t really save you but exploits you further. I am so glad God is using you to help other victims. Thanks for writing this.

  3. Cathy,
    You are amazing, and I wish you only the best. You have an awful horrible story, and yet you continue to help others. Thank you.

  4. Cathy,
    Your strength is beautiful, and inspiring. In my mind if anyone ever has had the right to be bitter it’s you, but instead through God’s love and grace, you have dedicated your life (personally, and professionally) to helping others. Your testimony speaks clearly…you’re not bitter…you just speak the truth. Bitter is just “IFB-ese” for we don’t want our dirty little secrets exposed. I feel blessed to count you among my friends. I love you

  5. Pingback: Pastors Be Careful… | chucklestravels

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  7. Pingback: Cathy’s Story of Kidnapping, Rape, Abuse and Cover-up~Part II « chucklestravels

  8. Pingback: Cathy’s Story of Kidnapping, Rape, Abuse and Cover-up~Part III « chucklestravels

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  10. Philippians 3: 13- 14 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”

    In I Corinthians 13: 11-12 says “.When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

    12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

    Those are just two verses from His Word. the Bible shows how we are to handle terrible things that we face in our lives. “Cathy’s story while horrible occurred a long time in the past. She was a child. No child should go through what she claims she went through. Whether her memories are accurate, whether she was raped and abused as she claims is up for question, but I know she believes it happened. No matter what occurred back then, Cathy is now an adult.

    Ephesians 4:29 says “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” It is time for blogs such as this to really do what they say they want to do. To help victims get over the sin that does so easily beset victims. The sin of their need to incessant speaking about those who hurt them. The sin of their need to incessantly speak and grumble about the situations where they found themselves in life. Chucklestravles, you’re failing to encourage the victims you claim to help, to get over their pain, but instead encouraging them to rehash it all the time. Not only does it hurt these victims, it also hurts the Name of Christ. by giving weak Christians a reason to doubt and unsaved scorners are reason to blaspheme. I would hate to be Chuckles and CP Traveler from this blog when they stand before God at the judgement and find how many souls are in hell because they listened to the things posted here on this blog then went away thinking all Christians and worse, their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is an abuser you so blatantly present Him to be by posting all these stories on this blog.

    • “Concerned Pastor,” I dare you to state this before a judge of a domestic violence court, a domestic violence advocate, or to the governing board for the National Assoc. of Counselors or Social Workers. You are insane.

    • In a word, Concerned “Pastor”: Bull. The fact is that the rest of the world already knows that the church is corrupt. The church has not only miserably failed to give any real help and comfort to abuse victims, it has gone out of its way to blame the suffering ones and make their pain worse. Part of the healing process is to admit it, to talk about what happened, It is also to find medical and legal assistance, and to learn how to live life again. It is silence and the shame which you and your cohorts have heaped upon the victims which keeps them stuck in their suffering, not fighting back to overcome it.

      No amount of the church trying to shame and blame the abuse victims back into silence will do a bit of good… not for the victims, not for the church, and not for a world that needs the love of Christ. Repent of your sin, your hatred toward Cathy (you think we can’t see it!? Please!) and the other abuse survivors, of siding with the abusers. Stop presenting to the world the abusive false “Jesus” who only seems to care about the people in charge at the expense of the wounded below, and meet the real Jesus Christ who came to seek and save the lost, to heal the wounded, to love the rejected.

    • Ahhhhh. Concerned Pastor, we meet again….

      Could you please quit with the sharing of scriptures that YOU feel are speaking about this subject? Set down your Kool Aid, and step away from the computer. You are making quite the spectacle of yourself.

      The Bible doesn’t SHOW how we are to handle these types of abuses. People like you make feeble attempts to turn the scriptures into what YOU want them to say.

      Yes, Cathy was a child. An innocent child who was horrificly abused and terrorized. And then when she thought there may have been a chance that her days of terror were over, she was again placed in a situation where the very people who should have protected her, FAILED MISERABLY!
      Why dont you go and let them know about their sins, as you see them? I am sure since you seem so knowledgeable of Cathys situation, you must know them.

      It is NOT a sin to speak out about the abuse, torment, torture, and rape suffered as a child. We didn’t find ourselves in these situations, we were put in them. We were children. Now as adults speaking out, others who may have waited years, holding thier pain inside have found the courage to speak out as well. It sounds to me like that is what may be bothering you.

