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I had been out of the cult for almost 8 months and felt alone and isolated. I had been going to a large metropolitan church in the city that I was living in, and had seen a Bible Study for survivors of sexual abuse advertised in the church bulletin. It was just starting up for the fall, and I decided to visit it.
During the first meeting there were 14 women present, and they were asked to introduce themselves and share a little of their background, whatever was comfortable for them. The women one by one shared why they were there; some were very explicit and graphic in their discussion of the sexual abuse they had undergone.
When it was my turn, I simply said, “I can relate to almost everyone here. I am a survivor of ritual abuse, and was molested by everyone in my immediate family at one point, and I’m glad to be here.”
That was it.
The next day, I received a phone call from the leader of the Bible Study. “Please don’t come back,” she said. “The other leader and I can’t handle the fact that you came from this background.”
I was devastated. Apparently it was okay to have been sexually abused in this church, but they set the line with ritual abuse.
Unfortunately, this was only the first of several experiences that I went through, until I finally learned my lesson. To not share my past with anyone in the church, because they can’t handle it. I had gone to one church until a few months ago, and had privately shared my past with the pastor when asking for prayer for my children to help him better understand how to pray for them.
He literally backed away from me, and said, “This is more than I can handle knowing about.” He never spoke to me again.
In another church, I visited the deliverance team, who told me that DID and alternate personalities are really demons to be exorcised. I was “holding onto demons” if I had personalities.
I joined another Bible study at another church for those struggling with sexual brokenness. The leaders of this group would interview those entering the program. I was getting smarter by now, so I told them, “I have a background of ritual abuse but I won’t bring it up at all during discussion times, I promise.”
“Are you multiple?” I was asked in accusing tones.
“Yes, but I can control my switching and won’t be inappropriate during meetings.”
I was allowed to visit on “probation” and told that if I ever switched once, I would be forced to leave the study. I went, and after four months the leader was surprised and amazed.
“You’ve been a real blessing to us here, “ she exclaimed. “I thought all multiples were strange.”
But I made a mistake. A few weeks later, when discussing why I felt broken sexually and had male tendencies at times, a male alter who was quiet and appropriate came out and discussed his emotional pain. The only problem is, he had a slight Irish accent and so others could tell that I “switched.”
The leaders met with me and told me this was unacceptable since he was “demonic”.I left the study, crying.
I have not found a church yet in my own life that understands or accepts the reality of ritual abuse.
I wish that I were not alone in this. I believe that this is one of the number one problems today for a survivor leaving a cult group. They are literally giving up everything emotionally important to themselves in their lives: their family of origin, their closest friends, even spouses who are members of the group. They are looking for understanding and support, and instead are met by unbelief (this stuff doesn’t happen in this day and age), or else intense rejection. In most churches, it is okay to be a recovering alcoholic, a recovering addict, or even the victim of domestic violence, but it is not okay to have been the victim of ritual abuse.
It frightens people. They don’t want to see living proof that it really does happen, and will turn their heads the other way. This doesn’t mean that all churches respond this way, but a very large percentage of them do (the majority in fact; the ones that don’t are the rare and encouraging minority).
Others have shared their pain when the body of Christ, called to minister to its wounded, instead either adds to the wounding, or worse yet, isolates and ignores them.
Karen is a wonderful, loving, and compassionate Christian survivor who has helped to found a support group for other ritual abuse survivors and was told that her dissociation and DID were “attention seeking” devices. Here is her response:
“You know I love it when I hear people use the ‘attention seekers’ routine. I think to myself (someday I may have the nerve to actually say it)….”Yeah, I just love the rejection of it all.”
She said that sometimes she wants to respond back in kind,” Maybe something like saying to these people, “I didn’t know you were such an advocate for Satan. He too, likes to bring condemnation to people!” I better stop now…..before I really get going and forget the One who never rejects orcondemns us.”
Karen has found, like many other survivors, that God loves her and cares for her even when His body can’t.
