Religious Abuse – Revealing the Signs. Can You See Them?

Religious abuse—revealing the signs. Can you see them? Religious abuse, also called religious trauma, is another lesser-known form of abuse. Regardless, it remains far more prevalent than people realize. Someone is afflicted by this form of abuse when religious experience threatens them or causes harm. Such harm can compromise a person’s emotional, physical, sexual, and spiritual health. These effects can be long-term and life-altering.

Like psychological abuse, in a new tab), such harm usually occurs little by little over time. Also, like psychological abuse, religious abuse can be difficult to spot until a person is drowning in its effects.

Religious Abuse vs. Spiritual Abuse

Religious and spiritual abuse are closely related. Spiritual abuse could be considered a subtitle of religious abuse. The difference lies in where the abuse comes from.

Religious abuse occurs between a person and a religious institution. Spiritual abuse happens when one person exerts power or control over another. In both situations, the abuser manipulates the victim into sought-after actions. Usually, the abuser is a religious leader. However, it can also be a parent controlling their child or a spouse dominating their partner. In my situation, all other forms of abuse rested on the foundation of religious and spiritual abuse.

Indirect Forms of Religious Abuse

Traumas caused by religious abuse can be direct or indirect. For example, indirect forms may include a divorce within the family. Before divorcing my ex, I convinced him that we should seek out marriage counseling. A lot of excellent counseling services exist. However, the minister we went to was unfortunately not one of them.

During one session, this minister turned to my ex and stated, “What you are doing to her is abuse.” He then focused on me and said, “He, being a man, is head of the house. You must do what he tells you to do.” To sum it up, this minister enabled my ex to continue abusing me. Along with that, he endorsed that I remain in an abusive situation.

One thing I am sure of is God is a God of Love. A loving God would never want me or anyone to remain trapped in an abusive situation. A tragic amount of Church leaders endorse abuse through their teachings. I must clarify here that this does not pertain to all ministers. Indeed innumerable churches and ministers do an excellent job of teaching God’s Love.

Abuse Through Image

Minimizing someone’s situation is another form of religious abuse. One church I once went to heavily valued image. They taught that a witness of Jesus must live a perfect life. This unrealistic pressure forces those who suffer to hide. I watched as one person spoke up. He sought help for his battle with depression. This church caused the man more harm by casting judgment. They declared that a person who is depressed has turned their back on God. In short, such misguidance is abuse.

Another example of spiritual abuse occurred when I fled to a shelter in 2012. As a result, people I called friends turned their backs on me. They said I acted against God by severing my marriage. This type of action makes it more difficult for victims to leave their abuser. It holds them in potentially dangerous situations.

Subsequently, long-time imprinted messages of the “acceptable” way to live can lead to religious/spiritual abuse. Such abuse includes life decisions, household dynamics, how to raise your children, and more. Those who have an identity different from the norm can be especially vulnerable. In sum, abuse occurs anytime someone’s teachings separate a person from their God.

Direct Forms of Religious Abuse

Sexual assault by a religious leader is a direct form of religious abuse. News of such occurrences has remained prevalent for decades. In my case, my parents raised me in isolation. My father, a minister and my sole educator on God taught dogmatic, twisted forms of scripture. He drilled into me the fear of God while declaring ordained authority. My father spat out a conflict of teachings that placed me in no-win situations. For instance, “men are superior to women.” Because of this, I must do what any man tells me to do. In addition, under all circumstances, I must obey my elders.

However, even during my preschool years, my father iterated that I knew what was right under all circumstances. And, if I did anything wrong, I risked condemnation. Combining such absolute pressure with the order to obey my elders placed me in unavoidable traps. I fell into one of those traps when the “elder” my parents frequently sent me to began molesting me and worse. My parents took it a step further. After such sessions, they “cleansed” me with razor blades.

As a result, it took me decades to leave this torrent god behind. I am happy to say that since then, I have drawn close to the true God who loves unconditionally.

