What Is Spiritual Rape

There are numerous sorts of abuse, but spiritual (or religious) abuse is one you may not be aware of. Most examples of spiritual abuse, if they are acknowledged at all, involve a church elder or faith leader abusing members of the congregation, frequently by creating a poisonous culture within the church or group by shaming or dominating people with the power of their position. Spiritual abuse, on the other hand, can happen in a romantic relationship.

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Spiritual abuse isn't restricted to one faith or denomination. Spiritual abuse can be perpetrated by anyone, regardless of their religious beliefs, and it can also be perpetrated by anyone. Intimate relationship spiritual abuse manifests itself when an abusive partner:

  • hinders one person from following his or her religious or spiritual beliefs
  • manipulates or shames their partner's religion or spiritual beliefs
  • requires the children to be raised in a faith that neither couple has agreed to.
  • religious texts or beliefs are used to justify or diminish abusive acts (such as physical, financial, emotional, or sexual abuse/marital rape).

Spiritual abuse is just as hurtful and difficult to bear as any other form of abuse since a person's spiritual life is so intimate. However, because many victims are unaware that they are being mistreated, it can be difficult to detect. Furthermore, the abusive partner may argue that any challenge to the mistreatment is an affront to their religious liberty.

What is spiritual trauma?

Spiritual trauma is the result of a person's reaction to a belief system that dismisses and degrades them on behalf of a deity or a set of deities. More information can be found here. Christians are frequently encouraged to recruit for their religion, and losing a Christian friend or family member can be devastating.

Unfortunately, the desire to “reach” to the “lost” and the desperate need to reclaim lost territory with the emergence of the “nones” sometimes lead well-intentioned Christians to say hurtful things to those who have already been terribly hurt by the tradition. Words are important to someone who is just beginning to break free from destructive thinking habits. Here are some of my thoughts.

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What counts as religious abuse?

Religious abuse is any form of abuse perpetrated under the pretense of religion, such as harassment or humiliation, that causes psychological harm. Misuse of religion for selfish, secular, or ideological objectives, such as the abuse of a priestly position, is an example of religious abuse.

How do you address spiritual abuse?

Serving as a leader is a fantastic honor that comes with a lot of responsibilities. Ministry leaders provide direction, assurance, encouragement, and hope to the people they serve. Ministry leaders wield a great deal of power, and they must use it wisely.

Crossing the line from leading with authority to acting in an authoritarian manner is one area where persons in significant ministry roles can cause harm. This is commonly referred to as “spiritual abuse” in ministry circles.

Here are three methods for recognizing and addressing this growing concern among ministry leaders.


First and foremost, it is critical to comprehend what spiritual abuse is not. The authoritative proclamation of Biblical truth, strategic management, and the enforcement of institutional ethical norms are examples of things that do not come under the rubric of spiritual abuse. Appropriate exhortation, rebuke, and punishment are also not considered “spiritual abuse.”

Having stated that, it is critical to have a working definition of the problem. Authors David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen write in their book “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse” that this type of abuse is “the mistreatment of a person who is in need of help, support, or greater spiritual empowerment, with the result of weakening, undermining, or decreasing that person's spiritual empowerment.”

When authoritarianism rises to the surface and leaders behave from a position of power rather than humble influence, spiritual abuse happens.

  • Without proper rationale and/or relationship, rules are accepted and implemented.
  • Unspiritual disagreement is labeled as such because it lacks a restorative spirit.
  • Substantive criticism and adequate reporting relationships are shielded from leaders.
  • The organization's and/or key leaders' public image is sanitized to an unhealthy degree.
  • When inquiries arise, side subjects are introduced to divert attention away from more pressing ones.
  • Select personnel have access to funds with no protections in place to ensure responsibility.


Leaders can be agents of change to counteract the detrimental consequences of spiritual abuse once an unhealthy dynamic has been detected. Managers who are wise create clear boundaries for personal accountability. Modeling prudent financial management and an open-door policy are other key traits to emulate.

Moreover, despite fears to the contrary, servant leadership demonstrated by individuals at the top of the org chart improves the work environment and can be suitably integrated into even high-output, strategic settings.

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If you're dealing with spiritual abuse in your workplace, start with a grace-filled reaction. Even though it seems contradictory, when your leadership is questioned or criticized, take a step back and evaluate the purpose behind what is being stated.

