What is an Advocate?

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.

Antique Daisy by kimberlyeddy, on Pix-O-Sphere

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)

National Crime Victims Law Institute

National Center for Victims of Crime

**Office for Victims of Crime (free online training)

Faith Based Resources

Wellspring Retreat Center

Spiritual Abuse Awareness

G.R.A.C.E.

Coast Recovery Services (grassroots in progress, 20 years experience in drug/alcohol addiction and spiritual abuse)

Blogs

Under Much Grace

Quivering Daughters

Eric Pazdziora

Serena Woods, Grace is for Sinners

Films

Paradise Recovered

The Elizabeth Smart Story

The Shunning

Lord, Save us from your followers

Books

Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse

Soul Repair

Quivering Daughters

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.

Sisterlisa

 

 

The Holy Cover Ups

I have always tried to make it a point to never bring up a specific denomination in my writings, and I tend to lean away from giving any additional ‘advertising’ to wacko cults who picket the world with hate signs, but sometimes justice is demanded and victims need to rise up together and speak up for the greater good.

We know that the Catholic Church has many heinous crimes of pedophiles of it’s own to deal with and I’m not going to get into targeting them, they have enough media covering that as it is. What I do want to go on record as saying is that stories like Tina Anderson’s needs to be listened to. As a Christian community, we can’t hide these stories or dismiss them as lies. As a certified counselor for victims of spiritual abuse and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder I can assure you that stories like hers are not rare, they’re just rare in getting the media’s attention.

Tonight on 20/20, Elizabeth Vargas presents her Yearlong Investigation Into The Independent Fundamental Baptist Church. You can view a snippit of tonight’s story where Tina Anderson speaks through tears about her abuse and the cover ups that followed.

It is of an absolutely broken and grieving heart that I say adamantly, that I am relieved this has been brought to light. I do not rejoice in evil..as a matter of fact I think the evil that was committed against Tina and many others like her needs to be brought to justice. I do not believe the victims are doing evil by speaking out. One should never victimize the victim further by attempting to say they are guilty of bitterness or an unforgiving heart.

I am firm in my belief about grace, but God is also just. I don’t believe he is an extremist by any means, but injustices done to the oppressed is always going to reap what it sows. I applaud Tina Anderson for speaking up. It takes GREAT COURAGE to do so!

I was deeply involved with th IFB movement for 15 years and I saw so many missing pieces over the years and many times people were hushed into silence with the accusation that anyone who speaks out is a gossip and should be rebuked. The tactics for “church discipline” are widely misused in the IFB movement. I WISH, I could say that stories like Tina’s are rare and isolated, but they aren’t.

My husband was asked to consider becoming a deacon just days before we left our former church. He declined the position and I am so thankful he did. We saw a series of events and lies snowballing and we just couldn’t continue to support their church.

Leaving was incredibly difficult because we knew that leaving would mean questions. The more people who questioned us the more we would have to explain and the more we knew that no one would believe us. We were right, no one believed us. We were called liars, trouble makers, and lies were spread around about us to discredit us so that others would shun us and be afraid to ask us any more questions.

But those who had left before us, did believe us.

I sought out many of the former members, who at one time were dear friends of mine. When I told them we had left, they finally told us their stories too. My husband sought out help from other local pastors and they also confirmed that they knew that the IFB is a cult. Although we lost the friends who decided to remain, we regained the friends who had left previously.

I began searching the Internet to see if anyone else had ever written about this movement and there were only a few small things mentioned. Over the last two years the collection of stories have increased by leaps and bounds.

The hardest part for me, in speaking out, is that I have a few friends in the blogosphere who attend IFB churches.

I am deeply sorry that these stories are difficult to read. I know the first reaction is denial and anger toward those who are speaking up about the IFB abuse. If it was an isolated case then you wouldn’t be seeing stories from all over the country that span back for decades. The next reaction might be to disconnect from me totally. Should anyone decide to do so I won’t hold it against you. But know this, now that you have heard of these incidents happening you owe it to yourself, your spouse, and your children to investigate further. Keep your eyes opened. Don’t allow your family to become victims.

For those who believe it’s time for you to leave the IFB movement, you have support. There are others who have also left and can offer friendship and encouragement to get out. If you have family members who have always been suspicious of the IFB churches, go to them for help first. They can be your advocate and help you leave. You might think I sound a bit alarming about needing help to leave, and that’s precisely the point. It’s always hard to leave. When we left, we were told by the pastor not to tell people why we left, not to contact any of our friends about it, cease all emails to them, no phone calls, etc. Our family was the first to be contacted so we could have support in leaving.

Many IFB pastors have said that these are isolated incidents, but it keeps happening in their movement. The same scenarios play out. The same way of covering up. The holey cover ups. They are full of holes. They misuse scripture to make you feel like you’re the one doing wrong, they try to justify their accusations against you as ‘discipline’ for your ‘rebellion’. Some IFB leaders have even used information you shared with them in counseling sessions as weaponry against you to keep you quiet.

So, for Tina Anderson and others like her, I stand with you.

I don’t want my blog to become an Anti-IFB resource, but over the next few days I will be sharing just a few more things about this then resume my regular style of writing.

Be safe. Help raise awareness. Offer support to those needing help to leave.

** An additional note: If you are an IFB Pastor you should be proclaiming loudly to your church about such matters and putting yourself and your staff in the hot seat of accountability so your church members know you aren’t hiding these kinds of stories. I don’t want to hear any rebukes from ANY of you for writing this article. If you will stand by these victims by boldly sending a message to all IFB Churches that you will NOT tolerate any kind of abuse or cover ups like this and you take a stand about these matters then I would applaud you. For anyone who tries to silence or belittle the victims, shame on you!

I realize that some from my former church may see this article one day and all I can say is that if you attempt to harm me for speaking up, you are best to leave me alone, but if you want help leaving the IFB Cult, I would be glad to assist you.

Recommended Resources:

Spiritual Abuse Awareness

Spiritual Abuse

IFB Watchdog

Ind. Fundamental Baptist Deception

Paradise Recovered

WellSpring Retreat Center

Cult Info