      I haven’t noticed anyone saying that ALL christians are abusers, nor have I read where anyone has written that thier Lord Jesus Christ is an abuser? Could you point that out for me? Or is it another one of your assumptions?

      Chuckles Travels and C.P Traveler have opened a door for survivors to be free.

      What have you done to help survivors Concerned Pastor?

    • Concerned Pastor,

      I highly doubt that you are either concerned or a qualified pastor. You are what I would call a false teacher.

      You have in effect taken three different passages out of context and tried to use them in a way that justifies your unbiblical belief that injuries that we have received should never be spoken of. You have incorrectly insinuated that God is more concerned about the appearance of His church than of the holiness of His people. You have failed to react to victims of evil as Jesus would have reacted, with love and compassion (try reading the Gospels sometime…all of them). You have incorrectly assumed that bringing sin to light is what brings harm to the church when it is the sin itself being allowed to remain and never being dealt with which actually brings harm to the church. You have repeatedly attacked victims of abuse on this blog by telling them it is their fault, insinuating that they are lying, or telling them that what they are feeling is invalid.

      I am sure that you have never used your position in your church to explain why abuse is an affront to God and to His image, to push for victims of abuse to file charges against their abusers, or to refer victims to qualified professional counselors. I would be very surprised if victims ever came to you because they understand that this is how they would be treated.

      I will be praying for you that God gets ahold of your heart and shows you how to extend love, mercy, grace, and compassion to others.


    • I wish you could hear yourself with the ears of the abused. Sure, you can read your own comments, but you will only read what you already believe, and you will walk away justifying yourself in your own mind.

      “It is time for blogs such as this to really do what they say they want to do. To help victims get over the sin that does so easily beset victims. The sin of their need to incessant speaking about those who hurt them. The sin of their need to incessantly speak and grumble about the situations where they found themselves in life.”

      Amazing. Have you actually read Hebrews, or do you just take a few verses out of context and run with those because it’s easier than dealing with apparent contradictions? The “sin which doth so easily beset us” is not a reference to a each person’s Achiles’ Heel, but to the sin of unbelief. If you truly understood what you are reading you would see this. You and yours have twisted Heb. 12:1 into something it is not. It doesn’t matter how well it preaches. There is never an excuse for sloppy exegesis, especially by someone claiming to be a pastor.

      You then continue to qualify what you mean by “beseting sin”. Have you actually read Job? Doesn’t Job complain and whine grumble and lash out at God and moan and argue with his friends about the horrible and unjust circumstances he found himself in? Has it never struck you that God never demanded repentance and an offering from Job, but rather from his friends instead? All Job did was worship God when God showed himself. Job was deemed righteous throughout the trial, complaints, groans, grumblings, and all. His friends were the ones that sinned. And God demanded sacrifices from them and prayers for them by Job. Job was found faithful through the trial because he never lost his faith. He did not succumb to unbelief.

      O you who claim to know the Bible, do you not realize there is a difference between crying out in pain and confusion and grumbling out of unbelief? Most of those abused in churches, by church people, in parishioner homes, have not lost their belief. Most only want justice and relief. Did not Israel cry out for justice while they were enslaved by Egypt? Did God count that as sin toward them? No. He sent a deliverer when the time was right. Besides, there are laws on the books of our land. These laws state that what happened to these victims is illegal, and must be punished. If everyone kept their mouths shut, how can the authorities gather the evidence they need to prosecute these abusers?

      And people generally don’t like to talk about their pain, their abuse, their private horror, because it is deeply personal. They feel that telling people will make them vulnerable, that it can be used against them by those who don’t like them or who want to hurt them. But some have courage and come forth, telling their story, knowing that people like you will judge them, and condemn their motives. They made their peace with it and expect it. That doesn’t make what you and others like you say to be justifiable, or that knowing it will happen to ease the hurt you inflict on them. But in coming forward, they encourage others. They embolden the cowering to stand for themselves and to face their abusers. They are banding together to form a community where they can get the emotional support and advice that they so desperately need because the church has failed them at every turn, and where pastors like you tell them shut up, forgive, and forget.

      God sees the heart. There will be far more of these abuse victims in heaven then there will be preachers of your belief structure, I am sure.

      Don’t you realize the extent to which the church has become corrupt, how that it is people like you who cause more harm to the cause of Christ than a person so wounded by people like you they don’t know who to trust anymore, including God?

