Why did you write this book?
Originally, I wrote this book so that I, myself, could process what happened. How could an otherwise intelligent, successful adult be duped in such a way? Once I had my answers, I realized that other adult victims needed to know that they are not alone and that they are not to blame. Finally, I realized that the world needed to understand that this insidious and very under-reported type of abuse was rampant and not exclusive to certain “types” of people. I wanted loved ones to know how to better support the victims in their lives. I wanted survivors to see avenues to justice. And, finally, I wanted to show that there is no tragedy too great that God can not redeem it and work it for good.
What were you hoping your readers would gain from your book?
I wanted to give my readers a front-row seat into the inner-workings of a sexual predator. I tried to show how childhood abuse and the lies that come with it can make an adult vulnerable to an abuser. It was important to show how skilled predators “groom” their victims until they are trapped in a sort of psychological prison and why it feels almost impossible to walk away. I hoped to convey the emotional aftermath of such an assault, the routes available for justice, the path towards healing, and ultimately that with Christ there is always hope.
Where was God during your abuse? How do you reconcile a loving God after an injustice of this magnitude?
God was right there with me every second, calling to me, trying to rescue me. It was me who didn’t want to believe it. I wanted my father-figure back, my space place, my cheerleader. I couldn’t believe someone could truly be this cruel and sadistic. I couldn’t accept the reality that was staring me in the face. I told Him to give me more time, promised Him I would fix it. God reached out to me in progressively stronger ways—through comments made by other people, through the Bible, through books. It got so bad I had to stop reading. It was God who gave me the strength to get out when He spoke to me saying, “Amy, the doctor is not your problem to fix.” After escaping my abuser, God continued to aid in my healing and in my pursuit of justice. He showed up for me in magnificent and miraculous ways. This tragedy could have destroyed my faith, but as a result of God’s goodness, the abuse only served to strengthen my relationship with Christ.
Why did your abuser not go to jail?
Sadly, therapist abuse is only illegal in half of our states. I looked into filing criminal charges and was told by multiple attorneys that the process would be brutal and the abuser would likely walk. It was challenging enough to even find an attorney who understood that it was not a mutual affair. It would be a “he said she said” situation and most onlookers are unwilling to accept that adults can be manipulated. In addition, they do not grasp the power differential between a therapist and a client. Consent cannot be given when one party holds all the power and the other holds none of it. I pursued the next best avenue and that was to file with the medical board and to file a civil suit. One senator looked into using my case to once again attempt to make this abuse illegal in my state, but he stepped down and told me that no one else was interested.
Why did you stay? Why didn’t you just walk away?
That is the question of the day. That is the question I was attempting to answer when I originally wrote my book. The perpetrators slowly and methodically add links in a chain until their victims are imprisoned. So subtle, most victims are unaware it is happening. These chain links, once connected, become powerful deterrents—they become the proverbial gun to the head.
The first of these is the act of mirroring. Mirroring occurs when perpetrators seek out that elusive need in their victims—that one thing they’ve longed for their entire life—a nurturing mother, a perfect partner, a doting father. And then they conveniently become that thing; essentially, they “mirror” it back.
Predatory therapists then use “love-bombing” to make their victims feel “special,” a powerful elixir to those on the receiving end. They do this through gifts of free sessions, longer sessions, flattery, gifts, attention, communication between sessions, the sharing of personal info. Soon, the victims are so attached they are unable to walk away. Why would they?
Abusers play on their victims’ empathy. My abuser told me of his lonely childhood, of his mom’s alcoholism and death. He told me his father was abusive. They use guilt. My abuser told me if I left him his heart would shatter into a thousand pieces. How could I abandon someone who had done so much for me? They may also make their clients feel indebted with gifts of longer or free sessions.
They isolate their victims. My abuser saw me twice a week, and I began to pull away from my friends as I knew they wouldn’t understand. He told me nobody could love me like he could. He suggested that I not share my spiritual therapy experiences with my pastor. Perpetrators remind victims that they will be judged if they try to tell, blamed even. “No one will believe a patient in counseling,” he told one of his victims. “I am close friends with the local DA so go ahead and try to tell,” they threaten.
They realize that their victims are adults and as a result will likely not be believed. And consider the risk victims are taking if they speak up. They could lose everything—marriages, families, jobs—if they tell. It is too great a risk for most survivors.
Another tactic includes gaslighting, making the victims feel like they are going crazy so that they doubt their own realities. Who can victims turn to? I turned to my best friend and the pastor’s wife and she took the abuser’s side. Police? Would they see it as a criminal act? Not likely.
Abusers count on their patients’ low self-worth. Consider this scenario…a gray-haired doctor who is a church elder and member of the prayer team is actually an evil sociopath in disguise. Or…the patient in therapy for depression and anxiety is misinterpreting the situation. Exactly.