Spiritual Abuse, PTSD, and the Aftermath

Spiritual Abuse, PTSD, Recovery, Beaverton Grace Bible Church, Chuck O’Neal

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12799416_211264669235735_6070303658308327161_nWhen someone deals with spiritual abuse, it can have lasting consequences. One popular response is making the decision to no longer go an institutional church. I get that.

I’m pretty sure I relayed the story either in a post, or in comments, that one Sunday, my current pastor read from Romans 12, the chapter that my abusive pastor went over and over for nearly two years. Yes, one chapter for 2 years! “Pastor” Chuck O’Neal’s favorite Bible translation was New King James Version (of course, specifically, the John MacArthur Study Bible in NKJV). As soon as my current pastor announced the passage, I could feel myself get tense. I later told him that if he had used the NKJV, I might have high-tailed it out of there, jumping over pews if I had to (I have long legs). Okay, slight exaggeration there, but the reality is, I felt very uncomfortable hearing those words, and I might have left if those feelings continued.

Yes, just simply hearing those words “Romans 12,” created a fight or flight response in me. I knew that my current pastor was not my abusive pastor. It’s been nearly 9 years since we left that “church,” but hearing or seeing something that reminds me of that experience sometimes takes me back to that place. I remember sitting in the pew thinking to myself: this is not Beaverton Grace Bible Church. This is not Chuck O’Neal reading Romans 12; this is my current pastor who has not harmed me, and thankfully, he wasn’t using the NKJV translation.

 

Bessel van der Kolk M.D. wrote a fantastic book called, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. He is considered an expert on trauma and how it affects the brain and body. I haven’t read the whole book, but have taken notes of excerpts that I’ve found very helpful in understanding the power of trauma and its effects on our bodies.

Here is one quote from the book. The bottom paragraph identifies a bit of what I experienced sitting in the pew (at a reduced level):

The left and right sides of the brain also process the imprints of the past in dramatically different ways.

2 The left brain remembers facts, statistics, and the vocabulary of events. We call on it to explain our experiences and put them in order. The right brain stores memories of sound, touch, smell, and the emotions they evoke. It reacts automatically to voices, facial features, and gestures and places experienced in the past. What it recalls feels like intuitive truth—the way things are. Even as we enumerate a loved one’s virtues to a friend, our feelings may be more deeply stirred by how her face recalls the aunt we loved at age four.

3 Under ordinary circumstances the two sides of the brain work together more or less smoothly, even in people who might be said to favor one side over the other. However, having one side or the other shut down, even temporarily, or having one side cut off entirely (as sometimes happened in early brain surgery) is disabling. Deactivation of the left hemisphere has a direct impact on the capacity to organize experience into logical sequences and to translate our shifting feelings and perceptions into words. (Broca’s area, which blacks out during flashbacks, is on the left side.) Without sequencing we can’t identify cause and effect, grasp the long-term effects of our actions, or create coherent plans for the future. People who are very upset sometimes say they are “losing their minds.” In technical terms they are experiencing the loss of executive functioning.

When something reminds traumatized people of the past, their right brain reacts as if the traumatic event were happening in the present. But because their left brain is not working very well, they may not be aware that they are reexperiencing and reenacting the past—they are just furious, terrified, enraged, ashamed, or frozen.

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I did end up staying, and listened to the sermon. After a few moments, I was able to shake off the negativity associated with that particular passage and refocus. But it did take an intentional effort.

What’s interesting, I recovered from PTSD related to a major earthquake I experienced after 2 years of therapy. I can hear or read of earthquakes in the news, see the destruction, but I don’t go back “there” in my mind. It simply does not affect me anymore. But the spiritual abuse still does. Sometimes I do have to talk myself through it, even after 9 years.

 

Doctrine, Debates, and Salvation. Will the real Christian please stand?

 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—

and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—

not by works, so that no one can boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

 

There has been heaviness for me this week, and it has wiped my writing mojo. But I have been thinking about a lot of spiritual stuff, and on a whim, I posted this on my Facebook status:

img_4014-1I have learned a lot these past 5 years. My spiritual beliefs have gone through the ringer as I re-evaluate what I believe and sift out the “teachings of men.” Christians have many differing opinions about doctrines. My salvation is not based on if I agree with you on Young Earth Creationism, pretribulation, Calvinism, Male Headship. Your salvation is not based on these highly controversial subjects, either.

We seem to lose the Gospel message when we get caught up in debates and abandon the people around us. I am Christian because I love Christ. I believe He gave me life through His death and resurrection. It is by His grace that I am His. If you believe in the essentials of the faith, you are my brother or sister in Christ. Period!

