if you've been a victim of abuse....
have you resolved your emotions & feelings that occurred during the abuse or resulted
from the abuse?
shouldn't be so hard on yourself
what emotions have you been dealing with or not dealing with? maybe it's time
to explore them...
abuse of children can lead, in adulthood, to addiction, rage, a severely damaged sense of self & an inability to truly bond with others.
Students & Teachers
What I learned about physical punishment & working with families
Phelan is a child & youth care teacher
in Edmonton, Alberta
I started my Child & Youth Care career
in New York City, in an area known as the lower East side, living in a tenement & working w/10 & 11 year olds in the
day time in a recreational summer program.
I learned a great deal from the youth &
families there & I was lucky enough to realize early on that I needed to listen & learn more than teach.
Rodney was one of these children. He was an
11 year old boy who generally seemed more well dressed & his mother made a point of meeting me & telling me that I
should have high expectations of Rodney & to let her know if he created any difficulty for me.
Rodney was generally cheerful, but he also liked to complain a bit if he didn’t like the events of the day or if he felt that he wasn’t getting enough attention.
I liked him, but felt that he was a bit spoiled & not as easy going as he might be.
The other children sometimes got annoyed with him if he tried to boss them around. Rodney was bright & full of energy & sometimes pushed the limits, but nothing too serious.
I worked with a group of 12 children &
we often traveled the subway system to beaches, parks & other places in NYC. I was always a bit apprehensive about supervising the group on the subways because it was easy to get off too early or stay on after the rest
of us had gotten off, so I worked with my teenage junior counselor to keep a running count of our charges, being particularly careful to watch the group while the doors were open at the various subway stops.
One afternoon we were visiting the Brooklyn
Botanical Gardens & Rodney found a frog which he wanted to take home. I told him that he had to leave it in the park.
Rodney got very mad at me.
We got to the subway for the ride home &
we all entered the subway car, but just as the doors were shutting, Rodney stepped back onto the platform & smiled as
we watched him from the moving train. I had to get off at the next stop & return to the station, leaving all the children
with the teenage counselor.
Rodney wasn’t there & after searching for a while I returned to the neighborhood.
Rodney was already there & laughed at his prank.
I was pretty frazzled by this point & told Rodney that he wouldn't be allowed to come to the group for the rest of the week (2 days) because of this behavior & that I was going to walk him home to let his mother know
The smile on his face vanished, but he didn’t
say anything to me, just walked along with me to "the projects" where he lived.
We walked up several flights of stairs until
we arrived at his apartment. His mother was home & greeted me with surprise at the door. She asked what was wrong &
I said that I'd experienced some trouble with Rodney today & that he needed to stay out of the program for 2 days until Monday.
Rodney’s mother looked quickly at Rodney,
who didn’t react at all & she said to me, "don’t worry, it won’t happen again." I was about to reply
when she grabbed Rodney’s arm & took him inside, shutting the door behind them.
I stood in the hallway & listened as she repeatedly hit &
screamed at her son & he yelled & cried as he was bounced off the walls up & down the hallway.
I banged on the door for a few minutes, trying
to get her to stop & to let me in.
I cried for Rodney that night & spent
a lot of time thinking about what had happened. When Rodney returned on Monday, I tried to apologize to him, but he acted as if nothing had happened. He & I barely spoke for the rest of the summer.
I learned many things that year & whenever
I'm tempted to use force to solve a youth’s difficulties with me, I thank Rodney for what I learned from him.
Violent crimes by girls rising, but the reasons why
The 14-year-old from Milwaukee sits slumped in a plastic chair in a windowless room
at Wisconsin's prison for juvenile girls. With a face absent of emotion, she cocks her head & recounts the time she picked up a bicycle handlebar & began to beat a girl in
her neighborhood. She was 8 & annoyed that the girl shared her name.
care. I didn't feel anything. My mind was someplace else,” said the girl, who fought regularly until she was arrested for theft &
sent to the prison in Union Grove.
“I'll fight anyone,” she said.
Her attitude has become increasingly typical; say juvenile justice workers, educators & sociologists who are alarmed at the rise of girl violence.
Violent crime by boys is more frequent & usually grabs more attention, but violent crime
by girls has risen more dramatically in recent decades, according to statistics.
Overall arrests of girls in Wisconsin in 2002 were 57% higher than in 1986, while arrests
for assault were up 102%; a total of 1,647 cases. For boys in the same period, overall arrests were up 25%, while assault
cases were up 49%.
“There's more fighting among girls,” said Michael Malmstadt, a judge in Milwaukee County's Children's
Court who has worked on juvenile cases for nearly 30 years. “The most prevalent offenses are assault-related disorderly
conduct or some sort of battery.”
What's behind the violence among girls isn't clear. Some attribute it to the rise of violence
in pop culture & a distortion of the movement to empower women.
Others say girls have always fought & that what's changed is the way law enforcement handles them. What's clearer is that the juvenile justice system isn't equipped to provide effective
treatment to girls who are being arrested for violent crimes.
Absent in Wisconsin & across the country are court programs that address female violence. “We have a crisis in the juvenile justice system,” said Meda
Chesney-Lind, a professor in women's studies at the University of Hawaii, who has written books on female violence. “We're
arresting all these girls, but we're not doing anything to deal with their issues.”
Nationwide, the rate of arrests of girls for violent crimes more than doubled between 1987
& 1994. The rate for boys rose during that time as well, but not as substantially. After peaking in the mid-1990's, both
rates have since declined, as has the adult crime rate.
But the decline rate for girls in Wisconsin is less than 1/2 that for boys. The violent
crime arrest rate for juvenile girls nationwide remains more than 50% above the 1980 rate. As many in Wisconsin see it, girl
violence is still on the rise.
“We've seen 7 fights this past school year & 6 involved females,” said Jim Linstroth, coordinator of Mack
Achievement Center, which provides alternative education for middle & high school students in Racine.
He gave an
interview on a day in May when a female student had
tried to bite off a boy's ear.
“I'm noticing more aggressiveness, more violence in my female students,” said Nola Starling-Ratliff, who has served 10 years as principal
of Racine's Horlick High School.
One fight at Horlick this year involved a 15-year-old pregnant student. She was jumped
at the end of the school year by a group of girls from a neighboring high school who thought her uppity. During the fight, the group yelled about killing her
baby. Despite being pregnant, the girl planned to retaliate, said Sammy Rangel, a counselor of at-risk youths who escorted
the girl home for 3 days.
“She said, 'I'm not scared of those (expletive). I'll fight all of them.' ”
The scenario came as no surprise to Rangel. Many girl fights spring from petty issues,
such as jealousy & gossip, Rangel & others said. Compared with boys, girls fight more viciously, refusing to break apart
even after school officials or police show up.
Afterward, they cling to grudges, they said.
“Boys can fight & be friends the next day,” said 15-year-old Aimee Linn, who is entering her sophomore year
at Riverside High School in Milwaukee.
Linn said she doesn't fight but has witnessed many at school. “With girls, it's
more emotional,” Linn said. “They'll fight again or hold a grudge.”
Kathy Malone, division manager for delinquency & court services in Milwaukee County's
Dept. of Health & Human Services, agreed.
“It's no longer unusual to see 2 girls come in, one as the victim, the other as the offender, then see them come in
2 months later with the roles reversed,” Malone said.
Asserting their power Research shows violent girls often come from troubled homes. Many
have been victims of abuse. But broken homes & abuse are nothing new. What's changed, some say, is girls' attitudes.
“It's being flipped around. Girls are getting sick of being treated badly,”
said 14-year-old Cierra Cunningham of Racine, who remembers her aunt giving her a talk about the importance of being tough after a male relative hit her in the jaw.
Cierra was among the girls interviewed for this article who said they viewed the rise of
female violence as a sign of women's equality with men. That's the message in the music of some female rappers & a growing
number of violent movies, video games & TV shows.
celebrate violent women have become more popular in recent years, paving the way for “Tomb Raider” & “Kill
In the eyes of many adults, violent girls have missed the point of the campaign for women's
“We've told girls: Stand up for yourself, you're in charge, don't be a victim,” said Dan Baran, director of Professional Services Group, an organization that runs youth programs for delinquent
& troubled kids in Kenosha, Milwaukee & Racine counties. But the girls are confusing being assertive with being aggressive.”
