One of the things I have learned as I have gone through this journey over the last three years is that very few people understand what I have gone through and how to support me through this process. If they have not been through something similar or have not supported someone else who has their understanding is really limited. I have had to educate others, including my pastors, their spouses, and other church leaders. Some people have a hard time understanding and believing that abuse can happen, and often the damage that has been done will be minimized or denied. Also, most people want to speed up the recover time. Not only does the victim want the process to be done, but those supporting them don’t understand why the victim can’t get over their issues and heal.
A counselor I have seen who has also experienced spiritual abuse said it typically takes a victim 3-7 years to reenter a church. By that she means they take 3-7 years to become a regular and active member also they might attend church prior to that with reservation and caution. Personally, I immediately began attending other churches, but have faced a great deal of struggle trying to reintegrate into a church (more to that story to come).
One of the tools I have found useful in helping others to understand what I have been through and how they can help has been an article by Sharon Hlderbrant, M.A. titled “Recover from Spiritual Abuse – How Can You Help?(http://www.dtl.org/cults/article/abuse.htm) In this article she talks about how others can help a victim. She touches on areas such as: Trust, Emotions, Truth, Self-Understanding, God’s Character, Honesty, Going to Church, and Untwisting Scripture. I have found it to be an excellent article that is very on target to what I have experienced. It is not completely comprehensive, but I find what is included is definitely on the correct track for me experience.
My advice: Be patient. Whether you are the victim or those supporting the victim give time, grace, space, and reassurance to all those involved. The recovery may be difficult, but it is well worth the tears, struggle, and process. Nothing is more important than who you are to God and he desires for each of us to be healed and restored to abundant relationship with him.