Stop Using Spirituality to Blame Survivors of Sexual Violence

We’ve collectively entered a new age in humanity – we are at least in Western countries free to engage in spiritual practices without fear of the Spanish Inquisition or being burned at the stake and its wonderful!

Who doesn’t enjoy a pretty crystal grid and Sage smudge sticks?

Spirituality gives us access and permission to explore and learn new things – to challenge ourselves and most importantly, to try and make sense of our own individual experiences of the world we live in. For survivors of sexual violence though, it’s a goddamn mine-field of Spiritual elitism and exclusion.

Let me preface this by saying, of course, not all spiritual Healers and practitioners are charlatans and manipulators or scammers. There are quite a few “average” practitioners, and very few real, legit ones.

Survivors often turn to spirituality in an attempt to understand their experiences and find peace and comfort – and there are amazing, wonderful concepts and ideas to play with from the balance of yin and yang in each of us, to the influence and cycles of the Moon, plant medicine, crystal healing, and, of course, Angel cards bringing good omens (I’m headed for a financial windfall after drawing the Abundance card last night).

I can’t deny that there is benefit in having a space in which you have full permission and encouragement to explore different ideas and philosophies – I take issue with the New Age practitioners who insist on using Spirituality to blame survivors for their own rape and abuse, and encouraging practices that are not necessarily recommended by experts in the field of trauma healing, like Meditation.

Meditation by the way, isn’t just your spiritual face. It’s everywhere now. It’s in Vogue, and very fashionable to set aside 20 minutes of your day for Meditation (but if you want to achieve real enlightenment you should definitely be Meditating for hours on end) it’s in the media as part of a national effort to circumvent “preventable” mental illness and there are endless apps you can now download to give you inner peace in five minutes. It’s everywhere, and everyone’s doing it.

But it’s not recommend to survivors for a darn good reason, especially when in the “guts” of healing – when the rage, grief, horror and pain is at it’s most intense – because Meditation teaches the survivor how to perfect the art of dissociation on a conscious level. While dissociation often happens as a biological response, by encouraging and teaching Meditation practices survivors are taught to induce dissociation consciously – and with a socially reinforced idea of Meditation 2-3 times per week for at least 10 minutes at a time, we are encouraging survivors to become so numb to themselves that recovery and real healing becomes a forever longer, and more difficult take place, if it ever does.

What we need to do instead of this, is encourage presence in the body. A close relation of Meditation, instead of dissociating away from the body, we need to encourage survivors to come back inside themselves – to be grounded and begin something a thawing process, or de-frosting of their numbed physical bodies and processing the emotion, pain, experiences that body has been through by remaining present for longer and longer periods of time. This allows the physical body to discharge stress hormones including adrenalin and cortisol through physical movement and many more associated with dissociation and trauma – through physical movement an improvement in cognitive functioning begins to take place as the mind is gentle brought “back online” resulting in a clarity of thought that was not present before, and an improvement in physical health as the immune system is able to more easily dispose of toxins and waste through movement.

There are for survivors, many more benefits to being physically present in the body, than there are for meditation.

Moving on now to another rampant concept causing more harm than good: Manifestation.

There are manifestation coaches galore, and everyone has an exact 5 step process to manifest anything you want, anytime. Six figure income? Done. Elephant in the living room? Done. Fancy Chanel purse? Done. Or not.

In the manifesting space, there are endless coaches and money healers, abundance consultants who will preach this: you created your own reality and chose this life long before you were born. So, therefore, you are responsible for the financial struggle and pain caused by ongoing physical and mental health issues, and your own abuse.

In other words, you are to blame for being raped, abused, assaulted.

It is thinly veiled balme, and just as offensive and inappropriate as any of the following:

Ø  You’re skirt was too short

Ø  You were drinking too much

(see our previous blog on ‘We Should Not Be Asking That – EVER’ for more on why these aren’t ok)

It’s not ok to blame survivors for their experiences, no matter the circumstance. It is never the survivors fault and hiding behind the veil of “spiritual truth bombs” belittles, minimizes and adds enormous shame and guilt and humiliation to the issue. This again raises the issue of why the survivor is the one left scorned and blamed by society in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, and why the perpetrator is generally free of this. Why aren’t our so-called ‘spiritual teachers/leaders’ blaming the perpetrator?

Why aren’t they equally heaping the blame on them for an act that forever changed at least one life? 

Honestly, the rage that boils under my skin with this is intense. I live in a community renowned for its Spiritual practices, and I am connected to many online spiritual communities – and a huge percentage of them engage in this behaviour while simultaneously preaching they “suspend all judgement”. IT is a rife hypocrisy in the spiritual communities in Australia and we need to stop this.

There is however, one thing about Spiritual communities that may help change the tide on this and it’s the concept of “walk your talk” – hold your community, if you are part of a spiritually inclined one, to this standard. If they preach to hold judgement free spaces for people to heal, then demand they stop blaming survivors and they don’t, where possible, educate them – and if they refuse, boycott and find a spiritual community that holds themselves accountable and to a higher standard.

Ashleigh Rae