      I have only one final word to say to you and your pastor friends and to the churches that you all pastor: Ichabod.

    • I think when they stand before God, they will hear “you have done well, good and faithful servant.”

      And when YOU do, I’m sure he’ll say “Get thee behind me, Satan!” Yeah. YOU. “Concerned Pastor” – you’re a scumbag.

    • Do you know ANYTHING about PTSD?! (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) We CAN’T Get over it! That is the problem! It HELPS to face it- to talk about it- to work thru it… I was talking to a friend about this very thing last night- PTSD is like a shadow that follows us wherever we go- And the more we try to run, or “Move Forward”, The more it keeps following, but if we can turn around and look that shadow square in the eye, and say, “I am NOT afraid of you anymore,” Then those negative things that happened to us start to lose their power over us- But you know what?! SOMETIMES we run- Sometimes we run for a LONG time! Because it is SCARY to turn around and face the terrible things we have experienced in our lives.. We think it is easier to just keep running. We are told by people like you to never look back… But that is the ONLY way to find healing and enough strength TO move forward… PLEASE stop with the whole “That happened a long time ago” Shpeal… It does NOTHING but hurt people who have finally found the courage to face the things they have experienced… It is cruel.

  11. “Concerned Pastor,” I dare you to state this before a judge of a domestic violence court, a domestic violence advocate, or to the governing board for the National Assoc. of Counselors or Social Workers. You are insane.

  12. Well Concerned Pastor…others have stated things so well before me. You are full of BS and full of yourself. You talk about the things in Cathy’s life happening a long time ago while in the next breath quote scripture that’s from ancient times. You may be concerned but you don’t seem to have any compassion at all! You have no clue what she went through and who are you to judge?? The IFB is full of judgmental people who only know how to blame others. How about you take a close look at yourself before posting again and hiding behind the Bible.

  13. Sounds to me like “Concerned Pastor” is a false teacher more concerned about concealing his own abusive behavior toward his own victims–even though it may be so “minor” as just spiritual abuse of using the Scriptures to control others to conform to his world view. Shame on you, “Pastor.” How many will YOU be accountable for sending to Hell through your own blasphemous false teaching of the Bible? I got saved by Christ not because of men like you, but IN SPITE of it.

  14. When people sustain physical wounds, we know that they heal in a linear fashion. And sometimes, our wounds don’t heal anyway. If we had a limb crushed in a natural disaster and needed a prosthesis to walk, we can continue to press on to those things ahead of us, forsaking the past, but we certainly don’t do it without some debility. We would suffer the pain on the friction of our skin against the prosthesis, just like blisters that form on a new pair of shoes, and how well we could walk would be limited by the quality of the prosthesis. Even as we pressed ahead, our very bodies would bear witness to the events that happened to us, even though we had healed. Would it be sinful for a concerned person to ask how we were injured, if a curious child asked about what a prosthesis was, if we told them, or if we attended to our ongoing physical needs that resulted from that injury long ago? We can talk about how God rescued and provided for us, but we would be foolish to pretend as though we didn’t have limitations, even just to be good stewards of our bodies.

    I suffer from a largely untreatable, progressive back injury which I sustained more than two decades ago. In my twenties, I just had muscle spasms. In my thirties, I needed to have the local area treated because pain and immobility greatly restricted my function. In the latter half of my forties, one of my feet is now flat, my musculature is different on the affected side, I have arthritis in several joints that help buffer the deformity in the affected joint, I have constant pain, and the affects of the original injury have created four other health problems for me.

    So even though I move forward and work diligently to preserve my function, to say that I should forget that injury and its implications would actually make me a poor steward of the body God has blessed me with. I rejoice and glorify God in my weakness, but I now have constant and continual reminders, every moment of every day, which speak of the original event. I must work to guard and preserve my body as I move forward, and it requires much work, self-care, and continual evaluation of what I can and can’t do that day because it is a daily battle.

    Cathy endured many horrors, many documented by healthcare workers as well as police, and others suffered as she did at the hands of the same perpetrators, from the time that she was quite young. She didn’t suffer a crushed limb in an accident. Several crimes were committed against her, and regardless of the specifics, she carries physical and emotional wounds and scars from her experience. Her many abusers never lived to stand accountable and were never specifically called to answer to what they did to her and for that of which they robbed her in so many ways.

