In February of 2012, I began a blog sharing personal stories of my experience at an abusive church my family had left. I did this after discovering that the negative reviews I had posted about this church on Google Reviews had been removed.
Within weeks after starting the blog, my former pastor and church (Chuck O’Neal and Beaverton Grace Bible Church) sued me and four other former members, including my adult daughter, for defamation. Their lawsuit asked for $500,000 in damages. My story went viral, beginning with this news report.
Since winning the lawsuit in July 26, 2012, I have continued to blog about spiritual abuse, how to recover from it, and note disturbing practices in churches/organizations, some of which can lead people to question their faith or even abandon their faith. Although now closed for commenting, the original blog can still be found here.
Many have asked if my whole story in one place. My story has been written as memories and experiences come to mind, so it is interspersed throughout the blog, but here is a blog post with a compilation of articles where you may find important parts of my story.
If you are interested in reading the details of the lawsuit and commentary, Brad Sargent compiled the whole story, related news articles, interviews, analysis of the case in the BGBC Archive. It was a very large undertaking (over 300 hours of work) and I’m so appreciative of Brad’s work in this as he and I believe my story is representative of so many others. We hope others can learn from our experience. Brad, too, is a spiritual abuse survivor and has been studying spiritual abuse systems for a few decades. He has a wealth of knowledge and I owe him the deepest gratitude.
Another part of my story is connected with the Christian Homeschool Movement – which includes ideologies and practices such as: full-quiver, courtship, Patriarchy, stay-at-home daughters, modesty/purity teachings (the church/pastor who sued me also was connected with the Homeschool Movement). As a long-time homeschooling mother (23+ yrs), I have seen how some of these practices, especially the ones that devalue/depersonalize women and girls, have caused great harm, physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually. We have a big problem with abuse in our Christian churches groups, and this needs to change.
Additionally, I have worked as an investigative blogger covering high-profile cases such as breaking the clergy sexual misconduct cases of Ravi Zacharias and Tullian Tchividjian (grandson of Billy Graham). I worked full-time on the blog at least 40-60 hours a week from 2012, even while going back to school to get my Bachelor’s in Cyber Security. Since 2020, I started working full-time in cyber security and have taken a break from blogging, but have continued to be active on Twitter and also do interviews and speak on topics related to abuse in church.
A very sad and difficult part of my story is that the spiritual abuse I incurred was not just at church. It was also in my home under the guise of Patriarchy. I made the very difficult decision to divorce my husband of nearly 35 years last year (2020). Part of my advocacy work is encouraging and providing safe places for women to get the support they need if they are in a destructive marriage.
If you have suffered spiritual abuse, my heart really goes out to you. The recovery process is deeply personal and heart wrenching. After the media got hold of my story, I was inundated with hundreds of e-mails, and it took me several months to respond to all of them. I discovered that many self-proclaimed atheists were also victims of spiritual abuse. This breaks my heart and shows how damaging spiritual abuse really is.
If you would like help along the way, feel free to hang out on the blog. There are some amazing people (regular readers) and my co-blogger, Kathi, who understand and will encourage you. Feel free to jump in at any time on any blog post, regardless of the topic.
This place is for you!
~Julie Anne (or JA)