Brainwashing in the local institutional church

For there are many unruly men, empty talkers and mind-deluders, whose mouths must needs be stopped, men who are upsetting whole houses, teaching the things which ought not to be taught – for the sake of base gain. Titus 1:10-11

To demonstrate their duty and submission to their spiritual overseer
and pastor David Koresh, many “Christians”
were willing to be transformed into human torches in the town of Waco, Texas.

To demonstrate their obedience and duty to “Obey them that have the rule over you,” many “Christians” submitted to their spiritual overseer and Pastor
the Rev. Jim Jones, and “partook of the communion of death” in the jungles of Guyana, South America.

Introduction

Many Christians will be quick to express the extremeness” of the examples mentioned above in regards to people following their leaders, yet nevertheless, there is a lot more relevance to what has just been said than most of us care to recognize – relevancy that lands itself right at our own doorsteps.

When someone joins themselves to an organization or an institution called the “local church,” the times that will be spent there are very formative.  

These formative times give ample opportunities for the “religious leaders” or “spiritual overseers” to brainwash the people by planting fears that will literally keep a person in bondage to their particular brand of religious system for life, or keep a person from looking at anything else for fear of being deceived. 

These formative years provide an abundant opportunity as well for the “church leaders” to implant concepts which will actually keep the person from ever seeing the truth, even though the truth may be right before their eyes! If a particular doctrine or practice is continually being implanted into one’s mind time after time, using vivid graphic illustrations, a handful of Scriptures, add a little fear, and of course, throw in some “awesome respect for church authorities” and then, when that person reads plain Bible texts which tells them something different, they will not be able to clearly see what is directly in front of them. They will see the text through the filters that were put on their mind. They will not see the text as it really is.

It’s absolutely amazing how many times a Scripture is read in church that completely contradicts one of their main teachings and no one ever comments about the contradiction. 

There was a time at the beginning perhaps when they asked those hard questions, but when they were rebuked or ridiculed and shamed for asking questions that caused division, they learned not to question anymore. They learned to go along with the crowd. 

The scales over the eyes have become so thick that everything, including the concept of God Himself, becomes gross darkness. But they do not know it is darkness on account of the fact that they have been seeing that way for quite some time now.  The “leaders” have locked them in to their own little system.  To stray into a different area of thought is almost unthinkable for many of them.  

Yea, rather the “leaders” view it as tantamount to heresy!

I say without intending offense that such exclusiveness differs little from the two extreme examples mentioned above or any other authoritarian groups. 

Victims of such brainwashing have lost their personal autonomy and in some cases are reduced to almost a zombie-like state!  A person who goes to their church Sunday after Sunday, and hears basically the same underlying message repeatedly for a lifetime, has little hope of ever understanding TRUTH as it is revealed in all of the Scriptures. 

But these people will refuse to learn anything different from what they have been indoctrinated in.  Why is that?
The reasons are simple but very important to be aware of and understand — BRAINWASHING and FEAR.

Brainwashing 101

Brainwashing:

1) any method of controlled systematic indoctrination, especially one based on repetition or    confusion; 2) inducing a person to modify their beliefs, attitudes, or behavior by conditioning   through various forms of pressure; 3) the ability to apply procedures or methods so as to effect a radical change in the ideas and beliefs of a person.

Because brainwashing is such an invasive form of influence, it requires the complete isolation and dependency of the subject, which is why you mostly hear of brainwashing occurring either in a religious system of some kind or at prison camps

The agent (the brainwasher) must have complete control over the target. (the brainwashee)  Sound familiar?  Everything pertaining to the targets life depends on the will of the agent. (your spiritual overseer)  Every step the agent takes will result in advancing his own self-centered agenda.  

In the brainwashing process, the agent will systematically break down the target’s identity to the point that it doesn’t work anymore. 

These brainwashers will hone in on a person’s weaknesses by first making their target comfortable, then get personal and confidential information to exploit the person later.  Many “church leaders” for example will project themselves with false humility; posing as spiritual men.  They take the place of the person’s physical father and successfully use this emotional leverage for the deep seated need for approval in order to motivate and control them.

The goal is to make the adult followers as much like their own children as possible.  When people accept this, then they accept human authority in their lives to the point where they are hopelessly dependent on the authority, as children are with their parents.  One technique the “church leader” will use to obtain this type of parental control is to keep them off balance to foster dependency, making it hard for them to make their own decisions. 

When this kind of cunning craftiness is plotted to deceive the followers into functioning like children, they become much more manageable, being easily influenced by false doctrines and other tricks of deception.

