Domestic Violence, The Church, & Mental Health - How They All Connect
Spiritual abuse has two spectrums to it. It's is a form of domestic violence that refers to a church elder or faith leader inflicting abuse on congregation members, often by creating a toxic culture within the church or group by shaming or controlling members using the power of their position. They use religious text / beliefs out of context to exert power and control not limited to specific denomination or religion. This also occurs within intimate partner relationships. Power and control is the foundation in which domestic violence is rooted in. a core tenet of domestic violence.
I grew up in the church and my father is a preacher. I say that to not throw him under the bus. I love my father, I've forgiven my father, and seek our relationship to be stored. However, that doesn't change the fact that his actions were wrong. Because statements such as the below my family and I dealt with not just in the church, but at home as well. Preacher's sent my mom back to an abusive marriage time and time again because of statements such as the below, and even risked her life by sharing her plea for help.
Preacher's didn't hold my father accountable nor get him the help he needed by having the hard conversations. I watched the faith community as a child turn my mom away with statements like this. Since my book release, I received numerous feedback of those who endured spiritual abuse and thought it was just them. Stories of those that shared their struggles, shared their abuse, only to be turned away. While there's other stories of how their faith community rallied around and was a haven for them.
That's why this conversation is an important one to have. Some faith communities aren't guilty of this as they provide a strong network of support for victims/survivors, while some do not. The early churches we were apart of did not, while the faith community we were apart of after my mom's divorce did. Victims/survivors cling to their faith, especially in communities of color, and seek spiritual guidance from their faith leaders and faith community. This is why the conversation is an important one to have because you don't want to be the voice that leaves them feeling trapped with no way out. Be the voice that's a bridge and connects them to trauma-informed resources. It's okay to not know, but it's not okay to not get equipped and be connected to the resources that provide safety, hope, and healing.