Spiritual Abuse, which is also sometimes called religious abuse, is mistreatment inflicted on others using the excuse or rationale of religion, faith, or spirituality. Spiritual abuse can include harassment, shaming, abuse of power, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, violence, and/or humiliation. It often involves a person in a clerical position misusing power, religious doctrine and/or ideology to harm individuals. This can happen in any religious community. It is important to recognize the signs of this type of abuse, know how to get or provide help, and avoid blaming the victim when these incidents occur. Below, we have outlined a list of resources to help inform our community.

This toolkit was compiled by  Sarrah AbuLughod, MA;  Amal Killawi, MSW; Madiha Tahseen, Ph.D.; and Sameera Ahmed, Ph.D.


Resources on Spiritual Abuse

Spiritual Abuse as described above often creates religious distress in the victims and harms individuals not only on a physical and emotional level but a spiritual one as well. The following articles give more depth to the issue and offer considerations for individuals and communities experiencing this type of abuse.

What is Spiritual Abuse? – Article from National Domestic Violence Hotline

Understanding Spiritual Abuse –  An Interview with Salma Abugideiri

Shame and Silence: Recognizing Spiritual Abuse – Article from GoodTherapy.org

What Do I Do When I Find out my Favorite Preacher is Corrupt? – Muslim Matters article by Shaykh Omar Suleiman

Blurred Lines: Women, “Celebrity” Shaykhs, and Spiritual Abuse – Muslim Matters article by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari 

When Religious Leaders Fail – Article on Virtual Mosque by Shaykha Muslema Purmul

What No One Told You about Spiritual Abuse in Islam – About Islam article by Janet Kozak 

In Shaykh’s Clothing – a resource website for spiritual abuse in the Muslim community

Legal Help for Survivors of Spiritual Abuse – FaceTogether.org

Resources on Sexual Violence/Abuse

HEART Women and Girls put together a white paper that “provides recommendations for institutional responses to sexual assault based on surveys with direct services providers.” Additionally, they have collected a list of resources including videos, infographics, and articles on the topic of sexual violence and sexual abuse. You can also find a resource map, talking points on responding to allegations of sexual violence within the community as well as a toolkit on how to talk to children about sexual violence and sexual abuse.

Click here for the list of resources

Resources on Victim Blaming

Victim blaming is when the victim of abuse, a crime, or any harmful act is held responsible, fully, or in part for the incident that happened to them. This often puts the victim in greater danger and decreases the chance that victims will reach out for help in the future, increasing incidents of abuse and violence.

Avoiding Victim Blaming – from stoprelationshipabuse.org

Why do we Blame Victims?Psychology Today article by Juliana Breines

5 Things you can do to Today to Support Sexual Assault SurvivorsHEART Women and Girls

Click on the below image for the complete infographic from HEART Women and Girls on how to support survivors of sexual assault.

Learn More about the Family & Youth Institute’s  Resources

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