How to recognize and recover from the sociopaths – narcissists in your life › Forums › Lovefraud Community Forum – General › Exploitation in the church
January 8, 2023 at 10:43 am #69513
I live in the UK.
My story began over 30 years ago when I met a man the first time I attended a particular church. I will not name the denomination for fear of being identified. I went looking for spiritual guidance as my mother had recently died and I had escaped a violent marriage. I was a lone parent with three young daughters and I was very unhappy. A man who was an Elder in the church was kind to me. I understood that caring for those in need was a part of his role.
He was married, but after I had attended church for two years, he separated from his wife. We were instantly together, although we had not spoken of our feelings before. I realised later that he had been grooming me and that I had been targeted because I was vulnerable.
I thought that I had found the love that I had never had. Soon after the relationship started though, I developed the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.
After two years he persuaded me to move to live with him in another part of the country and then invest in a business. I took two of my three children with me, one being away at college. He assured me of his commitment to me. I had to sell my house to put the money into the business and this took some time. On the day I transferred the whole of my capital into the business he asked me for a separation. I was dumbfounded, shocked and devastated. He could give me no reason for his sudden decision, but now I had sold my house there was no going back. There was a young woman who I knew he saw a lot of and I asked him if he was involved with her, but he denied it.
It took another two years to extricate myself from the situation by which time I was very ill and extremely tired. I got most of my money back eventually, but not all of it. After we separated the chronic fatigue gradually left me; it was as though he had been feeding on my energy. But I was not well enough to work as I had a nervous breakdown. At times I was suicidal. My youngest daughter was still at home and it was hard to carry on.
By chance I met the young woman my ‘partner’ had been friendly with and she told me of their affair over a five year period. I had lived with him for four of those five years. She said that she finished their relationship when she discovered that he was having an affair with someone else. I had no idea about this second woman although it was someone I knew well. My ‘partner’ was an exceptionally good liar.
Eventually I found out that this man had been having affairs with four other women simultaneously during the time I lived with him. I asked myself what normal man would have five relationships on the go all at once? I now know the answer – he was not a normal man.
I had counselling over a long period of time after I separated from my so called ‘partner’. I also had joint counselling with him. During these sessions he told me that he wanted to have multiple sexual relationships but would not practice safe sex. ‘I want what I want when I want it.’ he said referring to the sex act. ‘I have needs.’
I approached the church explaining that I felt his behaviour was dangerous. He had had affairs with very young women and older women with mental health problems. In addition there were queries about a 17 year old girl who was being educated through church funds. In his role as an Elder he was responsible for pastoral care and was also an advisor on pastoral care nationally.
But a warning here to anyone thinking that they can expose a sociopath or psychopath, the church would not listen and I was driven away. This man told them that I was the one who was lying and that I was trying to get revenge on him for the failed relationship.
In the end I lost everything. My home and all my money, my health, my faith and my future. I have never had another partner as I could not trust anyone. I was forced to live on the capital sum I got back from the business as I could not work due to mental health problems caused by the relationship breakdown, or get welfare payments.
Eventually I worked with someone who set up an organisation to help women abused in UK churches. We ran a helpline and for many years I heard stories similar to my own, from women and some men too, in all Christian denominations. Some had been abused as children, some as adults, and often both. The churches of all types reacted in the same way to victims – they supported the perpetrators and denounced those who complained.
I am now 70 years old and a grandmother, but it is only in the last two years that I have come to understand what happened to me, through research on the internet and through Lovefraud. The man I loved was not only a conman but a psychopath.
January 8, 2023 at 3:40 pm #69514emilie18Participant
Iris70: I am so sorry you had to go through that – and that your health suffered because of this evil man. I am glad you are finally seeing that experience for what it was: you were a victim of – and a survivor of – a true predator. This site has helped so many come to terms with the truth and finally find a way to heal and move on. Glad you are here with us!
It does not surprise me that sociopathic predators exist in religious organizations. Just look at the history of the Catholic Church where rampant abuse of children occurred for hundreds of years with full knowledge of the hierarchy and nothing was done until it was exposed to the public – and even then, very little punishment or retribution was offered. Sociopaths often seek positions in law enforcement, upper management, government positions and the church where they have easy access to a vulnerable population that is primed to trust the job title. But whereas most of these jobs have some sort of screening procedure, no religion or sect screens for psychopathy.
In a church, potential victims are readily identified for the predator: how often they will get together and where, who needs guidance, who is homebound, who is having marital issues. Members are encouraged to expose their faults, sins, or frailties in public, and gossip – often called “fellowship” – is rampant. Everyone knows who is struggling, who is vulnerable, who is needing help. This is a ripe fishing hole for the conman, the conniver, the predator. who merely needs his victim to have faith and trust — something that is easily achieved with the vestments of a legitimate religious organization. Society tends to revere and not question religious authority.
And if they do get caught, they can ask for “forgiveness” and chances are it will be given. They can very conveniently say it was “Satan’s” fault, that the “devil” tempted them, and a few prayers later all is forgiven. Churches love to help the sinner “learn from his mistakes.” Unfortunately, the predator sees this as an opportunity to sharpen his skills and try again.
