Healing from Psychosexual Abuse

Healing from Psychosexual Abusenothumantoys

The following excerpt is from the Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 14, No. 1, 1997, pages  19-20. I genuinely hope that this information is helpful in the healing process for those who have been abused and exploited emotionally and sexually in the “church” system.

Bearing in mind that cults control their members through deceptive and manipulative techniques that induce dependency, anxiety, and fear, the recovery process for someone who has extricated herself from a cult is indeed a rocky road. Former members typically experience a range of feelings: fear, mistrust, and betrayal, as well as confusion and disorientation. At the same time, they usually feel relieved to be out of the cultic situation. Major areas of work will revolve around the following: reestablishing boundaries; regaining self-esteem and self-confidence; dealing with feelings of betrayal; learning to trust again; resolving identity crises (who am I? how did it happen?); and what I call exorcizing the “hindering” emotions of shame, blame, and guilt.

Given the sophisticated and totalist nature of thought reform in a cultic environment, it is hard to separate the effects of sexual abuse from the overall psychological rape perpetrated by the leader and the group. The sexual exploitation is reinforced by the psychological violation; as a result, the harm to the individual is twofold.

Another significant factor is that typically cultic sexual exploitation and abuse is not a one-time occurrence. Integral as it is to the cult philosophy and worldview, ongoing and persistent abuse is likely to be part of daily life; for some women, a decades-long reality. Therefore, the abused female cult member – similar to certain battered women who are also victims of mind manipulation – needs to unravel the psychological trappings that were imposed on her by the perpetrator to ensure submission without challenge to his authority.

In some cases, the feelings related to sexual abuse may be the deepest and last layer of cult-related trauma to explore. Acknowledging that one was sexually exploited in the name of a greater goal is often a painful process. Consequently, some cult members deny, rationalize, minimize, and distort the meaning of the experience, while others may dissociate, separate from, split off, and even “forget” what happened in order to tolerate continued membership in or loyalty toward the group. Part of the healing process will entail the recovery of such unpleasant or unwanted experiences as part of one’s own past. Without such reclamation, the negative experiences tend to come back later and disrupt healthy functioning and the opportunity for satisfying personal relationships based on equality and mutual trust.

Various forms of self-expression (art, music, poetry, dance, journal keeping, drama), support groups, individual therapy, public speaking, and legal action are all means by which women have rid themselves of residual cult thinking and the unnerving aftereffects of cult abuse. Each woman’s healing journey is different. But often with the help of friends, family, educators, counselors, clergy, or therapists, she will find her preferred means of working through the pain, guilt, and shame that is the inevitable legacy of cult membership.

3 thoughts on “Healing from Psychosexual Abuse

  1. d. dalrymple

    Victims of psychosexual abuse are not only women, and many of the men affected may never publicly acknowledge as much for the same reasons of fear, guilt and shame. Does it help these men to seek and to find the healing they need if they are free to escape their fear and shame, but not the imputed guilt of their gender? Someone close criticises that any such generalization is not necessarily gender-polarization, not necessarily evidence of a battle of the sexes raging on. I could use a little more convincing.

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  2. d. dalrymple

    In this, the fact of psychosexual abuse upon boys and men remains unacknowledged and denied. Like the inference that only girls and women suffer hormonally. Imagine the excuses boys and men might come up with if it was ever publicly acknowledged that they, too, have hormones! Some may consider such argumentation gynophobic or misogynistic. I say the time is past due that the subjects of androphobia, misandry, psychosexual abuse in all forms against boys and men, and male hormonal conditions be acknowledged from objective social, academic, clinical and main stream media stand points. What do you think?

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    1. Religion's Cell Post author

      D.,

      Psychosexual abuse upon boys does not remain unacknowledged. In the last decade, the reality of this abuse upon boys as well as girls has come to the forefront of news media. When women and children are referred to on this blog, “children” refers to both genders, as both are at risk for exploitation. Psychosexual abuse has affected women and children (young girls and boys) for centuries. Sadly, in some cultures, there is no protection from that abuse. I know many male victims of C.S.A. (childhood sexual assault) and the reality is that emotional trauma from this type of abuse is the same across both genders. Abuse knows no gender whether that abuse is sexual, physical or psychological.

      My hope is that many more men will find the courage to step forward and speak of their abuse so that others will find their courage. One man’s courage can become contagious, inspiring other male victim’s to step forward and break the wall of silence that surrounds this subject matter. Thankfully, more and more men ARE stepping forward and exposing the abuse they endured. Awareness is key on this issue. The populous needs to know how pandemic psychosexual abuse is. It’s grown out of hand. It’s been hidden very well for centuries because victims have been silenced through shame, fear and guilt. That silence must be broken and victims must find their voices in order for changes to be made in law to protect innocent lives from further abuse.

      The Journal of Cultic Studies is not the only resource on this topic. If you search the internet, you will be able to find other sources that can give you research in this area. Cults and other controlling religions hide a myriad of abuses underneath their mantles. Feel free to do some studying on this topic. It is my opinion that everyone should learn the truth about this topic so that they can better protect themselves and their children from these hidden abuses.

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