Tag Archives: Spiritual Abuse

Lani Harper’s Story – Part 3

MY ISOLATION, MY PROTECTION: living isolated, in fear of the world; Shunning

shunningMy parents taught us assiduously to be skeptical of anyone outside of our family. People in the church were okay, but still not to be trusted or relied upon; we could only rely upon each other. The IFB church helped in this regard, believing anyone in any religion, even a different form of Baptist, were wrong, misguided, in error, going to hell. The Southern Baptists were liberal, loose and soft on sin. This because they danced, allowed their girls to wear pants and just by the very nature of the South, were more relaxed in manner.

By teaching us that they, and we by extension as long as we remained “in the fold” created by them, had the One True Path and that we would get contaminated by others’ sins to be led astray, we learned to turn inward. We learned to mistrust everyone and everything, buying into their persecution complex, their belief that “everyone is out to get me”; failing that, at least to taint us by association or participation in their sinful ways. Thus, we needed to concentrate on building stronger and stronger ties within the family and the church, so that we had a rock-solid foundation and would not waver when faced with someone in the World who would inevitably tempt us. We would be able to stand strong.

They created such a picture, instilled such a fear, a wariness, a suspicion and guardedness of anyone outside our home, outside our family, that the only logical response was to turn inward. To return to our home and family. No one outside our Inner Sanctum could be trusted. We knew we could not trust our parents or siblings – they proved that by repeatedly betraying us. Yet without a viable safe place to turn, because the World and all its offerings could not be trusted, our only option besides sleeping under a bridge alone, was to stay. The evil we knew remained better than the evils we did not know. They made us understand that if we left, we would be utterly and completely desolate, alone, lost and vulnerable. We could return home; they would take us, but we knew our transgression of leaving would mean a lower rung on the familial ladder.

With the exception of Bonnie and Pat, a female/female couple who lived next-door to us in the Blue House in Waukegan (1982-3) long before we knew anything about gays or the Fundie stance against homosexuals, we were never friends with our next-door neighbors. Constantly and tirelessly instructed to not talk to them. Now, I look at that as another indicator that we were abused: they did not want the people who lived closest us too close. They might have seen something, heard something.

I would never have termed it isolation before writing this, but in re-examining my childhood, the proverbial Red Flags pop up where I least expect them, often in and among things I thought innocuous up till now. This is another one.

At that time, especially in the small rural town in the mid-west where we lived, very few people went to church. Not enough that we were odd because of the size of our Quiverfull family (though relatively small by Quiverfull standards, still much larger than anyone around us), and how our family operated – which was very different than others around us, much more stringent – we were now also strange because we went to church. Were professing born-again Christians, which no one around us was at the time. Now most people consider themselves Christians, and nearly everyone attends a church of some sort. But in that time, and in that area of the country, going to church was rare and made us an oddity. On every front we stood out, could not escape or avoid standing out.

I hated standing out. Hated being different. Desperately wanted to blend in, disappear into the background with the blessing of anonymity by being normal. We were not normal.

The first level of people we were not to associate with was the general public. They fell into the category of “unsaved” or “heathens”, and were Verboten. The barest of pleasantries in order to not be rude or disrespectful was sufficient; anything beyond that simply could not be. We were to prevent friendship or on-going relationship of any kind.

Further, we were taught that friendship with one of these Unsaved, one of these Heathen, simply was impossible. Because we did not share the most important and foundational component, belief in Jesus and salvation, the only way to have a friendship with someone like this would be to elementally reject and set aside our faith. Because it could not happen, I didn’t try, and thus missed out on countless friendships after entering the public school system. They couldn’t be my friends: they couldn’t relate to me or I to them. Their values would contradict and conflict with mine, and I didn’t want to be contaminated by associating with them. We were pure water, they polluting oil, and could not mix ever, no matter what, unless they accepted Jesus. Only then could we let them into the most personal and private areas of our life.

The second layer of isolation involved our extended family. My mother’s family were Catholic, and we in the IFB world knew they were going to hell for venerating Mary over Jesus, the doctrine of trans-substantiation (and yes, at 8 I knew the title and the definition of this and how it conflicted with our doctrine, as well as Bible verses I was to use to show Catholics how wrong they were), and other things that they took every opportunity to tell us. My father’s family were Protestant of some sort, but I never knew what type of church they attended, if at all. Because the type of church mattered.

Extended family occupied a circle inside the general category of Unsaved, but only just. They were not in the inner circle; that place belonged only to our family, my parents, sisters and brother. I could probably count on one hand the number of times in my first two and a half decades that I saw any given aunt or uncle, grandparents, cousins. My parents strictly controlled the amount of time we were permitted to be around them. Held their own families at arm’s length.

I knew my mother’s father had been abusive. She has told two or three stories about him, one involved him chasing her mother with a cast-iron skillet to hit her. I knew of his physical abuse, and I suspect sexual abuse, though she remains coldly silent about him. Any words she says about him are thick with anger, hatred, bitterness.

The first time I talked to him I was seventeen. He called our house, and I answered the phone. He introduced himself as Mike, asked to speak to Mag. That was the only time I’d had any contact at all with him, this man vilified by my mother’s few words.

When her mother died, she and I travelled to stay with one of her brothers and his family. At one point, they received a phone call. She then came to the room we were sharing, agitated and flustered, hands flapping as she paced back and forth. He was coming, she told me. On his way, imminent arrival. When he arrived, she refused to come out, refused to see him.

At the funeral, no one approached him, no one spoke to him. At one point, I walked over to him and introduced myself, Hi, I’m Lani, Mag’s daughter. And then she shunned me for the rest of the service. I knew she was angry at me for speaking to him, and later when we spoke of it, she could hardly spit the words out of her angry mouth. You don’t understand! You don’t know what he did to us.

I responded by telling her I didn’t care; I would not carry on generational bitterness. She exploded at me, I’M NOT BITTER! With some more you don’t understand statements. No, I don’t understand. She never told us, never told us about him or her childhood beyond a few short, tersely-brief stories meant to give evidence and validity to her not wanting us to see him, intended to make me thankful for her protecting and shielding us from his evils.

As a direct result of this isolation from extended family, my siblings and I still do not have relationship with any aunts, uncles, cousins or our sole remaining grandparent, JD’s mother. Any interactions are liberally sprinkled with awkwardness at not knowing them, not having history or memories with them. No holidays spent around Grandma’s table; all our holidays belonged strictly to our family, in our home, but always with people in the church, orphan-families who had no family with whom to celebrate. These were families my parents took under their wing, to instruct them in how to build a solid marriage and raise obedient children.

These occupied the next-smaller circle, inside Extended Family but outside Immediate Family, and this circle also belonged to our friends. That is, our friends inside the IFB church. And there were precious few of those.

The most inward circle was reserved for only our family. No others could enter, until we married. Then our spouses would be permitted entrance into the inner sanctum.

However, in this innermost of circles, the smallest and most restrictive, the isolation bended and twisted and curled around us, like a snake slithering through our midst. We never knew where we’d see it next or how it would encircle us. It was not a biting snake; its wounds were inflicted as it separated one or more of us, using its slimy, scaly serpentine movements to slowly strangle us apart from the rest.

The damage then, was two-part: physical separation in that we would be set aside, apart from the rest of the family, for a time; and emotional separation, where especially Mag would harbor anger against us and not speak to us for the duration of the separation.