It’s even worse If the predator is in a position of authority within a religious organization. Church leaders demand and get respect. In the eyes of believers, church leaders are within earshot of the highest authority and “God spoke, it’s will of the Lord” is the highest law. Anyone claiming misbehavior of such an exalted leader is labeled an enemy of the church, empowering followers to band against the perpetrator and cast them out. Sounds like that is what happened to you, when no one would believe you.
I am glad you are out of this situation. Welcome to this forum.
January 8, 2023 at 5:26 pm #69515polestarParticipant
Hi Iris – thank you so much for sharing what you have gone through. I know it must have been painful even to write it out, yet posting your story can have healing effects as well. Also, it is important to get information out in any way possible about predators in the church because it is a place where we expect to find safety, and people need to be educated about the dangers there as Emilie so thoughtfully and articulately explained. Nevertheless, you still went through horrific psychopathic abuse that I am sure you will have healing still to do. I am glad that you are out of the situation because it is such an important step in the process of healing. There are many great books out there and of course Donna’s from here at LoveFraud are exceptional as well as all of the other modes such as her You Tube channel of which she offers help. So I would definitely avail myself of them and I am glad that you are here at this Forum. I love to respond to people who post and you might also want to reply to others who would benefit greatly from the wisdom you have gleaned from your experiences ( if you are ready to do so ). I would like to recommend a book that I think would be especially good for you because the author has had many years in Christian Church communities and part of her book speaks to the abuses often found there. I think it would be validating to you. But it also very well explains psychological abuse etc. It is called, “ Healing from Hidden Abuse “ by Shannon Thomas ( you can get it on Amazon ). She has outlined actual steps of healing, from at first when a person is totally drowning in unrecognized abuse all the way to Restoration and Maintenance. I have read and reread it many many times and do the steps too. Sometimes you go forward and then sometimes need to loop back around if you know what I mean, and then supplement it with other books too. I am sure that you are already quite a ways along the healing path from what you have posted and I stand in awe of your fortitude and inner beauty. Many blessings to you
January 9, 2023 at 1:16 pm #69523
H Iris. SSorry to hear about your exploitation in the church in the Uk. It can happen unfortunately. I will say that I know of a minister n a church here n the US where the married minister had affairs with 5 women. He was reported and removed, was told to get therapy. He can now minister but can’t be alone with any women. In this Ashe he was removed. Blessings to youbb
January 9, 2023 at 2:14 pm #69525
Thank you all for your insightful comments. Yes, I have a long way to go with healing actually, as I spent 12 years helping other people, mainly women abused in churches in the UK and assumed that I was ‘dealing with my pain’. In fact I had just locked it all away in a box in my head. Guess what? One day the lid blew off the box and all the contents came tumbling out. That was when I started looking for answers on the internet, because there was no internet when this all happened to me. I read ‘Women who love Psychopaths’ first and there were many light bulb moments. Now I have found Lovefraud and have watched quite a few of Donna’s videos. They are all very helpful and I will certainly read the book mentioned by Polestar. Emilie is quite right – the perpetrator said he had made one mistake (he did admit to that) and he was sorry, and he was forgiven. But as I said at the time, 25 years of chasing women is not a mistake, it is a career. Minister always get away with these things and as Sunnygall says having affairs with five women did not mean that the married minister could not continue. I would say though, if a minister is a woman, she would be straight out the door.
January 9, 2023 at 2:21 pm #69526
Hi iris. I would just add that Sandra Brown has a newsletter that is good. You can sign up at her website. This goes along with the great articles here. Blessings
January 9, 2023 at 7:55 pm #69531Donna AndersenKeymaster
Iris – I am sorry for your experience, but glad that Lovefraud has helped you. Yes, I’ve heard from many people who have been abused by church members, clergy, and people who claimed to be religious (all denominations). Unfortunately, it is very common.
You might want to get the book called The Betrayal Bond, by Patrick Carnes. He talks about betrayal, and why it is so damaging. Carnes makes the point that spiritual abuse is the worst abuse of all, because the person you turn to in your hour of need, who is supposed to support and help you, exploits you instead. He also offers advice and strategies for recovery. Here’s more info:
January 23, 2023 at 1:11 am #69616
Very interesting book.
January 23, 2023 at 12:31 pm #69617
Thank you all for your support. As suggested by Polestar, I am now reading Healing from Hidden Abuse by Shannon Thomas and I have had a couple of realisations about events in my past. I will move on to The Betrayal Bond as suggested by Donna soon. I find that I can only do a little bit at a time. It is certainly helping though.
January 23, 2023 at 5:02 pm #69622polestarParticipant
Hi Iris – I am so happy that you are reading Shannon’s book. I totally agree with you that you can only go a bit at a time. I have found that no matter how much we read and study, the issue of personal growth is a determining factor because only as we actually grow inwardly that we deepen our understanding and further our healing. I think denial is a big component in the process because it is a natural aspect of ourselves that is put into place so that we only really take in what our deepest self thinks it is safe for us to do so. So our growth has a lot to do with step by step having the awareness and strength to uncover much that was hidden by our own selves until we know we are ready to expose it and bring light and consciousness in that dark place. So it sounds like you are really walking that path which is of the truth. So I am very happy for you and thank you for sharing your journey and thank you for all those who you have helped and supported through the years. Blessings!
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