Tougher arrest policies But girl violence might not be changing as much as the statistics or anecdotes suggest, Chesney-Lind said. Recent changes to domestic-violence laws across the country require police to arrest everyone
involved in a fight. In many states, that means children as well adults, girls as well as boys.
“It's more of a rediscovery, girl violence,” Chesney-Lind said. “Girls have always done more fighting than
In the late 1980's, Wisconsin passed a law that requires police to arrest all adults
involved in a violent domestic dispute. The law doesn't mention children, but evidence
suggests police have increased arrests of children who are involved in these situations.
Most of the girls who land in Milwaukee County Children's Court for assault were arrested
for domestic violence, Malmstadt said. Treatment
programs In Wisconsin, most juvenile offenders, male & female alike, don't end up behind bars. Instead, they're placed
in county-run programs that provide residential or after-school treatment & supervision.
Among the most successful in Milwaukee County is a residential treatment program for boys with histories of chronic criminal behavior. They receive
anger management training & other therapy. Another program combines strict supervision of boys caught carrying guns with group
sessions on victim awareness & drug & alcohol issues.
These programs aren't as effective for girls, whose violence often springs from emotional wounds rather than a lack of accountability, Malone said. She hopes to soon launch therapeutic programs for girls that would focus on relationships & abuse.
not meeting the needs of these girls,” Malone said. Megan Twohey - 25 August 2004
abuse & violence involving women is a testimony of our societal values today....
I had never been threatened with violence by a woman until I was a victim in a domestic violence shelter. If you ask me, that's a strange, but realistic dilemma that many women face today when seeking safety within the refuge of a domestic violence shelter. It's doubly traumatizing that when in such dire need of calm, safety & security one finds themselves in the midst of a very volatile, unstable & threatening situation. The domestic violence shelter always reminded me of what it would be like to be in prison.
There are some victims in those places
that are so desensitized that all they know is to react defensively & violently if necessary. If there appears to be any threat to their safety within the population of victims; there tends to be some sincere threats & misplaced anger being raged against the most violated of all victims.
What I am
telling you, my visitor, is that within the walls of America's
domestic violence shelters, one must be prepared to meet some extremely violent women.
I wonder sometimes who had really abused who (the man in jail or the woman
in the shelter) when I was listening to the stories while visiting the smoking room. I had my life threatened because I was angry about someone breaking into my room in the shelter.
Someone broke in to my room & stole
my personal hygiene items. It's bad enough to leave everything you own in the world when you've been attacked by someone you
love, but when the free personal hygiene items that you've been given in the shelter get stolen...... by other victims
of domestic violence... you have to wonder about some important details.
I believe that when a victim or disabled person is seeking
help, seeking solace, seeking understanding, it's most likely to be the people who are trying to help in some way that can hurt that victim the most. It's also a definite threat to be around other victims.
in their own little worlds of defensiveness. You never know how defensive someone is. You never know if the victim in the shelter with you is really a victim or the abuser who has been able to fool the police. You are vulnerable, you're with women who might kill someone if they were pushed just a fraction of intensity more than usual.
There are women who will lose it because they have no alcohol in the shelter, no drugs, no usual coping methods available to them & some shelters don't allow smoking rooms.... & then... they have no creature comforts whatsoever, including clothes, shoes or the most basic needs.
If you've been abused, you become another type of victim. You must repeat your story over
& over again in front of strangers. You must be treated like a criminal, kept in a shelter, with curfews, sometimes in
rooms that are the pits of hell... no sheets, no towels, no blankets, sometimes no pillows & who knows who slept on your
bunk bed mattress the night before.
been abused, you must go to court. You must deal with police officers, doctors & sometimes social workers that
don't want to be working that day. Sometimes they're just sick of victims. Sometimes they just don't want to hear the word
victim just one more time.... sometimes they take out their anger about abuse & its victims - on the victims.
As I mentioned in the first paragraph,
I had my life threatened while in a domestic violence shelter in Grand Rapids, MI. That's right, a 350 pound
- give or take 50 pounds - black woman that happened to be about 6 feet tall, had broken into my room at the shelter &
taken my soap & a few other items.
found out it was her, I reported her to the shelter administration.
When they confronted her, they of course, told her that I had accused her of the offense. Later on, after she was done dealing
with them, she cornered me in the hallway. She glared down at me, I'm only five foot, one inch & she said in her very
manly voice, "When you be outta here, out on the street, you better be watchin your back, bitch, you white ass bitch, because
I'm going to get you."
"Okay, I can understand you're pissed at me, but you broke into my room & stole my soap ..... blah blah blah...." like any normal
human being would recant.
She backed me up into the wall, I could
smell her perspiration, I could feel the heat of her foul breath & I knew I had already seen this woman on the bus line
before which meant we'd be bumping into each other soon. Okay, I came to a domestic violence shelter to be safe & someone else threatens my life... what else could happen?
could & does happen to you in a domestic violence
shelter that if you intend upon retaining any sense of dignity while staying in a domestic violence shelter.... well you can think again. It won't be easy to do.
domestic violence shelter that I lived in was a long 5-6 week stay. It was a long stay because in Dayton, #1 - there is no limitation as to how long you can stay in the shelter like in other shelters elsewhere. #2 it was a long
stay because I had a newborn baby & a toddler to take care of & #3 was the fact that my ex-husband hadn't found me at this shelter, thus my action in
moving to a city where no one knew me, was successful. It made me feel as though I had finally proven myself successful in getting away from him. I felt like it was a much needed positive step.
It was horrible. I called the place, "the pits of hell." I don't
have enough space within this entire website to describe the most horrible place that I have ever had to stay in. I can tell
you that the girl that was across the hall & one door down was on the news about a month after I got out of the shelter
for killing someone.
She was a young girl, either 17 or 18,
but she had 3 kids I think. She treated them horribly. Most women with children in domestic violence shelters treat their
kids horribly. The staff at many domestic violence shelters must not be aware of this fact, unless they choose to keep their eyes closed to it.... who knows? An example of their behavior
would be the time I had just gotten the 3 of us
out of the shower at the shelter, soon after I had the baby. We had to get into the shower together, because there was no
one to watch the children while I was in the shower. You had to bring your children with you no matter what you were doing.
I was feeling
physically ill at the time, the time that we had left the
showers & naked, the 3 of us were sitting on a small towel that was still wet from drying the 3 of us off on our bare
mattress. We'd been there a couple of weeks & still hadn't received sheets, blankets or pillows. We'd been able to get
one towel though. I'd banged on the door of the floor monitor until she opened the door to hear me screaming at her. I was
so hyper vigilant at that point.
"I need a towel & I need one right now! I won't leave until I have a towel! I need the towel, please give me a towel, I will not "air dry" one more time. Give me a towel, please!"
I was feeling
physically ill because when you took a shower in this particular
shelter, (thank God above that they
completely gutted this place & rebuilt it right after I got out of there) you had to stand in the water, on the recessed floor that was full of water from the previous
shower. Yeah, you had to stand in someone else's dirty water to take a shower. It was totally disgusting. And to top it all off, I had a toddler standing in there with me to keep extreme watch over so that he wouldn't sit down
in the water & start drinking it or anything. I also had a newborn in my arms. I had to watch over her as well, to be
sure she was okay.
So we were
all sitting in our room, on the bunk bed, with the door
locked when suddenly without warning there were 3 very loud sharp knocks on the door and then it flew open. No space
in-between the knocks & the opening of the door - for an answer as to, "who's there?" or no time to yell out, "we're
all naked!" The woman just stood there staring at the 3 of us. Her eyes wide open, we sat there embarrassed once again, humiliated
once again, forced into a victimizing situation once again, there is no safe place within the confines of a domestic violence
shelter, ironic, isn't it?
The last shelter I stayed in was the
domestic violence shelter in Dayton, Ohio. It was about 12 years ago.
And while it's a nicer place now, structurally
anyway; I wouldn't know what the place was like to live in, beside that fact. I used to go back & visit the staff, but
I don't anymore. I try not to think about my days living there. It's just kind of hard to forget.
post traumatic stress disorder. I get triggered every time I go downtown & see that
building. I get triggered every time I see the hospital downtown. You see, my last daughter was born just 2 days after arriving
I was abused not only by the those in the shelter, but also at the hospital - yes that's right; the doctors, the cab driver & countless others perpetrated even more types of
abusive measures towards me continually, while I endured this humiliating situation.
wouldn't examine me when I went into the hospital clinic
at the request of the emergency room doctors. He threw my large manila envelope of all my medical records down on the counter
in the examining room, while my toddler son, stood by helplessly watching the idealized image of a doctor & I was in paper
gown, with monstrous belly pointed straight up to the ceiling, full term that very day, with my legs propped up in the stirrups.
