Another Mercy Survivors video: Mercy Ministries and dehumanization of their clients

Written By Mercy Survivors

Support for survivors of Mercy Ministries

3 Comments on “Another Mercy Survivors video: Mercy Ministries and dehumanization of their clients

  1. Greg White

    May 12, 2015 at 3:30

    Hi Sarah, I listened to you video. You sound very rational and you sound like you are a Christian or at least understand Christianity. I don’t quite understand what your whole point is. Are you totally against everything Mercy Ministry does? Do you not believe that they are helping a lot of people? What is it? Obviously there are problems and occasionally some very misguided people. But so what? Do you really think any organization or ministry has it all together and does everything right or perfect or doesn’t have people involved that are confused or have problems? I mean honestly, can you suggest some alternative organizations that are doing things better and getting better results? I know too much about too many secular organizations that put on the best front and have huge money for marketing but the whole thing is a sham. Secular rehab centers are a total joke. If you know where to look you can find the success rates of secular rehab centers on U.S. government sites. Trust me, there is no such thing as success. They are dismal failures. So, it that where you want people to go to. Do you have any idea what inpatient eating disorder centers cost. I helped raise the money for one young lady to go to Remuda Ranch in Arizona. That was about 12 years ago- at that time it was $90,000 for 2 months. I am friends with Dr. Greg Jantz. He is probably the most prolific writing on eating disorders in the world. He is the owner and director of “The Center” headquartered in Edmonds, WA. It is a great place. But most young ladies can’t go their and I really don’t think their success rate is anywhere close to Mercy Ministries. Believe me, I know all about eating disorders. I have personally dealt with many young ladies struggling with this. I have had to deal with people caught in substance abuse, self-harm, and horrible life controlling issues. Tell me all the places that we should send them that are more successful than Mercy Ministries.
    Now don’t get it wrong. I have called Mercy Ministries 3 times in about 20 years. To this point I have never sent someone there. I don’t know anyone associated with it. But I have read independent stories from some young ladies who have gone there. These stories were not controlled in any way by Mercy Ministry. They told of many, many people they know of that have found great freedom. I have only personally known 1 young lady who went there (this was about 15 years ago) and here life was radically, radically changed. It was like night and day.
    Are you suggesting that Mercy Ministry shut down? So I ask you again, where can you suggest that these young ladies should go that is so much better and so much more successful than Mercy Ministry? Now, of course, that is not even touching on how much these other places cost.
    Please, help me to understand your tremendous alternative, or is it that you are just tearing something down but have forgot that there aren’t viable alternatives. Please don’t say they need to get a professional counselor or psychiatrist. I won’t say that they are totally ineffective, but really, just ask the first 20 couples who had marriage problems and went to a secular counselor and see how many tell you that it totally changed their life and saved their marriage and now 10 years later they have a great marriage. You probably won’t find 1 out of 20. I know. I have dealt with dozens if not hundreds of these couples. How many secular psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors do you personally know that have such a well adjusted life and family that you would want to model after them. I don’t mean to be to terribly sarcastic, but also include how old they are and exactly how many times they have been married. So, you are saying what is so bad about Mercy Ministries. Now tell me you answer. By the way. I’m a pastor in the U.S.

    • Mercy Survivors

      June 2, 2015 at 5:25

      Hi Greg.

      Thanks for checking out our website and for taking the time to respond to my video.

      “I listened to you video. You sound very rational and you sound like you are a Christian or at least understand Christianity.”

      You guess correctly. I am rational, a Christian, and have an understanding of Christianity 🙂

      “I don’t quite understand what your whole point is. Are you totally against everything Mercy Ministry does?”

      I’m not able to view the video at this very minute (people around), and it was a while ago now that I recorded it. But from memory, the point I was raising in this video was the dehumanisation of Mercy Ministries residents in the way in which Mercy Ministries uses and exploits a resident’s (or potential resident’s) issues to appeal emotively to their actual and potential supporters. I am against a lot of what Mercy Ministries does, but this video was highlighting one aspect of what I am against.

