Each section of the Religious Power and Control Wheel describes a tactic used by abusers to maintain power and control over their victims. According to Laura Anderson, when the tactics are combined, a system is “designed and intended to exert power and control over others by their rules, requirements, punishments and consequences for not adhering to the specific requirements of the group.”
Many who read here will be able to identify with some or all of these tactics. We discussed isolation here.
On the wheel, minimizing, denying, and blaming is described as:
*Saying the abuse didn’t happen
*Denying the severity of what happened
*Calling things “sin issues” vs. abuse
*Taking ownership for how someone else’s actions harmed you
*Downplaying need for secular support (e.g. police)
*Denying illegal actions
*Minimizing felt sense, emotion or experience
*Placating statements (e.g. “he’s a sinner too, just like you.”)
There’s so much packed in this one area of power and control. I immediately think of some of the “godly wife” books that we have discussed where religious systems have minimized spousal abuse. Where wives are told they should forgive their husband’s abuse because they, too, are sinners.
I think of children sexually abused by church leaders who were forced to forgive their abusers and the parents convinced to not go to the police because it would ruin the abuser’s and church’s reputation. I think of women who bravely told their story of clergy sex abuse only to have the abuser’s supporters blame the survivor and uphold the abuser.
I think of pastors who state they are ordained by God, thereby minimizing any abusive behaviors. I think of church members left feeling devalued after voicing concerns over policies because they’ve been told “it’s always been done this way.”
Are there other ways that you have seen controlling religious groups or leaders minimize, deny, or blame abusive behaviors? If you experienced spiritual abuse, how did these actions impact you?