19-year-old Alecia Faith Pennington has spent her life so sheltered by her Christian fundamentalist parents that now, as a young adult, she is finding it almost impossible to prove to the government that she actually exists.
In a video uploaded to YouTube and quickly going viral, Pennington documents the various ways her parents have managed to prevent leaving even a single speck of evidence to help her gain an official identity or to prove that she is a United States citizen. For starters, they gave birth to her at home, and declined to get a birth certificate or social security number. She was then homeschooled, and the family never took her to a hospital or doctor’s office.
As a result, this profound lack of documentation has meant that Pennington is a de facto non-entity. She is boxed out of nearly every aspect of social or professional life:
“I am unable to get a driver’s license, get a job, go to college, get on a plane, get a bank account, or vote.”
She is essentially stuck in a dizzying catch-22: You need documentation to get other documentation in order to get the first documentation.
Pennington’s troubles seem to lie squarely with her parents, whom are extremely religious and appear to reject engaging in many of the basics of society that many of us take for granted. Pennington says that she has since left home, unable to deal with her parents’ lifestyle any longer.
A blog maintained by a Lisa Pennington appears to be Alecia’s mother. Recent articles, penned by Lisa, lament the fact that her daughter had committed an act of “betrayal” and left home. Her account largely matches that of Alecia’s, although with almost no acknowledgment that she or her husband were irresponsible.
“On Wednesday, September 24th my life was changed forever. My 18 year old daughter left home. She gave us no warning, no signs that it was coming. She didn’t try to talk to us about it or work with us. She, with the help of my parents, just left. And with her she took pieces of my heart that had been torn to shreds.”
Later Lisa decries her parents as aiding Alecia’s escape.
“We got no real answers. Only more confusion as some of the circumstances unfolded. We discovered that my parents had been planning this with her without telling us (as you can imagine, an additional part of my grief is not only the loss of my daughter but the total end of the relationship with my parents). We also learned that she has been telling exaggerated stories about what is going on inside our home to a godless woman who has been giving her foolish counsel and encouraging her to deceive us and get out.”
In a bizarre twist, Alecia’s mother seems to be using the situation to alternatively throw a pity party for herself and opportunistically hock “essential oils” that she sells on the site and swears are helping her cope with the stress. In an article titled “How I Get Through The Hard Times,” Lisa briefly mentions her daughter leaving home and then helpfully links to her website’s essential oils store – which looks to be connected to a pyramid scheme.
For her part, Alecia seems focused on building a life for herself that has so far been blocked off. She has created a Twitter account and Facebook group called “Help Me Prove It” that is soliciting advice from people around the country who may know how to navigate the red tape and procedural mess that is preventing her from being documented.