      Being a former resident (and graduate) myself and having had contact with many others over the years, I have seen “Mercy girls” or would-be “Mercy girls” portrayed in a certain light, in the “before picture” sense. Desolate, alone, scars on her arm, seizing a razor blade, going to a toilet to purge after a binge, using drugs, etc. I also understand the reality of these struggles versus the images that Mercy Ministries portray and exploit to their own benefit, and these portrayals are unhelpful – to Mercy’s applicants, residents, graduates as well as to supporters. Self harm and EDs ain’t sexy, and for me personally, the times I have acted out have been so extremely private. I would never have self harmed in front of anyone and to see this gratuitous scene portrayed on a giant screen in front of thousands of people at a church as the “pre-Mercy girl” and hence portraying me and others personally in the program who struggle with this and in part form their impression of who I am (or was), especially to conjure pity (and money) from MM’s supporters, left me feeling cheap and vulnerable. Many others former residents (especially graduates) have also identified with me on this matter. Some call it “tragedy porn”. Some of us call it “Mercy porn”.

      The other issue this raises is the pressure that Mercy Ministries put on the women in the program, and their graduates. Have you seen the way that graduates are portrayed? Professional make up, hair, fashioning and photography does wonders for image. Graduates are under heavy pressure to look, act and speak a certain way. A superficial image of success can hide a multitude of struggles. When a graduate does fall off the wagon or it becomes evident (especially outwardly) that they are struggling, Mercy has been known to cut many off in a pretty brutal way. It’s bad for MM’s image you know. Mercy can’t have supporters seeing this. The girl must be hidden away, or cut off, or scapegoated, or told they are choosing to struggle and let demons in now that they are “healed”. A struggling graduate is “letting the team down”.

      “Do you not believe that they are helping a lot of people?”

      No, I do not believe they are helping “a lot” of people. They are helping some people in some ways to some degree. But even if they help one person (and you would say this makes the program worth supporting right?), this does not negate the serious abuses Mercy have inflicted upon many residents without accountability or sincere reflection. But let’s take the view that MM do help a lot of people. Are those they harm (wilfully or in ignorance) just mere collateral? Do their lives matter? Does MM’s impact on their life and their issues matter, or only the success stories that MM plasters all over their website to promote themselves and use to sterilise their image?

      Mercy Ministries requires that applicants be “willing to change”, yet Mercy themselves are very unwilling to change, let alone acknowledge the realities that have been exposed in their program, as has been amply demonstrated over several years now.

      “Obviously there are problems and occasionally some very misguided people. But so what? Do you really think any organization or ministry has it all together and does everything right or perfect or doesn’t have people involved that are confused or have problems?”

      Your comment is a classic example of the misguided mindsets from a fair portion of the Christian community. A bit like a pastor being found guilty of embezzlement of church funds, or seeing prostitutes, or fiddling with a minor, or having an ongoing serious character issue that is going unaddressed, but hey, “no church is perfect” right? Wink wink, nudge nudge.

      If serious misconduct or major ethical breaches occurred at the church you pastor at, is this what you would tell your congregants? “Hey, no church is perfect. Occasionally some crappy things happen, but then, what church has it all together right?” Or would you address it fully and seriously, taking full responsibility for your church, and as your role as a pastor, acknowledging sin or any other action which has caused harm regardless of damage to church image or your personal ego, seeking your congregations forgiveness, opening up discussion about any concerns around what happened, committing to do better and outlining the actions through which you will achieve this?

      At Mercy Ministries, the leadership structure (trickling down to the residents) is highly authoritarian and the power dynamics are very much “one way”. Time and time and time and time and time again, a resident is to blame if there is ever a run in between her and a staff member. At no time is the staff member made to reflect on their own behaviour in a situation, it is always put on the resident. This sounds like a generalisation but it is what I (and many others) experienced to be very true.