From here on in, the targets (a.k.a: “church members”) willingly give up their minds and their souls at the institutional church doors; allowing themselves to be induced with the godless spiritual narcotic of “duly authorized rule” slowly and deliberately being administered by their “church overseers and pastors.”   Having now been deprived and numbed to any sense of right or wrong, they mindlessly, and without any shame or twinge of conscience, follow and obey everything they are told to do within those institutional walls.

Even if it means destroying your own family “for the higher good,” the higher good of course being in conformance to the wishes of your spiritual overseer and his local church.

This is what happens when we follow the ways and the teachings of men.  How many times in the Scriptures have we been warned over, and over, and over again concerning man’s ways and traditions; taking heed to what we hear; testing and proving the spirits, etc.  But unfortunately, it is very rare today to see a “Berean”.  

Remember that religious brainwashing can be extraordinarily powerful and dangerous to anyone, but especially to those who do not have the ability to withstand the religious pressure.  With this kind of pressure and these kinds of fear tactics, is it any wonder that some Christians don’t think for themselves?

The best thing to do regarding your professing Christian relatives and friends is to realize that, while they are well-meaning in their beliefs, they have been brainwashed. Brainwashed people cannot see the Truth that is right before their eyes and they will deny facts that do not agree with their beliefs. Brainwashing causes a disconnect in the mind of the Christian believer between demonstrable reality and religious fantasy. Reality is filtered out in favor of the religious dogma/fantasy.

Thanks Brother. You’re a great testimony to the Church!”

Enter: Elizabeth Smart

Remember the abduction and brainwashing of Elizabeth Smart back in 2002?  The scary similarities are astounding.

Just to briefly recap: “Under orders from God,” two religious abductors, a husband and wife team, took (kidnapped) Elizabeth from her bedroom and held her captive for nine months before she was finally rescued.

The effect of these religious abductors cannot be ignored.  Normally, when you try to ensnare someone to a belief system, it requires a dense network of fellow believers to indoctrinate you on their values and rituals, as well as exert social pressure.  In Elizabeth Smart’s case, there were only two people, a man and his wife.  Yet the forcefulness of their beliefs and tactics was enough to sway this young girl, just mature enough to comprehend spiritual ideas but not experienced enough to judge them skeptically.

For quite a number of months, the trio traveled around the western United States and at no time did Elizabeth attempt to escape, even when wandering through a grocery store by herself, the brainwashing had so well taken effect.
Someone has said that “under stress, a person can go into survival mode…..you suddenly start to identify with your captors.  Its called traumatic bonding, and people actually come to see their abductors as their saviors.” 
Elizabeth Smart’s failure to take advantage of opportunities to escape or call for help are all symptomatic of someone who has been brainwashed. 

She was once photographed three months after her abduction at a party where she could easily have raised alarms, but instead showed no signs of needing help.  One witness who supposedly saw Elizabeth Smart at the party with her captors said she “stood silently behind her captor submissively, robed in what some have called a berka.Asked why the women wore these garments and were veiled, the captor reportedly said, “To protect them from the sins of the world.”

Another witness stated that she seemed like she was part of the family.

One Salt Lake City resident told reporters he provided shelter for Mitchell, his wife, and Elizabeth for several days and that the girl never expressed fear, tried to escape, call police or sought his help. 

One day, when police finally noticed the trio on a street corner, they pulled Elizabeth aside by herself.   When initially questioned by police, Elizabeth Smart identified herself as “Augustine” and seemingly attempted to frustrate the efforts of officers to help her.

According to a report from Newsweek, Elizabeth told police, “I know you think I’m that Elizabeth Smart girl who ran away, but I’m not.”  The report goes on to say that “even as the police took her in a car, she denied her identity.” 
According to another report from Time, “Three times she told them her name was Augustine and she insisted to them that she was traveling with her parents.”

When the police insisted that she was Elizabeth Smart, she replied with a non-committal phrase: “Thou sayest.” 

After finally admitting her identity, Elizabeth repeatedly asked police what would happen to her companions, Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Ilene Barzee.  Police said she showed concern only for their welfare, not her own. 

How did Mitchell, a self-proclaimed “prophet” and supposed messenger called by God, change this Salt Lake City teenager into his willing follower?  How did he hold Elizabeth within a “world” of his own creation?

One method he employed was to control her environment, and through brainwashing, Mitchell controlled Elizabeth’s completely!  He also sought to isolate her from her familiar support system of family and friends.
After gaining this environmental control, Mitchell then effectively could filter all information flowing to Elizabeth. 

She became dependent upon him to interpret everything, from where she can go and what she can do, to Bible passages and their meanings and even to the meaning of life.  He created for her a new language, giving her a new name and identity, inculcating her into his religious belief system.  The young girl had no outside frame of reference or accurate feedback from others to oppose the growing influence of this “messenger from God.”