Am I the only one who is tired of all the drama about these issues? Just stop, already. Look around you, there are people in your midst who are hurting and need someone to be like Christ to them in a real and meaningful way as they maneuver through difficult waters.

This week, I have dealt with three cases of domestic violence, a shattered family, pedophile’s wife, a lawsuit, spiritual abuse, mental health issues, etc. People need Christ. They don’t need Calvin, pretribulation, male headship. They need Christ. I’m so sick of the doctrinal distractions. What matters?

 

 

Blog Series: Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery by Pastor Ken Garrett, Wk 2

Spiritual Abuse, Pastor Ken Garrett, Spiritual Abuse in the church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery


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Pastor Ken Garrett, Spiritual Abuse, Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery

Pastor Ken Garrett

Ok, here we go, plowing through Pastor Ken Garret’s dissertation about spiritual abuse. I used the word plowing intentionally. For some of us, it will be work. It is not enjoyable to be reminded about difficult experiences. However, some push that pain under the rug and haven’t been able to process it in a safe environment. If you feel ready to do that, come along and join us. Even if you don’t feel ready, you can still read. And for those who have never experienced spiritual abuse, I’m grateful that you are reading, too. Having compassion and understanding is so important in helping someone who has gone through spiritual abuse.

Just an FYI, Ken has removed his dissertation from his blog because he plans to publish it into a book. Ken has graciously allowed us to continue using his original dissertation for this series. (Thanks, Ken!!!)

Well, let’s dig in. Here is the very meaty paragraph we will start with this week:

Abusive churches, past and present, are primarily characterized by strong, control-oriented leadership. These leaders use guilt, fear, and intimidation to manipulate members and keep them in line. Followers are led to think that there is no other church quite like theirs and that God has singled them out for special purposes.

Other, more traditional evangelical churches are put down. Subjective experience is emphasized and dissent is discouraged. Many areas of members’ lives are subject to scrutiny. Rules and legalism abound. People who do not follow the rules or who threaten exposure are often dealt with harshly.

Excommunication is common. For those who leave, the road back to normalcy is difficult, with seemingly few who understand the phenomena of spiritual abuse.

Continue reading

Spiritual Sounding Board: Updating the Legacy – Year 5

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Boy, oh boy, it’s been FIVE years today since the beginning of my blogs, and tomorrow marks five years since being served with the lawsuit by my ex-pastor Chuck O’Neal of Beaverton Grace Bible Church. It’s a good milestone moment to update the legacy.

Here was my profile summary from the original blog (on Blogspot): Continue reading

Personal Update

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snowI’m sure you have noticed the sporadic blog posts these past few weeks.

After taking off last term to recovery from a hysterectomy, I have gone back to school with a full load this term. I’m still not at 100% and require more sleep/rest than normal. All of the women who told me that this recovery takes up to a year are absolutely right. Whew! I just spoke to my advisor and we mapped out my classes. It looks like I should be able to graduate Spring 2018 with my Bachelors if all goes as planned.

I am trying to juggle a lot of things (mom, blog, school). I continue to do a lot of behind-the-scenes work on the blog. I still have the final post in the series on Tullian Tchividjian to post. Last week, I finally received a statement from a source that I had been waiting for, so that post should be coming soon.

Trying to balance all of the above is a challenge and I’ve needed take my own advice when it comes to self-care. Carrying so many abuse stories in my heart is taxing, so sometimes I just need to take a breather. This is important so I can be a better advocate, a better mother, a better student. I’ve had to mentally give myself the freedom to not write a post if I need to do self-care.

I have no plans on stopping here. There is a consistent cycle of wives of pedophiles who find the old 2013 blog post and ask for help. That has been a unique ministry here as Anon3 and Brenda support these precious ladies.

Although right now I cannot do the in-depth stories that require a lot of research as I used to do, there is obviously a need here, as I keep getting more personal stories. Personal stories are such a powerful way for readers to connect with their own abuse. They also help survivors to validate themselves as they own their stories and use their voice in a powerful way. Personal stories will continue.

I have to think simply when it comes to the next year or so. My upper-level classes are more challenging in my field of study, so I have to allow for that, as well as a possible internship which is highly recommended.

I think I will try to at least post an open blog post each week. This will help give a dedicated space for those who wish to connect, share articles, share if they are going through a difficult time, get connected and support/encouragement. I’m grateful to Kathi who has continued to post the Sunday posts. She has been such a help to me.