Alice shares her experience within her church: “He (her pastor) even chose this woman to be my “care giver”, well, after a few years of what I thought was a wonderful, loving relationship, come to find out she was casting out demons when I left, blaming everything that went wrong in her life and her children’s on ME! I’m surprised she was able to hug me as she did without shuddering in disgust…”
She tried going to a deliverance seminar to become free of the demonic and to find healing:” Another thing were these “Cleansing Streams Ministry” retreats/seminars that i would go to…my gosh, they talked about freedom from bondage from SRA and all sorts of things..i mean I thought they covered it all, but because i was acting out/alters acting out..i mentioned this before, they said that they would not pray for me because i was uncooperative..and again, i got called names and shunned..I mean once is bad enough but i went to about four or five of these “retreats” with the promise that the next time would be a charm..and each one was a disaster, and i got yelled at, shunned, and people would not pray for me. Heck, the last one I couldn’t even get a ride home!! I scared the couple off that was supposed to take me home..(it was out of state), my caregiver came and reamed me out, and another told me to quit game playing, and i blew up at them..left in tears with my bags packed and roamed (name of city deleted to protect survivor’s identity)..met up with someone who helped me get a bus home..what should have been a 7 hour trip for me, took at least 15 hours by bus, because i was so kind of leper.
Yeah, they talked about freedom Experiences such as this do not bring healing, deliverance, or the feeling that the survivor can trust the body of Christ when they are trying to become free of cult control and the demonic influences within. It is fairly obvious that this ministry did not understand DID or how to help someone with alternate personalities who are wounded.
Joann’s experience was more subtle, but a common one that survivors of severe torture and ritual abuse in the church frequently face. She faced the denial of those in the church, and intense pressure to be normal and functional in spite of great emotional pain: “One church I was going to my Pastor was my T. People in the church thought I was acting and should be able to hold down a job. I was a mess then, more so than now. The Pastor said I HAD to get a job and prove to everyone that I was stable. He and lots of other church members harrassed me all the time about being stable. I couldn’t be, I was a mess, full of lots of programming and breaking down big time. He would call demons to the forefront and have littles look at them in the mirror to prove that they had demons. He did all kinds of things like that that totally horrified the littles inside.”
This was an extremely traumatizing situation for her child alters, but there is more:
”My Pastor’s wife at the present called women in the church and told them I was just acting. I have been accused of being a plant in the church, being there to destroy the church and everything else, all the while I was cleaning the church, going witnessing with the church twice a week, doing all the typing for the church, everything I could do to serve God. I to this day still am fighting against serving God. not because of God, but because I don’t trust what anyone says God wants me to do. I now only want to hear it straight from God. I got misled soooo many times by people using God’s will against me. How do they know? God will guide me!
Guess I am pretty angry, too, at all these Christians who know I am a demon supposedly and am acting and everything else. Oh yes,and that I am going against God’s Word for dealing with memories, wanting truth about my memories and everything. I am wrong according to them for needing memories to have my identity back, that my identity is in Christ. They do not understand that that goes along with programming.
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I get the sideway glances at church and murmurs.. I have had some come up to me and accuse me of “playing games”. Another accused me of seeking attention and acting out! I mean things like that stay with you.
I’m sorry, but this is a touchy subject for me too..It took me years and years to get the courage to attend church and then I was made to believe that christianswere this special breed, so full of love and compassion and they will just take me under their wings and accept and love and care for me like neverbefore..what a joke and what kind of breed are they? I don’t mean to be so critical sounding, but I have encountered so many hypocrites in church people, that i am almost ashamed to even call myself one..I am a terrible christian by the way, in case you haven’t noticed by now..I have a lot of pent up resentment,but I still keep plugging through..”
Jackie has worked through for herself why there is such a lack of acceptance of survivors and shares her insights:
“I think what I have learned in therapy is that not everyone has the capacity to “hear” the intense pain that we have experienced from the extreme abuse we have suffered. My therapist has admitted to me that even though he is trained to hear, to listen, it is sometimes hard for him to know that someone could be so horribly abused in this country in this time period.
Last summer he worked with trauma survivors in Bosnia and the Ukraine with a group of therapist volunteering time in these war torn areas. There are children there that have seen many atrocities…there are parents there who have seen their children murdered…the difference in my miind is that the humanity is willing to document these sorts of traumas…so in my mind it is not that no one hears, but that people choose not to believe.
I have learned to accept that some people will never hear…never believe, but there are also people who will never hear about Jesus or believe that Jesus is God/Savior, but that doesn’t negate the fact that Jesus is Lord and Savior.”
These are quotes from just a few survivors, myself included, who have experienced the at times extremely wounding prejudice against survivors. It appears that society at large, and all too often the church as well, are not willing to acknowledge the reality of ritual abuse, or the special needs that survivors have.
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