Previously, I touched upon the Sexual Exploitation of Women in Cults. One of the common threads that ties all cults together is this sexual exploitation of women. In my last article on How Submission is Obtained, we learned that their are specific control strategies that are used to bring about submission to the “rules” and “leadership”. These control strategies have been used throughout history to keep women in bondage to men. Nothing has changed as far as the “system” is concerned when it comes to religious abuse. The strategies used within the “system” today are the same strategies used centuries ago to bring women into bondage. These strategies span across cultures worldwide and are part of every “system” where there is a power imbalance between men and women. Where ever one finds a male-dominated society, group, or institution, one will find abuse of women and, even children.
One of the strategies mentioned was “Group Rules”. These rules are used to modify a person’s behavior and attitude and provoke individual’s to adopt the “system” or “leaders” beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. It is also known as “thought reform.” This control tactic is also found in cultures, groups and “systems” where there is a power imbalance between men and women.
The next control strategy that is used in bringing about submission to a system or leadership within a system is Personal Abuse. According to the Cultic Studies Journal, when “the abuse is directed at specific individuals, in most cases, either the cult leader or the person’s direct leadership figure is the perpetrator. A variety of manipulations are used to get women to submit to these advances. These can range from subtle deceptions to outright rape. In almost every case, they are based on ploys that take advantage of the woman’s loyalty, trust, and belief in the leader, the group, and the overall philosophy. More often than not, members submit out of pure fear. Given the imbalance of power, it is difficult to say no” (Lalich). The following are some of the most commonly used control tactics that cult leaders use in order to gain submission from women in the church.
A matter of honor. The woman is told that a sexual encounter with the leader is an honor, a special gift, a way of achieving further growth. This manipulative technique is a slick combination of sexual coercion and exploitation of the woman’s faith (Lalich). This tactic, for instance, was used on the Jack Schaap victim to manipulate her into a sexual relationship. She was told that “she was God’s special gift” to him. The reality is that this is a “tactic” to gain submission for sexual exploitation. Everyone that uses this tactic has an agenda in mind and it has nothing to do with “honor.” Lalich goes on to say that “this self serving logic is quite typical of some of the guru-based cults, where even the supposedly celibate swami justifies his actions by telling each disciple that theirs is a special relationship, blessed by God . . .” Typically, the woman is led to believe that she is the only one with whom the guru is involved.
The loyalty test. One of the main strategies employed in abusive cults is the “loyalty test.” Blind loyalty demonstrates the follower’s “righteousness” and, is blessed of God. After all, they are serving and protecting God’s “chosen one.” Lalich states that, “The more a leader demands, the more power he gets. Soon he intrudes and controls every aspect of a member’s life. The rationale is that nothing is too sacred to withhold from the leader. Giving oneself, and sometimes even one’s children, is viewed as a noble sacrifice. Physical violence and sexual abuse are incorporated into elaborate rituals in some cults, where these activities are endowed with mystical and magical meanings. In some cults, the testing of loyalty may be done in a sexually sadistic manner, further debilitating the follower and increasing personal confusion and dependency on the leader.”
One must remember that each time a member forgoes their personal preference for the preferences of the leader or group, she loses more sense of personal control, and consequently, self-esteem.
Female subservience. This is strictly controlled in a cult environment. Many times, the woman is taught to become a slave to the husband and is expected to be completely submissive to all his demands or, the demands of leadership. If the demands of the spouse aren’t met, then this leads to physical abuse of the women and forced sexual intercourse. Refusing to go along, according to Lalich, is regarded as disobedience, and in a cult, disobedience is sin. This “sin” is used to shame and humiliate the woman publicly until submission is “forced” and the woman complies.
In many religious cults the attitude toward women that is taught is that they are “second-class” citizens. According to Lalich, “. . .the message taught from the leaders is that women are the cause of all evil in the world, the one who brings the man down, diverts him from his spiritual path. The woman is “of the flesh”, while the man is “of god”. She is lesser, spiritually inferior, negative. Women learn to take the blame, feel the guilt, and carry the shame of others’ behavior.”
All these “attitudes” are abusive. They are aimed at one thing; to degrade the woman and put her in a place of submission for exploitation by men. It leaves many women broken and defeated. They feel as though they are worthless and of no good use to God. Many suffer eating disorders, insomnia, depression, thoughts of suicide and may even have other mental disorders.
These attitudes and control tactics have been around for centuries. They have been used in every culture worldwide to submit women to men for sexual exploitation. This robs women of honor and dignity and equality. It’s time to put the truth out there and change this attitude that has permeated every sect of human society and set woman back into her rightful place to be treated with equality, respect, honor and dignity. The religious system of today needs an overhaul. More women in positions of leadership will stifle this type of abusive teaching and help to protect women and children from abusive power imbalances that lead to sexual exploitation and physical, emotional and spiritual abuse.