Step-by-step this control led to the undue influence witnessed by those interviewed.  Elizabeth gradually seemed to assume a cult identity, which included the new name “Augustine.” She became robotic; believing and doing whatever the messenger from God said.

Once Mitchell had Elizabeth, he immediately began to drive home his belief system, laid out in a dense 27-page manifesto in which he declared himself “God’s man.”  He knew the right words to say because he was a Mormon and she was Mormon.  This connection between them, a shared knowledge of religious doctrine and reference points, allowed the hold over her to become that much stronger. 

Paul Martin, a mental-health counselor, said:

“For every Elizabeth Smart out there, I can tell you there are probably hundreds of                thousands a year that don’t go reported. There are many that join groups like that,               maybe not as bizarre but equally destructive…….
These are serial killers of the soul. It’s a national tragedy.” 

Geraldine Stahly, a psychology professor at California State University at San Bernardino said:

“People who spend long stretches of time with their captors often begin identifying with them. This is called the Stockholm Syndrome. She said: If they are entangled in a group for a considerable length of time, they actually begin to have distortion in their thinking; to take the side of their abductors and see all outsiders as a threat.”

Coming Home To Roost

Have you been or are you, like Elizabeth, in a situation where some church authority figure threatened your life or family, and then, like Elizabeth, had managed to placate this overwhelming authority figure into NOT harming you, thus forming a close emotional bond?  

Like Elizabeth, have you been or are you “in awe” of this “duly authorized being from God?” 

Like Elizabeth, have you been or has your real identity been stripped away layer by layer and replaced with an artificial construct imposed from without, thus transforming you into a “dumb sheep?” 

And like Elizabeth, did you or do you feel “warmth for your awesome spiritual overseer” which removes any desire to escape from your captivity?

Reading about the brainwashing of this poor young girl, with point after point of similarity jumping out, you begin to understand better why so many members of local institutional churches are so blinded and in bondage to their religious systems. They have been brainwashed, and when confronted with solid Biblical evidence and facts that goes against their religious babble, it just washes off them as water off a duck’s back. 

Remember. Elizabeth continued to deny to the police that she was Elizabeth, even when facing a photo of herself on a wanted poster!  

That is the power of religious brainwashing. 

If she could look straight into a photograph of herself and not see that it was her in the photo, how much more could a Baptist or Presbyterian or Catholic look into more obscure facts and not see them as well!  In a five minute discussion between a real Christian and a typical local institutional church member, what chance does solid Scriptural evidence have going up against years and years of intense daily brainwashing?  

Once again, 1 Corinthians 2:14 speaks volumes: 

Now the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: 
for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot know them, 
because they are spiritually judged.

However blinded they are to their own brainwashing, many people have no problem seeing and pointing out others who are thus inflicted.  A Seventh Day Adventist for example can easily see the brainwashing that has taken hold of a Baptist, and vice versa.  A Reformed individual can easily see the brainwashing that has taken hold of an Armenian or a Roman Catholic, and vice versa.  But neither can see it in himself. 

Gather together into a room one hundred church members from one hundred different denominations, and each one can see in the 99 others the brainwashing; but they can’t see it in themselves.  They all marvel at how blinded the 99 others are to admitting new facts even in the face of mountains of scriptural evidence, yet think themselves not brainwashed, but rather “steadfast and true” when themselves, faced with such scriptural evidence against their own peculiar beliefs, ignore it and continue believing whatever tripe they specialize in.  They not only ignore it, they actually feel they deserve some kind of medal for having been brain-dead and stubborn enough not to be affected by the clear teaching of Scripture.  

In their church view, being closed minded and thick-headed is a virtue, not a vice.  “Look at me, ma! I spent an hour with a Presbyterian and learned nothing!  Praise God!”

The problem with many Christians in our day is their attitude toward the Bible.  They will read their Bible, not expecting to be taught of God from it, but will get their teaching from their pastors, preachers, and commentaries, and then go to the Bible only expecting to find proof for what they have already been taught!  (The sad part is that many of these religious cult leaders will actually put their stamp of approval on such passivity).  

The problem begins when one comes across a passage of scripture which would seem to contradict what they have been taught.  How many of us at times such as these reach for our commentaries or run back to our “pastors” or “elders” and ask them to explain the verse to us rather than calling out to God for help and wisdom.  What do you think your “pastor” will tell you?  

You already know what answer they will give.  That’s why you run to them! 

This is NOT how it should be.  Each Christian has a command from God to “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15. 

