Thursday, June 20, 2013

Debby Berry and Eric Berry

This isn't the norm for my blog and it is the last I'd like to talk about it, but I need somewhere to say what I have to say and I think this is the place to do it so that whoever needs or wants to find this will.

My mother is a secretive person.  I don't have a whole lot of information about the early years because I was too young to form my own memories and she has always held pretty much everything she didn't want to share close to the vest.  Information is metered out very carefully by Debby.  I do know that she was married twice before I was in elementary school.  She wasn't close to her family and once my father's family had several run ins with her that showed her character, there was animosity between them.

I was raised by a series of nannies.  I can't say that my mother made my elementary or toddler years horrible because I have almost no memories of her during this time.  There are some moments that stick out to me- like the fact that she had a habit of saying "I love you" in response to me saying it first, and whenever she left off the 'too' it was because she said that she didn't think I really loved her when I said it, so saying 'too' would be disingenuous.  All of the memories aren't bad.  My mother traveled a lot and one of my fondest memories is that she always left me a series of greeting cards for the nanny to give me.  That's probably my best memory of my mother.  It was really special and I'm glad I have it.

It is the later years that I really began to see my mother for who she was.  You can hide from the world for a while, but you can't hide from God or the people you live with.  It started when she was fired from her job with Larry Flynt for "misappropriation of funds".  She told me that she quit because she had gotten saved.  But six months after getting saved, she was quoted in People magazine in defense of Larry Flynt.  Immediately, she began talking about making it big in the Christian world.  She knew there was a lot of money and notoriety to be had.  She looked for book deals and talked about hosting a talk show some day on one of the Christian television networks.  Meanwhile not a lot changed at home or in her professional life.

I was still being raised by nannies, and her newest venture was to help out a friend of hers with his hair product business.  We had so much of this man's product that my mother was still using it last I saw her.  Hearing his story recently, she not only took all this product with her but she also emptied his bank accounts.  That ended her work there abruptly and we moved in with my grandparents in Northern California, and my mother went to work for my grandfather at his church.

Not long after, my mother decided that money was to be made in the church finance business, and that Texas was the place to do it. A few months later, my mother packed me up in the middle of the night and took me to a hotel.  There was a warrant out for her arrest.  She told me it was a misunderstanding and that the arresting officer told her to flee so she wouldn't be arrested even though she's innocent.  That made sense to an eleven year old.  Now I realize how implausible that is.  We drove to Oklahoma and stayed with a relative.  I didn't return to school or get to say goodbye to my friends.  I went to three different schools in three different states for sixth grade.  My mother started a travel agency in Kansas shortly after.

When I was thirteen and about to start high school, my mother announced that we were moving to Louisiana.  I'd never heard of it or been there.  I was supposed to go live with my father that summer but she told me that there were laws in Louisiana that would keep me with her, and that I should tell him I would take him to court if he tried to take me.  She told me that my salvation was at stake because he did not ascribe to the same faith as she or I did.  This scared me.  To my regret, I never went to live with my Dad and I said and did some hurtful things during this time, out of fear.

My mother began acting very distant around this time and I didn't see much of her.  I found out that she was dating a man (Eric Berry) over the phone.  He was overseas and was on the lam from the law.  He couldn't answer questions about where he was because he was afraid that our phones were tapped.  He said it was all a big misunderstanding.  Within three months, they were engaged.  We met him the month of the wedding.  He didn't have a job and has not in the sixteen years since due to what he owes in taxes and also what my mother owes.  She does not have a typical job either.  She consults and is 'self employed'.  I later found out that he barely escaped prison time in a financial scheme and that's why things were so weird over the phone. Once he moved in, I was not allowed to answer the phone or answer the door.  We screened all calls through the answering machine.  He was also running from his ex wife (number one of four) to whom he owed money according to the courts.


Debby and Eric decided to get into the sports medicine business.  Debby claimed that God had given her a miracle formula.  It was made of tea tree oil and emu oil.  We all went on the road to sell it to sports teams and massage therapists.  It was majorly expensive.  I was not in school after the age of fifteen, so I went with them.  I was often their test subject and was subject to embarrassing and invasive public displays.  I had major health concerns that were treated at home painfully and with this miracle formula.  This enterprise didn't make much money though and within two years was defunct.

Debby was still invested in becoming rich and famous.  For a while, she thought I was the key.  She bought me a .com and encouraged me to spend my time writing and getting my name out there.  I actually appreciate it now because I love to write and blog.  But I had and have no interest in fame.  She told me that my brand would be known all over the world.  I remember one day, she asked me to gather my favorite things.  She shipped them off to a factory in Mexico to be replicated for 'my brand'.  (I never got them back).  She told me to start dreaming and planning for my US Tour.  I was a kid.  I had no idea then how unreal all of this was.

