“Add Your Voice” ~ By Completing a Spiritual Abuse and Recovery Survey

January is "Spiritual Abuse Awareness Month"

January is “Spiritual Abuse Awareness Month”

I recently received information from Dr. Barb Orlowski about a new phase in her research on spiritual abuse and recovery. I connected with Barb in 2007, and completed her Doctor of Ministry project survey in 2008.

The time I invested in completing her 20-question survey was one of the most important things that happened for me, in terms of entering an in-depth processing of what I’d experienced, defining the specifics of spiritual abuse involved, and how it affected me emotionally, spiritually, relationally, and physically. I highly recommend it as a helpful step along the way in our journey out of spiritual abuse.

Also, I believe that both quantitative statistics of victimization, and qualitative descriptions of abuse tactics and recovery, are crucial to church and community. Taking the survey continues to add to that knowledge base. And that will continue to make a difference for us as survivors in the long run.

If you haven’t taken the survey already, please consider whether this might be a providential time to do so!

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Summary: Since January has been designated the past few years as “Spiritual Abuse Awareness Month,” many in spiritual abuse survivor communities want to make the most of this season to raise awareness about this insidious dysfunction in the church. The “Add Your Voice” research survey is an opportunity for those who have experienced spiritual abuse and have sufficiently recovered to have a place to “tell their stories.” It provides victims/survivors of spiritual abuse a way to tell their story by working through the survey questions.  It has proven to be beneficial and helps to bring people a better understanding of their own situation in light of this ongoing malady in the church.

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From Barb Orlowski:

Some of you may be new to this negative church life experience and how devastating it can be.  Finding others online who likewise have experienced spiritual abuse and hearing how they have slowly recovered, provides hope and help–especially if you have wondered what exactly has happened to you.

You may not be aware of my ongoing invitation for people who have suffered from spiritual abuse and recovered sufficiently, to fill out my online questionnaire. This initial survey was designed for participants in my doctoral research project. Out of that project came my Church Exiters website–and my book, entitled: Spiritual Abuse Recovery:  Dynamic Research on Finding a Place of Wholeness.

Bloggers have been a huge help in getting the word out for people to know about this opportunity to tell their stories and have these accounts added to the growing statistics of those wounded by spiritual abuse in their local churches.

A few years ago I was asked by a researcher in Australia if I could point them to statistics regarding how widespread spiritual abuse was. At this time, there still does not appear to be very many studies that I can point people to, apart from my own.  This is a motivator to request that people who were not involved in the original study take the time in order to be a part of this new research project.

Please carefully consider the following criteria for participation in this opportunity to “Add Your Voice.”


  1. Carefully read through the criteria.
  1. If you have considered the criteria and feel that you fit and that you will not be harmed by answering the questions, please proceed.
  1. If you feel that this exercise could be therapeutic as well as help to bring you closure, please proceed.
  1. Then Click on PLEASE CLICK HERE for Participant Questionnaire.
  • Your completed questionnaire will be added to my ongoing file.
  • Your comments will be kept completely confidential.

Thank you for being willing to share your story!

Looking forward to hearing from you as soon as convenient.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at this email address: info@churchexiters.com.

All the best!

Barb Orlowski, D.Min.


12 thoughts on ““Add Your Voice” ~ By Completing a Spiritual Abuse and Recovery Survey

    • Thanks for your comment, Jan, and for your empathy.

      I suppose experiences of being bullied are nearly universal, but not everyone has sympathy for the victims thereof. What seems to amplify the shock and stress and unsettledness that comes with “spiritual abuse” is that the insidious comments and behaviors come from someone who has been upheld as a role model in a position of spiritual/religious authority over others.

      All bullying can be devastating to victims, but when it happens in a church or ministry or small group, where it was supposed to be a safe place for spiritual growth, wowzers … the misuse of position and power breaks some survivors’ trust in God because of the so-called representative.

  1. Brad, though I am “persona non grata” at TWW, I still follow a lot of the post and the ensuing comments. I REALLY, REALLY appreciate the care you put into your comments. You make your case based upon what you actually know versus what you might just infer or guess. And you seem to appreciate that it’s complex, not all black and white. And you don’t make Ad Hominem attacks.

    At 19 my little church went thru a very painful split that, combined with my age, triggered a personal crisis of faith. But I recovered, like you.

    Thank you Brad.

    [Edited to remove some identifying information.]

    • Thanks, Seneca … glad you find some of the processing in my comments of help. It’s often feels like navigating on an extra-thin balance beam with too-slow reasoning process on one side and too-fast necessary actions on the other. Falling on either side is trouble, and keeping the dynamic tension going is tricky. But, since we’re called to discern (and also to decide and act when it directly involves us) gotta learn how. I’m still working on it …

  2. Brad, was fascinated by your brief comment, TWW, that you could follow the rise of outrage towards abusers since around 2009. I’m not sure where all this will lead other than, man will remain sinful, both abusers and abused. I suspect Church, business and educational institutions will continue to adapt in how they handle the ever-growing internet criticisms. I think the lawyer business will feed off this but we’ll see.

    • I’m still working on those pieces for the “Diagnosing the Emergent Movement” site, but yes, I definitely feel like I’ve seen the survivor communities get more connected over time since i started research writing on this in 2008. And I feel I’ve seen the approaches to healing and advocacy get more comprehensive, and thankfully, a bit more research is emerging. So, wait for those pieces on that site and see what they cover!

      Meanwhile, I do believe one of the key problems we’re seeing in both the Mars Hill and Emergent situations has to do with entities that hold authority to recommend people to the Church as “thought leaders” and “ministry role models.” But when those people put forth as qualified turn out not to be, these entities don’t take any responsibility because they’re not really accountable to anyone. I suspect there will be increased push-back to not allow a “social pass” to a person who demonstrates sociopathic behaviors — lack of conscience, lack of compassion, and drive to benefit self being three of the most major patterns that harm others. I think we’re already seeing that happen, such as with the push-back on the ECFA/Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability — how could Mars Hill Church do all that it did, and still be certified by the ECFA as in compliance with their standards?

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