He ungraciously ordered me to go back to the shelter & wait to go into labor. Then he yelled at me,
"You have a lot of nerve coming here this far along. You want someone to take responsibility for your baby now? What is the matter with you?"
he was concerned about was valid, but what was I supposed to do? Did he
believe I should have stayed in my room at that shelter, to give birth to my baby there, on the stained mattress of my bunk bed,
that had no sheets, no blankets, no pillows & no crib for my 18 month old toddler son that was with me.
We'd been in our clothes for several days
without being able to wash them. I arrived in Dayton 2 days before my due date. I'd fled Michigan because the courts wanted
to give my abusive, drunk, prescription drug abusing husband liberal
visitation with my 18 month old son... I wouldn't allow it.
my due date. It was a Monday. My toddler had an ear infection.
There was no one available to take my toddler when I was in the hospital. I had to make my own arrangements for him. The doctor
who yelled at me in the hospital's clinic that Monday morning, caused me to get so upset that I went into labor.
be my fifth child. Any normal generally educated person
would know that a woman who had 4 other children, would have a faster labor than the 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th labors were; but
I was told to go to the emergency room when I went into labor. So, after I could stop crying, they made me see the hospital's
social worker. I began to cry again. I couldn't stop sobbing. This wasn't supposed to be happening to a girl who was raised
in a decent home.
supposed to be happening in a reputable hospital. This hospital
had a new birthing center. They were so proud of it. Yet when I appeared later that night after being in labor all day, the doctor, a woman who examined me - didn't want
to take responsibility for delivering my baby either. She sent me away because I was only 3 centimeters dilated. I was going fast though.
I had been
in labor since the early morning hours when that doctor
had screamed at me, causing me to be totally humiliated. My last labor had only been a few hours, but as I was breathing, huffing & puffing thru contractions, I was forced to
leave the hospital grounds. I called the cab company for a ride back to the shelter. I was breathing thru contractions. They
were getting worse. The same cab driver who had taken me to the hospital showed up & looked at me, "You've gotta be kidding
me!" I just shook my head & cried. He didn't want to take me back to the shelter. He told me that I'd have to get out
of the cab if I thought that I was going to have the baby.
I was a victim. I'd been abused by my husband. I'd been abused by husband #1, husband #2 as well as by the husband behind the curtain, husband,
#3. This #3, he'd tried to kill me. I had almost lost my baby in the 4th month of my pregnancy when he had put me into the
hospital. I was treated like dirt.
I was legally abused by the system. I had been for the last year, actually almost 2 years. I'd been abused by the
clergy who told me that I wasn't walking with God because I had left my husband. It didn't matter that he had been hurting me. I had to get back together with him in order to be, "right in the eyes of God." It was during that time
that I had gotten pregnant.
I can imagine those of you who may read this & shake your head & say, "oh,
that's so smart of you..... you stupid woman! Why did you get pregnant?" I can only say that here it goes again, being abused once again, by yet another stranger, not knowing my situation, not knowing what it's like to be the victim of domestic violence.
Not knowing what it's like to be forcibly isolated..... Many people abuse the people who
are seeking help from being abused by someone else. It happens continually. Just when you think you might
be able to have faith in someone, when you're looking for help, when you're
the absolutely most vulnerable, ("Why would you even
attempt to have faith in anyone," I ask myself)
they do it to you again.... they "stick it to you."
What am I
trying to say? Maybe I'm saying, "Do you see why women go back to their abusers?"
Why do I keep rambling on with all of this accusation & negativity? Maybe it's because, America has no idea on how to treat
an abused person.
Why do I
say that this was so unfair?
told me that it would happen to me. I think part of being so critically traumatized was that I had the misconception in my brain, being of slightly higher intelligence, that when someone abused you & you were given the phone number of a "relief agency" that it was "relief" that you were seeking out & expecting to get. WRONG.
I believe that I expect to be abused at any given moment in my life. I expect it although I haven't been with an abusive husband in 12, almost 13 years. No one
told me that the people who were supposed to help you get on with your life, would cut you the most. They never told me that
in the end, it was only the help that you offered yourself, would be the most dependable help you could look for. No one ever told me....
those nice church ladies that volunteer at domestic violence shelters & donate all their old (very nice) clothing, (maybe last season's fashion statements) who honestly believe that they're helping those poor women who've been hit, slapped, shot, stabbed, injured some severely, some only slightly,
but all emotionally raped, devastated... by offering them some clothes to wear...
be nuts if they knew that because the shelter didn't have enough staff to supervise the distribution of those clothes that some
women would be verbally & physically threatened & traumatized by the actual victims of domestic violence within the shelter!
I'd seen many women fighting over clothes in the clothing closets. I'd seen women on the floor, rolling around
pulling each other's hair, slapping each other, scratching each other with their 4 inch long fingernails, over something as
trivial as taking the only orange toothbrush in the toiletry closet.
Being a victim is traumatizing. No one thought that because I was alone, having my baby in a strange place, not knowing any of the doctors, but knowing all too well that no one wanted to deliver
my baby - that I might be upset.
No one thought about being with me from the domestic violence shelter. No one thought about my previous mental state throughout the day after being yelled at by the doctor.
No one thought about my thoughts that were flooding my mind about my husband, not being able to be there with me, not being a part of all of this because
he chose to be abusive. I was devastated.
When they told me it was time to push, all I could do was cry. I began to sob hysterically. I refused to push. I didn't want to push. I was exhausted. As soon as I had gotten back to the shelter I had the urge to
push. The paramedics had to come get me. I was blowing as hard as I could all the way back to the hospital. When I got there,
they took me to a birthing room. They asked me to "walk" to my room from the hallway. (Yes, I said
I was having the urge to push & I was blowing air out to keep from pushing for at least 1/2 hour.)
If you have a problem with body image or weight that is associated with past or present abuse - click here!
Sexual Abuse by Father or Father Figure
When the issue in a woman's past is sexual abuse by the father
or father figure it causes deep emotional, mental & spiritual wounds.
These wounds create a fertile ground for planting harmful relationships. Often the memories of abuse are buried for years, a painful secret that lays, apparently, dormant for possibly decades.
However, these memories can & usually do, cause choices of partners to be unhealthy & even irrational.
How can I say this? I know, because a VERY close member of my immediate family sexually
abused me for years. I hesitate to say whom, since this
person is still living. Yet he knows, I know & my husband knows about the abuse.
It's caused me to make terrible choices in my life. Ones that are still affecting my children &
me today. This is a deep & troubling story difficult to face equally difficult to deal with.
For many years I lived with the promise I made to myself that "No man will ever control me again." This promise affected my relationships with men, but mostly it affected my relationship with God.
How could I possibly trust God when He is a male after all, man was created in His image, right? So, if man was created in God's image & man is
a hurtful & abusive creature, someone not to be trusted, then how could I possibly trust God & believe what He says to be true?
Not only that, how can I accept God's love when the only love I was shown by a man, when I was a child, was of a sexual nature. God isn't a sexual being in the sense of physical sensuality,
so how does one resolve this?
Additionally, if love means sex, then how can I love some male person, God or otherwise, who I can't have sex with? Really, this is how my mind was working.
It has taken much prayer & many long talks with my husband & several failed attempts at counseling, to learn to separate the behavior of man from the truth & will of God. And yet, some problems linger.
For example: If this abuser taught me by his actions that love meant sex, how do I handle it when I find TRUE love?
This has been my latest problem. It isn't that sex is wrong, or that I don't find my
husband attractive. It isn't even that we don't, you know, have a sexual relationship. It's that in the back of my mind is
the thought that if my husband really loved me then he shouldn't want or need sex after all, God really loves me & He doesn't.
Can you see how the thinking & logic becomes twisted?
Look, I'm being completely honest with you. I'm telling you my most personal thoughts. I know there are other women who feel the same way. Either they have come to the same conclusion or they've
become promiscuous or gay, or, some other dysfunction that isn't Gods plan for us.