I’m so thankful for all of you who have continued to be part of this SSB family, providing support to others, sharing your stories. You’ve all been such an encouragement to me.

~Julie Anne

Julie Anne’s Intruder, Softball, and Issues

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I promised an update on me and so here goes.  It seems that my generation and older seems to squirm about personal issues, but frankly, I’m tired of that. So, I’m posting what’s been happening with me because more often than not, when I do post on something personal, several people will usually e-mail me and tell me a similar story. We really are not alone in this world and I’m absolutely fine with this discussion. Continue reading

How our Pastor’s Biblical Interpretation Can Affect Our Understanding of Scripture and God

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This is a very insightful statement from C.J. Mahaney.

 

Continue reading

Help! My Family Member or Close Friend is Trapped in a High-Controlling Church or Cult. How Can I Encourage Them to Leave?

How to help a family member or friend leave a high-controlling church group or cult: spiritual abuse, trapped, thought reform, mind control, freedom


 

“Mind control is the process by which individual or collective freedom of choice and action is compromised by agents or agencies that modify or distort perception, motivation, affect, cognition and/or behavioral outcomes. It is neither magical nor mystical, but a process that involves a set of basic social psychological principles. Conformity, compliance, persuasion, dissonance, reactance, guilt and fear arousal, modeling and identification are some of the staple social influence ingredients well studied in psychological experiments and field studies. In some combinations, they create a powerful crucible of extreme mental and behavioral manipulation when synthesized with several other real-world factors, such as charismatic, authoritarian leaders, dominant ideologies, social isolation, physical debilitation, induced phobias, and extreme threats or promised rewards that are typically deceptively orchestrated, over an extended time period in settings where they are applied intensively.”
Steven Hassan, Combating Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-Selling Guide to Protection, Rescue and Recovery from Destructive Cults

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I’ve heard it said that losing a child to death can be a parent’s worst nightmare. Now imagine having lost your adult child and their family, not to death, but to a high-controlling church or cult. Imagine not being able to celebrate birthdays or major holidays together. Imagine having only limited contact with your adult child and their family. How could your loved one entirely dismiss you, act like you are a stranger or enemy when you did nothing to them? Continue reading

A Brief Blog Respite and JA’s Back

Update from Julie Anne

Well, I didn’t intend to be away for so long or I would have posted something. Truth be told, every day I planned on posting something “tomorrow,” but as I followed my gut, that “tomorrow” didn’t happen, so obviously it wasn’t meant to be. I guess I needed the down time. I’ve been going to school even in the summer for two years now and didn’t realize how exhausted I was, physically, emotionally, academically.

Two years ago, I was only a high school graduate with a busy family and busy blog. Today, I now have my Associates degree (2 more years to go for my Bachelors), with a busy family and a blog that still has a bunch of readers who keep coming back for more, even though I haven’t published anything for the longest time in the blog’s 4-yr history. Thank you for your patience and support. You all are so gracious.

Here is how I’ve spent some of my time unwinding:

I taught my youngest how to do rug hooking.

 

I’ve been chauffeuring my youngest two back and forth to their Fun with Clay class each day. They already have their first project ready to go into the kiln and there’s still three weeks of class left. I love this. It’s 2 hours every day where they get to use their creativity and do not get distracted with technology.

 

The kids and I have been playing lots of Sequence. 

 

We’ve been picking raspberries from our prolific bushes. We already have picked enough for a few pies. If you haven’t ever had fresh red raspberry pie, they are amazing.

 

 

Last year I started making succulent arrangements. I had one arrangement outside and succulent pieces dropped in the soil beneath. This year, those little pieces have come up as volunteers, so I’ve created a little area and have helped them along by transplanting more starts so they will take over an area by our front walkway.  We live next to the Columbia River, and the rocks are river rocks we dug up from our yard. We have so many, so it’s fun to find creative ways to use them. I took this picture of the succulents a few days ago and there has already been significant growth in those few days. We probably won’t see any soil here by the end of summer – it will be full of succulents. I can’t wait!

 

 

I planted these perennials last year and they have quadrupled in size.  Kathi helped me discover the name: Rudbeckia hirta (Gloriosa Daisy). It’s been  fun to dig in the dirt and plant new annuals and perennials in the yard. I have missed this hobby.

 

 

And last, but not least, I’ve cast on a new knitting project. It’s been too long since I’ve last knit, and now I can enjoy a little down time while catching up with some favorite Netflix shows (currently Call the Midwife). I forgot this kind of bliss without school deadlines!

