You may wonder how adult women could ever agree to join a cult or succumb to the exploitations of a priest. Cult expert Janja Lalich busts a cliche old myth and provides an answer that may surprise you.
Janja Lalich explains, “These people are no different than you and I, if you mean people who join these groups. According to all the studies, people who join these groups are above average intelligence, from stable backgrounds, they do not have any pre-existing psychological difficulties, or problems. But they were at a transition point in their lives, when perhaps they were not completely connected or totally fulfilled with what was going on at the time, and if there is any common thread or traits, it is idealism, curiosity, and urge to create a better world, and wanting a sense of meaning and purpose.”
Janja Lalich is an expert who decribes the prevalence of the sexual exploitation of women in cults.
This may take the form of daily controls of sexuality and sex lives or more overt abuses such as arranged marriages, forced sexual activity with the leader, and rape. Sexual control is seen as the final step in objectification of the cult member by the authoritarian leader who is able to satisfy his needs through psychological manipulation leading to sexual exploitation. Key to recovering from cultic sexual abuse is psychoeducation—that is, aiding the former cult member to understand the nature of the overall system of deception and manipulation that was used to exploit her.
If a woman’s alternative to complying with her own sexual exploitation is death by fire for time and all eternity pronounced by a man she believes speaks for God – is that really a choice?
Legally, the answer is NO!
Making a decision under the threat of harm is considered coercion, and historically contracts signed under such conditions of duress have repeatedly been invalidated when challenged in court. Religious coercion, duress, spiritual blackmail, psychological extortion, undue influence are the tools used to by religious predators to exploit believers.
Such machinations invalidate contracts in the business world. Why then would the United States of America look the other way when it comes to the suffering and exploitation of vulnerable believers under the hands of the ecclesiastical leaders they trust? Such leaders should be held to a stricter standard of ethics, not given a free pass to torture in the name of religious freedom.
True believers are vulnerable targets.
"There are many myths associated with adult clergy sexual abuse. These myths are damaging and inhibit justice for victims within the court systems in the United States. The clergy/parishioner relationship is no different than other professional relationships where there is a fiduciary duty. The “professional”, whether it be a teacher, therapist or clergy has a fiduciary duty to whomever they have a professional relationship."
What is a fiduciary?
"A fiduciary is someone who has undertaken to act for and on behalf of another in a particular matter in circumstances which give rise to a relationship of trust and confidence. "
Some examples of professional relationships that include fiduciary duty are attorney /client, teacher/student, therapist/patient, and clergy/parishioner. Each of these professionals is held to a higher standard than the “average” professional.
A fiduciary duty is the highest standard of care at either equity or law. A fiduciary is expected to be extremely loyal to the person to whom he owes the duty : he must not put his personal interests before his duty. When a fiduciary duty is imposed, equity requires a different, arguably stricter, standard of behavior.
A fiduciary duty is a “special relationship,” a relationship based on a “special trust.” The Latin definition for fiduciary is ‘faith’. The trust or “faith” in a fiduciary duty relationship is established even before the relationship begins. The trust does not have to be earned. In most cases a person grows up with the belief system that certain professionals can be trusted with no questions asked. Such is the relationship between a priest and parishioner, between a prophet and a believer.
“The most damaging myth is the belief that the sexual relationship between clergy and parishioner is a consensual affair. The reality is the sexual relationship is a sexual assault. No matter if it happened once or if the sexual relationship lasts for 30 years. A sexual relationship between clergy and parishioner can never be consensual. The power differential is too great,” Peggy Warren explains on her web site.
Furthermore, if a marriage was arranged and compelled by a woman’s spiritual advisor or fiduciary rather than a spontaneous decision arising from courtship and affection, an assigned ‘marriage’ can not be considered consensual – even if the woman of faith agrees. Which woman who has dedicated her life to God would disobey God’s appointed mouthpiece?
This is how women in religion are exploited. True believers are easy prey, like lambs among wolves.