Every Christian needs to ask themselves if they know for sure why they believe what they profess to believe, and to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” 1 Peter 3:15

The fact that so many in our day accept a teaching or practice just because it comes from my church or “my pastor” is very troubling in light of the apostle Paul’s words: 

For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
Acts 20:29-31

The Spirit says clearly that some people will abandon the faith in later times; giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons. 1 timothy 4:1

The apostle Peter warns of the same: 

“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.” 2 Peter 2:1-2 

How many times has the Lord Himself warned over and again of false prophets and wolves in sheep’s clothing.

They all knew that apostasy would creep into the church very shortly after their departure.  Even a rudimentary study of church history will show that this is exactly what took place.  Christianity absorbed more and more from its surrounding cultures and religions until the pure stream of Truth was thoroughly polluted.  

What is most troubling about this is the average Christian’s reluctance and ambivalence in asking questions about the issues of some of their teachings and practices.  This satanic brainwashing and buffoonery has deceived, and IS deceiving millions of unknowing, often unthinking people into actually believing that:

– Obeying your Pastor is the same as obeying God!

– That “going to Church” is the highest form of worship and is commanded by God!

– That all of your spiritual leaders are clothed with divine authority!

– And that when it comes to a marital issue, a wife is to listen to and follow her Pastor’s counsel, rather than her own      husband!

Indeed, the wolves have been placed in charge of the hen house, and are doing their best to keep the hens ignorant of the slaughter of Truth that is going on.   

CONCLUSION

Once we have been programmed with a belief, be it true or false, we will act as if it is true!  We then instinctively seek to collect facts to support that belief no matter how false it might be! 

This is brainwashing in action; the same kind of brainwashing that inflicted Elizabeth Smart.

Brainwashing feeds off of human pride and a lust for controlThose in “positions of church leadership” have literally commandeered what God gave through His Son, a simple, direct, unencumbered relationship with Him, and have fashioned unto themselves their idol, their golden calf, their own little kingdoms in which they can rule, control, and exercise dominion, unfettered!

But even as Isaiah cried, “Lord, who has believed our report?” (Isaiah 53:1; Romans 10:16), even so, who has believed us?  Yes, who? 

It is almost frightening to see how few professing Christians truly believe and understand what’s going on, and how fewer yet will believe and obey the Scriptures!  The brainwashing has taken full control.  

Christ’s sheep have been brainwashed, corralled, and then mistreated by thieves and robbers for many, many centuries.  The feelings, the thoughts, and the questionings of the average “Christian church member” today have been squelched by their authoritarian, law-mongering overseers. 

Whenever the mind of a Christian is stirred and begins to see the false teachings and practices that are occurring in his church, silence and fear begin to take over and envelope him.  He knows that if he speaks up, his life and the life of his family would be endangered by the very institution that claims to “care for them.”  This is brainwashing at its best.

The words disaffection and  heretic will keep him silent, for all of the members know of the result.

Many of these Christians will continue to just settle into their pews week after week, not even knowing what’s really going on.  Calm, quiet, and with their hollow, far-away look in their eyes, there they stay; totally brainwashed into believing that this is what’s best for them; slothfully satisfied in their captivity, being captivated by their captors!  Even the thought of having to “hunt for their own food” sounds too much like work.  Many wouldn’t even know where to begin.  But why leave?  The “captors” have convinced them that THEIR CAPTIVITY IS THEIR FREEDOM!  

This doping of the mind; this brainwashing is perhaps the most heartbreaking of all.  Many just assemble upon the command of their “church leader” without having the slightest clue of what Christ and His Ecclesia is all about. 

What a sad and pathetic state of affairs is today’s local institutional churches.  Indeed, as Paul Martin said earlier, the Elizabeth Smart’s are being multiplied today many times over.  These people are serial killers of the soul.

When brainwashing gets to the place where “church leaders” will literally turn wives against husbands and brethren against brethren, then it is time to speak loudly and clearly.  When brainwashed believers are taught to actually hate another believer simply because they dared to challenge the pastor, or dared to expose a long standing cherished tradition, the cult and its leaders must be exposed.  

When a church tyrant uses his anti-scriptural “office” and “ministerial dignity” to get control of an individual’s mind and conscience, personal revolt is nearly impossible.  

The poor sheep become scared of everything and everybody especially when they are cut off from asking or sharing the questions and difficulties in their heart.   

Like it or not, this is the description of the brainwashing that is occurring in many churches today encompassing a wide spectrum of denominations.  

It is a man-made, man-sustained system of indoctrination that is fueled by pride, greed, lust, power, money, and control; an indoctrination which has gone far, far “beyond the things which are written.”

Many have been deeply scarred through these diabolical practices and misapplications of men.  The brainwashers that occupy these pulpits are smart and clever, and they understand human nature.  They know how to deceive and they know how to destroy.  There are no words too strong to demonstrate this horrible deception used by this self-serving, hierarchical team of spiritual monsters! 