Only during the writing of this book did I term the separations for what they really are. I’d labeled my childhood as abusive. I knew that with most religious or spiritual abuse situations members can be shunned as punishment, to coerce them back into the fold, to return from their wayward ways as the scriptural Prodigal Son. I mentally checked off the important aspects: parents beat us, check. Churches abused us spiritually, check. Verbal abuse, check. But we hadn’t been shunned, so I thought whew, we at least escaped that.

In the middle of one night, my thoughts roiled around in the guise of dreams, words tumbled over and over such that one sentence couldn’t end before the next had overlapped. Slowly, they honed in, tightening in my mind, focusing inward to the underlying point: oh my god, she shunned us, I thought, and woke at the same time the thought solidified into words. She shuns us.

The abusive story was complete.

Mag’s version of shunning is a bit different. It is not an all-or-nothing denial of our existence forevermore. She does not physically act or speak as if we are dead or that we never existed. Her method of shunning, or isolating us within the family, is much more capricious, much more fluid. She shuns when and if she feels it necessary to make a point, to teach us a lesson.

In Mag’s world of shunning, she holds the cards, controls the world. She uses it to what she deems her advantage, to keep us off-kilter, always guessing, never knowing where we stand with her. It is emotional manipulation at its very finest, and Mag has honed it to a well-defined art form. It can be so fast as to appear a transitory tantrum, with a large explosion (or a series of small explosions) then, if she doesn’t get her way, she’ll storm off in a huff. When this happens, I’m never sure when she’ll deign to speak to me again. Sometimes it’s hours; sometimes months. Regardless, when she does decide to acknowledge my presence again, there is usually a large dose of residual manipulation in the form of what I term the “wounded bear” complex. She ensures the other person knows she was offended and hasn’t let the offender off the hook yet, all without breathing a word about the event that set her off.

While we were growing up, we had a particularly unique form of shunning exhibited in our family relating to mealtimes. They used food as a leveraging tool, based on our attitude and work that we had completed during the day.

There were times we were not allowed to eat. I recall being made to stand in my place, in front of my chair, during dinner while everyone else ate. This was the picture that accompanied the words in the dream-state that informed me we had been shunned. Standing at the table as everyone held hands around us for the song and prayer required prior to eating, and did not touch us or speak to us during the entirety of the meal.

These meals would drag on seemingly for an eternity, with JD offering extra helpings to everyone multiple times, eating dessert, lecturing on the topic-of-the-day, discussing the day’s happenings. My legs burned, muscles threatened to rebel against being still for so long, and my stomach refused to remain silent. We had to stand with hands down by our sides, eyes straight ahead.

I tried, as always, to control my tears – received not a few You want something to cry about? I’ll give you something to cry about! statements – but inevitably a few would stubbornly refuse to obey and trickle down my cheek. I could not use my hands to wipe them away but made and unmade fists by my side, keeping the fist on the side away from my parents’ eyesight. And I had to work to hide my anger at being treated such, not let it show on my face: that was a surefire ticket to an attitude adjustment with the belt. I, more than my siblings, could not avoid the evidence of my emotions on my face, a fact that resulted in more than a few attitude adjustments.

The punishment continued after the meal with being made to clean up. At that age, I always had one of my older sisters “helping” me. Really, they were present to educate me, to instruct me in the proper way to clean up. Sometimes these were fun times, teasing and happily chatting. But after a meal that included shunning, the silence lay heavy in the air. I was still forbidden from talking to anyone, and to avoid having my mouth taped, I endeavored to show them by my voluntary silence that I understood what I was to do.

The sister, either Libbie or Andie, also had the duty of ensuring I did not sneak scraps off the plates, to appease my hunger. I was also forbidden from eating until the next meal which meant an interminable night of a rumbling stomach that would not let me sleep peacefully. Times like these we became adept at sneaking food from the pantry. Spaghetti noodles were my favorite, as they were small, could be eaten quickly, and couldn’t be counted. Marshmallows too, if I were brave to sneak something sweet. I loved sweets.

Andie was more compassionate; Libbie was, still is, very hard-hearted and tendered zero sympathy. She more than the rest of us completely swallowed the rhetoric shoved down our throats. She believed we deserved our punishment. And she could not be trusted to keep confidences but would betray us to Mag, silently and without our knowledge. We never guessed she was their mole; we simply thought Mag and JD really did have eyes everywhere. Libbie was their eyes.

This type of shunning continued for several years. In high school, they simply refused to let us sit at the table, remanded us to our room for the duration of everyone else’s joyful consuming of aromatic foods whose scents wafted up the stairs and under the door to taunt me. Always after a meal like this I had to clean up after everyone else, but by this time they expected I knew my duty to not eat. But I was very adept at sneaking small portions that would not be missed; because they checked the leftover containers to ensure the amounts matched what was left at the end of the meal.

Mag’s manipulation of us through battering us with emotional neglect continues to the present. It is so ingrained, so instinctual, so capricious I believe it is completely unconscious. Though I also believe she has no idea of the ramifications or tangent consequences to us or our psyches, I also do not excuse her any longer. In essence, she acts with social skills comparable to a spoiled three year old.

Not only does she herself shun, but she pulls everyone in the family into her shunning game. She uses her diabolical skills as emotional manipulator to convert my father and siblings into turning against me as well. Now, with this new definition of shunning on her actions, I look back at instances of her not-talking to me and see them for what they truly were. Not talking to me after disagreeing about baby-proofing (as in, I wanted to; she thought me to be spoiling my child) – shunning. Not talking to me after I joined a charismatic church – shunning. Her ire at me during her mother’s funeral – shunning. Not talking to me after Libbie’s wedding, as well as turning the entire family against me – shunning.

Libbie’s wedding exemplifies her tactics of persuading others to believe her and join with her in battle beautifully.

When my oldest sister got married, I like a dutiful sister traveled with my husband and babies to participate in supporting her. By this time my brother had also gotten engaged, and so I think I met his fiancé for the first time at Libbie’s wedding. By this point I had put myself on this path of questioning the way we were raised, questioning Mag and JD’s methods, questioning if they really did “the best they could have” under the circumstances. As a result, I’d experienced not a little bit of tension and animosity towards me and had begun distancing myself from my parents specifically, and also my siblings who Mag roped into agreeing with her.

My children were 22 months and 7 months, and I had persistently worked with Libbie for her to find me a babysitter so that I could enjoy the rehearsal and wedding without chasing after babies or worrying about their inevitable disruptions, and without needing to apologize for their babyness.

On Sunday the day after the wedding, they wanted to have a family breakfast at the hotel with everyone. I was exhausted from wedding activities and little sleep – my younger child was still waking up several times a night. Plus I knew the drive back to Raleigh from Virginia Beach would be taxing – my children hated being strapped in, unable to move for prolonged periods of time, so whoever was not driving was entertaining them so as to keep them content and quiet(er) than they would be. They had no coping skills for driving like this and were too young to understand. I’m sure they felt we were punishing them unnecessarily. Road trips were not fun, and so we avoided them as much as we could at that point in their lives.

I explained to everyone our need to leave first thing Sunday morning, that we would miss the family breakfast. At this point I still needed to be heard, to be understood, thought that if I just explained things correctly, used the right words, that my message would be heard and they would cease to antagonize and criminalize me for not complying with their wishes. Mostly “their wishes” applies to Mag, and JD by extension because he doesn’t disagree with her much, but Mag pushed her wishes on everyone else with her coercion and emotional manipulation.

Unable to get them to stop nit-picking at me, finding fault with my plans as my choices did not accede to what they wanted of me, I threw my hands in the air and went about our business preparing to leave, ensuring we did not leave anything behind, had fresh diapers on the kids, gas in the tank, and so forth.

