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Spiritual abuse

  • Spiritual abuse is sometimes called religious abuse
  • It happens when someone uses spiritual or religious beliefs to hurt, scare or control you
  • Spiritual abuse can be a form of domestic and family violence
  • If you or someone you know is experiencing spiritual abuse, you can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or through online chat

What is spiritual abuse?

Spiritual abuse happens when someone uses spiritual or religious beliefs to hurt, scare or control you. It can involve someone forcing you or your children to participate in spiritual or religious practices when you don't want to. It can also involve someone refusing to allow you to participate in spiritual or religious practices that are important to you.

There may be a pattern to the behaviour that happens again and again. Sometimes other types of abuse are going on at the same time. If this kind of abuse is being used to scare and control you it may be domestic or family violence. 

 Spiritual abuse might include:
  • Stopping you from practicing your religious or spiritual beliefs
  • Forcing you to raise your children according to spiritual beliefs you don’t agree with
  • Forcing you to participate in religious practices that you don't want to participate in
  • Using religious or spiritual leaders or teachings to:
    • Force you to stay in relationship or marriage
    • Excuse violence and abuse
    • Blame your for violence and abuse
    • Encourage you to accept violence and abuse
    • Stop you or your children from getting medical or health care
    • Force or pressure you into a marriage you don't want
  • Stopping you from returning home to Country
  • Shaming or insulting your religious or spiritual beliefs

 Spiritual abuse can be a form of domestic and family violence. If you or someone you know is experiencing spiritual abuse it is OK to ask for help.

Who is responsible for spiritual abuse?

Spiritual abuse can happen in an institutional environment, such as a religious, learning or care environment. It can also happen in any relationship, including with:

  • Boyfriends, girlfriends, partners, husbands or wives
  • Ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, ex-partners, ex-husbands or ex-wives
  • Carers or paid support workers
  • Parents, guardians or other family members
  • Adult children
  • Other people you live with or see often, whether inside or outside the home

None of these people has the right to stop you from following your religious or spiritual beliefs, or force you to follow theirs.