Long-term Effects

This form of abuse can have long-term effects. For most of my life, I believed I had no value and must be subservient to others. This lack of value spilled into self-hatred. As a result, people like me begin to accept that we are inherently evil and unworthy of love. Such thoughts can lead to self-sabotage. It can hold a victim in a bad situation decades after they have escaped their abuser. I have only begun these recent few years to overcome these treacherous beliefs.

Shame weaves into every cell of the victim. Because of this, that shame feeds self-hatred. In my case. The shame fed the lie that “I knew better.” Because of that well-nurtured lie, I believed I was to blame for the horrendous things that occurred to me. Such shame keeps a person from receiving God’s gift of grace.

My parents taught me of a vindictive god. This vengeful deity limits love to those who remain perfect. Having to live up to that unachievable goal caused me to exist under the burden of fear and anxiety. Along with that, it instilled hypervigilance within me. Someone cannot live this way and experience joy. God blessed me with musical and artistic talents. These gifts, I believe, are given to us to glorify our Maker and make us happy. Yet, my parents suppressed my creativity, allowing me to only use those talents in “safe” areas.

Perfection’s Curse

Having to remain “perfect” in everything is an unrealistic goal. The inability to meet this goal makes it difficult to enjoy the present moment. And living life without joy is a direct contradiction to what the scriptures teach.

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Sadly, many churches teach misguided messages. One way they do this is by condemning certain behaviors and careers. They then lift up others, relating them to salvation.

Such imprinted anxiety and pressure toward perfection isolate a person. It makes it difficult to build social relationships of all sorts.


Religious and spiritual abuse creates a lack of boundaries within victims. When one person or establishment dominates someone to such a high level, the victim loses their sense of self. Doing the work of the Codependency Anonymous program has done wonders to help me overcome that hazard. It has helped me discover the value God has created within me. In addition, it teaches me how to protect that innate value, as only a Loving Higher Power would do.

In conclusion, religious abuse can contain any of the other multiple abusive forms. I address many of these forms within this series. The numerous ways it affects its victims number far more than I can place in just one blog.

The biggest problem with abuse done under the authority of religious abuse is that it separates a person from their Maker. The victim is taught a false image of God and left to their own to find who God truly is. In my view, there is no worse abuse than to place a barrier between a person and their God.

Upcoming Posts

I hope you join me each week as we continue this sensitive topic. Next week, I will delve into legal abuse. Week eight will cover domestic violence. In week nine, I wrap up this series by providing resources and steps to escape an abusive situation.

I pray this series adequately informs all who read it and need such vital help. I welcome questions and comments on any of my blogs. To do so, go to CONTACT THE AUTHOR – Crystal MM Huntley. Furthermore, I pray that all who indulge in my written creations find entertainment, enjoyment, and education. I also hope to inspire you to move forth in your healing journey.

Note To My Readers

Hopefully, you have gained value from this blog post. If you have, I would like to offer you the opportunity to purchase my book, The Hidden DiamondBUY THE BOOK – Crystal MM Huntley, and support my mission to break the chains of abuse.

A Different Light Alexandra Another Reason to Forgive Back to My Story Boundaries Direct Forms of Religious Abuse Domestic Abuse Defined Emotional Abuse – an Umbrella Term Faith Shattered Forgiveness Does Not Mean to Forget. Free Giveaway From Robin’s Gift Grace Hope Invite Long-term Effects My Fight for You My Solution My Story Note To My Readers Perfection’s Curse Resources Robin’s Gift Robin’s Gift – A Sneak Peak Seeking Help Step Five Step Four Step One Step Six Step Three Step Two Take the Challenge The Hidden Diamond The Root Meaning of Sin The Scars of Abuse To Find Help To My Readers Two Other Forms of Legal Abuse Unveiling the Hidden Crime Upcoming Posts What Is Legal Abuse? Why Do I Forgive? Why I Share Why I Write You Are Worthy!

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