Not sufficient to lambast me in person, Mag and my sisters continued to harass me via email for the next few weeks. At that point, Andie and I were still adversaries, clashing and believing what Mag said about the other person, and she took part in the email bashing. Her husband even took part, and between the two of them, they told me that I was hurting everyone on purpose, that I was self-centered, and tearing the family apart. Among other things, which she has since profusely apologized for. I do not fault her any longer for saying and doing these things then; I merely use it to exemplify what the family was like then and the hold Mag retains over anyone who lets her. Andie, Evie and I do not any longer let her control how we perceive each other, and we decline to take part in her schemes against anyone else.

At this point though, she turned everyone against me. I’m sure she griped about me at the family breakfast – it is her manner. Sadly, she has done it enough that I know her tendencies.

I responded authoritatively to each and every email, discarding my pleas for empathy and understanding, as my explanations only served to continue the harassment. The more I responded to their allegations and accusations, the more they accused me. The more I attempted to explain my point of view, my situation, the more I was labeled self-absorbed and egocentric. The more I asked for consideration of my circumstances, the more they said I was manipulative and trying to force everyone to bend around me as the center of the world. I should add that at this point, I was the only one who had children so no one understood the demands of having two babies; after many years, after everyone else had children, they would use that to appeal to my compassion: please, Lani, you should understand.

And so after a few bouts with several family members, including my brother-in-law, and conferencing with my husband as to the best way to handle the situation, I took a different tack: I responded with confidence, authority and a strength I did not yet own. And I cried after each email was sent. They had no business informing me that I was “tearing the family apart”, especially my brother-in-law, who had never met my daughter or come to my home or made any attempt to get to know me. That accusing me of “hurting everyone on purpose” was untrue and they did not have permission to say that, or anything like it, to me again. And many other things that I do not recall, as it has been nearly a decade since this all took place.

As a result of standing up for myself to my family, no one talked to me for months. No phone calls, no emails, no visits or invitations to visit.

Now, though, Evie, Andie and I see this sort of situation – which was and is far from exceptional in our family – as exemplifying how our parents turned us against each other. Used anyone who dared step out to stand on her own feet, in opposition – however courteous and respectfully – of their will and their way as an opportunity to influence the others, indoctrinate the siblings to their way of thinking and doing things. This created strife and massive rifts in relationship that the three of us are endeavoring to now mend, but these rifts and strife instilled between and among us run deep and are exceedingly difficult to change. We are trying.

But how stressful never knowing if your mother is angry at you! And wracking your brain, trying to determine which incident set her off this time. Examining over and over your actions, your words, wondering how she could have misinterpreted meaning or intent. Always viewing her and her words with skepticism, trying to figure out her underlying meaning, what the double-speak might reference. But never being able to define it or her actions for what they are, else ensure a barrage of venomous anger. As always, standing up to her means inciting her to wrath and guaranteeing that if she hadn’t been angry and shunning before, she surely would after.

Still, to this day, though I have left this life far behind, I struggle with letting people in. With the instinctive labeling of people relative to the circle in which I should place them. It is a constant and conscious and deliberate pursuit, to reject the isolation that I internalized due to the doctrines of the IFB and the practices of my family. To pause when I hear the words in my head, to form the thoughts into words and then reject those thoughts that tell me I should keep myself apart, separate.

It takes work to emerge from this sort of isolationist mentality, but it can be done. It takes effort, but it also takes desire. Without wanting to change, I would not seek change. Without defining from where I have come, I cannot define where to go. I still have a practiced mentality that completely dismisses next door neighbors. Living in the South has helped, though it has taken nearly two decades of deprogramming in this setting. Of not being irritated at what I defined as intrusiveness, of not reacting viscerally at what felt inappropriately intimate. Of not labeling people as dangerous, out to unravel my carefully-constructed life.

Now, though, I am much more gentle on myself, realizing my instincts of self-preservation, of preventing people close to me from damaging the most inward and delicate parts of my heart, reflect the severity of my upbringing. When I can put words to it, when I can make connections between why I do or feel something and what my parents did or taught me, I build a new step. A step that takes me further from them.

It is a long road, and a slowly-built one. And a never-ending road. But worth the effort.

The Casting – By Nancy Bicknell

the CastingIt is fall on the small religious campus in Wisconsin. The leaves have turned and the frost is steaming up from the ground changing the season to winter. The auditorium is filled with people who do not know why they are assembled since it is not Sunday services or Wednesday prayer meeting but, there they are, waiting.

Like feathers floating from the skies little pieces of paper fall from the sky through the ceilings. Each person picks up the note paper closest to them that has a caption entitled “The Casting.” There is a word written on the parers. Some were cast as Orchestra, Church Leaders, Preacher Boys, Inner Circle, Bystanders, Victim or Abuser. It seems that a play is going to be produced this very day and everyone has a role.

One bewildered young Preacher Boy steps forward after he realizes his paper says ‘Director.’ Taking his role, he starts to divide the people into their parts. “Bystanders are to all take a seat in the audience,” he announces. To his surprise, all but a handful of people took seats in the audience. He directed the others to go onto the stage. He sent the Orchestra to the Pit. Once the cast was before him he asked each one to read their role out loud.

The Church Leaders proudly stepped forward followed by the Inner Circle. Looking at the cast of players, the Director notices two players still in the back of the stage. He asks them to step forward. ” Who are you he asks?” The man opened his paper and looking surprised, as though he had not seen his role before, stated, “Well, I guess I am the Abuser.” He fades back into the darkness of the stage hiding behind the Inner Circle. The director then calls on the young teen girl. “Who are you?” he asks. She announces that she must have picked up the wrong piece of paper because she was the Victim and did not want that part. She did nothing wrong and was sure the part was a mistake. The Director said he was not in charge of the casting; and, that it appeared that every role was connected to each other and the play was happening as a spontaneous event based on the reactions and free will of all the players.

The director asked some Bystanders to run the lights and control the curtains. Suddenly, there was a scream.

The Victim ran out on stage having blood on her heart saying, “See, I am not supposed to have this role. I am innocent.”

“Who did this to you?” the Director asked, followed by the church leaders questions.

She said, “It was the Abuser. He hurt me in the dark when the curtain was closed.”

The director asked the Abuser to step forward. He did not. Noticing a stir in the audience, the director sees the Abuser.

“Sir,” he says, “Did you hurt this girl?”

The Abuser says, “No, I was was here in the audience all the time.”

The young girl cries, standing on center stage.

The director again asks her saying, ” He says he did not hurt you.”

The Abuser yells out from behind the church leaders now. “She walked into my sword and then she fell in front of me.”

The girl continues to cry.

The director wanting to get on with the play, sends everyone to the costume room to be fitted with their robes. The make-up is completed and the hair is groomed. The curtain opens and all begin to play their roles.

A Bystanders calls out from the audience, “The Victim is still crying and I can not hear the Church Leaders! Can you ask her to stop?”

She tries to stop as she hears the complaints. The music begins from the orchestra pit but, the sobs of the girl interrupt the symphony.

The victim calls out, ” I need help here, I am hurt.”

The Church Leader says, “I don’t see blood anymore. So you are fine. You just need to trust Jesus, go to church and leave the stage. You are interrupting the work of God here.”

The audience responds with praises and an Amen.

The girl attempts to leave the stage but is too weak to walk now. The Inner Circle tells the Church Leaders to call upon the Director to remove her from the stage. The director says, “I am not writing the script here. So you do as you will.”

