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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 woman. Spiritual abuse can impact on a woman’s self-esteem and confidence, make a woman feel guilty, damage her spiritual experiences and isolate her.

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

Learn more about the other types of abuse that some men use against women.

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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