    Having suffered different unresolved unpleasant injustices in my own life, in my recovery and the healing that is still ongoing for me, long into my adulthood, I also deal with the duty to those who have suffered as I have. Paul admonishes the Believer in 2 Corinthians 1 to comfort others with the comfort they have received. My emotional wounds were great at one point, and many things helped me heal — including seeing justice. God doesn’t extend unqualified forgiveness and reconciliation to us when we don’t repent, and the Word does not tell us to forgo justice. We must forgive, but we are never told to forget the harm done to us. Paul spoke of Alex the Coppersmith and named sinners who did violence to the Body by name, calling them to account. The Old Testament law demanded recompense in excess of original loss, provided that such restoration from offenders could be made. Often, the Old Testament, as part of the civil law, called for death in recompense, just as some civil governments still honor the death penalty. Justice is a part of healing,

    Though we are called to forgive and to release offenders from what they owe us, we are never told in the Word to throw away justice in the name of mercy. Before mercy can even be offered, justice must be established. Cathy has gone without justice on many levels, has sought it, and she’s even been persecuted for doing so — merely for letting her good be spoken evil of. And as part of the working of justice, as I did, she has a duty to those who have suffered as she has, admonished to offer others the comfort she received from God’s hands. She hasn’t left the wounded in like manner in the same kinds of prisons, literal and figurative, languish in their state. Unto the least of these, she has visited them with the comfort and the message of justice and hope that she received. She makes good use of her injuries as she copes with the after effects, just as I cope with the far reaching and long lived effects that resulted years after my back injury.

    To those who overcome, Jesus told John at Patamos that they would receive the Crown of Life. I see Cathy’s testimony as such a crown of glory of what God can do, shining through her wounds and scars like the beauty of the sun as it shines through stained glass in a church on a Sunday morning. God is glorified in her wounds, her sufferings, her weaknesses, and her strengths, and all the more in all she has overcome. Look what the Lord has done in her, and she freely shares that hope with others by saying, “Look how the Lord has ransomed me, found me in my own blood, bathed me, restored me, placed His signet ring of His Name on my finger by making me His honored daughter for whom He laid down His very life out of love. And there is great hope for all, for God’s love was deeper than any pit into which many have tried to cast me. What was meant for evil, God has used to work much good, that many might be saved on so many levels.”

    If you don’t see the Hand of God’s deliverance in her life and story, I shudder at what that means for you and the state of your own spirit. But the spirit of man and the traditions of man can be a powerful thing, the one thing that the Word tells us about that can render even its power ineffective. And despite your attitude, I pray that God shows you the same kindness and deliverance and restoration that He’s placed upon Cathy’s life like a crown of His own glorious presence as you face your own challenges and infirmities. Maybe then, you will learn what she has and will be able to offer compassion to the wounded, regardless of what they have done, so that you can live out the admonishment to comfort others with the comfort you received. You sure seem bereft of it as it stands today. May God apprehend your heart, sir, that you might know in fullness the hope of your own calling and be blessed.

    • To comfort others with the comfort you have been given- Is that, Mr. Concerned why you cannot comfort us? Could it be that YOU have been told these terrible things too? That maybe YOU have gone thru something hard in your life, and people you respected told YOU to just get over it and move on? And that is why now, you are an angry, cynical and bitter man who “gets his kicks” by trodding on the downtrodden… I try desperately to assume the best about people.. So maybe, you just don’t know better… But KNOW NOW- It isn’t helpful. Maybe if YOU were to Stop running, turn around and face your OWN demons, You might actually be able to open your eyes to the pain of others and learn compassion…

  15. To “Concered-Pastor”….I really don’t know what else to say that has not already been said. I would never want to go to you for any type of counseling, because you are not able to feel anothers pain. You are so full of yourself and protecting the “fundies” you do not know how to have compassion. You must have set under Jim Berg. How would you like to be a woman and be told these things are your fault and now you are used goods and no christian man would want you? I hope if you have daughters they never need your compassion if something were to happen to them. Almost all you “fundies” are alike….shove everything under the rug, pretend you don’t have molesters in your churches, and if you do, blame the woman. The “fundies” that do this are all a sad and sick piece of crap!!! Oh, I am a former BJU student!!!

  16. Pingback: Concerned for the Concerned … « chucklestravels

  17. Pingback: Cathy’s Story of Kidnapping, Rape, Abuse and Cover-up – Part 1 « Religion's Cell


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