Lasting Effects of Pornographic Images of Children
It’s important to realize that these images can have a devastating & lasting effect on children.
addition to any physical injuries they can suffer in the course of their molestation, such as genital bruising, lacerations,
or exposure to sexually transmitted diseases, child victims can also experience depression, withdrawal, anger & other psychological disorders. Such effects may continue into adulthood.
women abused as children have statistically significant higher rates of:
Child victims also frequently experience feelings of:
These feelings are often expressed thru:
- Changes in sleep patterns
Younger children tend to externalize stress by:
- Re-enacting sexual activities thru play
- Negative effects on their growing sexuality as a result of inappropriate early sexual experiences.
lives of children featured in these illegal images are forever altered, not only by the molestation but also by the permanent
record of the exploitation.
sexual exploitation takes place, the molester may document these encounters on film or video. This documentation can then become the "ammunition"
needed to blackmail the child into further submission, which is necessary to continue the relationship & maintain its secrecy.
addition these documented images allow molesters to "relive" their sexual fantasies with children long after the exploitation has stopped.
greater number of child molesters are now using computer technology to organize & maintain their collections of these
illegal images. In addition they're also using the Internet to increase the size of these collections. Personally manufactured
illegal images of children are especially valuable on the Internet, which provides the molester with a respected status among fellow exploiters & traders of this material.
this status is achieved, molesters will often begin to trade images of their own sexual exploits with children among themselves. When these images reach cyberspace, they’re irretrievable & can continue to circulate
forever. Thus the child is re-victimized as the images are viewed again & again.
Abusive Behaviors as a Symptom of Personality Disorders
I have found that after researching abusive behaviors for my
website anxieties 101 that one of the pervasive symptoms of the mental disorders or personality disorders are abusive behaviors.
Therefore, I have researched further to include abusive behaviors as a symptom of some mental illnesses & personality disorders have excerpts
from many articles I have found on the web included below. Personality Disorders can be very disabling disorders, but with
treatment, can be controllable. It's important when recognizing abusive behaviors in either children,
teens or adults to consider the reasons for the abusive
behaviors once you have recognized & identified it correctly.
All excerpts have an underlined link title that will enable you to access the article
in its entirety by simply clicking on the link.
excerpt:The Merck Manual of Diagnosis & Therapy
traits are patterns of thinking, perceiving, reacting & relating that are relatively stable over time & in various situations. Personality disorders
occur when these traits are so rigid & maladaptive that they impair interpersonal or vocational functioning.
traits & their potential maladaptive significance are usually evident from early adulthood & persist throughout much
of life." ....
"Antisocial personality (previously called psychopathic
or sociopathic): Persons with this personality disorder callously disregard the rights &
feelings of others. They exploit others for materialistic gain or personal gratification (unlike narcissistic persons, who exploit others because they think their superiority justifies it).
Characteristically, they act out their conflicts in impulsive & irresponsible ways, sometimes with hostility & serious violence. They tolerate frustration poorly. Often they don't anticipate the negative consequences of their antisocial behaviors & typically don't feel remorse or guilt afterward.
of them have a well-developed capacity for glibly rationalizing their behavior or for blaming it on others. Dishonesty & deceit permeate their relationships. Punishment rarely modifies their behavior or improves their judgment & foresight; it usually confirms their harshly unsentimental view of the world.
Antisocial personality disorder is often associated with alcoholism, drug addiction, infidelity, promiscuity, failure in one's occupation, frequent relocation & imprisonment. In Western culture, more men have this personality disorder than women & more
women have a borderline personality; these 2 disorders have much in common.
In the families of patients w/both personality patterns, the prevalence of antisocial relatives, substance abuse, divorces & childhood abuse is high. Often, the patient's parents have a poor relationship & the patient was severely emotionally deprived in his formative years. Life expectancy is decreased, but among survivors, the disorder tends to diminish or stabilize with
The Secrets of Emotional Abuse Recovery
For Women - By Dr. Annie Kaszina
1. Sticks & stones won’t
break my bones” – & words won’t leave any measurable physical damage, but they'll cause progressive,
long-term harm. Never underestimate the power of words: words are used to brainwash.
Being told you're “stupid”, “ugly”,
“lazy” or “worthless” is never acceptable. The first times you hear it, it'll hurt, naturally. In time you “may get used to” hearing it from a partner. That’s when you start to internalize
& believe it. When that happens you're doing the other person’s work of putting you down for them. This is why your feelings of self-worth suffer increasingly over time.
The good news is that just as words have been used
to bring you down, you can learn to harness the power of words to build you up & restore your confidence & belief in yourself.
2. You're always told that it’s your fault. Somehow, whatever happens, however it starts, the ultimate blame is always yours. Notice that we're talking ultimate blame here. The blaming partner will always tell you that their behavior was caused by what you said or did.
In fact, their argument runs along
the lines that you can’t possibly blame them for anything, because if you hadn’t said what you said, or done what you did it would never have happened.
3. You’re more inclined to believe your partner than you are to believe yourself. Have you ever reeled with a sense of hurt & injustice, or seethed with anger at the way you’ve been treated?
Have you found yourself asking:
“Is it reasonable to feel like this?” “Am I misinterpreting things?” “Have I got it wrong?”
If this is you, what it means is that you've become so brainwashed you’ve stopped trusting in your own judgment. Your mind keeps throwing up the observations & questions because, deep down, you know that what's happening is utterly
wrong. But right now you can’t feel the strength of your own convictions.
4. You need your partner to acknowledge your feelings. Have you ever felt desperate to make your partner hear what you're saying & apologize for the hurtful things they’ve said? Have you ever felt that only they can heal the pain they’ve caused?
Does your need for them to validate your feelings keep you hooked into the relationship?
When a partner constantly denies or refuses to listen to your feelings, that is, unquestionably, mental abuse.
5. Your partner blows hot & cold. He can be very loving but is often highly critical of you. He may tell you how much he loves you, yet he's short on care or consideration towards you.
In fact, some of the time, maybe
even a lot of the time, he treats you as if you were someone he truly dislikes.
You do everything
you can to make him happy, but it’s never good enough. You’re more like the pet dog in the relationship than you're the equal partner.
Your constant efforts to get his attention & please him meet with limited success.
Sometimes he’ll be charmed,
often he’s dismissive.
If you find yourself puzzling about how your partner
can treat you that way, it's because you're trying to live in a love-based relationship, when in reality you're living in a control-based relationship.
The mental abuser
struggles with his own feelings of worthlessness & uses his relationship to create a feeling of personal power, at his partner’s expense.
6. You feel as if you're
constantly walking on eggshells. There's a real degree of fear in the relationship. You've come to dread his outbursts, the hurtful things that he'll find to say to you. (Maybe the same anxiety & need to please spill over into your other relationships also.)
Fear isn't part of a loving relationship, but it's a vital part of a mentally abusive relationship. It enables the
abuser to maintain control over you.
7. You can heal. Mentally abusive relationships cause enormous emotional damage to the loving partner who tries, against all odds, to hold the relationship together & ultimately, can’t do it, because her partner
is working against her.
Whether you're currently in a mentally
abusive relationship, have left one recently, or years later are still struggling with the anxieties & low self-worth & lack of confidence caused by mental abuse, it's never too late to heal.
you do need to work with a person or a programme specifically geared to mental abuse recovery.
Women who've suffered mental abuse
expect radical change of themselves & they expect it right away. This is why they often struggle & not uncommonly, take up with another abusive
Mental abuse recovery is a gradual process.
Low self-worth & limiting beliefs about what kind of future the abuse sufferer can ever hope for are the blocks that can stop women from moving on.
But they're blocks that you can
clear very effectively. Just as language was once used to harm you, you can now learn how language can heal you. You can overcome
past mental abuse & keep yourself safe from it in the future.
You can also learn to feel strong, believe in yourself & create the life & the relationships you truly want.
You Want To Be” is a unique workbook designed to accompany you on a year long journey into emotional health &
(C) 2005 Annie Kaszina
Ph D, is a coach & writer who has helped hundreds of women to rebuild their confidence & their life after an abusive relationship. Annie is the author of "The Woman You Want
To Be". This ebook will teach you how you can love yourself first, so that you can create strong self-belief & build the fulfilling future you're looking for on firm foundations.
To find out more & sign up to
Annie's free bi-monthly ezine visit http://www.emotionalabuserecoverynow.com/ You can email Annie at: annie@EmotionalAbuseRecoveryNow.com
Feel free to reprint this article on your website or in your ezine, just include
the resource box.