      So when grievances are raised in the program itself, they are not addressed, in fact they are blamed on the resident. When a resident fails to benefit from the program, or even gets worse, the resident again is blamed, and no reflection of the program is done. If it is clear that a resident is not going to emerge six months later in a way Mercy can pass off as a success, she is warned, put on probation, or kicked out of the program for say “being unwilling to change”. If a girl is kicked out, chooses to leave, or graduates, and raises concerns with staff after their time in the program, it has generally fallen on deaf ears, or is again blamed on the girl. In a minority of cases, Mercy appears to have responded sympathetically, but ultimately, very little (if anything) is done to improve the program or ensure the harm done does not happen again. When “Australia” happened and the homes here shut down, MMOA blamed MMA as a “rogue operation” outside Nancy’s control, when in fact, Nancy was very much across the program’s operations and involved in the decision making, and well aware of several grievances before they came to light in the media. Where there has been negative press or attention drawn to MMOA’s ethical breaches, MMOA will change its website, have critical articles taken down, and hire a sock puppet to censor Wikipedia.

      http://mercysurvivors.com/2012/10/22/mercy-ministries-and-censorship/

      This is not the behaviour consistent with a healthy Christian organisation in my view. Just because you say they help a few people does not negate their abusive and damaging behaviour done in the name of God, just as our own good works do not cover our sin or get us right before the Lord. Spiritual abuse is a very serious thing. A healthy Christian organisation would behave in a way consistent with repentance and in a spirit of humility and contriteness. Mercy Ministries have, time and time again, behaved in a way that is proud, self-serving, self-protecting at the expense of the truth, and unwilling to adequately address valid grievances (some extremely serious in nature) or act in accordance with a spirit of repentance.

      “I mean honestly, can you suggest some alternative organizations that are doing things better and getting better results? I know too much about too many secular organizations that put on the best front and have huge money for marketing but the whole thing is a sham. Secular rehab centers are a total joke.”

      I personally am not in the US, but I take your (and Nancy Alcorn’s) word for it that many of the government centers are poor in quality. The ones here in Australia are a mixed bag and largely depend on the socioeconomic status of those living in the area. Funny how governments favour certain demographics over others. But that’s another story.

      But in short, I couldn’t tell you from any personal experience what a better alternative than Mercy is, government or otherwise, because I have never lived in the US. If you like, I can put your query to our network and see what recommendations they would make based on their experiences. I have heard good things about Remuda, but as you said, not all young women can afford to go there.

      I think this certainly highlights the need for adequate, affordable treatment programs in the US, and this is a need that Nancy believed she was filling in establishing a program like Mercy Ministries. It is this need that highlights some of the desperation you see with some women wanting to get into Mercy Ministries when they feel they are desperate for affordable alternatives. And I think we both agree that Mercy looks pretty good on the glossy brochures.

      “If you know where to look you can find the success rates of secular rehab centers on U.S. government sites”

      Secular rehabilitation centres are much more accountable to the government and therefore have much more incentive to report honestly.

      If you would like some information on what factors into Mercy Ministries’ remarkable success rates, here are some links:

      https://returnoftheblogonaut.wordpress.com/2009/04/02/mercy-being-slyagain/

      http://thepinkpropaganda.tumblr.com/post/77242774250/intentionally-or-unintentionally-mercy

      I recall in Australia, the success rate of 95% was criticised as baseless and believed to be in breach of the Trade Practices Act which outlaws false and misleading advertising among other things. MMA was eventually found to be in breach of the TPA for a whole bunch of things. (But let’s sweep that one under the rug because Nancy disowned them when the bad press wasn’t going away).

      In the US, Mercy’s success rate is apparently 93%. They rate their success based on a question in a survey (released only to a selected sample of graduates), leaving out the ones who crashed, or those who got kicked out or left the program early. The question that determined their success rate was “At Mercy Ministries, was your hope restored and your life transformed?” Some graduates contacted Mercy wishing to complete the survey but were turned away if they were no longer 100% loyal to Mercy. From my understanding, the highest success rate for such programs in the US is somewhere in the 70s (if you leave out Mercy). This does not mean Mercy is more successful, it means they know how to spin.