The Church Leaders walk up to the Victim and tell her that Jesus has dried her tears. She moans in pain. The Church Leaders tell her to “Let it Go” since the Abuser is innocent and she must forgive him. She faints before them. The Church leaders are fearful she will not get well and ask the Director to let them off the stage.

The Director says, “This is your play.”

The Abuser encourages the Church Leaders from stage right saying,”She obviously has sinned and you must hold her accountable for ruining the play.” The Church Leaders decide to leave the stage followed by the Inner Circle.

Standing on stage left in sheep’s clothing is the Abuser who slips off the stage into the night following the Church Leaders and the Inner Circle. The lights are lowered to center stage and the girl is too weak to stand. The Bystanders tell her to get off the stage, but she cannot.

The Bystanders notice the Director has also left. No one is left but the Bystanders and the victim. Some yell out, “Forgive and get over it and you will be well.” Others cry out to her, “Stop telling us your sob story,” and still others, say nothing at all.

It seems the girl is bleeding now onto the stage’s wood floor, but no one moves from the audience. Only the Bystanders are left. The majority of the cast are Bystanders and they do not seem to know what to do. Silence.

A bright spot light from above shines down and, there before the Bystanders, is a new actor on stage. It is Jesus. He looks at the girl and swoops her up in His arms. He turns to carry her away but stands still for a moment to turn and look at the Bystanders. His eyes are glaring in anger.  They all hang their heads in shame, realizing they could have picked up the child themselves.

Jesus’ eyes pierce their hearts and He turns with the child in His arms and disappears. The Bystanders sit alone as the lights go off and the curtain closes.

New Tribes Mission (NTM) Abuse and Fanda

While most of us at Fanda were abused in some form, what we find especially damaging is the abuse of leadership who chose not to protect us at the time in spite of documented evidence and, who have still not reported the crimes to authorities nor sought justice for us today, 20 years later. – Victim of Abuse

This statement by a victim of abuse at a religious boarding school, reveals a glaring reality about victims of childhood sexual assault. Some victims of abuse are still no closer to finding vindication and restitution for the crimes perpetrated against them, even after years of effort to do so. As a result, healing from the psychosexual abuse is not taking place and victims are struggling under the emotional load.

This statement is a typical one heard by sexual assault victims everywhere that have been fighting to get their respective religious institutions to prosecute their abusers; many of which they KNEW about. The glaring reality, once again, is that because of the stall tactics and/or inaction on the part of the religious institutions in turning in abusers to authorities, many victims may consider giving up the fight. That’s right. They might consider giving up!  But why would they do this?  Many of them may be tired of the battle of trying to be heard and, the fight to get their abusers prosecuted.  While religious institutions may opt to offer therapy and some compensation to victims of abuse that make it into the public eye through media news, many other victims of abuse within the same organization will be ignored and receive no aid or help; nor will they see their abusers turned in to authorities for prosecution.  Monetary compensation and aid is just one aspect of the kind of help victims of Religious Abuse and sexual exploitation and assault need in order to recover and heal; and, many religious institutions are ignoring this fact.  Many boarding schools are guilty of crimes against women and children. Many churches are guilty of crimes against women and children. Many religiously run camps and behavior modification facilities are guilty of crimes against women and children.  While some religious organizations have paid for therapy and settled with some of the victims of abuse, this “compensation and help” is small in comparison to the number of victims affected.  Paying for therapy for awhile does not help the victims long term. It does not cover long term medical treatment and medications needed by victims to control mental illnesses and physical problems that many of these victims may suffer from as a result of the abuse and trauma they suffered. When I talk about restitution and vindication for victims of abuse, here is what I mean:

  • The rapists and pedophiles MUST be turned in to authorities for prosecution by the religious organization that allowed the crimes to occur and/or hid them. THIS IS MANDATORY.
  • Those that were complicit in the crimes through knowledge of them and did nothing to stop them, nor turned in the abusers, need turned in to the authorities for prosecution.
  • Monetary compensation should be for as long as the victim needs medical assistance and medications of any kind in their recovery. Lump sum compensation should be given to EVERY SINGLE VICTIM TO HELP THEM TO LIVE. MANY of them can’t hold jobs due to the trauma and after affects of what they suffered! Many suffer from PTSD.
  • Public admission of the crimes against victims needs to be made in EVERY INSTANCE along with publishing the names of those who committed the crimes.
  • Religious Institutions and their followers need to rally their support around the victims and not the abusers instead of shaming, blaming and shunning them! PERIOD.

These are the types of things that religious institutions are NOT doing. They are using a “band-aid” approach with victims, only helping those that get media involved or file class action law-suits. Most religious organizations do not want their dirty laundry aired to the public, so they will settle with some victims instead. But what about those that have been silenced, blamed, shunned, shamed and ignored?  They are struggling in frustration and ready to give up the fight. These are the ones that I am referring to that are ready to quit!

What many victims of abuse may not realize is that Religious Institutions have mastered the tactic of “stalling” and “manipulating” victims. They KNOW what they are doing. Every step of the way they ignore victims, give them lip service, frustrate, malign and antagonize victims in order to get them to back off. The longer the church/organization can draw the process out, the easier it becomes for victims to call it quits. The harder and more humiliating the organization can make it for victims, the easier it becomes for victims to call it quits. The church or religious institution wins and, continues to abuse and manipulate others the same way.  The church/religious organization knows these tactics work because they have been using them for centuries to silence and frustrate victims of abuse. So, many are weary and ready to move on with their lives.  They are considering removing their voices from the foray. Many are considering allowing the victory to go to the abusive organization.

What does this mean for those victims that decide to call it quits?  What this means is that they will be helping these abusers to move on to new victims. Through their silence and complacency, they now are complicit in the future crimes of these rapists, pedophiles and emotional and spiritual abusers!  Silence always leads to more abuse when it comes to any abuse. Giving up can never be an option for these victims of Religious Abuse. There is just too much at stake to ever consider calling it quits.

Sexual exploitation of women and children in abusive religious institutions is a very difficult subject matter to deal with. Exposing it is an even harder task. Churches and other religious institutions have mastered the art of silencing, bullying, building loyalty, stalling and, walking away from victims without ever helping them and providing restitution and vindication for the crimes perpetrated against them.

One of the main reasons for this lack of prosecution of rapists is Statute of Limitations (SOL) laws here in the U.S. that prevent victims of sexual assault from prosecuting their rapists after a certain number of years has passed. It can take decades for a victim to muster up the courage to speak out! Another reason is that many of the crimes are perpetrated in foreign countries where our laws do not apply. Many rapists come back from the mission field to live free lives here in the U.S., never spending one single day in jail for their crimes. Prosecution must be sought in the country where the crime occurs in order for victims to stop their abusers from hurting others. Mission organizations are not reporting the crimes and predators are going free. The following video is one of the perpetrators admitting to his abuses and living freely here in the U.S.

Video: Leslie Emory admits to molesting girls in the Philipines

Another issue is that some of the rapists are still over seas and cannot be prosecuted because of this. Despite these frustrations, victims of sexual assault must forge ahead, paving the way for changes in law that will protect women and children in religiously run institutions. Is this an easy endeavor? NO, it is NOT! It takes years to affect change. It takes years to get all the cogs out of the wheels of religiously run institutions that are in place to specifically protect the institution from accountability to victims! Can it be done? Absolutely Yes…if victims will be persistent and join their voices together will all the thousands out there that have suffered the same fate as them. There truly is POWER in numbers.

WHY DOES IT TAKE DECADES TO SPEAK OUT ABOUT SEXUAL ABUSE?