How Victims are Affected by Abuse
- By Sam Vaknin
has long lasting pernicious & traumatic effects such as panic attacks, hypervigilance, sleep disturbances, flashbacks (intrusive memories), suicidal ideation & psychosomatic symptoms.
The victims experience
shame, depression, anxiety, embarrassment, guilt, humiliation, abandonment & an enhanced sense of vulnerability.
In "Stalking - An Overview of the Problem" (Can J Psychiatry
1998;43:473–476), authors Karen M Abrams & Gail Erlick Robinson write:
there's often much denial by the victim. Over time, however, the stress begins to erode the victim’s life & psychological brutalization results. Sometimes the victim develops an almost
fatal resolve that, inevitably, one day she'll be murdered.
Victims, unable to live a normal life, describe feeling stripped of self-worth & dignity. Personal control & resources, psychosocial development, social support, premorbid personality traits & the severity of the stress may all influence how the victim experiences & responds to it ...
by ex-lovers may experience additional guilt & lowered self-esteem for perceived poor judgment in their relationship choices. Many victims become isolated & deprived of support when employers or friends withdraw after also being subjected to harassment or are cut off by the victim in order
to protect them.
Other tangible consequences include financial losses from quitting jobs, moving &
buying expensive security equipment in an attempt to gain privacy. Changing homes & jobs results in both material losses
& loss of self-respect."
Surprisingly, verbal, psychological
& emotional abuse have the same effects as the physical variety (Psychology Today, September/October
2000 issue, p.24). Abuse of all kinds also interferes with the victim's ability to
work. Abrams & Robinson wrote this (in "Occupational Effects of Stalking", Can J Psychiatry
"... (B)eing stalked by a former partner may affect
a victim’s ability to work in 3 ways. First, the stalking behaviors often interfere
directly with the ability to get to work (i.e., flattening tires or other methods of preventing
leaving the home). Second, the workplace may become an unsafe location if the offender decides to appear.
Third, the mental
health effects of such trauma may result in forgetfulness, fatigue, lowered concentration & disorganization. These factors
may lead to the loss of employment, with accompanying loss of income, security & status."
Still, it's hard to generalize. Victims aren't a uniform lot. In
some cultures, abuse is commonplace & accepted as a legitimate mode of communication,
a sign of love & caring & a boost to the abuser's self-image. In such circumstances, the victim is likely to adopt the norms of society & avoid serious trauma.
Deliberate, cold-blooded & premeditated torture has worse & longer-lasting
effects than abuse meted out by the abuser in rage & loss of self-control. The existence of a loving & accepting social support network is another mitigating
factor. Finally, the ability to express negative emotions safely & to cope with them constructively is crucial to healing.
Typically, by the time the abuse reaches critical & all-pervasive proportions, the abuser had already, spider-like, isolated his victim from family, friends & colleagues. She's catapulted into a nether land, cult-like setting where reality itself
dissolves into a continuing nightmare.
When she emerges on the other end of this
wormhole, the abused woman (or, more rarely, man) feels
helpless, self-doubting, worthless, stupid & a guilty failure for having botched her relationship & "abandoned" her "family". In an effort to regain perspective & avoid embarrassment, the victim denies the abuse or minimizes it.
No wonder that survivors
of abuse tend to be clinically depressed, neglect their health & personal appearance & succumb to boredom, rage & impatience. Many end up abusing prescription drugs or drinking or otherwise behaving recklessly.
Some victims even develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Women as Victims of Verbal Abuse
© 2000 Michele
on subscribing to the newsletter:
Liberation Psychology & You)
As members of the "weaker" sex, women have suffered the violence of
physical abuse from the "stronger" sex.
They've even suffered it at the hands of stronger women. Although there's not nearly enough of an outcry over this violence
at least there's a shared sense that it's wrong.
Not so w/verbal abuse. It leaves no visible wounds or scars & can be hidden or denied w/hardly a 2nd thought. Unfortunately, verbal attacks aren't predominantly done by men.
Since they require no physical prowess (although
it helps, since it increases the fear & intimidation), verbal abuse can be as violent & as destructive when done by women as when done by men.
And there's no great public outcry against it & certainly no laws making it illegal to verbally slice another, or
especially a woman, to pieces & leave her emotionally bleeding.
Fathers & husbands can roar at daughters & wives, berating, belittling & pounding them into submission w/out being confronted or jailed.
There's also a sad legacy of mothers
verbally bullying & deriding daughters
that goes virtually unaddressed.
It's long overdue that we force ourselves to look at the suffering & devastation that verbal abuse exacts & draw the line on tolerating it. The fear & pain aren't as hidden as we would pretend.
It can be seen & felt in the eyes & in the faces of the
emotionally abused, w/out a word being uttered. Imagine what we could know if we actually talked about
It's the climate of pretense, denial & hiddenness that fosters the self-abuse that women get caught in when they've been victims of others' verbal
abuse. My focus will be on this dangerous side effect, the abused woman's abuse of herself.
This is a very deliberate choice on my part, because psychological oppression, unlike physical oppression, only works if we participate in it & psychological liberation occurs only
when we liberate ourselves.
We're not in charge of anyone else's liberation, but we're definitely in charge of our own.
Sadly, if we're abused in childhood we tend to learn abuse & imitate
the hostility directed at us. We may or may not abuse others, but almost surely
we'll have learned to abuse ourselves.
We must, therefore, look at the way victims not only become victimized, but victimizers, first of themselves & then, sometimes, of others.
As women, were members of the traditionally viewed "inferior" & "weaker" sex.
Verbal abuse directed at girls & women has a greater chance
of hurting our self-image & damaging our self-esteem, because we're already coming from a lesser position & a smaller
"box". Male approval & male protection is subliminally, or even blatantly, communicated to us as a necessity for a safe & happy life.
Even if we know better, we don't tend to want to fail that test. So, abusive men are very dangerous
to women. On the other hand, if other women attack, deride or ridicule us, we're left to wonder what's so wrong w/us that
even women abuse us.
We again question our own worth & worthiness. There's no easy escape route for women, out of
the low self-esteem even self-hatred pit, when abuse is present.
Women, therefore, are very vulnerable to verbal abuse & pay a devastatingly high price for it. The inner voice of an emotionally abused woman isnt only a voice of pain, suffering &
anger, it's also the voice of an alienated woman who blames herself for how she's treated.
every harangue from others, there's most often a matching harangue from herself. Self-loathing becomes the source of her own self-abuse.
can die or be divorced or moved away from & abused women are often still not
free. The abuser has
isn't a new revelation & still we tolerate verbal abuse. Why?
do we as a society continue to deny the ravaging effects on anyone, but especially for our focus here, on women, of verbal innuendoes, attacks, ridicule &
we're afraid of exposure & we feel safer with hiddenness. We know so much more about
psychological torment than we ever reveal. Coldness & silence, withdrawal &
ignoring aren't foreign tools of torture either.
know their power to devastate & create a feeling of powerlessness & panic just as we know the power of openly hostile acts.
as well as homes can be emotionally abusive, only the style may change. At work, we excuse our tolerance for abuse by saying we fear we'll lose our job if we confront the abuser.
home, we excuse our tolerance because it's none of our business, if we aren't the one being abused & if we're the target of the abuse, we deny our own power to free ourselves.
have the "someday my prince will come" complex, that looks to another to rescue us or rescue others, but we don't look to ourselves. Herein
lies the rub.
only way for a victim of verbal abuse to be freed is to free herself. Both the victimizing "other" & the victimizing "self" must be confronted.
must be stopped. If all else fails, separating from the abusive other will stop that abuse.
we can't separate from ourselves, we're left to convert the hostile energy directed at & against us, to strong energy working for us.
This is a complex process that takes commitment, courage & "know how".
commitment must be to ourselves & our psychological liberation.
The courage must be to face directly the forces within us that believed what was said to us & about us & confront their hostility & bullying
tactics, demanding that they stop.
"know how" is the psychology & the tools needed to convert the hostile energy into
excited energy for a life fueled by desire not fear or anger.
isn't easy, because victims become believers & imitators of the hostility to such an extent that self-doubt & self-blame, even self-hatred, become second nature.
free themselves, victims must draw upon all 3 elements:
would be my strongest recommendation for the committed, courageous women who want to learn how to free themselves.
would also be a good thing to join a group where discussions & sharing & caring are directed toward freeing yourself.
join a group where describing your plight & staying in it brings sympathy without movement.