 

If you have sent me an e-mail in the last month or so and I have not responded, please try again. I’ve been trying to dig through the pile.  I’ve been working on a few ongoing situations that have updates, and also have had some deep thoughts on a new topic that hasn’t been discussed. So, hopefully, you’ll see more regular posts for the next few months while I”m on summer break.

Special thanks to Kathi for keeping the Sunday gatherings going each week!

 

The Challenge of Dealing with the Effects of Sexual Addiction, Pornography, Pedophilia by Family Members or Friends

Sexual addictions, pornography, pedophiles, family and friends of sexual addicts, S-Anon

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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

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Thanks for bearing with me as I’m getting hit with year-end activities for my children and me at school. I’m in the middle of cramming, finals, and looking forward to having a Summer break this year!

While the blog articles have tapered during my busy school schedule, the activity behind the scenes continues and I’m grateful for all I have learned in walking with people who are going through challenging and very difficult times. Last night was one such example which I’d like to share.

Last night, I attended an S-Anon meeting. It was my first time going to a 12-step meeting of any kind. I attended at the request of a new friend who, understandably, didn’t want to go to this meeting by herself.

 

What is S-Anon and for whom is it geared?

S-Anon a 12-step group that meets weekly for family members or friends of people addicted to sex (pornography, relationships, etc).

With any addiction, family and friends become a part of the addict’s system. Family and friends are impacted by their loved one’s addiction. It can affect them personally and in relationships, present and future. Additionally, how they respond to their addicted love one can have ramifications. Is the sex addiction talked about openly? Or is it the elephant in the middle of the room that people know exists, but refuse to talk about.

 

Would S-Anon be a good fit for me? The sexual addict I know is not in my immediate family.

At first, I was thinking that I really didn’t qualify to be at this meeting since there’s no sex addict in my immediate family and I don’t have close friends addicted to sex (to my knowledge, anyway). But then I realized that my in-law certainly has affected my immediate family. He is a pedophile, and our family has had to make very clear boundaries on visitation rules; for example, he is not allowed in our home, period. We allow time for meals, etc, but my kids are always reminded about safe touching, not being alone with him, etc. So, yes, I would benefit from these meetings, as would my adult children. There is a teen version of S-Anon, so that would be an additional option for my younger kids.

While the sex addict in my family is not in our immediate family, the situation has presented challenging issues for our family. We have had to broach the subject of sex and sex abuse at a very young age and in very clear terms with our children. We have had to grieve the loss of a normal grandparent-grandchild relationship.

I remember the day it struck me that my dreams of leaving our kids with the grandparents for a special weekend or a few days was completely out of the question. My children have had to find other “adopted” grandparents to fill some of those roles; but it will never be the same as most families where grandparents are an integral part of their lives. That’s just one of a number of losses we have faced due to sexual addiction. This is definitely something I could bring up at a future meeting that has affected me. Do I have anger about it? You bet! I wanted my children to have the best childhood possible and that was robbed from them (and me) due to the pedophile.

 

S-Anon, wife of pedophile, pornography, sexual addictionsWhat about other areas of sexual addiction are discussed?

Another area that I’ve seen an increased amount of discussion is the issue of a husband’s use of porn (including child pornography) and it’s effect on marriages and families. This is a very real and ongoing problem many Christian families face. The sense of betrayal, lack of trust, self-blame, body shaming issues really come to surface for wives of porn addicts. With porn, the marriage bedroom becomes very crowded and complicated. This takes its toll on wives, and the ripple effect on the children can become very apparent. If the sexual addiction interferes with a job and the addict gets fired, obviously this will have severe consequences on the family.

Because sexual addictions are such a secretive sin, children might sense that something is wrong, but not know quite what it is. They might not understand why mom is so depressed. It would be good to explore this topic more and I hope to be able to share personal stories because I know it is a growing issue that is rarely addressed from the pulpit. I wonder how many wives of sex addicts are sitting in the pews each Sunday at church wondering how their church can help them. It’s typically not  a topic that pastors address. Where will these wives turn for help?

Over 3 years ago, I posted the first article on wives of pedophiles, Being Married to a Pedophile: A Wife Speaks Out and Offers Hope to Other Wives of Pedophiles. This was written by a SSB reader, Anon3, who shared her experience and offered words of hope to another wife of a pedophile. I wish I had kept track of how many women have found that blog post and responded. Looking back, I would say that on average, one person per week has either comment or sent an e-mail asking for help. Those are just people who land at the blog by doing using search engines. Wives of pedophiles would certainly be welcome at A-Anon meetings.