If Debby and Eric weren't traveling, they were out to lunch or dinner or shopping, and I was left at the 'travel agency' to answer phones.  I traveled with them often, but just as often, I was left at home alone- a lot from the ages of 14-17.  When they were home, they were in their bedroom and office watching television.  It was very hard to get their attention to talk to them about anything.

I remember the night I tried to tell them about my sexual assault.  They were watching TV and I had tried to get their attention.  I was so nervous.  I remember that I was eating a hamburger and I was so afraid and shattered, and nobody was listening- and I was shaking so badly that I dropped the burger and from then on there was a big mustard stain on the carpet.

I was reeling from the assault and aftermath and was diagnosed with PTSD at the age of fourteen.  My mother was determined that this also would make us famous.  She talked about the books we would write and the speeches we would give.  I was barely able to cope with my daily life, I couldn't begin to fathom trying to get famous off of my pain.  She pushed me to talk about it openly and often and to be a pillar of strength about it.  I wasn't ready but I tried.

When I was fifteen, I met John.  He saw what my home life was like and he saw how much I was struggling with what had happened to me.  I was severely depressed and suicidal.  After some time, he approached my mother and tried to talk to her about getting me some help.  She was furious with him and told him he was not welcome in my life.  That she was a great mother and she knew what I needed more than he did.

I left home at seventeen.  I thought I was free.

The interesting thing about me leaving home was that I'd been collecting boxes and packing my things for a few months by the time I actually left.  We had a very small house, and neither Debby or Eric noticed my behavior.  I was ready to go at a moment's notice and was able to pack all of my things into John's truck and leave undetected.

I got married and started a family and went off to college.  My husband and I distanced ourselves from Debby and Eric to try and get our own footing and to try and escape the crazy.  I felt a lot of pressure, especially from family, to try and mend things.  I thought that things would be different now that I was an adult with my own family and that I owed it to my children to try and have a relationship with their grandparents.

This was a huge mistake.

During our estrangement, Debby had started blogging online about her hurting heart and when that gained her a lot of followers and sympathy.  She saw a market out there and began to talk to me about organizing a book and a tour about difficult mother daughter relationships.

Within months of reuniting. I found out that Debby and Eric had only gotten themselves deeper into financial schemes.  They were featured on 60 Minutes for defrauding churches.  But they never stopped trying to work 'deals' and scams.  Debby got involved in the Hurricane Katrina response and I remember that she had so much stuff hoarded that she had an empty office full of toys and clothing that never managed to get to the intended recipients.  Some of it did.  Due to the aftermath of the 60 Minutes show, Debby began consulting more to build up some credibility.  The 'deals' on the back side never ended though.  I stopped telling her when we had stored up any amount of money for any reason, because she always 'needed' it.  She took money from me and hundreds of thousands from friends and strangers and got mixed up with fraudulent Forex trading.  She lost everything again.  This is a recurring theme.  She and Eric never hold anything in their names so that it cannot be seized.


This is all mostly business that I am sharing.  It's the part that I think will help people the most to know when deciding whether or not to do business with Debby and Eric Berry.  There is so much more that could be said.  Life was a misery.  Our family lived in constant fear and chaos.  Manipulation ran rampant.  A family member joined my husband and I in trying to reach out to them many times, according to the Biblical ways to confront a brother or sister in Christ.  We wanted to go to leaders at the churches Debby and Eric attended, but Debby did not believe in counseling and she did not want to be embarrassed.  I'm sad to say that even as an adult, I was afraid of her backlash.  Reaching out to her privately did nothing.  One time, after a particularly brutal attempted family intervention, my mother warned me that I better 'cover' her.  She said "Love COVERS a multitude of sins and when Noah's children didn't hide his sin, they were struck dead."  (That's not exactly how it goes but it's what she said and her message was received loud and clear.)  She began to say that I was the Absalom to her King David.  That I was trying to steal her power.  I don't want power.  She turned me off forever from wanting power or prestige.

Now my mother has a website.  It says a lot of things I believe to be true about God.  She has always been able to say a lot of good things to a enough people to gain a good reputation.  Unfortunately for those who know her well, we see beyond the shine and shimmer of the outward appearance.  We have years of painful and abusive experiences.  Like so many others in the spotlight, good can be done for the public while heinous things go on behind the scenes.  But they are still in the business of trying to do business- especially with churches.  And I can't stand by quietly while families and businesses are at her mercy.  I'm not going to publicize this post and I will hide it in some old posts on the blog, but I want it here for anyone who searches for information so that they can have all the info.

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