This month I participated in a conference in Knoxville, Tennessee that gave voice to about a dozen or so survivors of abusive religious groups and human trafficking. One might think that cults and human trafficking are entirely different issues, but religiously based manipulation is often found in human trafficking situations. The victims/survivors who detailed their experiences at this conference are proof of the twisted interconnectedness between religious coercion and the selling of human bodies and souls.
Later this year I will attend and speak at another conference that addresses the problem of religious cults and other high demand, coercive groups. My topic is “Stalked by a Cultist: Fighting Back and Recovering.”
I encourage anyone who has suffered through abuse of any kind, and especially abuse from a religious leader or group, to seek out resources to help in the long healing process. Part of that healing process is gaining a voice to speak out against the common tactics of spiritually abusive leaders and their groups.
As I wrote in my book, Fighting for Justice: Religious Fraud, Mental Illness, and the Collapse of Law & Order, spiritually abusive leaders and their followers have mushroomed exponentially due to the Internet. Before the Internet existed it usually took years and even decades for a cult leader to acquire a following, but with the Internet it takes mere days at most for cult leaders to attract desperately lonely and dangerously overly trusting people to believe every self-aggrandizing lie cult leaders spew with ease on the Internet. This reality makes it all the more important and urgent that those of us who’ve been impacted by cult leaders and their followers sound the alarm loud and long to all who will listen. Just as the Internet is used as a weapon by cultists and other scammers, those of us who truly care about other people and who fight for justice use the Internet to spread the documented truth about who the cultists are and the characteristics generally shared by all cultists so that they can be spotted in a heartbeat and avoided like the plague.
I’ve written in my book, I’ve written in my previous blog articles, and I’ve spoken out about all the abusive behavior and tactics that my cult leader brother Ken Parks (aka Max Parks, Pastor Max Parks) has done to me and to many others. Attorneys advised me and my husband to speak out about the issues of public concern raised by my cultist brother’s religious scam tactics, and speak out in a legally protected way, as evident in my book and in my websites www.fightingforjusticebook.com and www.stopreligiousfrauds.com. I will continue to encourage other victims/survivors of spiritually abusive cult leaders and their groups to seek out legal advice and speak out against the public menace of specifically named cult leaders and their groups. Just like shining a light on cockroaches, we need to shine the light of documented evidence on these soul-destroyers and make them scatter into oblivion. Doing so provides healing and gives purpose and meaning to the suffering these banes to society do to people.
I must finish with a few words on the topic of forgiveness. Oftentimes victims/survivors of spiritually abusive figures are told they must “forgive” their abuser in order to experience healing. But there is a difference between forgiveness offered by a victim/survivor to those who prove their apologies by long-term actions that demonstrate their sorrow versus a victim/survivor letting go and refusing to be controlled emotionally by a shamelessly recalcitrant abuser. Forgiveness is neither required nor necessary when the abuser has no shame over the wrongs they’ve done to others. Forgiveness should never be confused with refusing to give any more head space to what our abusers have done (or even continue to do). Healing can still occur without forgiveness. Healing occurs by refusing to allow spiritual abusers, or any other kind of abuser, to emotionally control us. Abusers are addicted to controlling others. Starving abusers of the control they seek over our emotions puts us in control. Yes, we may still have to deal with the stalking, the defamation, the threats, and all levels of harassment that abusers typically put all their energies into doing against their targets (“enemies!”). And yes, more likely than not we’ll have to continue to deal with our reports of our abusers’ crimes being ignored by law enforcement. But we can control our perspective and how we respond emotionally to abusers’ words and actions. It’s not a matter of denying reality but of realistically keeping a check on our emotional response to the control tactics our abuser unleashes at us. Refusing to allow abusers to manipulate our emotions takes practice and persistence, but I can assure you from personal experience that controlling emotional reactions to what abusers do and say does become easier over time.
So don’t let anyone guilt you by insisting you must “forgive” a spiritual abuser or any other abuser. Speak the truth fearlessly so as to prevent others from being taken in by your abuser, and bring meaning and purpose to your experience by encouraging other abuse victims/survivors to likewise speak out. The truth is on our side, and truth is the one thing that terrifies abusers.