What Is Spiritual Violence

When someone exploits a person's spiritual beliefs to manipulate, dominate, or control them, this is known as spiritual (or religious) violence.

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What is a spiritual abuser?

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.

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 considered 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.

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What is a psychological violence?

Because the primary goal of being violent or abusive is to harm another person's integrity and dignity, all forms of violence have a psychological component.

Aside from that, there are some forms of violence that occur via tactics that cannot be classified into other categories, and so can be described as psychological violence in its ‘pure' form. Isolation or imprisonment, withholding information, deception, and threatening behavior are all examples of this.

Psychological violence in the private realm involves threatening behavior that lacks physical or verbal elements, such as actions that relate to previous acts of violence, or willful ignorance and neglect of another person.

Isolation of young women or men who do not act according to standard gender stereotypes is a common example of such violence in the public realm.

Peer groups are the most common perpetrators of public isolation, but responsible adults, such as teachers and sports coaches, can also be culprits. Isolation usually entails being excluded from specific group activities. Intimidation can also be used, similar to how psychological abuse is used in the private sphere.

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.

What is spiritual assault?

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 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 causes religious trauma?

When a person struggles to leave a religion or a set of beliefs that has led to their indoctrination, it is known as religious trauma syndrome (RTS). Breaking free from a controlling environment, lifestyle, or religious figure is a common traumatic experience. Religious trauma can have symptoms that are similar to those of complex post-traumatic stress disorder in some situations (C-PTSD).

Can religion be used as a weapon?

As a whole, religion is thought to be a force for good. It has, however, been used as a force or even a weapon of war throughout history. Religion is usually always a significant element in culture, as we have seen. It has the potential to infiltrate a culture in numerous ways.

What are the 4 types of abuse?

Child maltreatment is defined as “any forms of physical and emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, and exploitation that results in actual or potential harm to the child's health, development, or dignity,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Neglect, physical abuse, psychological abuse, and sexual abuse are the four basic types of abuse. Abuse is defined as a deliberate act of commission, whereas neglect is defined as a deliberate act of omission in the care of another person that results in potential or actual injury. This activity examines the epidemiology, symptoms, and diagnosis of child abuse, as well as the interprofessional team's involvement in its management and prevention.