Reclaiming My Faith After RA

by Tasha

My therapist recently said something in an appointment that I was NOT prepared for. She called what the abusers had formed a cult and what they did to me religious abuse in a cult setting. Cult is a really strong word, so this caught me very off guard, as much as when she said that I experienced ritual abuse. Usually, when people hear the word cult, they seem to think of a really bizarre system of beliefs that you drop once you're out of the situation. But for me, the core beliefs of the mainstream religion were fine--my problems have come from how the abusers twisted those mainstream concepts into how a cult believes and operates. Even before my therapist called what I lived in a cult, I already had a small idea that yeah, what the abusers had formed resembled how a cult operates, but it was just really hard to have it so blatantly spelled out in my face. As a result of this religious abuse, I have a hard time understanding what I do and don't believe, following and expressing my beliefs and my faith in various areas, and separating what was corrupted from what is the actual doctrine of this mainstream religion.

The core beliefs from that religion that these two adults corrupted into abuse are very important to me--the uncorrupted beliefs, the core of what is posited in the actual precepts of the belief system. Many of those things helped me form my own personal moral compass and are very important to who I am today. The beliefs also gave me hope which helped me get through and survive the abuse—especially the belief that there was a god who cared how I was doing--so I don't want to just give it up entirely. My experience was this: this belief system harmed me because a few people chose to twist and corrupt it beyond recognition and to use it horribly against me--but I won't say that the entire mainstream belief system is worthless and harms everyone who comes into contact with it. I just don't feel this way, and I prefer to come from my own experiences anyway--I'm simply not able to speak for the hundreds of other people who are perfectly fine with these beliefs.

One of the problems I'm having, though, is that it's extremely triggery for me to attempt to go to any kind of service, to talk with people who belong to most faiths, etc, because while I may be fine with where I stand with god, most people don't want to leave it there. Often, the people I run into want me to “heal” by repenting, being closer to god, etc.--the very things that the abusers used against me, so I just wonder at this attitude I encounter, because these people don't know me, really don't know my relationship with god, and yet they're saying I'm not close enough to him, cuz I'm still struggling, still have flashbacks, DID, PTSD, etc.

Another problem I've run into is that the way this particular denomination's setup is organized allows the abusers to continue to stalk, harass, follow, and abuse me. Basically through this setup, they can find out where I am through the membership records, and have on numerous occasions. They have used it to snow the local leadership into believing that I'm a danger to myself, that I'm not really what I seem, that they're trying to find me and interfere in my life for my best interest, etc. And somehow, even though the female abuser is the only one still doing this, every single time--even though it's different people they're doing this to, cuz I've moved a bazillion times--the local leadership believes them, takes their side, and helps them find me. Even when I was a kid, and naively believed that I could get help from the local leadership of various congregations, I was told that I needed to stop spreading these lies, that those who were abusing me were doing the best they could, and I needed to be grateful that I lived with them and was being taken care of.

Even now, I'm hesitant to be writing this all out, because there's a directive that you don't spread gossip, negative things, etc, about leadership etc, because in doing so, you're sinning, because all of these people are from god. I just think this makes it easier for abuse to be perpetuated. I just feel betrayed, I guess. And it's hard to discuss a lot of my story because I feel disloyal and dishonorable. Loyalty and honor are very important to me, I value them highly. So I just don't know how to come to terms with sharing this part of my story and at the same time feeling like a total traitor.

My therapist has said that my healing will progress the more I discuss things and the more I share my story. So, I am trying, and trying to reconcile the line between when I need to not share something that happened to me vs when I do need to share these things in order to heal, to figure out what I went through. I'm also wondering how I can get through this uncertainty with what my therapist said about what I experienced being a cult, because that entire concept is really scary for me. But I think that the more I work on this, and the more I talk about it, the better I seem to do. I'm still working on what I believe, and finding ways to be comfortable with my faith, so I hope that maybe over time, I will figure out how to fully reclaim my faith after the religious abuse I went through.