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Tasha Adams’ life always seemed to be under someone else’s control. Whether it was her parents, her four older siblings or the religious community she’d grown up in, it felt like she never had the final say in how things were supposed to go. She thrived as a ballroom dancer, where the female partner’s job is to follow the lead. Only 18 years old and desperate to get away from the boring life she’d known, Tasha hoped that dynamic would replicate itself in her dating life. As she put it, “I was just so shy and so nonconfrontational, and I really wanted someone to do the talking in life for me.”
Eventually, someone did come along who would sweep Tasha off her feet. Stewart was a student at the dance studio where Tasha was an instructor. He was confident, passionate and, most importantly, exciting. Almost immediately, Tasha felt immersed in the rush of being around him. All the ingredients of budding love seemed to be there. But when she looks back now, what Tasha sees is “all the ingredients for romance and complete disaster.”
Over the next two decades, Stewart took full control of Tasha’s life and finances, pressuring her into an existence she never could have expected or wished for. She and their six children lived in poverty and fear, subject to Stewart’s tyranny and paranoia. And the effects of what Tasha’s family would go through would reverberate around the country. Because that charming, confident student who walked into the dance studio those many years ago? That’s the same Stewart Rhodes who would found the Oath Keepers, the violent right-wing militia group that was key to organizing the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
In Part 1 of this two-part story, Tasha opens up about the destructive reality of following Stewart Rhodes’ lead.
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