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Meeting basic living costs is often difficult for those early in transition from an abusive religious or spiritual environment. Many individuals express a need for items such as food, lodging, transportation, phones, or clothing. We offer small amounts of support through a low-barrier vetting process aimed at providing a quick and efficient response.
WE HOPE TO HELP MANY MORE SURVIVORS SAFELY LEAVE ABUSIVE SPIRITUAL ENVIRONMENTS. HOWEVER, WE CAN ONLY DO IT THROUGH YOUR SUPPORT! ALL DONATIONS FROM MAY THROUGH THE END OF JULY 2022 WILL GO DIRECTLY TO OUR VICTIM'S FUND!
Physical violence manifests in a multitude of ways in abusive religious settings. Some of the lengthy list of offense are as follows; assault, forced restraint, hitting & kicking, slapping & punching, aggressive child discipline, kidnapping or institutionalizing followers, imprisonment of followers, intimidation with threats or weapons, starvation or deprivation of basic needs, and many other forms of physical aggression. Each group is different and not every group that implements forms of physical violence will use all of the tactics stated above. But not matter the degree, there are many studies to suggest the long term effects of any physical abuse, especially on children. These effect range from mental health struggles, physical and psychological disabilities, behavioral impacts, and long lasting societal consequences.
Many survivors report being strongly discouraged or prohibited from accessing an accredited or standardized education. This limits victims ability to pursue higher education from mainstream institutions and often leaves survivors academically years or decades behind their peers. This neglect also reduces an individuals ability to earn and sustain a livable wage, especially in their early years after exiting. In our 2020 report on the Independent Fundamental Baptist Movement, 49% of respondents struggled to pursue higher education after leaving their environment and 26% struggled to find any kind of employment. Similar experiences have been expressed by those leaving the Fundamental Latter Day Saints, Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientology, Orthodox Judaism, and many smaller religious based groups.
Financial Coercion is the manipulation or control of another individuals ability to fully acquire or maintain sustainable, financial resources. This is done through the unethical and inequitable solicitation or demand for money. While it is acceptable for churches and organization to raise funds for their work, pressuring or forcing congregants to give beyond their means is an abusive practice. Accepting large donations that leave the donor without a home, savings, or other means of support is unethical and an abuse of spiritual authority. Religious leaders who fund their own lavish lifestyles by taking from those with a meager income and promising "future rewards" in an afterlife, are preying on their followers beliefs. Embezzlement, fraud, and Ponzi/pyramid schemes are illegal practices that have been found in many abusive religious groups and have often been committed or perpetuated by spiritual leaders.
Sexual oppression in spiritual settings is the restraint, control, or burden placed on followers which limits or abuses their right to sexual exploration, expression, or identity. This can include the repression found in purity and virginity culture, as well as, the forced sexual exposure placed on children in other religious environments. Sexual oppression also includes a leader or groups fixation on followers sexuality or expression, and abuse may include attempts to convert or change a persons sexual identity. Imposed polygamy, child marriages, and forced arranged marriages are also examples of abuse as they take away the individuals choice in these matters.
Emotional abuse is the habitual pattern of behavior in which the perpetrator insults, humiliates, degrades, and generally instills fear into another person in order to control them. It is extremely common in adverse spiritual environments for individuals to have their spiritual beliefs wielded as a weapon against them. Demeaning, shaming, and threatening language is often mixed in with group specific insults (i.e. gentile, infidel, worldly, suppressive, heathen, goy, etc). Anger, outbursts, and ultimatums happen suddenly, and unexpectedly forcing followers to constantly be on high alert.
It is common to see labor trafficking and other forms of labor abuse in adverse spiritual environments. Victims have reported high expectations and work demands with little to no compensation. Some employed in abusive spiritual settings have reported being forced to work outside their contract hours and threatened with heavenly, or eternal repercussions if they did not comply. Other groups have forced hard manual labor onto followers as a punishment or in an attempt to coerce compliance and obedience. There are also survivors who report harassment at their place of employment by their former church/religious home, threatening their job security.
Shunning is the persistent avoidance or rejection of someone. In abusive spiritual environments, it is most often used as a way to punish those who do not follow the group or leader's teachings. Isolation is often promoted as separation from the wicked outside world and many individuals are born into their group, or spend decades in their religious home. They are limited from developing close, outside contacts or accessing other resources. Shunning and threats of expulsion become powerful tools to keep individuals in line, or to punish those who decide to leave the group.
Autonomy is the right and ability to govern ones body and actions. Including, having moral independence that is free from religious or spiritual coercion. Unfortunately, many individuals in adverse spiritual environments lose their autonomy over time. This loss adds to the confusion and frustration of starting over as former followers have to re-learn how to make their own decisions. Many have been conditioned to believe they are unsuited to make their own choices and become overwhelmed by their new reality. It takes time and healing for survivors to begin to trust their own instincts and abilities again.