This week, Stewart Rhodes, founder of the far-right militia known as the Oath Keepers, was convicted of sedition for his role in the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. No one knows better how dangerous Rhodes is than his eldest son, Dakota. This is the story of how Dakota, his mother, and younger siblings escaped Rhodes’s grasp:
Standing outside one of the family’s previous homes, a modest dun-coloured house opposite a row of trailers, it’s clear the place brought up uncomfortable memories for Dakota, who had spent his early teenage years there.
He recounted one incident in particular, sometime around 2012. A beloved pet dog named Yeti was in ill health and eventually died inside the house.
“Stewart was busy with [Oath Keepers] conference calls and emailing people and he put off taking my dog to be cremated,” he said.
It took three days for Rhodes to finally take the dog away. He joked about the smell of the carcass and teased his teenage son about his emotional attachment to the animal.
Dakota was furious.
“I was struggling with the impulse to jump out and circle around to the driver’s side door and yank my father out of the car to beat him in traffic,” he said.
Throughout hours of interviews, in tweets and in posts on their blogs, Dakota and Tasha recounted numerous similar incidents of verbal abuse and neglect. A few stood out – like the time Dakota described Stewart choking one of his sisters on the family’s front porch.
“Until I was an adult man,” he said, “I lived absolutely under the thumb of an emotional terrorist.”