Why do churches often mishandle clergy abuse? Why are the first instincts of church leaders after the exposure of power abuse to follow the same pattern—denial, silencing, spinning the narrative, and blaming the victim? Why does it always take so long for victims of such abuse to recover? How could survivors of clergy abuse gain more clarity on what they have been through and then reclaim their voice against abuse?
Based on his own experience as a pastor and extensive research of numerous case studies of clergy abuse, Wade Mullen offers a deeply personal and pastoral book on how to detect abusive systems. Understanding what happened is the first step toward true healing. This book familiarizes survivors with the language of trauma and encourages them to regain a voice. It is full of relatable real-life examples, and each chapter has a summary guide for self-evaluation. As the author writes, “When you know the tactics abusers use, you can confront abuse.”
The author starts with defining the common patterns of abuse, the first step toward seeking accountability and healing. Abusive situations, he says, almost always involve deception and secrecy. The church, with its divine purpose, unfortunately lends another layer of sanctity to positions of power. In the space of over 100 pages, the author details the key psychological and social tactics used by abusive leaders. This is important because “one of the reasons telling our stories of abuse can be so daunting is because we are trying to piece together the parts of us that have been dismantled.”
Mullen encourages survivors of clergy abuse to reclaim a sense of self-identity. Speaking from his own experience, he walks with readers through different stages of trauma and healing. For example, even after an abuse was exposed to the public, an abuser might offer an apology to the person harmed, but sometimes such concessions are used to further condemn others or to excuse the offender. The author unpacks how this happens and alerts readers to its deceptive tactics. There is also a chapter analyzing how church organizations respond poorly to scandalous situations.
The last chapter offers advice for survivors and advocates to go forward from understanding clergy abuse to confronting abuse. The emphasis is on taking back control. As Mullen advises, “In order to break free from the power of abuse, you can reframe what the abuser has attempted to dismantle. Rather than following the abuser to define you or your surroundings, you can act, one step at a time, to choose the opposite.”
This book includes 20 pages of key resources for survivors coming out of all kinds of situations. It can serve as a resource guide for individuals and trauma healing groups. (Tyndale)
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