Spiritual abuse

What is spiritual abuse?

Spiritual abuse is the denial or use of spiritual or religious beliefs and practices to control and dominate a person. Spiritual abuse can impact on a someone’s self-esteem and confidence, make them feel guilty, damage their spiritual experiences and isolate them.

Spiritual abuse can happen as part of domestic violence and alongside other types of abuse, for example physical abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse and sexual abuse.

Signs of spiritual abuse

Spiritual abuse includes:

  • preventing someone from practicing their religion
  • misusing spiritual or religious beliefs and practices to justify other types of abuse and violence
  • forcing someone to act against their spiritual or religious obligations
  • accusing someone of being too religious or not religious enough
  • ridiculing someone’s understanding of religious practices or beliefs.

Learn more about the other types of abuse.

What to do if you are experiencing spiritual abuse

If you are in an abusive relationship, you can find help now[i] [ii]

[i] Dehan, N and Levi, Z (2009). ‘Spiritual abuse: An additional dimension of abuse experienced by abused Haredi (ultraorthodox) Jewish wives’. Violence Against Women. 15(11) 1294-1310.

[ii] Phillips, J and Vandenbroek, P (2014) Domestic, family and sexual violence in Australia: an overview of the issues. Department of Parliamentary Services, Canberra.


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