Exploiting the vulnerable

I’ve come to realise that child abuse victims are victims for life. In fact, child abuse victims become more vulnerable as they age.

A lifetime of experiencing shame, low self-esteem, avoidance and other coping mechanisms can explain this increasing vulnerability with age. This can make older people even more vulnerable to exploitation. I think such people are especially vulnerable to exploitation by religious groups.

A supportive religious community?

I used to think that religion offered a necessary solace for vulnerable people. That religion can sometimes provide a supportive community not always available in the rest of society. This is a secular function of religion and is a major reason for its persistence long after its supernatural dogmas have become irrelevant to many, if not most, of its adherents.

However, as I become aware of the history of specific cases I’m coming to the conclusion the treatment of abuse victims (ands other vulnerable people) by religion is not so benign.

Consider the financial demands. Child abuse survivors are often on social welfare benefits or have low income. Yet religion demands a share (often a substantial share) of this. In later life religions may make demands on the pensions and property of victims, or even expect to be named as beneficiaries in wills. Vulnerable elderly child abuse survivors often do not have the skills to resist such pressure.

Fear of dogma

Even the church dogma may adversely affect vulnerable victims, despite their low commitment to the details of theology. An example I have become aware of is an elderly woman who recently joined the Jehovah’s Witness Church. She was admitted to hospital for a life-saving blood transfusion but feared a visit by church officials. Presumably the church, if it had been quick enough, would have pressured her to reject the transfusion. Now she is alive but fears criticism of her actions.

We are becoming more aware of abuse of the elderly. Often this is Financial Abuse perpetrated by caregivers, family or strangers. Perhaps we should recognise that this can also be perpetrated by religious contacts.

Similar articles:
Psychological and religious abuse of children
Facing up to child abuse
Putting the Bible in its place
From faith to hatred

2 responses to “Exploiting the vulnerable

  1. Not only has religion always been very good at exploiting the most vulnerable it would seem ‘society’ is now getting good at exploiting those people the second time.
    If your sample woman had not taken the transfusion the next step would likely have been government intervention to declare her incompetent. Wih religion at least you can some to your senses and quit.


  2. In this case, Grouchy, the woman did not have the confidence/strength (or knowledge) to challenge doctors advising a transfusion. (That’s a result of damage from child abuse more than sixty years previously). She would only have “challenged” the doctors under direct pressure from the Church – not under her own initiative.

    She was afraid of the condemnation she expected from Church leaders. She probably did everything she could to avoid the Church finding out about her situation.

    I believe that her best interests may not have been served by “coming to her senses and quitting” from the religion. What she needed (needs) (because of the lasting and extreme effects of child abuse) is the supportive community that religion can sometimes offer. She did not need the life-threatening dogma that comes with it (or the appropriation of income that is often experienced).


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