The Spiritual Safe Haven Network (SSHN) consists of individuals and religious institutions (churches, synagogues, campus religious organizations, etc.) that want to offer those who have experienced spiritual abuse a “safe haven” providing spiritual solace, information, and community.
Spiritual abuse results when individuals are deceived and or otherwise manipulated in ways that cause detrimental changes to core elements of the self, including their relationship to God, religious/philosophical beliefs, self-determination, and the capacity to think independently. Though often associated with cultic groups, spiritual abuse may also occur in mainstream denominations when pastors or others misuse their authority or when individuals violate the ethical boundaries of proselytizing or other kinds of influence situations.
In 2008 the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) conducted a survey of mostly former cultic group members. There were 224 respondents. Eighty respondents (42%) sought help from mainline religious organizations. Thirty-two persons (40%) found these services not at all helpful, 17 (21%) rated the services as helpful or very helpful, and 31 (39%) rated the services as somewhat helpful. These findings suggest that religious organizations can be useful resources for the spiritually abused, but most organizations need to learn more about this population in need.
Creating a safe haven for those who have been spiritually abused requires that interested individuals, at minimum:
- understand enough about spiritual abuse and the ethics of influence to “do no harm,” and
- are aware of sympathetic experts in counseling, as well as social and health-care resources to whom they may refer those who have experienced spiritual abuse.
This Website provides resources designed to educate
- those who have experienced spiritual abuse and
- individuals who want their faith communities to be safe havens for spiritually abused persons.
The Website also provides resources for faith communities interested in teaching their congregations, youth in particular, about spiritual abuse and cultic dynamics of influence and control.
Feel free to send us your personal story (firstname.lastname@example.org), whether as a one-paragraph “testimony” or something longer. Sometimes personal accounts give life to abstract ideas. Put “safe haven testimony” in the subject line. We will post those that we believe help to illuminate concepts advanced on this Website.