Liberation psychology is designed to teach us the principles of the inner world & how
to live with integrity in this world. Reading, studying & discussing what I've written
would be a most helpful tool.
hard work to free ourselves from the emotional attachment to psychological abuse, but it's the greatest gift you could ever give yourself.
you have the necessary commitment & courage needed to do the work required to psychologically liberate yourself.
Emotional abuse can have serious physical & psychological consequences for women, including:
Women who are psychologically abused but not physically abused are 5 times more likely
to misuse alcohol than women who haven't experienced
are lifting the world upward & onward are those who encourage more than criticize."
(strive to be
an encouragement to someone you love)
Abuse can be any behavior that attempts to control or manipulate another person.
the underlying aim of verbal & emotional abuse
& in people raised with a power hierarchy
(usually a patriarchy, sometimes a matriarchy).
The habit - the attitude - is so thoroughly ingrained in the
abuser that they honestly know no other way to feel "in control" other than to
control another person. In such families the goal is to "win," not to resolve; to "own," not to share.
Successful manipulations of other people - sometimes bewilderingly clever - are cheered by fellow family members. "What moxy!" they'll
say, or "you told her!"
Verbal & emotional abuse are the most insidious forms of
abuse because, outside of the obvious name calling
& yelling variety, they're so difficult to define & describe.
The uninitiated victim of such behavior, a victim who lives by "sharing power" & cooperation, will experience hurt that ranges from confusion ("what just happened?" ) to emotional devastation &
The damage of verbal & emotional abuse to the victim, everyone agrees,
is longer-lasting than even severe physical abuse.
The long-term prognosis for people who don't get away from chronic
this type is dire, including later onset of physical & nervous disorders, addictions or sometimes worse.
Emotional abuse may be difficult to detect. Personal awareness & understanding of the issue is key to recognizing it. A pattern of the following indicators may assist in detecting emotional
"Love, friendliness, appreciation, understanding & sympathy are forms of nourishment that no one can do without."
Dr. Phillip Welsh author of Seven Essentials of Health
Keeping you away from other people
Does your partner
get angry when you talk on the phone?
Does he open your
Does he keep you
from seeing a friend?
Is he angry when you're just a little late getting home?
Does he want you home
when he is home?
You Carry The Cure In Your
by Andrew Vachss
So begins the riveting article about attorney & author Andrew Vachss who has devoted his life to protecting children.
Emotional abuse of children
is so insidiously destructive that we couldn't do it justice in one page here. The effects of child abuse
are so long lasting & so far reaching, we highly suggest you visit
the web site of this author.
It's loaded w/articles & pages & pages of information
about the emotional, physical & sexual abuse of children.
the signs & effects of child abuse so effectively that judges have used his works to help decide their cases. Have a look at Andrew Vachss'
Why Feel Guilty?
Editorial : CYCLES OF ABUSE
Recurring cycles of abuse often characterize the lives of survivors of
abuse. The aim of the healing process is to
free the survivor from
these recurring cycles & to heal them.
Many of the victims of child abuse learned to cope by developing aggressive, self destructive & other
negative behavior patterns. These negative patterns influence:
- career choices
- & other important areas of their lives
A wrong career choice may result in failure, further reinforcing the feelings of worthlessness & guilt already part of that person.
Abusive relationships resulting from wrong choices only
serve to compound the hurt, distrust & anger. Reinforcement of the negative feelings & behavior patterns will reinforce the cycles of abuse. Victims can
become perpetrators & in turn victimize others.
Every adult survivor has the choice to become either a victim or a perpetrator. Deciding to no longer be a victim means
feelings of guilt, shame, passivity, worthlessness, low self esteem, depression, repressed anger &
self destructive behavior.
Choosing not to be a perpetrator means having to deal with feelings of anger & revenge, hatred, hurt, distrust, guilt, low self esteem & worthlessness. The dominance of these feelings may differ from
person to person & may manifest themselves in different ways. Some survivors become violent, becoming perpetrators themselves,
while other remain passive & victimized.
Guilt can be dealt with by applying the concept of forgiveness. True forgiveness can only occur once the anger & hurt have been acknowledged & expressed in a healthy way.
The church has an important role to play in healing the hurt,
distrust, low self esteem, guilt & anger. Accepting the survivor as a person of worth & affirming that worth thru positive regard & love is the first
step in the healing process.
Allowing the person to express their hurt & anger against the
abuser & toward God in a constructive way
is the next step. Helping them to forgive & to receive forgiveness opens
the way to complete healing.
New life skills & coping mechanisms need to be learned in order to bring an end to the cycles of abuse & to prevent relapses
into old negative behavior patterns.
Women generally do
whatever they can to end the emotional abuse, whether directly or indirectly, such as trying to avoid, escape or resist their [abuser] in some way.
who're emotionally abused often find that their experiences are minimized or misunderstood by those they turn to for help.
In addition, beyond
short-term emergency shelters & services, there are few long-term options available to abused women.
The lack of accessible affordable housing, inadequate income support, legal aid & day care prevent a woman from having the resources to live free from abuse.
As a result of these
& other barriers, an emotionally abused woman usually leaves her partner an average of 5 times before ending her relationship.
there is always an opportunity to leave...
Senior abuse is still a new issue & there’s still little research in this field on emotional abuse.
We do know that senior emotional abuse & neglect can be personal or systemic & that it occurs in a variety of relationships & settings, including abuse by:
Adult children or other relatives
Unrelated formal or informal caregivers
Someone in a position of trust
Seniors whore emotionally abused may experience feelings of extreme inadequacy, guilt, low self-esteem, symptoms of depression, fear of failure, powerlessness or hopelessness.
These signs may be easily confused with loss of mental capability so that a senior may be labeled as "senile" or "incapable" when in fact she or he may be being emotionally
Caregivers may often outwardly display anger & resentment toward the senior in the company of others.
They may also display a complete lack of respect or concern for the senior by repeatedly interrupting or publicly humiliating her or him. Not taking into account a senior's wishes concerning
decisions about her or his own life is an outward sign of abuse
are you involved in a fundamental religious group?
is it important for you to have a close walk w/God?
have you been experiencing painful life transitions?
are you emotionally very needy now in this point of your life?
read about spiritual abuse objectively because it's a struggle to evaluate your spiritual situation when you need it so badly.
of Spiritual Abuse are well-documented,
not only in recent literature, but also in church history, & even in the Bible itself. It's not limited to groups w/heretical doctrines or wierd beliefs. As Ronald Enroth writes:
abuse can take place in the context of doctrinally sound,
Bible-preaching, fundamentalist, conservative Christianity. All that's needed for abuse is a pastor accountable to no one & therefore beyond confrontation. [Churches That Abuse, p. 189.]
Few people can readily identify Spiritual
Abuse when they see it.
It's due to the fact that in varying degrees, the individual components of Spiritual Abuse are
pervasively present in the church itself. As Enroth also writes:
... tendencies toward
abusive styles of leadership are more prevalent than most Christians realize. [Churches That Abuse, p. 205.]
Spiritually abusive leaders have an element of familiarity on their side as they lure people into their groups. Few people
will join a group whose abuse is obvious. Conditioning new members to the abusive environment is simply a matter of gradually intensifying the following characteristics over time:
Did you ever have the experience of being in a Christian group in which
every time you brought a matter of concern to the spiritual leadership they found a way to turn it around
& make it your problem?
After joining this group, did you find yourself doing things they
wanted you to do, which, if they had told you right up front that this would be a requirement for membership, you'd never
have joined in the first place?
Did they have an uncanny ability to make it seem like it was your idea
to do these things, as if it was by your own free choice, even though you really didn't want to do them?
Did they always keep you guessing about what they really meant by what they said?
Did they use special jargon that you could never quite fully figure out?
Did the leader frequently silence people's objections by "coming out of left field" w/statements or questions or accusations
that left people baffled?
Did he always seem to have a "trump card" he could use if his judgment was questioned & if worst came to worst, he could always find
a way to pressure someone into submission?
Did they find "spiritual" reasons for separating you from your family, or alienating you from your spouse?
If they ever finally admitted to committing some sin, did they admit it in such general terms that you couldn't specifically
know what it was they were admitting?
In the process of "confession," did they still find some detail that either made them look good or you look bad?
Did you feel as though, as long as you were in this group, you were on an emotional roller-coaster controlled by your leader's approval or disapproval of you which could change at any moment?
If you answered "yes" to all of these questions, then you, my friend, belonged to a highly manipulative group.