What the general populous has a difficult time understanding is why victims of childhood sexual assault wait for decades before speaking out. They do not understand that sexual assault brings with it psychological and emotional trauma, guilt, fear, shame and a host of other emotional issues that each victim has to battle on a daily basis. Nor does the populous understand that for those victims within religious institutions, Spiritual Abuse goes hand in hand with the Sexual Abuse and is one of the reasons for their long-term silence. So, What Exactly is Spiritual Abuse? It is only ONE facet of Religious Abuse. Before you move forward, it is vital to understand what this is. This article I wrote – Religious Abuse – What Exactly Is It? – will help readers to understand all facets of this type of abuse. All cases of sexual exploitation of women and children in the religious setting involve Spiritual Abuse.

One FACET of RELIGIOUS ABUSE is Spiritual Abuse

SPIRITUAL ABUSE: This type of abuse, like emotional abuse, leaves no physical marks. However, its trauma is profound in the life of the one being victimized by it. In this type of abuse, God’s Name is used to JUSTIFY all abuse inflicted. Scripture (the Bible) is also used as a tool to force victims into submission to the dogmas, beliefs and rules of the religious sect. God’s Name and Scripture (Bible) are the two main “weapons of choice” employed by abusive religious leaders to extract money, prestige, power, personal gain, and, to sexually exploit women and children within their congregations; thus gaining control in all aspects of their followers lives. All messages taught and preached have one agenda in mind – to control each individual within the congregation. Using deceptively packaged sermons laced with “underlying meanings,” religious leaders attempt to stifle creative thought, independent thinking and, instill new thought patterns and behaviors into their flock (Behavior Modification). These new thought patterns and attitudes become the norm by which everyone is judged. Those who adopt the same thought patterns and beliefs as the Leadership, are “right with God.” Those that do not, “are not right with God” and, are in jeopardy of being attacked, shunned and character assassinated.

Using Scripture to modify behavior is paramount in controlling an individual and, instilling a fear of further punishment from God if they tell anyone about the abuse they have endured or witnessed.

Spiritual Abuse can be inflicted without the knowledge of the victim. When it does occur, it leaves its victims in shock, hurting, confused and, yes, traumatized. They know that they have been hurt, but justify the abuse because they don’t know that it IS abuse. They think within themselves that the “preacher” is really trying to look out for their best interests and accept the abuse as “God sent” in order to bring them back to the “right path.” They may not even realize that it is, in fact, abuse. For example: The sect I came out of used the pulpit as a whipping post to attack congregants publicly who did not conform to the rules and standards of the church and its leaders (public humiliation). They used the pulpit to attack publicly, those that questioned the pastor’s authority, disagreed with the pastor, or exposed abuses in the church. They used God and Scripture to support inflicting this emotional attack. Therefore the trauma is two-fold – emotional and spiritual. The twisting of scripture to suit leadership’s agendas and long-term goals is professionally done in order to reap personal gain. Those that do not question what is being taught, follow blindly whatever leadership wants done, even if it means inflicting more emotional trauma to the same victim (secondary abuse).

Spiritual Abuse is the most deadly of all abuses because those subjected to it, are left seeing God as an abusive entity that lacks love, compassion and acceptance. He is ever ready at any moment to hurt and destroy anyone that does not conform to the religious dogmas and standards of the “church system” they are a part of. He is seen as someone that is angry all the time and ready to destroy at the slightest infraction. Because of this, many followers will adopt that very attitude in dealing with those that fall short of perfection in keeping all the religious rules and precepts. Some will adopt that very attitude with their children, leading to the emotional and physical abuse of the child.

As a result of Spiritual Abuse, many victims fear speaking out because they have been taught that GOD will punish them further, or their children, or their families, if they dare to speak out against “God’s Man.” It can take many years of therapy for a victim of this kind of abuse to overcome their fears and speak out!

Spiritual Abuse is also the number one reason that multitudes of people are turning their backs on God, the Bible, the Church and religion. Religion and Scripture to the Spiritually Abused, is TOXIC. For many, it creates anxiety, fears, mental illnesses and physical illnesses in those subjected to it. Just as the other abuses traumatize and have ill affects long term, so does this type of abuse.” – Cynthia McClaskey, Author and Religious Abuse Survivor.

These emotional issues are traumatizing. They are debilitating. They are huge hurdles that each victim either crumbles under the weight of, or, finds a way to conquer and overcome. The old adage, “Time heals all wounds” is partly true. While it does not heal all wounds, it is necessary for time to pass  in order for wounded and broken people to find the strength and courage to overcome their fears and to speak out. Those that break under the weight of the trauma use alcohol and drugs to help numb the pain, while others, commit suicide. But, those who manage to jump the hurdles and find the courage to speak out need to have their voices heard AND, need to be protected from as much secondary abuse as possible while they speak out.

Here’s why: Once a victim of sexual assault does find their voice, then the even bigger battles begin. Those who do step forward publicly become the targets of religious leaders and their religious followers. They are character assassinated, publicly humiliated and further victimized psychologically and emotionally through secondary abuse. Telling one’s story also triggers and sets in motion a “re-living” of the events that initially caused the trauma. All the hurt, shame, imposed guilt, fear and turmoil come flooding back to the surface. No one can truly understand how difficult it is for just one single victim to tell or write their story of abuse! This is why it is so very important to protect victims emotionally that do step out and tell about their abuse. This is why it is important to rally around victims of this type of religious abuse and succor them and encourage them. That is why it is vital for survivors of Religious Abuse to stick together for the support they need!  For many, all they are looking for is, “I believe you. Let’s see what we can do to help you.” They have been called liars by the churches they were a part of, liars by their families, liars by their closest friends; all of which, supported the abuser instead of them. This is what makes Religious Abuse hidden underneath the mantle of religious institutions the worst crimes against humanity – the victims are ignored, shoved aside, blamed and emotionally assassinated. It is time for all of this to change.

Today, I would like to talk about a group of Religious Abuse victims that are fighting this battle of exposing the abuses that were perpetrated by those whom they were supposed to be able to trust. Abuses that encompass all facets of RELIGIOUS ABUSE. Once again, I highly recommend that everyone read my article entitled, “RELIGIOUS ABUSE- What Exactly is it?” before moving forward in this article. Until you understand what it is, you will never understand a victim’s emotional trauma.

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NEW TRIBES MISSION (NTM), FANDA, and OTHER NTM BOARDING SCHOOLS

Who is New Tribes Mission? New Tribes Mission was founded in 1942. Today, New Tribes Mission (NTM) is an international, theologically evangelical Christian mission organization based in Sanford, Florida, United States. NTM has approximately 3,300 missionaries in more than 20 nations.

The organization sends missionaries from local churches around the world to Latin America, West Africa, Southeast Asia and the Arctic. Countries include Brazil, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Greenland, Guinea, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mexico, Mozambique, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Philippines, Senegal, Tanzania, Thailand and formerly Venezuela [Wikipedia].

NTM also has boarding schools for missionary kids in these various places. Fanda is one of the boarding schools of NTM where child sexual abuse, rape, physical abuse, emotional and spiritual abuse took place. In 2010, G.R.A.C.E.(Godly Response To Abuse In The Christian Environment), an organization dedicated to helping Christian organizations deal with abuse, documented reports of sexual, physical, emotional and spiritual abuse at the Fanda boarding school operated by NTM for the children of NTM workers in the country of Senegal during the 1980s and 1990s. You may read and download this report HERE.