Rather than becoming bitter or spiteful while furious, try to de-escalate the situation. Make every effort to maintain open channels of contact with people at all levels of the organization, especially those with whom you disagree or with whom you lack chemistry.

Work hard to establish an environment where genuine communication may take place in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Consider verses like Romans 12:9-21 in the Bible. Consider the consequences for the glory of One in your life and ministry.


Our A.S. in Biblical Studies and B.S. in Ministry Leadership degree programs will give you the knowledge and skills to recognize spiritual abuse, lead with positive authority, and respond in grace and truth. To learn more about this intriguing program, contact an enrollment counselor.

What does religious trauma look like?

Confusion in thinking (black vs. white, right vs. wrong), conflicts with people in your community or religious teachings, inability to make judgments, inability to trust yourself, and a constant search for clarification

Isolation, relationship issues, sexual difficulties, socially stunted and awkward conduct, being hyper-aware of others' emotional state and emotions, being hyper-aware and feeling responsible for others' internal state and emotions

Symptoms of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may also be present. This can include flashbacks, insomnia, nightmares, restlessness, a lack of enjoyment in activities you used to like, hypervigilance, avoidance, and other symptoms.

What is spiritual harassment?

Spiritual abuse is any attempt to utilize religion, faith, or beliefs to exercise authority and control over someone. Spiritual abuse can occur in a religious setting or in a personal connection.

Spiritual abuse affects people of all faiths, denominations, and ethnicities. It can occur in any religious organization as a kind of child or elder abuse, or as a form of domestic violence. Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence, affects people of all ages, genders, socioeconomic classes, ethnic groups, and geographical areas.

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Abuse is a pattern in which one person (whether an intimate partner or someone in a position of authority) controls another by fear, intimidation, violence, or other means. Abuse can be traumatic and have a negative influence on your mental health. It's critical to realize that you are never to blame for abuse.

How do you get rid of trauma spiritually?

True story: I'm a cancer survivor, a reformed shopaholic, and a burnout victim. Trauma manifests itself in different ways for different people, owing to the fact that each person's life path is unique. Even modern-day mystics, such as Seeress Deborah Hanekamp of Mama Medicine, have suffered from burnout. “I was working 12-hour days 6-7 days a week to support my slacker partner.” In order to survive, I had to drop practically everything at once… It took me a year to get back on my feet.”

Similarly, it took cancer for me to see how harmful my lifestyle was to my mind, body, and spirit. But I'm sure and comfortable in the knowledge that my soul picked this road for me. “You had to have that since you had survived such a terrible vibe.” It was medication for you because you needed to let go of something. To heal, you must engage with the energy that exists naturally within you,” Hanekamp added, but that's easier said than done. What is the best way to fully heal? What is the best way to fully cleanse? What do you do first?

Now that I'm a cancer survivor who aspires to live a “balanced” lifestyle, I'm always on the lookout for remedies, rituals, and techniques to spiritually cleanse my being and my surroundings in order to go forward — even if it's just a fast mental reset after a long week. I spoke with Mama Medicine on how to spiritually cleanse your life following a trauma and heal yourself from the inside out.

How do you heal childhood trauma spiritually?

This inner kid could be a clear picture of yourself in your childhood, a patchwork of developmental stages you've gone through, or a sign of young dreams and playfulness.

According to Dr. Diana Raab, author and research psychologist, being conscious of your inner child might help you remember happier, more carefree times. “Reconnecting with the joys of childhood can be a wonderful way to cope with difficult circumstances.”

However, not everyone associates childhood with joy and playfulness. Your inner child may appear little, defenseless, and in need of protection if you have experienced neglect, trauma, or other forms of emotional anguish. You may have buried this pain deep to shield yourself — both your current self and the child you once were — from it.

Hiding pain does not make it go away. Instead, it manifests itself in adulthood as conflict in personal relationships or trouble meeting your own needs. Some of these issues can be addressed by working to repair your inner child.

It may take some time to heal your inner child, but these eight suggestions are a wonderful place to start.

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How do I know if I have religious trauma?

Religious trauma can present itself in a variety of ways, and no two people will have the same experience. However, there are a number of common signs and symptoms in adults who were exposed to religious trauma as children, including the following:

  • Avoidance behaviors are a form of avoidance (i.e., avoiding any thing, person, or place that reminds you of the trauma)