Many need to heed the admonitions of Paul and James: “Neither give place to the Devil”  Ephesians 4:27

“Be not deceived my beloved brethren.”   James 1:16

Until the people’s eyes are opened and they finally come to realize and act upon the fact that there is a pompous, manipulative, and deceitful ruling class of “church leaders” who will stop at nothing to advance their destructive agendas, they will be doomed to a lifetime of bondage and darkness. 

But it will only be done by and through the aid of the Spirit of God Himself.  Then and only then will you be convinced to STUDY and be READY to change.  Then and only then will you have the mind to comprehend and the courage and bravery to stand up and say ENOUGH! 

Without God’s Spirit; without the One of whom it is written, “He shall guide you into Truth,” all the time in the world will not bring one to the knowledge of the Truth. 

May you find the faith and courage to do what God would have you to do, because doing it will bring you the peace, joy, and freedom that Jesus died to provide.

Ken Cascio                                                    
Webmaster     


RETRIEVED http://www.wickedshepherds.com/BRAINWASHING.html

Denial Prevents Pain, but Also Prevents Change

Jason Whiting Ph.D.

Love, Lies and Conflict

When you face the truth, you change your life and deepen your relationships. 

Posted Jul 30, 2020


When I was a kid, I once overheard my mom on the phone, saying, “Jason keeps pretending he can’t hear me when I call him to help with the dishes.” My own kids sometimes adopt this same strategy. Have you ignored a summons to step up and be responsible? Dismissed emails to avoid something unpleasant? Rejected the news about the dangers of sugar, booze, or nicotine?

Dodging reality to live in denial is a forte of our species. A few years back, I was in a thrift store and found a used book from the 1950s arguing vigorously for the health benefits of cigarette smoking. When we don’t want to change, we stick our heads in the sand and use denial. The satirical newsmagazine The Onion nailed it with their article, “New Study Finds Nothing That Will Actually Convince You to Change Your Lifestyle So Just Forget It:” It said:

“Though it contains several significant discoveries with a direct bearing on human health, a comprehensive study published this week in The Journal Of The American Medical Association has found no data that will in fact convince you to change your lifestyle in any way, so what’s the point of even telling you about it?”

The more we want something, the more we are tempted to ignore the truth if it gets in our way of having it. In twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, the first step is to get past denial. This is because, as author Stephen King writes, “[Addicts] build defenses like the Dutch build dikes.” King knows this firsthand, as he wrestled with alcohol and drug use. He told himself he “just liked to drink,” or, as a sensitive artist, he needed the drugs to face the pain and challenge of writing. Like most addicts, he thought he was the exceptional person that could handle it. It wasn’t until his wife and family confronted him, including dumping out a garbage bag of evidence (beer cans, cocaine spoons, cigarette butts, Valium, Xanax, Robitussin, Nyquil, and mouthwash bottles), that his denial walls crumbled down.

Photo by Rafael Serafim from Pexels

Source: Photo by Rafael Serafim from Pexels

Facing reality is painful, but it is better to address warning signs instead of turning a blind eye. Sometimes spouses ignore signs of addiction (she keeps coming home late plastered), infidelity(why does he abruptly shut the laptop when I come in the room?), or lies (that story just changed again). Excuses mount, and denial becomes enabling. It’s easier to ignore warnings than have difficult conversations, but this leaves problems free to grow unchecked.

Some of the damage from child abuse is caused by those who looked the other way and ignored the warning signs. Many victims tried to tell a parent or teacher about mistreatment and were disregarded or pressured not to talk. When this happens, victims doubt their own reality, and the truth gets lost.

This distortion occurs in domestic violence, where abusers minimize their actions, and threats of being hurt cause confusion and self-doubt in those who are abused. One of my projects examined how an abuser’s blame can persuade a victim to doubt what happened and blame themselves. One woman said: “[He convinced me that] if I would’ve just done this, he wouldn’t have taken my debit card away, or … he wouldn’t have yelled at me or said that I was stupid.”

Survivors also use denial to cope, because it is hard to admit abuse is occurring, or leave. Denial gives a victim a chance to come to terms with an awful situation while trying not to feel worthless. As another research participant said: “If you can not focus on the negative, things are always better. If you live in your dream world with the rainbow, all that stuff, it’s always much easier to cope. If he was bad about everything, then I had to be bad, too.” 

Denial of reality may be understandable, but problems don’t usually change by themselves. If you are disregarding important concerns, it’s time for a cold splash of truth. Ask yourself: Am I avoiding a difficult issue? Do I sometimes rewrite reality in a way that becomes dishonest?

If so, it may be time to break through the denial and accept the facts. This is how change occurs and relationships become more authentic.