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Recently, I was contacted by one of the victims of abuse from this mission and asked if I would be willing to share their story about NTM and Fanda on my blog. I agreed because they are not the only religiously run boarding school that is guilty of crimes against children. Please read the articles on my blog regarding New Bethany Home for Girls in Arcadia, La. Countless numbers of boys and girls were sexually assaulted, physically, emotionally and spiritually abused; many were tortured in the New Bethany Homes for boys and girls.

Donna Trout’s Story – New Bethany Home for Girls, Arcadia La.

Kimberly Ann Howard’s Story – New Bethany Home for Girls, Arcadia La.

New Bethany Home for Girls – Kim Holt’s Story

Simone’s Story – New Bethany Homes For Girls, Arcadia LA

These victims of New Bethany have been fighting for years to get the abuses recognized and the perpetrators arrested. They have hit roadblocks at every turn. Today, however, they have broken through some of the strongholds and are finally making some strides! They NEVER gave up the fight and it is beginning to pay off for them.

First of all, I want to mention the tremendous efforts of these victims of Fanda in organizing their evidence for the world to see. Just as the New Bethany victims have also been laboring long and hard for years to bring prosecution to those involved in their abuses, so have these victims of Fanda.  As a result of their efforts, an investigation has already been conducted by G.R.A.C.E. (Godly Response To Abuse In The Christian Environment) that has vindicated them and supported their abuse claims.

Stunning 68 page report on crimes at overseas mission school is released
SNAP Network, David Clohessy, Barbara Dorris, Martha Jean Lorenzo
[Press release]

Grace report brings tears to many
Orlando Sentinel, Amy L. Edwards
[article]

What is missing from all of this is NTM’s willingness to provide restitution to victims who were abused in their other boarding schools and to turn in the perpetrators to the authorities where the crimes occurred, for prosecution. While there have been some arrests due to victim efforts, these victims have not been dealt with properly nor, received proper restitution (as mentioned above) from the mission for the damages done to them. Many of the rapists and pedophiles are still free today because the mission let them go. It is time for these victims of abuse from NTM to receive the restitution and vindication they deserve (as listed above) and, the populous needs to be warned about the abuses that lurk underneath this institution’s religious mantle. Secondly, I want to give links to the “proof documentation” and the news articles regarding the abuses. Take some time to read through these as they will probably make you mad enough to want to jump in and help these victims. They NEED the SUPPORT!

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For PROOF Documentation click here: PROOF
Fanda Eagles Website containing media links below: MEDIA
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Thank you for organizing all this material and bringing it up to date. Including some correspondence that happened as this blog was launched. It is a very sad commentary on how NTM handled and still handles situations. In 4 years, we have not seen evidence of anything “new” on their part. The cover-up goes deeper. For instance, today as the news of the arrest of Scott Kennell came out, the NTM spokesperson states that his life does NOT have to measure up to his message. His personal life can be looked at separately from his “work’ for NTM. Unbelievable! I am controlling my response, as I am VERY disgusted and VERY angry!” – Angry Victim, June 5, 2013.

Victims of abuse within the religious system are not being handled properly by the very institutions that allowed the abuses to occur. They are receiving “lip service,” but no definitive action!  The abusers are being upheld and supported by the religious institutions! These religious institutions that covered up the abuses and hide the perpetrators and/or moved them to other places, are directly responsible for all future abuses, secondary traumas inflicted to victims and, future victims of these rapists and pedophiles. There is absolutely no EXCUSE for the way these victims have been handled. This institution needs to be held ACCOUNTABLE by state and local governments and law enforcement for the crimes they have allowed to be perpetrated against women and children while on their watch.

Because sexual exploitation of women and children is rampant within the religious systems of the world, it is imperative that victims everywhere speak out. All the numbers reported by religious institutions regarding abuse are inaccurate because religious institutions have been working very hard at hiding the abuses and perpetrators for not just decades, but centuries! The reality is that sexual exploitation of women and children is a global problem and, silencing victims of these abuses only allows for the abuses to continue. Victims everywhere need to find there courage to tell their stories. It is through the telling of their stories that they will realize that they do have the power to affect change — changes in law that affect the way religious institutions operate, changes in law that will prevent abuses from being hidden, changes in law that will protect women and children from the abuses.

The time is now to start affecting this change. The time is now to tell your story. The platform for doing so is now available for Religious Abuse Survivors of all denominations and nationalities. If you are interested in entering the foray with your voice, contact me through my blog: www.religionscell.wordpress.com. You can make a difference!

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STORIES OF ABUSE:

Colin’s Story of Abuse and New Tribes Mission

Kerry Lou’s Story of Abuse and New Tribes Mission

RELIGIOUS ABUSE – What Exactly Is it?

spiritual abuse picThroughout the last several years, it has been a goal of mine to expose abuses hidden under the guise of “religion.” Countless millions of people have no idea religious abuse is real, that it exists, or what it involves. For those who have experienced such abuse, it is personal . . . very personal. The trauma inflicted not only encompasses physical and sexual abuses, but it encompasses spiritual, psychological and emotional abuse as well. What many do not realize is that religious abuse, terrorism, and “hate crimes” are all related. Really take some time to think on this. Religious abuse is linked to domestic abuse, child abuse, inequality of the sexes, prostitution and sex trafficking, etc. The list can go on and on. Once you understand what religious abuse is, then you will understand why I say this. This understanding is paramount in recognizing the abuses for what they are – abuse – and, helping to stop them. When we can stop religious abuse, hate crimes, domestic abuse and other associated crimes will also dwindle down.

Before we get started, however, on defining this term in depth let me say that religious abuse is a direct result of religious indoctrination. Indoctrination affects thoughts, beliefs and behaviors toward others for either good or bad. Keep this in mind as you read further.

 

RELIGIOUS ABUSE – What Exactly Is It?

So what is religious abuse? In case there is some uncertainty as to what this means, let me be very specific in this matter and define it for readers, as follows:

RELIGIOUS ABUSE: The instilling of religious precepts, doctrines, rules, and dogmas into the mind of an individual or group in order to bring about a change in thought processes and behavior for control, manipulation, and personal gain. As a result of this indoctrination and control, it can lead an individual or group to slander, attack, assault or kill under the pretense that they are doing God a favor. In the name of God, they inflict harm or violence toward an adult or child that results in physical, emotional, psychological or sexual trauma. It may even lead to the death of the victim.

Religious abuse is a by-product of an authoritarian or rule-based religious system. Usually these types of religious systems give men unquestionable authority over women and children. The women and children, however, have no authority or input at all. The many rules and dogmas are set “against” women and children so that men can have freedom and control.

Some may refer to this type of system as “legalistic.” It doesn’t matter what term is used to define it. What is important is that the abusive system is identified and those abused in it are rescued and given the justice they deserve. Those who perpetrate religious abuse demand silence from those abused. To speak out will cause the religious abuser to further attack a victim.

Who are religious abusers? There are two categories of religious abusers:

1)  They are those who use their authority and/or position in conjunction with religious text to persuade the abused they were responsible for the abuses done to them; thus, silencing them through shame while protecting the perpetrator of the abuse. This category of abusers will usually hurl one or all of the following abusive phrases at a victim:

  • “It’s your fault. What were you wearing?”
  • “God commands us to forgive.” Therefore you need to forgive your abuser. Don’t go to the police. Let us handle this issue internally. After all, we don’t want you to cause “damage to the cause of Christ.”
  • “You’re just angry and bitter!”

