There are a lot of different types of responses any time we see a travesty in the church community. An ‘explosion’ occurs and people either scatter, get frozen by shock, some get angry, some cry, and some start fighting immediately. It’s very important that we try to remain balanced and solid in our journey so we don’t put ourselves in a vulnerable position of being victimized again and again.
When people leave a toxic church environment they often don’t know who they can trust and go to for assistance. When they are taught for many years that anyone outside the denomination is ‘not right with God’ or is ‘evil’, then they end up walking into another toxic environment of the same denomination or even a similar one. We need to be wise not to blindly trust a pastor just because of his denominational affiliation.
The best thing a victim can do is go to the police or to a professional licensed counselor.
Some communities have advocacy centers where you can share your story and be given resources to assist you. If you’re looking for an advocate, be sure you know what a real advocate is and the standards they operate under.
Many people who have been wounded and have found their voice to speak up most certainly can be seen as an advocate, but be sure you understand what a real functioning ethical Advocate is.
A genuine Advocate is one who has an official status of advocacy from a legitimate advocacy program. They operate under the leadership of a team of people who hold them accountable to adhering to the Code and Ethics of the Victim Advocate Providers.
Since the government doesn’t normally touch a spiritual abuse situation then finding a spiritual abuse advocate can be difficult. There is great concern that spiritual abuse victims will leave an unaccredited (abusive) ‘counseling’ pastor/church/school/college and walk right into another illegitimate ‘advocacy’ group. There certainly are some supportive online forums where you can find yourself in the midst of other victims/survivors and they can be helpful, but use caution! It’s important to be very wise when looking for help when leaving a cult.
I have spent several years researching and testing out connections with an assortment of counseling centers and support groups to be sure I could recommend safe places for people to go to. Spiritual Abuse Awareness is on the rise and there are a few places I will recommend at the closing of this article.
Many times, victims are hesitant on selecting a counselor out of fear the counselor will try to convert them to atheism or impose their own beliefs onto them. A good Spiritual Abuse Advocate or counselor will never impose their beliefs on a client. There have been some ‘Christian counselors’ who have done more harm to a victim than good and these victims end up in a worse position than before. It’s very important to be sure you see a counselor that is licensed and who has experience leading people to healing and freedom. A client should be able to walk away from their treatment with courage and wisdom to recognize abuse and avoid it.
Spiritual Abuse Advocacy is a very important need for the faith community and needs to be provided not only to Christians, but also to those who are not comfortable being a Christian anymore. There are victims in all areas of life from atheism, paganism, and even gang tyranny. Many times these folks were victimized by religious centers and fled to other areas for help. A group of people who believe in a common belief do not necessarily mean they are abusive. Just because someone is an atheist, doesn’t make them haters of Christians. Likewise, if someone is pagan it doesn’t mean they are automatically abusive. Christians don’t like to be accused with a broad brush and dislike being lumped in with highly abusive toxic cult groups, so we need to understand that others don’t like to be broad brushed either. Abuse happens everywhere and victims need to know they have ethical and professional advocates.
Sometimes churches have spiritual abuse recovery groups and while I think their hearts are in the right place, it’s very important that they be educated and confirmed as ethical Victim Assistant Providers. If they aren’t and would like to be then I’ll be sharing information at the close of this article.
There’s a camaraderie among victims/survivors of abuse. It’s comforting to know they aren’t alone. However, I strongly advise that any group that is lead by someone wanting to be an advocate, that they get the necessary education and training to be able to professionally moderate such groups. They should provide the necessary documentation and have it posted publicly. There should be a checks and balances way for victims to plead to someone higher up in case any inappropriateness occurs. If the leadership has no one higher you can go to, then use caution in trusting them. You can find additional helps and resources at the following agencies:
Victim’s Bill of Rights (US Government site)
Office of Justice Programs (US Government site)
Resource Library for Victims of Crime (US Government supported Faith based)
**Office for Victims of Crime (free online training)
Faith Based Resources
Coast Recovery Services (grassroots in progress, 20 years experience in drug/alcohol addiction and spiritual abuse)
Feel free to comment below (anonymous is fine) with resources that have been helpful to you.
Be safe in your journey to freedom and healing.
**If you’re interested in becoming a Spiritual Abuse Advocate (SAA) you can contact me through the Coast Recovery Services FB page and we’ll keep you updated on the launch of our SAA program. Our staff is comprised of professionals in the field of Addiction/Recovery. Among our certifications are Certified Drug and Alcohol & Addictions Counselor, Registered Addiction Specialist, Certified Marriage and Family Counseling, Certified PTSD, Masters of Divinity, FBI fingerprinted and approved, and 20 years of ministry experience including prison ministry, church ministry, and mission ministry.