Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS) is a function of both the chronic abuses of harmful religion and the impact of severing one's connection with one's faith and faith community. It is often diagnosed as, or compared to, PTSD or Complex PTSD (C-PTSD).
*RTS has not yet been given an official diagnosis by the DSM-5
An individual's spiritual life is perhaps their most vulnerable and sacred experience on this Earth. It is in our moments of worship that we encounter our highest sentiments of passion. And in our moments of reverence that we acknowledge our deepest feelings of connection.
Many people have found comfort, faith, and community in religious gatherings and teachings. The winding journey of life can feel daunting and lonely for any person. And through the centuries, humans have sought the peace and connection offered through religion and spiritual guidance. These groups offer a source of strength and purpose to their followers who eventually make them their home.
When this home is violated, voided, or destroyed, the pain and loss are immeasurable. No replacement will cause the wounds to vanish. But in addition to the emotional turmoil, many also face the real-life consequences of leaving an adverse religious environment. Financial devastation, loss of employment, loss of housing, verbal and physical harassment, lack of education, estrangement from family and friends, and so much more often accompany an already life-altering moment. In most cases, victims are given no choice but to make these sacrifices in order to escape to freedom.
Leaving an abusive spiritual home is not always fleeing away into the night, though this has been many survivor's stories. Instead, it is more often a slow and painful loss that continues to expand and intensify with time. The suffocation and loneliness of isolation slowly tear at the heart. Fear and insecurity at navigating a new world become overwhelming. Managing depression, anxiety, mental, and physical health are often new concepts for mot survivors.
There is little understanding or knowledge around spiritual and religious abuse in our world today. Which means there are few resources for those trying to rebuild their lives. As one individual so poignantly put it, "it feels like being a refugee in your own land". It is because of this that we launched an initiative to educate and advocate on the effects of adverse spiritual environments. As well as to provide support and services to victims in need.
We are The Vashti Initiative. And we envision an informed world that recognizes spiritual and religious abuse; opening safe avenues of healing to survivors.