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Spiritual Abuse

This page looks at some of the issues I encountered during my time in the church.
Check the links page for support with dealing with fundamentalist christianity. Please note that the following has been drawn mostly from my own personal experiences. Spiritual abuse takes many different forms and over time I aim to expand this page to be inclusive of people's different experiences. If you have any suggestions for this page please do not hesitate to email me so I can add them.
WHAT'S ON THIS PAGE
Dangerous and Damaging Church Beliefs:
SOUL TIES 
  • This doctrine is often taught in the Pentecostal/charismatic movement. A soul tie is described as a spiritual connection between our soul and that of another person. These can be godly (as in marriage) or demonic. Although some teachings make reference to emotional soul ties and soul ties developed through "unhealthy" fantasy the emphasis is generally on those formed through sexual activity. The belief here is that any ungodly sex - that is any sexual activity that takes place outside marriage, results in the forming of a demonic soul tie between the two people. The presence of a soul tie then allows the demons from one person to pass to the person they are tied with (and their demons passed through generational curses - see Demons for more on this) and the demons from any other soul ties that they may have.

    Personally this is one of the most damaging lies I was ever told by the church. Ungodly sex included any sexual act outside marriage. Therefore rape and sexual abuse counted. In fact I even heard it taught that because of the demon activity in an abused person they will attract abuse again and again as like (as in demons in an abused person) attracts like (as in the demons in an abuser). Believing that I had this spiritual tie to the man who raped me was for me absolutely terrifying. It added to the guilt, shame, fear and sense of being dirty that I already had and caused me a great deal of anxiety. During the course of several ministry sessions I had to take part in they were 'cut' through prayer but this did little to diminish my anxiety and as I was still suffering from symptoms of PTSD this was seen as proof that I Was still choosing to live with demons in my life.

    It took a long time to shake the sense that the church gave me of being connected to my abuser in this way but through therapy I slowly managed to see this doctrine for the terrible nonsense that it was.

    If you have been taught this damaging doctrine please believe me when I say that you are not attached to your abuser(s) in any way. They have no spiritual hold over you and you are not infested with their demons. Someone did something to you and you did not cause it. Any union in life requires two willing people to be formed and as you did not choose to be tied to your abuser then you are not.
DEMONS
Although not limited to rape the teaching of demonic beings again had a strong emphasis on sex and in turn rape. I was taught a pretty much never ending list of ways that a demon would have an entry point to a person. For example the following were all considered to be demonic entry points and/or caused by a demon:
  • Sex outside marriage
  • Homosexual activity
  • Pornography
  • Masturbation
  • Rape/sexual abuse
  • Touching dead bodies
  • The Occult (this ranged from Satanism to reading your star signs or watching Buffy the vampire slayer!)
  • Rebellion (I had this one a lot - every time I asked a difficult question or disagreed with someone.)
  • Disobedience to church leadership or to a husband
  • Being in a car crash
  • Smoking
  • Not forgiving someone
  • Involvement in the free masons
  • Idolatry (of anything - even loving your pets to much was dodgy ground)
  • Spoken curses - by someone else or by yourself
  • Alcoholism/Drug addiction
  • Depression (or any mental health issue)
  • Being over weight
  • Abortion
  • Disability
  • Suicide
  • Day dreaming
  • Insecurity
  • Prostitution
  • Lying
  • Being Drunk
  • Reading this list (yes seriously! Reading a list like this would stir up demonic activity!
  • Being vegetarian and no, I'm not joking.
GENERATIONAL CURSES
  • As well as being able to catch demons from any of the things on the above list I was also taught that demons could travel down the family line. Therefore all the demons that your mother, father, gran, grandpa and Auntie Jean have are now yours too - including any from their soul ties of course. It was not unusual for someone to be told that they had a demon of witchcraft or freemasonry from some unknown family source even if that person had no knowledge of these things taking place.

    With demons and soul ties to contend with it is no surprise that I spent most of my Christian existence living in fear.
ATTITUDE TOWARDS MENTAL HEALTH

  • "There is no need for a Christian to be depressed and it is an offence before God I'm sure."

    This is a direct quote from a Christian pastor during a sermon on overcoming depression. Many churches consider mental health problems to be a spiritual issue believing that illnesses such as depression are caused by demons. For rape/abuse survivors who are most likely suffering from PTSD it is yet another nail in the demonic coffin you get boxed in. After I was raped I was suffering from depression, insomnia, panic attacks, anxiety, flashbacks and nightmares yet I was still instructed to avoid seeing a Dr as they may be influenced by the demonic. Instead I was told to see Christian counsellors. When I did this and described some of my symptoms to them I was told either to repent (for example for having nightmares as I had obviously done something to let them in) or prayed for once and told that it was finished with. Any mention of these problems a second time was quickly countered with claims that I was choosing to live out of the will of God and opting to wallow in my problems instead.

