the Hope of Survivors

I’m So Confused!

This section of the site contains many questions (along with answers) that typically run through the mind of someone who has been violated in this manner. We hope that you will find answers to your questions and that you will realize that God is still in control and can change your life. If you have other questions that are not answered here, or if you need to talk to someone, please contact us. We’ll do our best to help you or refer you to an appropriate professional.

1. What is happening to me (physically, mentally, spiritually)?
No doubt many confusing thoughts are running through your mind and you are experiencing various emotions. You are confused and don’t know for sure anymore what is right and what is wrong. You may be physically sick due to the trauma you are experiencing. Before you let another day go by, before you even speak to your abuser again, PRAY and ask God to help you. You know what is right to do (according to the Bible) and if you will let Him, God will help you to do it.

2. Is this God’s will?
The short answer, and the ONLY answer, is NO. God would NEVER want you to go against anything He teaches in His Word. He would NEVER ask you to do something so horrendous and contrary to His nature.

“The world has nearly filled up the measure of their iniquity, but that which will bring the heaviest retribution is the practice of iniquity under the cloak of godliness…”—Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, page 256, paragraph 3

3. He says he understands me better than I understand myself. He wants to help me. Is this wrong?
YES! This is wrong and he knows it. It is the pastor’s responsibility to prevent anything of a sexual nature from happening. You are counselling with him because YOU have problems and thought he could help. You did not go to him for a “relationship” or for sex. Don’t fool yourself—he does know better. He is not “in love” with you. He is “in lust”—sinful lust—for you. He may think he knows you better than anyone else, and it may even seem like it to you, but this is not because he is so in tune to you, it is because vulnerable women share a common set of behaviours and all perpetrators can recognise them. This is why so many victims have been victims of multiple sexual assaults during their lives. From our experience in helping others, we have come to see that almost all perpetrating pastors share the same common set of behaviours as well.

4. We have so much in common. Isn’t this a good thing?
No. Again, this is wrong, and if the things you share in common are real, then he needs help and should not be helping you or anyone else. Just because you think you may have things in common does not make it God’s will. More often, what happens is that the pastor may lie (deceive) to make it appear as though he has things in common with you in order to get you to open up to him and share your deepest feelings and thoughts. He may then use this information to manipulate and control you. He could also be imagining that he has shared interests in common with you. Keep in mind that just because you may actually have things in common with someone else, perhaps even many people, it doesn’t make it God’s will.

5. I feel sorry for him. He says his wife doesn’t understand him, he never wanted to marry her, she doesn’t take care of his needs (sexually, emotionally), and so on. He says I’m the only one that makes him feel alive, the only one worth living for. (There are many excuses here!) How can he feel this way if it isn’t so?
First of all, WHY is he telling you about his life and problems? This should NEVER occur during counselling of any type. He may really believe that he feels this way, but more than likely, this is his way of getting you to feel sorry for him so he can take advantage of you. Most women who have been abused are caretakers by nature and are always trying to help others. When the pastor says these types of things to the woman he is counselling, he truly does harm to her in many ways. Now, not only does she have her own problems to fix, but also she bears the weight and responsibility of his problems too. If he tells her she is the answer to all his problems, she may believe it and may try to help him any way she can. This is what makes pastoral abuse (all abuse) so damaging—the way the abuser (usually knowingly) takes advantage of the woman’s caring and sympathetic nature.

There is one slight exception to be noted here, and that is that it may be appropriate for a pastor/counsellor to relate (briefly) a similar situation that he or another nameless (for privacy issues) counselee has gone through and how the Lord has helped him through it. The ENTIRE purpose of this disclosure should be to give you hope, not to have you help comfort the pastor/counsellor.

6. Why is he talking about himself, his life, his problems, etc.?
Again, see the above note. This is wrong. You are there to have him help you, not for you to help him. If your pastor starts to tell you his problems, ask him to stop and let him know that you have no desire (or right) to be listening to these things. We would strongly advise that you find another counsellor right away.

7. Why me? What made me vulnerable? How/why did this happen?
Most likely this happened because you were vulnerable in some way (see “What made me vulnerable?”) and unable to protect yourself. The pastor (in this situation) is a predator and took advantage of your weakness instead of helping you, as he should have done.

Here’s a quote that gives another example of what makes individuals vulnerable to their pastors: “Anything coming from ministers who should stand in the light has a powerful influence. And when they have not stood in the clear light of God, Satan has used them as agents and has through them transmitted his fiery darts to minds not prepared to resist what has come from their ministers.”—Mind, Character & Personality, Volume 2, page 677, paragraph 2

8. What do I do now?
Pray, read your Bible, continue reading this site, read some of the books and web sites mentioned, tell your spouse, tell the elders of your church, report it to the authorities, etc.

