STEP FIVE: Share our struggles with others of like-mindedness trusting that our anonymity will be guarded by all.
Instruction: Take a chance.
One problem that the concept of overcoming religious abuse has faced over the years is that many people don’t want to talk about it outside of the environment where the abuse happened, yet that environment is the one most likely to justify the abuse or make the abused their scapegoat claiming they lied or they brought it on themselves. This makes it nearly impossible for the abused to deal with the pain and find healing. When it is discovered that a religious leader has abused his power by mentally, verbally, physically, or sexually abusing someone in their care, how does a religious organization deal with the fallout? Too often, the answer has been to deny the incident happened. Some organizations might require two or three witnesses to confirm the accusations of sexual abuse from a religious leader, and if witnesses cannot be produced, then the incident is dropped, buried, and denied.
For years, even the concept of religious abuse has not been given much consideration. We recognize that it has happened, but we often overlook it until we come into direct contact with it. Until it affects us, it is just one of those things. Unfortunately, the incidents are not going away, and there is a need to share our stories and find a way to help one another. Opening up to strangers is often easier than opening up to those who love and care about us, and this is especially true if our family and friends know and respect the religious leaders who take advantage of their members. In some situations, the victim is scoffed at and not believed. The situation that devastated us is made even darker and more devastating when the victim is silenced so that the religious leader is not discredited. This, in turn, can cause the victim to withdraw accusations and remain silent so that they don’t become the “evil” person who is trying to destroy a “good” man’s reputation with their lies. It is with careful consideration that these individuals must take a chance and come forward to set things straight. The place to start is in a group of people who can relate to what has happened, because they have a similar story of their own to share.
Today’s instruction is specific to those who have experienced religious abuse and are searching for ways to deal with it. Consider who you choose to share the details with. If your family members love and respect the individual who hurt you, if they think he or she “walks on water,” then you might not want to make them your first choice. There are organizations that can help you, and Religious Recovery is just one of them, but we are here to help if we can. You might want to think outside the box and stay away from speaking to a religious leader of the same religious affiliation. They could be sympathetic to one of their own and not as sympathetic to your needs.
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Our purpose is to help individuals to heal who have been injured by religion or the religious. We welcome your comments and questions.