2)  They employ unethical and/or injurious tactics to silence a victim of religious abuse such as stalking, cyber-stalking, cyber bullying, harassment, causing one to lose their job, etc.

As a result, religious abuse continues to thrive and religious abusers continue to silence truth and allow criminals a hiding place under the mantle of righteousness their religious sect wears.

There are many facets to religious abuse. They are as follows:

FACET #1 – EMOTIONAL ABUSE

Unlike physical abuse, emotional abuse leaves no physical marks. And because it can be difficult to detect, it is very difficult to stop. In this type of abuse, it is all about CONTROL. The one being abused by it is the one the abuser wishes to control and manipulate.  It can be inflicted in many different forms as follows:

  • Verbal Abuse – using words to inflict harm, modify behavior, or instill fear of someone or something.

It can be as subtle as damaging words between a parent and child, pastor and congregant, or between two congregants. It can be as subtle as a message preached with an “underlying message” aimed at modifying behavior and thought processes. It can be as overt as a message preached with the express intent of attacking a congregant or child’s behavior and publicly humiliating them. Or, it can be as overt as yelling and screaming with threats of physical violence. The atmosphere becomes one of fear, anger, anxiety or hostility.

  • Isolation – isolating the victim from other family members, close friends, others in the church, and authorities.

This is usually done intentionally and is used to either hurt a victim emotionally or, isolate them for better control and manipulation. It is employed by religious leaders and lay people to bring about conformity to the rules and dogmas of the religious sect they are a part of. It is used to control others for personal satisfaction and gain. It is also used to prevent its victims from escaping the abuse and going to authorities for help. Isolation ensures no one escapes from the sect, its leaders, and those who are members of it.

  • Limited Social Contact – severely limiting or eliminating social contact with others, especially those that can think independently or, believe differently or, live different lifestyles. Isolation from the rest of secular society keeps those who are indoctrinated from being influenced by outside sources and/or truths.

This is a deliberate attempt to control the circle of influence of the victim in order to ensure that the modifying and programming of their behavior is successful. Any contact with those that think for themselves and/or believe differently, can prevent successful indoctrination toward the sect’s rules and dogmas. This is a control tactic used by church leaders and congregants especially where children are concerned. This prevents autonomy and develops “clones” of the system. This also leads to severe bouts of loneliness and depression since this is also a form of isolation.

  • Neglect – the failure to give proper and adequate attention to the individual’s need, problems, questions, and concerns.

Especially where women and children are concerned, this is a very big problem within religion. Many emotional needs are not met in a religiously abusive environment. Many will adopt the attitudes and behaviors of the sects they serve and often become unemotional, uncompromising, abrasive, lacking in compassion and, violent toward those who question authority, practice, rules or leadership or, disobey any of these. Because abusive religions degrade and suppress women and children, they are treated as having no value. As a result, their desires, wants, and needs are overlooked or ignored and only the desires, wants and needs of the men and the church leaders are deemed important. This is not only neglect, it is abuse.

  • Threats – of physical harm, shunning, public humiliation, death.

All of these are used consistently to coerce adults and children into obeying “without question.” Those who do not obey without question, will find themselves on the receiving end of public humiliation, gossip, slander, beatings, torture, starvation, loss of comforts, and other inhumane treatment. Some may even be killed. These “threats” are no different than hate crimes. In my opinion, any abuse meted out in order to force conformity or, because one does not conform, can be categorized not only as religious abuse but also as a hate crime.

  • Belittling the person – attacking a person’s character because their actions do not line up with the sects rules and ideals.

Belittling is used to force conformity and to deter associations with outside influences. Belittling can be used against a victim’s family members if they do not believe and live the same way the sect members do. This is done in order to deter the person from having social contact with those specific family members who believe differently and might question the religious rules, dogmas, and beliefs of the sect. This limits the sphere of people available to the victim who have the potential to rescue them from the abusive sect. This tactic is used on adults and children to cause them to obey leadership without questioning anything they may say or do. It is also used to humiliate a victim in order to modify behavior. While this tactic works well, it also can lead to anger, resentment, and a desire to flee the abuse at the earliest possible chance.

  • Psychological Abuse – This is also known as emotional abuse or mental abuse and is characterized by a person subjecting or exposing another to behavior that may result in psychological trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Physical abuse, molestation, and sexual assault cause psychological trauma and abuse. Certain religious teachings can also cause this same trauma. For instance, the concept of hell is a huge trigger for psychological abuse; especially in small children. In the sect I came out of, there were videos that were viewed by the adults and children that showed human torture in hell. Some of the messages preached were also graphic in nature regarding this human torture. These were used to instill fear. This fear was then manipulated by clergy. Children can suffer nightmares from these things and live in fear of dying. It also causes them a fear of “breaking the religious rules” for fear of going to hell. The emotional trauma is compounded by the child’s inability to keep all the rules and their anxiety builds up to a level where depression can occur as well as other mental illnesses as their mind tries to find a coping mechanism. Those who cannot cope may attempt suicide to escape the mental anguish they are living under.

Emotional abuse has the same effects in every instance: it beats people down, destroys their self-image, stifles growth and maturity, destroys autonomy, self-respect and, leaves victims defenseless. Emotional abuse is specifically designed to kill the spirit within an individual and replace it with the institution’s ideals, precepts and dogmas. It is, in effect, “soul murder.” .

Emotional abuse also instills fear, coupled with an imposed shame and guilt from the perpetrator of the abuse. This fear then becomes an impenetrable wall that grows so strong it can take decades of therapy to remove. Emotional abuse is a direct result of a power imbalance and inequality. The number one weapon used to inflict this abuse is Scripture. Not only is it used as a baseball bat to beat people into conformity through fear, it is used to incite people to violence (hate crimes and terrorism) against those who disagree or question religious leaders, their religious rules, dogmas, church policy, or the abuses witnessed.  Emotional Abuse also leads to the inability to cope with the problems and challenges that may occur throughout the life of the victim. Those who endure this type of abuse live their lives in fear of God, government, the church, church leaders, their abusers, the unsaved and, those still entrenched within the abusive sect they extract themselves from.  Victims of emotional abuse may suffer from mental illnesses, depression, and addictions with alcohol and drugs. They may have eating disorders and suffer physical maladies as a result of the emotional trauma inflicted.

FACET #2 – PHYSICAL ABUSE

This could include sexual mutilation, beatings, starvation, burning, cutting and torture. In some instances, physical abuse can lead to death. Those most vulnerable to this type of abuse are women and children. It is used to instill fear to further the control over an individual.

In religion, physical abuse is used to control behavior. Every time the proper response is not correctly exhibited, the victim may be the recipient of public humiliation, physical spankings and/or beatings, starvation and loss of comforts. This is especially true with children. Not only is physical abuse done in the home, it is also administered by other kids within a religiously controlled environment. Examples would be a church run home for wayward teens, camp settings, religiously run boarding schools, church activities. For examples of this, read any of the following stories:

The “Gauntlet” – By Samuel Bain.

New Tribes Mission (NTM) Abuse and Fanda.