9. He is threatening suicide if I break off the “relationship.” What do I do?
No doubt this is a very emotional time for you and you are being controlled by emotions more than logic or reason. You feel emotionally attached to him and naturally you want to help him. This trap though, is just another form of manipulation. Tell him you are not responsible for his actions—no matter what they are. Call the suicide hotline and ask their advice. Perhaps phone one of the elders or church leaders and let them know that he seems depressed and maybe they should keep a closer watch over him. At any rate, you must remember at all times that YOU did not make him suicidal (if, indeed he is so) and that he is responsible for his own choices.

10. Where can I go for help?
Contact us. Call a therapist. Check out the other resources listed in this web site. And, most of all, pray for your Heavenly Father to help you and give you courage and strength to do what is right.

11. How do I stop this?
Reporting what has happened (or is happening) will probably stop things right away. If you are not ready to report it, break off all communication with the pastor immediately. Don’t see him, don’t call him, don’t accept calls from him, and don’t email him; delete any email he sends you, etc. Have NOTHING to do with him! For more details, see this link.

12. Doesn’t society approve of this type of relationship now? Isn’t it old-fashioned to think that it’s not a true relationship?
No, society doesn’t approve of this type of “relationship” and even if some of those in society did, it does not make it right. God does not approve of this type of relationship. There have been many cases where pastors and other leaders have taken advantage of their position and power to abuse, exploit and destroy women (think David Koresh, etc.). This could never be a relationship that is approved of God. No true love relationship is ever founded on lies, deceit, adultery, etc., and God cannot sanction a union of this type. We know that love comes from God alone, and He would never give people in this type of situation true love for each other. What you are feeling is purely emotional, and God’s love is not just an emotion, it is an act, a decision, a choice, a PRINCIPLE.

13. Why is this considered abuse? What is consent? Why is this NOT considered a “consenting” relationship?
It is considered abuse because, given the nature of the relationship (pastor/congregant, counselor/counselee, teacher/student), there is an imbalance of power. Especially in the case of the pastor who represents Christ to his flock. Due to the imbalance of power, there can be no mutual consent to a relationship of any kind, especially not a sexual relationship. Listen to an overview of why this is abuse. Please read an excerpt from the AACC Christian Counselling Code of Ethics.

“And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.”—Mark 9:42

14. Is this about sex, intimacy, unmet needs or something else?
Most likely this is about none of those things, yet all of those things. It is about POWER, it is about sin, not love or sex.

“The man who stands in a position of responsibility in any of our schools cannot be too careful of his words and his acts. Never should he allow the least approach to familiarity in his relations to the students, such as placing his hand on the arm or shoulder of a girl student. He should in no case give the impression that commonness and familiarity are allowable. His lips and his hands are to express nothing that anyone could take advantage of.”Messages to Young People, page 290, paragraph 3

15. What is the difference between adultery and an affair? Is there a difference?
While modern-day dictionaries don’t necessarily show the difference between an “affair” and adultery, both typically being used in the context of a consenting extra-marital relationship, what we refer to as the difference is the fact that there cannot be mutual consent between a pastor and a congregant due to the power imbalance and, therefore, it cannot be considered an “affair” although it is a violation of the 7th commandment.

In older dictionaries (Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828), adultery is described as “the unfaithfulness of any married person to the marriage bed,” “a manner of lewdness or unchastity.” Modern-day dictionaries tend to define adultery and affair as the same thing, implying that there is a mutual consent and agreement on behalf of both parties in both instances.

However, when a person in power or authority, such as a teacher, counsellor, pastor, etc., abuses the trust placed in them to suit their own purposes, it is not considered “mutual consent” because the person not in authority is vulnerable to the person in authority and, depending on various circumstances in that person’s past (quite typically abuse or childhood abuse), therefore, most likely feels unable to say “no” or to withhold consent. In many cases the vulnerable person does say “no” and attempts other means of averting the unwanted attention, but these go unheeded, thus reinforcing in the vulnerable person’s mind the fact that whatever she/he says doesn’t matter to the person in authority.

This is even truer in the case of a pastor/congregant “relationship” where the pastor is a representative of Christ to the individual and may be (most often is) using Scripture to deceive, manipulate and coerce the vulnerable individual to do what he wants. (See #13 also.)

16. What should I expect from a proper counselling relationship?
See link.

17. How do I change my life and start over?
You start by praying and asking God to forgive you your sins and help you to know truth. Ask Him to heal you emotionally, spiritually and physically. Ask Him to help you overcome your past character weaknesses and hurts. He will gladly and willingly give you all that you ask (in accordance with His will) and more! He is more than willing and able to renew your heart and give you a new start.

“And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”—Matthew 21:22

Please review our Facts vs. Lies section for additional helpful information!

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart...Psalms 34:18