What Is Spiritual Abuse?
Many people are familiar with the various types of domestic violence, such as physical abuse, psychological abuse, and financial abuse. Not quite as many are familiar with the term “spiritual abuse,” which refers to the use of religion as a way to control another individual’s actions and diminish his or her agency. Spiritual abuse can be perpetuated by a church leader against a congregation member, a parent against a child, or a spouse against a partner.
Signs of Spiritual Abuse
Spiritual abuse can be difficult to recognize because it often invokes religious principles as justifications for violence and control. Individuals who practice any religion can face spiritual abuse. In a marriage, spiritual abuse can arise out of the gendered power imbalance many religions perpetuate.
A few examples of spiritual abuse include:
- Prohibiting a spouse from working, opening a credit card, or accessing funds with religious justification;
- Using one’s role as the home’s “spiritual leader” to exert authority over how a spouse speaks, dresses, interacts with others, and practices religion;
- Using religion to isolate a spouse from his or her friends and family;
- Exerting sexual control over a spouse, citing religious justification for doing so; and
- Using guilt and shame to coerce a spouse into behaving in a specific way, claiming that he or she is not living according to their religion if he or she does not obey.
Read these statements again but this time, remove any reference to religious justification. If something is abusive when it happens without religious justification, it is just as abusive when it is done in the name of religion.
Legal Separation as an Alternative to Divorce
Many religions prohibit divorce. If you are part of such a religion, understand that you have an alternative to divorce: legal separation. When a couple legally separates, they divide their marital assets, develop a parenting plan and child support order, and in some cases, create a spousal maintenance order without actually ending the marriage. Neither partner may remarry until they formally divorce.
By legally separating, you can live apart from your spouse without violating your marriage vows. If you or your spouse later choose to divorce, you can file for divorce to completely terminate the marriage.
Spiritual Abuse Is Domestic Violence
Spiritual abuse is generally emotional and psychological abuse. When religious teachings are used to justify physical violence and non-consensual sex, it can also become physical and sexual abuse. Keep in mind that although some religions prohibit birth control and promote having large families, remember that whether and when you reproduce is your choice and your choice alone. If you are facing abuse disguised as religious practice in your marriage, get out.
Work with an Experienced St. Charles Family Lawyer
If you are facing spiritual abuse or any other kind of domestic violence in your marriage, talk to an experienced Kane County divorce lawyer about your rights and options. Even if you feel you cannot divorce your spouse, you can legally exit your harmful relationship. Contact our team at Shaw Family Law, P.C. today to set up your initial consultation with us. Call us at 630-206-3300 for help.