REFERENCES

Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of The Craft (New York: Scribner Books, 2000), p. 94.

Terry Trepper, and Mary Jo Barrett, Systemic Treatment of Incest: A Therapeutic Handbook (London: Routledge, 2013).

Jason B. Whiting, Megan Oka, and Stephen T. Fife, “Appraisal Distortions and Intimate Partner Violence: Gender, Power, and Interaction,” Journal of Marital and Family Therapy 38, no. s1 (2012): 133-149. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-0606.2011.00285.x


RETRIEVED https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/love-lies-and-conflict/202007/denial-prevents-pain-also-prevents-change

Why Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse Don’t Disclose

Beverly Engel L.M.F.T.

The Compassion Chronicles

CHILD DEVELOPMENT

Posted Mar 06, 2019


As the recent HBO documentary Leaving Neverlandso powerfully demonstrated, many adults have yet to tell anyone that they were sexually abused as a child—not their partners, not their friends, not their family members, not even their therapists. Many of us are familiar with the reasons why children do not come forward to report child sexual abuse, but many don’t understand why adults continue to carry this secret, sometimes to their graves. I have been counseling adult victims of child sexual abuse for the past 35 years. In this article, I’ll discuss many of the reasons why some adults continue to keep silent when it comes to being a victim of child sexual abuse.

Confusion

Many former victims of child sexual abuse are confused as to whether they were, in fact, sexually abused. This can be due to a lack of understanding as to what constitutes sexual abuse, because many people are misinformed as to what child sexual abuse actually is. For example, many people think of childhood sexual abuse as an adult having intercourse with a child—penetration of a penis inside a vagina or in the case of male on male sexual abuse, a male penetrating the child’s anus. But most childhood sexual abuse does not involve intercourse. Also, many people think of childhood sexual abuse as being an adult molesting a child. But childhood sexual abuse also includes an older child molesting a younger child. Child sexual abuse includes any contact between an adult and a child or an older child and a younger child for the purposes of sexual stimulation that results in sexual gratification for the older person. This can range from non-touching offenses, such as exhibitionism and showing child pornography, to fondling and oral sex, to penetration and child prostitution.

As the young men in Leaving Neverland explained, they did not realize that they had been sexually abused until they were in their thirties. Instead, they considered what allegedly occurred between themselves and Michael Jackson as a love affair in which they consented to all the activities that occurred. This kind of thinking is common for former victims of child sexual abuse. It wasn’t until one of the young men had a child of his own that he came to realize what had happened to him. When he thought of someone doing to his son what had been done to him, it suddenly dawned on him that he had been abused. “I’d kill anyone who did that to my son. Why didn’t I feel anything when I thought about what Michael did to me?” the young man shared. This lack of awareness and the inability to connect with and have empathy for themselves as a child is not uncommon in former victims of child sexual abuse. 

Another issue that may add to the confusion is the issue of receiving pleasure. Although there is often physical pain involved with child sexual abuse, that isn’t always the case. For some victims, there is no physical pain at all. And victims have often reported experiencing some physical pleasure, even with the most violent and sadistic types of sexual abuse. This confuses victims, causing them to believe that perhaps they gave consent or may have even instigated the sexual involvement. The reasoning goes like this, “If my body responded (through a pleasurable sensation, an orgasm, an erection) it must mean that I wanted it.”

It is very important to understand that experiencing physical pleasure does not signify consent. Our bodies are created to respond to physical touch, no matter who is doing the touching. And many victims of abuse were so deprived of affection that they spontaneously accept and respond to any physical attention, no matter what its source.

Another reason why many question whether they were really abused is that they may not have a clear memory of what happened. They may have only vague memories or no memories at all, just a strong suspicion based on their feelings and perhaps their symptoms. It’s difficult to believe your feelings when you have no or very few actual memories. Some people will even doubt the memories they do have, fearing that “I’m just imagining” or “I’m making this up.”

One reason why someone may have no memories or vague memories is the common practice of victims to dissociate. Dissociation is a disconnection between a person’s thoughts, memories, feelings, and actions, and sense of who he or she is. This is a normal phenomenon that everyone has experienced. Examples of mild, normal dissociation include daydreaming, “highway hypnosis,” or getting lost in a book or movie, all of which involve losing touch with an awareness of one’s immediate surroundings.

During traumatic experiences such as crime, victimization, abuse, accidents, and other disasters, dissociation can help a person tolerate something that might otherwise be too difficult to bear. In situations like these, the person may dissociate the memory from the place, circumstances, and feelings caused by the overwhelming event, mentally escaping from the fear, pain, and horror of the event.