If it claimed to be a Christian group, or fellowship, or church, then it was also very, spiritually abusive. Biblically speaking, it never qualified as being what it claimed to be.
As Christians, we find it difficult to believe that our brothers & sisters in Christ would ever act this way
& this difficulty causes us to drop our guard & to be more trusting w/some of our fellow-believers than we should be.
Because we live in a fallen world, people, even Christians, may try
to manipulate us. In such situations we must know how to say "no" w/out feeling guilty.
By Hook or By Crook: How Cults Lure Christians, by Harold Bussell. (New York:
McCracken Press, 1993), p. 64. Previously published
as Unholy Devotion: Why Cults Lure Christians, (Zondervan, 1983).]
The sad fact is, many Christians are persistently guilty of Spiritual Abuse & Spiritual Abuse is based on manipulation. W/out manipulation, it couldn't exist.
I'm using the word "manipulation" here in the sense provided by Webster's second definition of the
or control artfully or by shrewd use of influence, often in an unfair or fraudulent way" (New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, 1988, p. 823).
By definition, this kind of manipulation is deceptive & the manipulation involved in Spiritual Abuse is especially
cruel because it takes advantage of a person's deepest needs & highest ideals.
Each characteristic of Spiritual Abuse
is manipulative, but the following prominent manipulative techniques employed by spiritually
abusive groups deserve special notice:
An artificially loving, sometimes selective recruitment process.
In a spiritually abusive group, the manipulation begins the moment you set foot in the door. Newcomers are treated differently from those who are already enmeshed in
New people receive either more attention, or a different kind of attention, which often seems so nice & loving, even wonderful! But the new person doesn't realize that this
level of treatment is special.
He or she is frequently led to believe that this is how everyone in the group is treated. This
encourages him or her to have the mistaken expectation that such flattery will continue.
In the field of cult studies, this is referred to as "love bombing," so-named
because some cults truly go overboard in showering new members with attention & affection. (Some have even offered free sex to new members.)
Love bombing has proven to be a very effective method of recruiting new members,
accelerating their assimilation into the group & securing a deep level of commitment.
want to be loved? Who would want to lose a truly loving community of people once they found it? And which one of us
would not be prepared to make personal sacrifices in order to keep it?
Another technique used w/great effectiveness has been selective recruitment. In many
groups, not just anyone can join. A newcomer must first meet w/some level of group leadership, who will determine whether
the prospective new recruit is "serious
enough" to be admitted.
What's actually happening is that the individual is being evaluated for his or her level of compliance. Can this
person be controlled? Will we be able to mold this person into one of us, someone
who will submit to our agenda?
Of course, they don't actually speak, or even always think, in these terms. The leadership may themselves be self-deceived
enough to believe that all they're really looking for is "Christian commitment." In a spiritually abusive environment, subsequent events will demonstrate otherwise & will show that the real goal was control all along.
When a person makes it thru this process & is allowed to join, it can be almost as flattering as "love bombing." It gives a person a feeling of having "made the cut." It also increases
the perception that the person has found others who really understand him or her, especially the desire to truly follow God.
Finally it helps the leadership to erect
a wall of secrecy around the group. Not "just anyone"
is able to join, so therefore not "just anyone" can really know what goes on inside.
The mutual understanding from the very beginning is almost always that outsiders can't
& will not understand the inner workings of the group, so the screening process protects the group from the outside world, while simultaneously initiating
new members into its culture of secrecy.
This culture of secrecy is presented as entirely benign. Members are told that it exists
only for their own "protection." The only thing it protects members from is the truth & this is a very dangerous sort of "protection."
i.e., In some groups, when people are kicked out, the whole ordeal is very "hush-hush." One day an entire
family might be part of the group; the next day they're gone. Questions aren't encouraged.
Members are told not to contact the former members. If they want to know anything, they're told to ask the leader,
who has all the info & can slant it any way he pleases. But to question the leader is to risk one's own ostracism,
so few members ever do.
The former members' pain over being forced out is compounded by the pain of isolation that is produced by the secrecy.
In one semi-communal group I know, whole families have to pack their belongings & move out of the apartment building
when the leader orders them to. Everyone in the apartment complex can see what's going on.
Far from "protecting" these people's reputations, these humiliating rituals only confirm in the minds of those who remain that something must
be wrong w/these people, or they wouldn't have been asked to leave.
When you see people in a religious system being secretive, watch out. People don't hide what is
appropriate; they hide what is inappropriate.
One reason spiritually abusive families & churches are secretive is because they're so image
Another reason for
secrecy in a church is that the leadership has a condescending, negative view of the laity.
This results in conspiracies on the leadership level. They tell themselves, "People aren't mature enough to handle truth." This is patronizing at best. ...
and Jeff VanVonderen, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, p. 78.]
I was introduced to my spiritually abusive
group in 1987 after an extensive screening process.
It involved several weeks of phone calls w/the leader before I was
allowed to attend the first meeting. Since I eventually joined on the premise that I was coming to a "Christian therapy"
group (although over time the leader tried
to evolve it into a "church") & I'd never attended
that kind of group before (so I didn't know
what to expect), the fact that there was a screening
process didn't seem all that strange to me.
I've since learned of other groups, which claim right up-front
to be churches & yet employ a similar screening process w/the same effect. New members feel specially selected,
rather than merely "settled for."
Given the highly confrontational brand of "therapy" that the leader
practiced, it wasn't too long before I witnessed harrowing scenes in our "therapy" group meetings.
But because I was being treated special & because I was impressed w/the leader's seeming competence
in psychology (which later turned out to be
a charade), I didn't consider what I was observing to
I thought, "Surely the leader knows these people better than I do & surely
he knows what he's doing!" The artificially-loving recruitment process was keeping me in line from the very beginning.
Because secrets were being kept in the name of "protection," I was less suspicious of the leader's hidden agenda than I should've been.
When this agenda finally became obvious, I realized that we'd all been
tricked into placing blind trust in a man who really didn't have the training, experience, or personal integrity to practice therapy, or any other kind of counseling.
We had all been seduced into placing our trust in him through a carefully-orchestrated process, patiently carried out over weeks & months, beginning w/our initiation into the group.
Black & white thinking
We all need an anchor for our souls. We all need to know that there are some things that are really true, that
we can really count on & on which we can truly base our lives. God has given each of us a need for stability in our lives & He has also provided a
solid foundation on which we can rest our souls.
This is why the Bible teaches that there are things that are always
right & there are things that are always wrong. Moral absolutes do exist; of this we can be sure.
There are things that are always true & things that are always false. Absolute truth also exists. The same God who created the need for these things within us has
also met this need in His word.
The spiritual abuser also knows that people need a strong foundation for their lives & so he is quick
to offer one, too. The problem is that the foundation that the spiritual abuser lays is
different from the one found in the Bible.
foundation that God lays for us in the Bible is simple: it's Christ Himself (1 Cor. 3:11). If anyone lays any other foundation, such as the foundation of one's
own authority, or one's own "prophecies," or one's own opinions, or one's own preferences, he or she has laid a false foundation.
foundation that God lays allows for personal freedom in lifestyle choices. It doesn't lay restrictions on what
people eat, drink, what they wear, what holy days to observe or not to observe (Rom. 14:1-6).
God's foundation acknowledges that there are absolutes, not everything is an absolute.
some things are always right & some things are always wrong, not everything is always either one or the other. God
doesn't treat his people like little children, giving them detailed instructions for every little decision in life. He
treats us like adults, expecting us to make many decisions on our own.
there are "gray areas." There are "disputable matters," & you have no right to dictate your own personal decisions on these matters to me, nor
I to you.
a spiritually abusive group, many things in the gray areas are pigeon-holed as either "right" or "wrong," either "good" or "evil," &
many disputable matters are classified as either "black" or "white."
allowance is made for "middle ground" in these areas. This is also referred to as "polarized" thinking, because nearly every issue is interpreted as having
only 2 possible answers, both of which are polar opposites of each other.