Ten Thousand Days in Hell – Sheri’s Story

Colin’s Story of Abuse and New Tribes Mission

Simone’s Story of Abuse

Donna Trout’s Story – New Bethany Home for Girls, Arcadia LA

 

FACET #3 – SEXUAL ABUSE AND RAPE

This is the number one problem throughout the world. There are several forms of sexual abuse:

  • Child Sexual Abuse – This involves sexual abuse, sexual mutilation, incest and/or molestation, and sex trafficking. Forms include asking a child or coercing a child into engaging in sexual activities, indecent exposure (of the genitals, female nipples, etc.) with the intent to gratify one’s own sexual desires, or to intimidate or groom the child, physical sexual contact with a child, or using a child to produce child pornography. Effects of child sexual abuse can include depression, mental illnesses, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, anxiety, and lead to further victimization in adulthood as well as physical injury. This type of abuse is usually coupled with psychological trauma and includes the effects of this trauma as well.
  • Sexual Mutilation – It is also known as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The age of the girls varies from weeks after birth to puberty; in half the countries for which figures were available in 2013, most girls were cut before the age of five. This practice is an ethnic marker, rooted in gender inequality, ideas about purity, modesty and aesthetics, and attempts to control women’s sexuality. It is supported by both women and men in countries that practice it. It can lead to recurrent infections, chronic pain, infertility, epidermoid cysts, complication during childbirth, and fatal bleeding. It also brings emotional trauma to the child.

Some countries also sexually mutilate the breasts of young girls by ironing them flat with a hot iron. The trauma and scars inflicted by this form of mutilation goes beyond moral comprehension and, defies conscience.

  • Rape – this occurs with women as well as young girls and boys. Rape is a sexual assault against a women or young child against his or her will. Usually, you will find rape coupled with physical violence and/or death. This type of abuse is well hidden within most religious sects. It can result in pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, psychological trauma, suicide, secondary victimization, and victim blaming.

Rape and other forms of sexual assault on a child can result in both short-term and long-term harm, including psychopathology in later life. Psychological, emotional, physical, and social effects include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, eating disorders, poor self-esteem, dissociative and anxiety disorders; general psychological distress and disorders such as somatization, neurosis, chronic pain, sexualized behavior, school/learning problems; and behavior problems including substance abuse, destructive behavior, criminality in adulthood and suicide [Wikipedia].

The risk of lasting psychological harm is greater if the perpetrator of the sexual assault on the child is a relative (i.e., incest), or if threats or force are used. Incestual rape has been shown to be one of the most extreme forms of childhood trauma, a trauma that often does serious and long-term psychological damage, especially in the case of parental incest. Many incest victims suffer from mental illnesses as a result.

 

FACET #4 – SPIRITUAL ABUSE

This type of abuse, like emotional abuse, leaves no physical marks. However, its trauma is profound in the life of the one being victimized by it. In this type of abuse, God’s Name and/or religious text is used to JUSTIFY all abuse inflicted. Scripture is also used as a tool to force victims into submission to the dogmas, beliefs and rules of the religious sect. God’s name and scripture are the two main “weapons of choice” employed by abusive leaders to extract money, prestige, power, personal gain, and, to sexually exploit women and children within their congregations; thus gaining control in all aspects of their followers lives.  All messages taught and preached have one agenda in mind – to control each individual within the congregation. Using deceptively packaged sermons laced with “underlying meanings,” religious leaders attempt to stifle creative thought, independent thinking and, instill new thought patterns and behaviors into their flock (Thought Reform and Behavior Modification).  These new thought patterns and attitudes become the norm by which everyone is judged. Those who adopt the same thought patterns and beliefs as the leadership are “right with God.” Those who do not, “are not right with God” and are in jeopardy of being attacked, shunned and/or character assassinated.

Scripture is the number one weapon of choice for religious leaders in modifying behavior. People naturally believe religious leaders are speaking on God’s behalf. This belief motivates followers to follow all the rules and believe all the rhetoric preached and taught. What they do not realize is that many religious leaders do not speak for God. They speak for themselves. Scripture is also an excellent tool used to instill a fear of further punishment from God if a victim tells anyone about the abuse they have endured or witnessed. Again, as with emotional abuse, the same phrases will be employed. “Hurting the cause of Christ” by telling the truth is heavily discouraged. To speak out is akin to gossiping and many victims will be told this repeatedly and reminded how God hates gossip.

Spiritual Abuse can be inflicted without the knowledge of the victim. When it does occur, it leaves its victims in shock, hurting, confused and, yes, traumatized. They know they have been hurt, but justify the abuse because they don’t know it IS abuse. They think within themselves that the “preacher” is really trying to look out for their best interests and accept the abuse as “God sent” in order to bring them back to the right path.  They may not even realize it is, in fact, abuse. For example: The sect I came out of used the pulpit as a whipping post to attack congregants publicly who did not conform to the rules and standards of the church and its leaders (public humiliation). They used the pulpit to attack publicly, those who questioned the pastor’s authority, disagreed with the pastor, or exposed abuses in the church. They forced children, teenagers and adults to stand before the entire congregation to “confess” sins – a form of punishment that leaves lasting psychological scars and trauma. Usually, these “sins” were nothing more than a breaking of one of the sect’s many rules. To do so, to the sect members, is sin. They used God and scripture to support inflicting this emotional attack. Therefore the trauma is two-fold – emotional and spiritual. The twisting of scripture to suit leadership’s agendas and long-term goals is professionally done in order to control congregants and reap personal gain. Those that do not question what is being taught, follow blindly whatever leadership wants done, even if it means inflicting more emotional trauma to the same victim (secondary abuse).

Sadly, spiritual abuse is designed to prevent independent and rational thought processes. It is the most destructive of all abuses because those subjected to it are left seeing God as an abusive entity that lacks love, compassion and acceptance. He is ever ready at any moment to hurt and destroy anyone who does not conform to the religious dogmas and standards of the religious system they are a part of. He is seen as someone who is angry all the time and ready to destroy at the slightest infraction. Because of this, many followers will adopt that very attitude in dealing with those who fall short of perfection in keeping all the religious rules and precepts. Some will adopt this very attitude with their children, leading to the emotional and physical abuse of a child. As a result of spiritual abuse, many victims fear speaking out because they have been taught that GOD will punish them further, or their children, or their families, if they dare to speak out against “God’s Man.” It can take many years of therapy for a victim of this kind of abuse to overcome their fears and speak out!

Spiritual abuse is also the number one reason multitudes of people are turning their backs on God, the religious texts, the Church and religion. Religion and religious texts become toxic to the spiritually abused. For many, it creates anxiety, panic attacks, fears, mental illnesses, and physical illnesses in those subjected to it. Just as the other abuses traumatize and have ill affects long term, so does this type of abuse. Those still entrenched in the abusive religion cannot understand why a victim would turn from God and religion. As a result, they “label” the individual and shun them, not realizing that they are inflicting secondary trauma by doing so. The victim being labeled and shunned develops a poorer self-image and self-esteem as a result. This may cause severe depression and can lead to suicide for many of those affected by this tactic.

Recognizing spiritual abuse is key in stopping it and extracting oneself and others from it. The lives of those suffering this type of abuse are devoid of joy. Many of them suffer depression. They isolate themselves from others out of fear and, once again, employ aids to help them cope – food, alcohol, and drugs.

Religious abuse is very real. It is very destructive. It has many facets. It leads to domestic violence, hate crimes, terrorism, physical abuse, child abuse, and on and on. How is it possible all of this could be taking place underneath an entity millions have come to trust as the safest place for themselves and their families? The answer: They are taught to adopt the mindsets and beliefs of the systems they serve. In doing so, it leads to blindness. Those indoctrinated cannot ‘see’ reality. They only see what they are taught or told to see by leadership within the system they serve. The abuses have always been taking place and are well hidden because of ‘blindness’ instilled through indoctrination and fear tactics.

It’s time for people to realize religious abuse is real and be able to recognize it for what it is. Everyone needs to be educated on every aspect of this type of abuse in order to protect themselves and their families from it.