When faced with an overwhelming situation from which there is no physical escape, a child may learn to “go away” in her head. Children typically use this ability as a defense against physical and emotional pain or fear of that pain. For example, when a child is being sexually abused, in order to protect herself from the repeated invasion of her deepest inner self she may turn off the connection between her mind and her body creating the sensation of “leaving one’s body.” This common defense mechanism helps the victim to survive the assault by numbing herself or otherwise separating herself from the trauma occurring to the body. In this way, although the child’s body is being violated, the child does not have to actually “feel” what is happening to her. Many victims have described this situation as “being up on the ceiling, looking down on my own body” as the abuse occurred. It is as though the abuse is not happening to them as a person but just to their body.

While dissociation helps the victim to survive the violation, it can make it difficult to later remember the details of the experience. This can create problems when it comes to a victim coming to terms with whether or not they were actually abused. If you were not in your body when the abuse occurred, it will naturally affect your memory. You won’t “remember” the physical sensations of what the abuser did to your body or what you were made to do to the abuser’s body. This can cause you to doubt your memory and add to the tendency to deny what occurred.

Sometimes the reason victims don’t have clear memories of the abuse is that they were drugged or plied with alcohol by the abuser. It’s rather common for perpetrators to sedate their victims with alcohol or drugs as a way of gaining control over them and of ensuring that they will not tell anyone about the abuse. Victims who were sedated often describe their memories as “fuzzy” or have only short “snapshots” of memories that they may have a difficult time making sense of.

Denial

Some victims of child sexual abuse deny that they were abused, others deny that it caused them any harm, while still others deny that they need help. There are many reasons for denial. One of the most significant is that victims don’t want to face the pain, fear, and shame that comes with admitting that they were sexually abused.

Like dissociation, denial is a defense mechanism designed to prevent us from facing things that are too painful to face at the time. It can even allow us to block out or “forget” intense pain caused by emotional or physical trauma such as childhood sexual abuse. But denial can also prevent us from facing the truth and can continue way past the time when it served a positive function. This is what my former client Natasha shared with me: “I knew for a long time before admitting it in here that I was abused by my grandfather. But I just couldn’t face it. It was just too painful to admit to myself that someone I loved so much and someone who had been so kind to me could also do such vile things to me. And so I pretended it never happened.” 

Another reason some people deny that they were sexually abused is that it forces them to admit that they became abusive themselves as a consequence of having been abused. If a former victim went on to abuse other children he may have an investment in believing that children are never really “forced or manipulated” into sex with an adult or older child. He may convince himself that children do so willingly and that they get pleasure from the abuse. This kind of denial often keeps former victims from admitting that they themselves were abused.article continues after advertisementnull

Fear

There are many legitimate reasons that former victims are afraid to tell someone they were sexually abused, even as adults. These include:

  1. Their perpetrator threatened them. It is common for child molesters to threaten to kill their victims if they tell or to kill family members or pets. Even though being afraid of their perpetrator after becoming an adult may not make any logical sense, it is very common for former victims to continue to fear their abuser.
  2. They are afraid they will not be believed. This fear is especially potent when a former victim has had the experience of not being believed in the past. And often, the belief that they will not be believed often comes from the perpetrator telling them things like, “No one will believe you if you do tell.”
  3. They are afraid of the consequences once the secret is out. such as family disruption or violence. Some former victims fear that if they tell a family member about being abused, that person will become enraged and perhaps become violent toward the perpetrator.

Shame

Any time someone is victimized, he or she will feel shame because they feel helpless and this feeling of helplessness causes the victim to feel humiliated. There is also the shame that comes when a child’s body is invaded in such an intimate way by an adult. Add to this the shame associated with being involved with something that the child knows is taboo. Sometimes a child also feels shame when her body “betrays” her by responding to the touch of the perpetrator.

This overwhelming feeling of shame often causes a former victim to feel compelled to keep the secret of the abuse because he or she feels so bad, dirty, damaged, or corrupted. The feeling of shame can be one of the most powerful deterrents to a victim disclosing having been abused. This is what one former client shared with me about her shame about being abused: “I didn’t tell anyone when my drama teacher started abusing me because I felt so humiliated that I didn’t want anyone else to know about it. I felt disgusting, the lowest of the low. I guess most of all I felt so much shame about the things he did to me and made me do to him that I didn’t feel I deserved to be helped.”

Self-Blame

Self-blame is another major reason why victims keep their secret. Victims tend to blame themselves for the abuse they suffered, especially when it is a parent who sexually abused them. Children want to feel loved and accepted by their parents and because of this, they will make up all kinds of excuses for a parent’s behavior, even if that behavior is abusive. Most often children blame themselves for “causing” their parent to abuse them. Why? Because children naturally tend to be egocentric—that is, they assume that they themselves are the cause of everything. Needing to protect their attachment to their parents magnifies this tendency.  

