Survivor Blogging Trends 2017
Part Three: Positive Trends in Survivor Blog Communities
NOTE: This series was originally designed to be three posts, with this one being on positive trends and continuing challenges in survivor blog communities. However, I am splitting this into two posts so they are shorter, and the series will conclude with a few continuing challenges.
Most of these trends are relatively brief. I’m seeing what I interpret as enough points of evidence to sense that something important is going on, even if the trend is still emerging from the fog and the direction it’s heading is uncertain.
The challenges, on the other hand, seem clear enough from a longer stream of online incidents. It also seems like they will always be with us in survivor blogging. Recent events that I mentioned in the Introduction to Part One have brought a few particular challenges to the forefront.
So, here are what I see as positive trends, for your consideration. Because a number of the cases I’ve drawn from involve behind-the-scenes activities, I won’t be mentioning specific details for them, or for the continuing challenges in Part Four.
Positive Trends Among Survivor Bloggers
1. Relationships with news agencies. It’s the job of news reporters to get the story, and this includes interviewing primary sources about their first-hand knowledge of situations. Reporters may protect the identity of their sources, but it isn’t so much in their job description to assess and protect the possible fragility of people due to various forms of abuse experienced: spiritual, emotional, verbal, physical, etc. However, the spiritual and emotional well-being of victims is a primary concern to survivor bloggers.
I’m aware of some situations where bloggers serve temporarily as gatekeepers to protect both the identity and well-being of survivors. In these cases, reporters working on stories couldn’t access potential interviewees directly, but sometimes could through the survivor bloggers who were helping victims process their experiences. It wasn’t about survivor bloggers trying to horde sources or block information, but to consider the overall well-being of people in the situation. Once details of abuse incidents go public, there’s no reverse gear to make things go back to an earlier state. And that can have serious consequences for those directly and indirectly involved, so it’s important to exercise caution in making deliberate choices about revealing information — whether on survivor blog posts or in news agency reports.
2. Accessing research/recovery materials: cross-listing, mega-link lists, indexing, archiving, categories, tags. One of the difficulties of survivor blogging is that online information about a particular situation is often scattered across multiple blogs, news sites, and social media threads. Sometimes key source blogs disappear, and much information that was there is gone – whether temporarily or permanently. Several things are happening which help conserve materials and maintain access.
First, there has been continued development of cross-issue networks. This is due in part to similarities among different forms/settings of abuse — and spiritual, emotional, and psychological issues of survivors. Also, multiple forms of abuse, control, and/or violence often show up in the same situation. So, some spiritual abuse blogs address related forms of abuse, and vice versa. Material is more often being cross-listed, reblogged, or guest posted. This helps spread awareness of research and recovery materials available.
Second, there seems to be more/better usage of post indexing tools, such as categories and tags. Maybe it’s always been that way and I’m just noticing it these days. It could be because I’m contemplating revamping my blog to simplify my system of categories and start using tags.
3. Academic-level research, curricula, and trainings. More people seem to be developing a masters thesis, or doctoral dissertation/project, on some particular aspect(s) of spiritual abuse – such as identification of abuse and intervention, recovery for survivors, prevention, criteria for sociological “cults,” trauma psychology, etc. There also seems to be more interdisciplinary work in this academic-level development.
Along with this, we’re seeing an increase in production of curricula and trainings on issues of abuse and violence. Some of these are core curricula designed for leadership training, such as at colleges, universities, and seminaries. Some are continuing education for those in professions – such as clergy, law enforcement, social workers, counselors – to advance their knowledge and skills on relevant topics. I take this as an indicator of significant progress in developing deeper stores of knowledge and in getting the message out.
4. Discussion of systems and systemic abuse. It seems like there has been more awareness of systemic issues in general the past few years, and more discussion of it specifically among survivor bloggers and their readers. For insiders who’ve experienced control by people in roles of religious authority, there is deeper understanding that, if the perpetrators are removed from the picture, there are still many other elements that support an abusive system, such as:
- Theological systems that generally divide people into the haves and have-nots when it comes to power, authority, and authorization to use their spiritual gifts.
- Church polity organizational systems that separate leaders from laypeople and may not have sufficient checks and balances to keep immature or otherwise disqualified people out of leadership, and/or that demand unconditional obedience of laypeople to the leaders.
- Organizational insides who enable and promote abusers, and shield them from criticism and accountability.
- Outside commenders from other organizations who partner in various ways with the perpetrators and their organizations.
- Insidious organizational strategies and infrastructures that work together to benefit a few at the expense of many.
Bottom line: spiritual abuse doesn’t end when spiritual abusers move on. They always leave a system of processes, procedures, and people sympathetic to their control – and these factors continue the cycle of abuse. This is why an understanding of systems and systemic reordering is crucial for achieving healthier organizations in the long run.
NEXT POST: Part 4: Continuing Challenges in Survivor Blog Communities.