      For eg, check out MM’s very own page on the 2008 survey and the 2013 follow up survey.

      http://www.mercyministries.org/what_we_do/results/

      They claim the survey was conducted by an independent firm (which they fail to name), but even if this were true, MMOA hand-picked the sample. The stats lean heavily in favour of graduates. But I can testify on behalf of several women in our own network that MMOA were not interested in hearing from those who were foreseeably (or knowingly) critical, including some graduates. They are only interested in hearing what they want so they can continue to project an inflated image of success.

      “Believe me, I know all about eating disorders. I have personally dealt with many young ladies struggling with this. I have had to deal with people caught in substance abuse, self-harm, and horrible life controlling issues. Tell me all the places that we should send them that are more successful than Mercy Ministries.”

      If you know all about eating disorders, then you will know they have the highest mortality rate among mental health disorders, and require qualified intervention. If you have had to deal with people experiencing other issues, then you will be aware that a “one size fits all” approach is not the answer, and that many of these things are complex in nature and require multifaceted intervention. These are things that Mercy Ministries is not equipped to provide.

      Again, I couldn’t give you specific recommendations given the geographic challenges, but if I am asked by a potential Mercy applicant, I recommend they thoroughly research any program they are considering for treatment, and look at things like reviews, the exact qualifications of their staff, their levels of accountability and accreditation, licensing, nature of the program, etc.

      “But I have read independent stories from some young ladies who have gone there. These stories were not controlled in any way by Mercy Ministry. They told of many, many people they know of that have found great freedom.”

      Check out some more independent stories from other young women who have gone to Mercy. Many are on our website, and below are some links to the other survivor blogs:

      http://thepinkpropaganda.tumblr.com/

      http://sarahscollage.blogspot.com.au/p/mercy-ministries.html
      (^^^ this one’s mine)

      http://mercyministriesabuses.blogspot.com.au/

      http://s-h-i-t-f-i-r-e.blogspot.com.au/

      Others have come and gone, but you can find archives on this website.

      “Are you suggesting that Mercy Ministry shut down?”

      I did not suggest this in the video, but if you are asking me my general view on this, I believe that if Mercy Ministries does not fully and expediently address the rife abuse and corruption issues instead of demonising those who speak out (such as many of us), they are continuing to do serious harm to many young women and I would hope they are shut down in order that they would not be able to cause further harm. My hope is that Mercy does change, however their continued behaviour over the course of their existence is stubborn pride and an unwillingness to change.

      They believe that they have a “program that works” so why should they change? But this is their own delusion that they have created and ferociously maintained at all costs. They shut down free thought and speech on the issue, demonise those who do speak, censor their history, call Australia an “affiliate”, and wala! They are absolved of their sin without having to actually go through a repentance process or even acknowledge these things ever occurred.

      “Please, help me to understand your tremendous alternative, or is it that you are just tearing something down but have forgot that there aren’t viable alternatives.”

      My tremendous alternative? I don’t run a treatment centre. You know why? Because I’m not qualified to run one. But I think I have answered your question above. Perhaps you as a pastor, who has people coming to you seeking help and guidance, are pressed to provide such recommendations to your flock. I’m sorry that you consider Mercy Ministries, in its current state, a viable option. But just because your government treatment centres suck and the good ones are expensive does not make Mercy Ministries a good option. Affordable certainly, and they sure do have a shiny website, and a nice house, and the rest. Oh, and they tick the Christian box too. But this does not make them qualified or effective. Maybe the better alternative is to save up or get insurance and wait it out a bit to go to an expensive but effective program such as Remuda. I am not saying this is easy, or even fair. Being an Aussie, I benefit from a socialised medical system. If i do get insurance, the wait period for hospital is 2 months, so generally, we fare pretty well. However, the issues presented in the US around privatised medical care are greatly concerning, and again I think this highlights why Mercy Ministries appear to be one of the few viable and affordable programs around. They are a lot prettier than the other “free” programs (being government-run hospitals), but cheaper than say Remuda. It is awful that people are placed in such desperate situations who may have few options available to them financially. But perhaps this is the issue rather than Mercy Ministries being an appropriate option by default that every other option is either crap or unaffordable. Welcome to Hotel California.

