Recommendations for mental health healing for adult survivors of child sex abuse

Submitted to the Royal Commission into the State of Victoria (Australia) Mental Health System by a founder of, Lara Kaput.

  • Consider Religious Harm as a contributor to Victoria’s adverse mental health. Two examples of these are the institutionally-endorsed covering up of child sexual abuse[1] and institutional Reproductive Coercion[2,3,4].
  • RECOMMENDATION 1: Conduct research into Religious Harm factors, including the prevalence of each factor and an understanding of which religions, if any, are causing the greatest harm and why.

Hundreds of Victorian former Jehovah’s Witnesses (and thousands globally) suffer great loss in virtual silence. They gather in online forums to articulate their pain and seek validation within their former community. Most are too traumatised, uneducated, poor and socially isolated to effectively seek help. Although being in an online group can alleviate the isolation, it’s not a formalised pathway to recovery. Therefore, without the skills they need, such survivors and victims often stagnate and self-destruct.

  • RECOMMENDATION 2: Formally recognise Religious Harm and provide a funding stream to treat the most vulnerable Religious Harm sufferers.
  • RECOMMENDATION 3: Provide training for psychological professionals to recognise and understand cult-like language so that people from different faith backgrounds can relate to and benefit from their therapist.
  • RECOMMENDATION 4: Provide training for professionals (at least Family Law Court Magistrates, healthcare professionals, police and teachers) to recognise symptoms of Religious Harm and refer to a professional therapist.
  • RECOMMENDATION 5: Teach human rights in all Victorian schools.
  • RECOMMENDATION 6: Provide “Are You In A Cult?” multimedia advertising.
  • RECOMMENDATION 7: Provision of respite houses and/or domestic shelters for cult-leavers.
  • RECOMMENDATION 8: Provide support, protection and financial reward accounting for the risk, time and effort of corporate whistle-blower activities.
  • RECOMMENDATION 9: Conduct a case study into the impact of Religious Harm in Victorian Mental Health. Our former Jehovah’s Witness community are willing to contribute further publicly if required.

 Reproductive Coercion: “Behaviour that deliberately prevents a person from making decisions about their reproductive health”.
 Religious Harm: “Distress and suffering of persons impacted by physical, psychological, emotional and social harms caused, or contributed to, by a person, entity or group seeking to advance a religious cause or belief or acting in connection with a religious activity”.
 Shunning: “Shunning can be the act of social rejection, or emotional distance. In a religious context, shunning is a formal decision by a denomination or a congregation to cease interaction with an individual or a group, and follows a particular set of rules. It differs from, but may be associated with, excommunication.”

[1] Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Case Study 29.
[2] Hidden Forces: Shining a Light on Reproductive Coercion White Paper by Marie Stopes
[3] Wifely Subjection: Mental Health Issues in Jehovah’s Witness Women by Kaynor J. Weishaupt, M.S., M.F.C.C. and Michael D. Stensland
[4] From Eve to Jezebel: Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christian Fundamentalism – The Construction and Reconstruction of Women’s Gendered Identities within the Faith by Miriam Hughes (2006, University of South Australia)
[5] ‘A Loving Provision?’ How former Jehovah’s Witnesses Experience Shunning Practices by Julia Gutgsell

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