Mercy Ministries advertise that they offer “professional support from psychologists, dieticians, general practitioners, social workers, counsellors and program staff who all contribute to provide daily education for the young women” in their care. They also claim that the program is “provided at no charge to the young women.”
Imagine a young woman’s horror then, as she enters the program and finds that she has no contact with psychologists, mental health professionals or social workers, and that the only counselor she is permitted to see during her time at Mercy Ministries is unqualified and unregistered. In Australia, despite advertising that the program was free (presumably to attract more donations from the public,) Mercy Ministries charge the girls for their services from a girl’s Centrelink sickness benefit (welfare cheque).
Let’s discuss the type of counseling offered to young women in the Mercy Ministries program. Mercy Ministries advertise that they offer “Christian based counselling” however, they do not go into specifics when describing the type of counseling given, nor the qualifications of their “counselors.”
Mercy Ministries use a counseling program known as “Restoring the Foundations.”
Our purpose is not to argue the virtues of such a counseling program when it is being used with a person’s informed consent; rather to explore whether Mercy Ministries is being upfront about the types of practices being used in the ‘counseling’ they are performing, and whether a young woman who goes to Mercy Ministries seeking the promised professional treatment, is properly informed before she walks through the doors.
This program is far from the typical example of “Christian based counseling” as Mercy Ministries describes it.
Sections within this counseling program are entitled:
- Sins of the Fathers and the Resulting Curses
- Ungodly Beliefs
- Soul/Spirit Hurts
- Demonic Oppression
Many former residents have spoken about exorcisms (the casting out of demons) that were performed on them during their counseling sessions at Mercy Ministries. Mercy Ministries Australia has categorically denied performing any such practice.
Let’s have a closer look at some of the Restoring the Foundations counseling materials that are worked through during counseling sessions at Mercy Ministries:
Dozens of young women who were treated at a Mercy Ministries facility have come forward to speak out about the abuse and neglect they experienced during their time in the program. These women come from a variety of different experiences. While many of these women chose to leave the program due to the lack of much needed medical treatment, others were dismissed with no follow up, and others have “graduated” from the Mercy Ministries program.
If one thing remains clear, it is that Mercy Ministries’ claims that 95% of young women who enter their program “successfully graduate,” or that they come out unscathed from their experiences, is nothing close to the truth.
Mercy Ministries Australia’s response on television program Today Tonight:
An excerpt from a letter recieved from television program Today Tonight on 20 March 2008:
In the days since Today Tonight did a story on Mercy Ministries, we have been inundated with responses, so much so it’s raised serious questions about the figures we received from Mercy Ministries claiming to be the total number of girls who graduated and “failed”.
Executive Director of Mercy Ministries Peter Irvine claimed since the organisation began in 2000, 96 women had graduated, six failed and only two had come forward to complain… Since our program aired, a greater number of women have since contacted our program citing mistreatment by Mercy Ministries.
These girls did not receive professional treatment whilst in the care of Mercy Ministries, they were denied such help and instead were put in the care of people whose only training was from an in-house program – a far cry from the medically based expertise needed to treat serious problems of sexual abuse, drug addiction, and psychological trauma. It also contradicts the program guidelines outlined on the website. Even the website acknowledges that such conditions need professional help…