      “Please don’t say they need to get a professional counselor or psychiatrist. I won’t say that they are totally ineffective, but really… How many secular psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors do you personally know that have such a well adjusted life and family that you would want to model after them. I don’t mean to be to terribly sarcastic, but also include how old they are and exactly how many times they have been married.”

      Ah, so you’re one of those. So is Nancy Alcorn. She says things like “secular psychiatry just wants to medicate things like that, but Jesus didn’t say to medicate them, He said to cast them out”, and “you can’t cast out bad choices and you can’t medicate a demon”.

      To give you some background, I have seen many psychiatrists, psychlogists and counsellors in my life. Most often, I have seen them in tandem with other measures such as having a positive encouraging community around me, having a spiritual life (as a Christian), sleeping and eating properly, and trying not to do stupid things.

      Some of my counsellors (possibly most) have been non-Christian, and a minority have been Christian that I know of. I can tell you that there are good, bad and ugly from both camps. I can’t say that I knew much about their family life, marriages or history of divorce. Generally, it is not professional for them to discuss the entrails of their own lives with their clients, whether they are Christian or not.

      In a couple of cases, I saw Christians who I was acquainted with in church circles. One of them was a marriage counsellor and she was just fantastic. Humble, intuitive, not trying to push choices on us, and gently challenging and helping us work through the issues. She was married with children. Age? Maybe mid-40s. The other one was a clinical psychologist. Maybe 50. She had been divorced once, but that was the least of my concerns. She was unprofessional on many levels, breached my confidentiality a few times, was rude and abrupt, presumptuous, and when I wanted to stop seeing her, she put guilt trips on me and eventually tried to go through my pastor to plead with me to see her again. I’m sure in your mind that because she was divorced this makes her less Christian and therefore explains her inappropriate behaviour.

      But what about my counsellor at Mercy Ministries? She was maybe close to 50, married with a daughter. Seemingly had the good Christian image. But fairly incompetent, at times cruel and harsh, easily threatened, intimidating, boundary pushing, and lying. I have had non-Christian counsellors who, I don’t know, maybe they were divorced or not or maybe they were gay or (heaven forbid) single, but I wouldn’t know, but I fail to see how this would make a counsellor worse or better?

      The psychiatrists… I don’t know if any of them were Christian, I’m guessing a few of them were but I wouldn’t know because they were generally pretty professional and didn’t discuss their personal lives with me. I generally got on with all of them, except two who were particularly sociopathic. One of those was quite recently. But on the whole, they generally know their place and respect that they are one of several aspects of care. A few like to think they’re God, but then, so do some Christian counsellors. And so do some pastors. (Would you say this is true?)

      But to respond to your point, it is crudely simplistic to infer that age and number of divorces will indicate the quality of professional care provided.

      Well, I hope you are able to have an open mind to my response. I also encourage you to check out other articles on our website.

      Peace

      MS Team (Sarah)

  2. cdarhower

    June 2, 2015 at 5:21

    You sound terribly misguided and if you wanted to know the reliability of Mercy Ministries statistics and how they find their success rate compared to how other (actual) treatment programs do, you can read about it in the many many archives and survivors blogs. Your attitude is appalling and I can tell by it that you have no ideas of taking seriously the problems and abuse that face Mercy Ministries programs. When you really want to actually know and drop the sarcastic attitude and open your mind, I’ll be here willing to speak. I can’t believe you admitted to being a pastor after acting like that. It’s almost irony, that someone that acts like that would stand up for a place like Mercy Ministries and not be able to see their pit falls.

    You’re probably lucky that Sarah is a bit nicer then me, maybe she’ll grace you with your answers, that you clearly never wanted to hear.

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