    PTSD and depression are illnesses and they are a normal reaction to the abnormal situation that rape/abuse survivors had to deal with. There is no shame in it and there is support and help available. If you feel that you may be suffering from PTSD please see your Dr who can advise you on what treatment is available.
FORGIVENESS
  • I was forced to say both that I had forgiven my abuser and to ask for forgiveness for my part in what happened on several occasions. Forgiveness, however, is a personal choice and no one should ever pressure you to do it. It is only something you need to consider if you feel that it would be helpful to your healing journey. You do not have to forgive but if you do want to forgive I also believe that forgiveness is a process and not something that can be achieved instantaneously as the church believes.
CHRISTIAN COUNSELLING
  • I had two different Christian counsellors in my time in the church. Neither of them were qualified to counsel patients, but were just considered to be the right person for that particular ministry in the church. Neither ever told me that I wasn't to blame for being raped. Both made me say that I had forgiven my abuser and to ask for forgiveness for my part in what happened. One even warned me never to mention being raped to a man because it would encourage him to do it to me again. One of the counsellors who dealt with me while I was still in the abusive relationship I was in told me that I was wicked, sick and that I was crucifying Christ again and again. Looking back I feel such pain and rage for my younger self who believed that she was truly a wicked person. I wasn't wicked - just hurting, confused and struggling to deal with an abusive situation with absolutely no real support. It takes several years for a person to become a qualified therapist and even then they still have supervision. If you have been hurt by Christian counselling please remember that they were not qualified to be treating you. If you are seeking support please approach a professional who you can build a safe and supportive relationship with. Your Dr or local rape crisis can put you in touch with therapists in your area.
LET GO AND LET GOD
  • If I had a pound for every time I was fed this nonsense I would be a very rich lassie indeed! What amazes me about this is the belief that if you just choose forget about what happened then that is all you need to recover from being raped. When I was at bible school I was told this little gem on a daily basis and that I just needed to decide how I felt about it and I would be better.

    Something that hurts and damages you in the way that rape and sexual abuse does will not go away over night because you have said a prayer or decided that it will. Healing takes time and effort and there is no shame in that. Don't let anyone put pressure on you to "be better" - this just adds stress and guilt to an already difficult process. You are entitled to take as much time as you need to recover.
FAITH
  • Another issue I encountered in the church in the aftermath of dealing with abuse issues was the way that people felt what happened was a reflection on my faith. Some believed that if I had had enough faith it wouldn't have happened. Others believed that if I had enough faith then I would be healed from what happened. Even more disturbing were those who believed that I had to be thankful for what happened because it was God's choice that I had been raped and whatever he wanted for me was ultimately a good thing. Being raped or abused has nothing to do with a person's faith or lack of faith and I can not imagine any God that would desire a person be raped for any reason.

SEXUALITY
  • It is difficult to reclaim a healthy sense of your sexuality after rape but this can be twice as hard if the church has made you feel that any expression or even thought of sex is bad. This is even worse for those who do not fall into the narrow heterosexual box that the church claims is the only right way to be. The church is well known for its persecution and of homosexuality and with the disturbing development of movements like God Hates Fags this has even led to murder (see the very funny counter website to this movement God Hates Figs! - details on the links page.) If you have experienced this type of abuse at the hands of the church it is well worth considering working through them with a professional therapist. You have the right to express your sexuality freely without shame guilt or fear.
ABUSE OF POWER
  • All spiritual abuse also involves an abuse of power. However some leaders will use the 'spiritual authority' that they have to sexually abuse others. The power a church leader can have over someone who they are meant to have in their care is immense and can easily be used to manipulate and abuse. Anyone who is in a position of authority has power over others but those in spiritual leadership have the added weight of the power of God behind them. It is difficult enough for people to take a stand against someone who has more power than them, it is almost impossible to take a stand against someone when you are lead to believe that their actions are of God and that God has put them in charge of you.
INVALIDATION - THE CHURCH'S RESPONSE TO SEXUAL ABUSE
  • The church was my first port of call when it came to seeking support for the abusive relationship I was in and I can honestly say that I did not receive one caring response. I was judged, gossiped about, blamed, forced to forgive, told I had demons, made to see Christian counsellors, thrown out of the worship band which I sang in and told regularly that I had to forget about it.

    While all society is riddled with myths about rape adding God's backing to those myths can be invalidating to the extreme. After all if God thinks you're to blame for what happened to you what hope have you got of dealing with your sense of shame, guilt and self blame.

    Many churches are institutionally sexist and will automatically blame women for being abused. This is both damaging and dangerous - especially in cases of domestic violence where scriptures about submitting to your husband are used against women to keep them trapped in abusive and potentially fatal situations. The church community as a whole needs to work to deal with this problem for the well being and safety of all women
STORIES FROM SURVIVORS OF RELIGIOUS/SPIRITUAL ABUSE
If you have a story of spiritual abuse to share, please do not hesitate to email it to me

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