Spiritually abusive groups leave very little room in between the 2 extremes, thus crowding out both personal freedom & the operation of God's Spirit in the life of the individual.
most people can see thru the faulty logic of this approach, this "black & white" mentality has to be foisted on group members
gradually, even seductively, over a period of time.
the beginning, new members are impressed with the "brave stands" that the leadership takes on certain issues. Usually an explanation is given that certain things must be forbidden
to group members, not because they're necessarily evil in & of themselves, but because they "might cause members to stumble."
have "evil potential," therefore they must be avoided.
times the leadership manages to persuade the members that these things really are evil in & of themselves, but
only the leadership is "spiritually mature" enough to "discern" the evil.
often prohibitions are "customized" for various individuals in the group. i.e., The leadership may "discern" that a
particular member has a "spiritual problem." This "spiritual problem" may supposedly have something to do with watching
certain TV shows.
the leader bans the person from watching any TV. Or it may have something to do with shopping, so the leader
requires the person's spouse to do all the shopping from now on. There have even been cases of leaders who order married
couples to stop having sex.
time a member of my group requested help managing his personal finances & our leader assigned me the job of helping him.
I met with this young man, helped him put together a budget & then dutifully reported back to the leader.
informed him that this young man's budget allocated about 10% per month for the purpose of paying off his credit card debt
& another 10% for savings.
"Why didn't you allocate all 20% to pay off the credit card?" the leader asked.
"Because I was taught that when you budget, you need to save, as well as re-pay your debts," I replied.
"Don't you realize what you just told him?" he asked.
"You just told him he can live however he pleases!" the leader retorted, glaring
at me in disapproval.
leader's sudden, forceful, left-hand-turn in logic left me speechless. It was a move designed to knock me off-balance. It wasn't true, but it accomplished his purpose of disorienting me & giving him the upper hand.
(It was an example of another manipulative ploy: "turning-the-tables.")
the black & white, polarized thinking of our group, all debt was totally evil & members were expected to pay off all loans & charge accounts as quickly as possible. Scripture
verses were twisted out of their contexts in order to support this teaching.
my leader felt justified in accusing me of giving this young man a license to go out &
sin, even though I was helping him pay off his credit card & save money. In a black-&-white system of thinking, there can be no middle ground.
action must have either been totally good, or totally evil & he chose the latter.
you can think of examples of extremely polarized thinking in your abusive group. We Christians are especially vulnerable to this, because we believe in moral absolutes. We feel alienated as we make our way thru a world which believes that morals (if they exist at all) are relative & "right"
& "wrong" can change with each situation.
naturally gravitate toward those who agree with us. Spiritual abusers come offering us relief from the onslaught of moral relativism. They offer to eliminate confusing gray areas & simplify our choices for us. They draw hard-&-fast
boundaries for us to help us make sure that we always "color inside the lines."
They sound like the good guys. But they're not.
An esoteric approach to truth
I am indebted to my good friend, Wheaton College Professor Emeritus Dr. Morris Inch
for bringing this manipulative technique to my attention.
Even though it's one of the more obvious features of both cults & spiritual abuse, this one is often difficult for people to describe.
"Esoteric" can mean either
"intended for or understood by only a chosen few, as an inner group of disciples or initiates
(said of ideas, doctrines, literature, etc.)" or "beyond the understanding or knowledge of most people" (Webster's New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, 1988, p. 464).
The latter definition is virtually synonymous w/the meaning of "mystical," &
many spiritually abusive groups are mystical, but it's the former definition that applies most frequently.
Spiritually abusive groups have their own doctrines & their own in-house jargon which they claim can only be truly understand by those who "truly belong." Such people are the only ones
who are "true Christians."
groups love to quote the Apostle Paul's words:
But a natural man doesn't accept
the things of the Spirit of God, for they're foolishness to him & he can't understand them, because they're spiritually appraised.
[1 Corinthians 2:14, NASB]
If you don't understand what the group teaches, you must be "a natural man" (literally, "an unspiritual man," NASB margin; or a "man w/out
the Spirit," NIV). It must be because you don't have God's Holy
Spirit. Therefore, you must not be a Christian.
only problem with using that verse this way is that it's not what Paul meant. Anyone who reads the whole chapter thru
from the beginning will quickly realize that "the things of the Spirit of God" don't refer to just any teaching, much
less the peculiar teachings of a spiritually abusive group.
the context of 1 Corinthians 2, "the things of the Spirit of God" refers specifically to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Good
News of His death on the cross for our sins.
reason that "the things of the Spirit of God" concerning the cross of Christ are "foolishness" to the "natural man" is because he rejects them & refuses to appraise them from God's point of view, not because they are intellectually unintelligible
to everyone except believers.
is what Paul is actually saying in the context. Spiritually
abusive groups will never encourage you to read the surrounding context of the verses they quote, because if you did, you'd figure out that they're
twisting the Scriptures.
my group, the leader would cloak his meaning in buzz-words from pop-psychology. Other groups usually confuse new members with spiritual-sounding clichés. No matter how long
you're a member, you never seem to really master the in-house jargon.
is often because the leadership is careful never to give fully -understandable definitions of the terms it uses. This way it can always keep you off-balance, so that if you ever step out of line, it can always quote verses like 1 Corinthians 2:14 in order to frighten you back into submission.
leaders will also appeal to the fact that Jesus spoke in parables. They don't mention that Jesus also explained His parables
to His disciples. He clarified their meaning. Why don't spiritual abusers do the same?
Jesus was concerned w/teaching people, spiritual abusers are concerned with controlling people by keeping them confused.
goes beyond the mere use of jargon. These groups have an esoteric approach to "truth" in general. Unlike the authors of the Bible, who go out of
their way to make things clear to their readers, spiritual
abusers make things unclear & confusing.
understanding always seems just slightly out of your reach. Others in the
group pretend to understand & perhaps you pretend as well. Eventually you figure
out that they're just as perplexed as you are, even though they'll never say so as long as they wish to remain members.
I already gave examples of how spiritually abusive groups twist the
Scriptures in my discussions of their black & white thinking & their esoteric approach to truth.
of Scripture is a manipulative technique that's especially prominent in spiritually abusive groups. Unlike full-blown
cults spiritually abusive groups tend to be composed primarily of Christians, who usually require a Biblical basis for what they
believe & practice. Spiritual abusers must use a small but significant basis of bible truth to satisfy that need in their victims.
In his book Scripture Twisting, James W. Sire has helpfully catalogued the top 20 ways that cults misread the Bible & I have
seen nearly every one of those methods used in spiritually abusive
groups that were supposedly Christian.
In the group that I was involved w/for 5-1/2 years, loved to quote
the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:34-37:
"Do not suppose that
I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn 'a man
against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law-a man's enemies will be the
members of his own household.'"
"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me
is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; "
The only problem is, the leader used these verses in order to separate
us from our families!
Following the instructions of our leader, who persuaded me that I needed to break off contact from my family because I needed to "recover" from their "corruption," I spent 3 years totally separated from my family, all of whom lived within
a few miles of me.
During that time, I missed the births of nieces & nephews & the funerals of relatives. I refused to
come to any birthday or holiday celebrations. I'd allowed myself to be totally cut off from them, interrupted only by
the occasional surprise phone call or unannounced visit from one of my brothers, for 3 years.
I'd forgotten a simple principle of biblical interpretation: always compare Scripture w/Scripture. Never take one verse
& read it outside of the context of the entire Bible. For it was Jesus who also said:
And he [Jesus] said to them:
"You have a fine
way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, 'Honor your father
& your mother,' & 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.'
But you say that
if a man says to his father or mother: 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban' (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the
word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that."
[Mark 10:9-13, NIV;
see also Matthew 15:3-6]
Jesus was referring to a way in which the Pharisees had manipulated a legitimate part of God's Law thru their teachings so that it allowed people to disobey one of God's most basic
commandments: to honor mother & father.
Likewise, the leader of our group had manipulated Jesus' teaching in Matthew 10:34-37, which simply taught that we should love God above all others, into virtually the same error that
the Pharisees had committed!
When spiritual abusers misuse, misrepresent, or otherwise misinterpret the Bible, 90% of
the time you can cut thru all their confusing rhetoric & twisted reasoning by asking three simple questions:
- What was the original author actually saying
to his audience?
- What was this author, who was writing under
the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, saying to all believers?
- What is God saying to us thru this text?
If the Scriptures are being interpreted correctly, the answers to all 3 of these questions will be consistent with each other.
There'll be no "mysterious underlying meaning." It'll all make perfect sense.
If someone comes to your house & claims that you must "meditate" in order to "go far deeper" than the surface-meaning
of the text & that they themselves have come up with unique understandings of particular verses "thru prayer & fasting," I'd be sure to count the silverware after they left.
They probably lie about other things, too.