Perpetrators take advantage of a child’s tendency to blame themselves by telling the child it was their fault. They shouldn’t have sat in his lap the way they did. They shouldn’t have looked at him the way they did. They shouldn’t have dressed the way they did.

We as humans have a need to maintain a sense of control over our lives, even when we have lost control, as in the case of child sexual abuse. As a way of maintaining a false sense of control, many victims will blame themselves for their abuse. This occurs both in children at the time of their abuse as well as with adults who are still struggling with admitting they were abused in childhood. The unconscious reasoning goes like this: “If I continue to believe it was my own fault, that I brought this on myself, I can still be in control. I don’t have to face the feeling of helplessness and powerlessness that comes with being victimized. I can maintain my sense of dignity and avoid feeling humiliated.”      

Sometimes victims blame themselves for the abuse because they hold the perpetrator in such high esteem. They couldn’t imagine that this respected person would do such a thing to them unless they had somehow encouraged it in some way. This was the situation with my former client Gabriel. Coming from a devout Catholic family, Gabriel became an altar boy when he was 9 years old. Like the rest of the parishioners, Gabriel adored the priest. That is why it was particularly shocking to Gabriel when one day the priest asked him to stay after mass and then sexually molested him.

Gabriel could not comprehend what the priest had done. He knew that what had happened was a sin and that priests were not supposed to be sexual. So in order to make sense of what had happened, he simply blamed himself. Somehow, he decided, he must have seduced the priest. He even believed that since he had begun to masturbate a few months earlier, the priest must have known about this and was punishing him or teaching him a lesson.

Finally, another reason victims tend to blame themselves is our culture’s tendency to blame the victim. “Victim” has become a dirty word in our culture, where victims are often blamed and even shamed. There are even spiritual beliefs that hold that if something bad happens to you it is because of your own negative thoughts or attitudes. Cultural influences like this serve to blame victims rather than encourage a self-compassionate acknowledgment of suffering. Former victims of sexual abuse as members of this culture accept this view, often without question.

A Need to Protect the Perpetrator

As evidenced by the behavior and thinking of the two young men in the Leaving Neverland documentary, some former victims still care about the perpetrator and want to protect him or her. In addition, as part of the grooming process, perpetrators work to separate the child or adolescent from their parents and their peers, typically fostering in the child a sense that he or she is special to the offender and giving a kind of attention or love to the child that he or she needs. Sometimes, the initial relationship of trust between a child and an adult or older child transforms so gradually into one of sexual exploitation that the child barely notices it. Between the time when the attention a child is receiving seems to be something positive in the child’s life and the moment when the sexual abuse begins, something significant has occurred. But the child may not be sure what it was and often remains confused about the person who has been significant to him but has now begun to abuse him. They can be plagued with questions such as: “Does he really love me?” and “Could I have caused these things to happen?”

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For many former victims, it is only after months or even years of therapybefore they develop enough trust in someone to tell their secret. Unfortunately, for various reasons, many former victims never make it to a therapist, even as adults.

If you are one of the many people who continue to carry the secret of childhood sexual abuse, it is vital that you break your silence. Even though it is difficult to reach the point where you can finally tell someone, this dark secret can make you sick, emotionally, psychologically, even physically. It can eat at you from inside, draining you of vital energy and good health.

The secret of child sexual abuse is especially shaming. It can make you feel like there is something seriously wrong with you; that you are inferior or worthless. You want to hide for fear of your secret being exposed. You don’t want to look other people in the eye for fear that they will discover who you really are and what you have done. You don’t want people to get too close for fear of them finding out your dark secret. And to make matters worse, carrying around this secret isolates you from other people. It makes you feel different from others. It makes you feel alone.

There is already a tremendous amount of darkness connected to child sexual abuse: the clandestine, sinister way it is accomplished, the manipulation and dishonesty surrounding it, the lies and deception used to keep it a secret, the darkness and pain surrounding the violation of a child’s most intimate parts of his or her body, and the violation of the child’s integrity. Keeping the abuse a secret adds darkness to an already dark and sinister act.

When you don’t share the secret of child sexual abuse, you don’t have the opportunity to receive the support, understanding, and healing that you so need and deserve. You continue to feel alone and to blame yourself. You continue to be overwhelmed with fear and shame.

I urge anyone who is still struggling because they can’t tell anyone about their victimization to seek counseling.


RETRIEVED https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-compassion-chronicles/201903/why-adult-victims-childhood-sexual-abuse-dont-disclose


AUTHOR

Beverly Engel has been a psychotherapist for over 30 years and is the author of 20 books, including The Emotionally Abusive Relationship and The Right to Innocence.

Online:Beverly Engel, Facebook