What Not to Say

This somewhat bitter post is directed at anyone– friends included— who works with SRA survivors.

Please do not even *hint* that leaving a cult is the same as walking out of a domestic violence situation.  Yes, there are  many similarities.  But it is decidedly not the same.  The stakes are often much higher, and the consequences are typically much more complicated.  This is not to say that leaving any type of abusive relationship at all is easy.  It’s just to say leaving an SRA situation and leaving a domestic violence situation are as different as chalk and cheese.  The same strategies won’t always work.

As well, don’t hint at the fact that all one has to do is decide to leave.  Being one of the few people who has walked out of the cult my family belonged to, I can tell you first-hand that it took years for me to plan for my mother, sister and I to make it out.  Even then, we were followed every step of the way and got randomly taken back underground.  It was more like a half escape.  It still is.

To my readers who have escaped domestic violence situations not involving SRA, please don’t think I’m belittling your experience or minimising your pain.  I’m just trying to stop people equating them under the same therapeutic processes and plans.  It doesn’t work, and it makes the SRA survivor (at least in my case) hesitant to bring up the topic again.

It’s frustrating to try and explain time and again that walking out is literally not an option sometimes.  Lessening their presence or moving directly out of their confines is possible in many cases, but completely separating yourself from the cult my family belonged to is not possible, even in the best of cases.  It just doesn’t happen.  For those of you who work with SRA survivors in a professional capacity, I beg you to be aware of this and help your clients accordingly.  Cults are not abusive significant others.  Treating the situation like that will only make your client worse and chip away at any trust he or she has in you.  Trust me on that one.  I’m not a therapist, but I am a survivor of extreme high-level SRA.  I know what I’m talking about here.

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8 thoughts on “What Not to Say

    • Do you know, I was really worried about publishing this post. I was afraid it would sound…insensitive maybe? Based on the two comments and private responses I’ve had, though, it apparently resonated with alot of folks. My hope is that it helps others who are feeling alone with their frustration.

  1. This was really interesting to read, as I had assumed they were rather similar. I grew up in a cult (although not precisely an abusive one) and experienced family-based ritual abuse, but I haven’t ever seen domestic abuse first-hand. But one major difference I suppose is the level of support and protection domestic violence victims can count on. There are no shelters that are specifically designed to protect and meet the needs of SRA escapees. You can’t even count on anyone to believe you, let alone give you a place to sleep.

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