 

What are the meetings like?

The meeting we attended was quite small, but it varies at every location. The meeting is structured and begins with reading excerpts from their S-Anon book which establishes the rules, objectives of the meeting, and a focus topic area. There is a time where people are allowed to share and a closing. It is confidential and what is said there, needs to remain there.

What I did find is that it is a safe place to gather, share personal stories, get encouragement and support. So many times when we are dealing with something by ourselves, we take it personally, blame ourselves. When we open up with others and exchange stories, we will see familiar behavioral patterns. This is similar to the familiarity many of us have had with spiritual abuse. We have a common denominator with similar, but not exactly the same experiences. (More questions about meetings.)

I think in time, an S-Anon member can get clarity and understanding why they have responded the way they have: why they may have trust issues, why they may have anger, etc.

Knowing and identifying these patterns will be helpful when learning to make healthier decisions and setting appropriate boundaries with the sexually addicted loved one. This is not an easy process. It takes work, but I have spoken with several people who have said the program has given them great tools.

I sensed that those who were at the meeting last night found confidence, understanding, and a tremendous amount of weight lifted from them as have traveled this journey. Rather than trying to survive, they seemed to be thriving AND have enough energy left to help others along in their journey. That was very encouraging for me to see.

For those who have just found this article via a search engine and who are dealing with a sexual addict, welcome.  You are in a difficult place, but you are certainly not alone. You are always welcome to comment here on the blog. I also have a private forum you may ask to join. (Email me at spiritualsb@gmail.com). But I also encourage you to seek out a local S-Anon for ongoing support. You definitely do not need to walk this road by yourself. Many have done it before you and would like to offer support.

Here are a few questions from a longer set of questions at the S-Anon website:

Is S-Anon for you?

  • Have you felt hurt or embarrassed by someone’s sexual conduct?
  • Have you secretly searched for clues about someone’s sexual behavior?
  • Have you lied about or covered up another person’s sexual conduct?
  • Have you had money problems because of someone’s sexual behavior?
  • Have you felt betrayed or abandoned by someone you loved and trusted?
  • Are you afraid to upset the sexaholic for fear that he or she will leave you?

You can see if there is a local S-Anon group in your area here.

Note: Although I used men as addicts in the examples above, women are not exempt from having sexual addictions.

 

JA has put herself in blog time-out

 

 

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So, yesterday I read a tweet that left me reeling. It made it difficult to concentrate on my school work, and got me thinking and emoting quite a bit. I’ve tried numerous times to put up a blog post today and yesterday and realize that I just need to let my emotions simmer a bit.

I guess this is a reality check for me (and my readers) about the effects of spiritual abuse. Most of the time it comes and goes and I can function normally. Sometimes, however, it hits hard, and I know I need to face it head on. I had several good cries yesterday and thought I’d be fine today, but apparently, I need to chill a bit more (except for one college test due by midnight).

I’ve learned the hard way that if I bury my emotions, they will resurface with a vengeance, so now, even though it’s inconvenient, I try to deal with myself honestly and ask the tough questions: why does this have so much significance for me? Why does it make me cry? What do the tears represent?  This is the grieving part – coming to the truth of what happened and its effects on me.

Once I’m done with that part of the process, I can finally move on to acceptance. I accept that I am where God wants me to be, even if it was not what I expected, and that it’s okay to move forward now.

I’ll be fine. I hope to be able to type out what happened and why it affected me so much. I think there are many who will relate.

Thanks for your patience with me as I go through this bump in the road for these couple of days. I’ll be blogging this coming week.

I’ve also wanted to say thanks for your patience as blog posts aren’t as timely as they used to be now that I’m a full-time student.  About 3 years ago, a friend and I were talking about college. He said, “Four years is going to come whether you like it or not, and you’ll have a degree or you won’t. Which do you want?”  It took one year to get the courage to register for school. Those words have come back to me many times in this process. After Spring term, and after 2 years of school, I will have my Associates degree  (half-way there). I’m truly thankful for all the support you’ve given me.

Spiritual Sounding Board: The Legacy That a Defamation Lawsuit Left to the Survivor Community

A guest post by brad/futuristguy.

Today marks the four-year anniversary of what turned into a five-plus-month lawsuit by Charles O’Neal and Beaverton Grace Bible Church (BGBC) against Julie Anne Smith and four other defendants.

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The Fallout of Spiritual Abuse on Our Children

Children Harmed by Spiritual Abuse

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Spiritual Abuse: What Was the Last Straw That Caused You to Leave Your Abusive Church?

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