A message to anyone who supports Mercy Ministries

This piece by Mercy Survivor Chelsea was originally published on her personal blog, The Pink Propaganda, and can be viewed here.

I really cannot stand the Mercy Ministries residents, sponsors and supporters who have this attitude about them that it’s okay for Mercy Ministries to hurt some young women, as long as they help others. It’s okay for them to be abusive towards some young women as long as others turn out alright.

It’s actually really common for abusive people to pick one person to take the brunt of the abuse and at Mercy Ministries things are kept very secret, so you would never see it.  You’re not allowed to talk about why you’re there.  You can get in trouble for talking about your interactions with staff members.  Your roommate could have been that woman.  Your friend could have been that woman.  And I don’t understand why this is excusable, because they helped you?  Or they helped your friend.  I don’t care if they helped a million young women, things have to change.

It’s called scapegoating.

Aggression, the use of force against another human being, is always present in scapegoating.  As Elizabeth A. Kaspar says, “The aggressive person is one who tries to dominate others.  Aggressiveness, too, can take several forms. The aggressive person is frequently rude and humiliating, (eg, “What do you mean, you aren’t going to do it?”), or the aggressive person can become self-righteous (eg, “I am only insisting on this for your own good.”), or she/he can resort to being manipulative (eg, “If you refuse, what will everyone think of you?”)

It seems as if we humans as a species seem to need someone to vent our anger on and make wrong.  Scapegoating is a projection defense.  It is the ego saying, “If I can put the blame on you, I don’t have to recognize and take responsibility for the negative qualities in myself.  What I can’t stand about myself, I really hate in you and have to attack you for it in order to deny that I have the same quality.”

Scapegoating is a hostile social – psychological discrediting routine by which people move blame and responsibility away from themselves and towards a target person or group. It is also a practice by which angry feelings and feelings of hostility may be projected, via inappropriate accusation, towards others. The target feels wrongly persecuted and receives misplaced vilification, blame and criticism; he is likely to suffer rejection from those who the perpetrator seeks to influence.  Scapegoating has a wide range of focus: from very large groups of people down to the scapegoating of individuals by other individuals. 

In scapegoating, feelings of guilt, aggression, blame and suffering are transferred away from a person or group so as to fulfill an unconscious drive to resolve or avoid such bad feelings.  This is done by the displacement of responsibility and blame to another who serves as a target for blame both for the scapegoater and his supporters.”

The process is unconscious it is more likely to be denied by the perpetrator. In such cases, any bad feelings – such as the perpetrator’s own shame and guilt – are also likely to be denied.  Scapegoating frees the perpetrator from some self-dissatisfaction and provides some narcissistic gratification to him.  It enables the self-righteous discharge of aggression.  Scapegoaters tend to have excessively disciplinary characteristics [Kraupl-Taylor, 1953]. ….On another view, scapegoaters are insecure people driven to raise their own status by lowering the status of their target …”[1]

Mercy Ministries staff members are not all trained on how to be subjective with the women in the program.  They aren’t trained about transference and what should happen if that came up.  A lot of them are not trained at all.

The staff are sorely under educated and misguided about mental illness, from counselors to secretaries to residential staff.  They have very few people keeping them accountable.  There are no on site doctors, etc.  A lot of the time if you go to authority with a problem with staff you are told to just work it out, there is no intervention.  It’s automatically assumed that it’s the clients fault, because the staff are women of God and could not possibly be abusive.  There is no clear cut way you can lodge a grievance, there is no grievance procedure.  The staff turn over rate is phenomenal and the staff-to-patient ratio is something like 2:30 at times.  That’s far beyond any treatment program I’ve ever been to.

I have heard a lot of really terrible stories come out of Mercy Ministries.  Some very sad stories, most of which do not make themselves public.  But some of us do.  And there are some young women who came out of Mercy not being targeted and they cut themselves off from Mercy Ministries, because of the stories that they heard. I admire those girls, I really do.  And I admire the sponsors who did too. LG and TWLOHA come to mind.

How can you so blindly just be okay with that? How can you be okay that some young women are being targeted and harmed?  I was treated very poorly at Mercy Ministries by some staff members, and to this day I’m not exactly sure why.  I feel that for a long time at Mercy Ministries I followed the rules to a T, and then just gave in, because I couldn’t please them.  I feel that at some point I was an easy target.  And maybe there are reasons that are very personal to staff that I will never know.  They scapegoated me a lot.  When they kicked me out instead of saying something like, “this just didn’t work out”.  They told me how I was manipulative, rebellious, didn’t follow God’s plan for my life and how I didn’t work the program.  It was all my fault.  Despite all that they did wrong.  I constantly felt rejected by them, no matter what I did I would never be accepted by certain staff members.

I can still remember the day I got so upset and asked the head of counseling why she was so rough on me as opposed to other young women and she answered me.

You entered a psychiatric ward, of course I’m more rough on you

I entered a psychiatric ward two weeks into my stay, because I was so suicidal.  Again I did not understand why this meant she had to be more mean to me.  She was even scapegoating a reason to be mean to me and making it my fault.  YOU were in a psychiatric ward, so that gives me permission to be mean to you.  It wasn’t even logical.  I was clearly sick.

When people tell me that they were treated nicely there I am shocked.  That’s impossible.  Why was I treated so poorly?  Maybe it’s a little bit of the same for people who were treated nicely when they hear an abuse story.  “What, no that’s impossible, nobody was abused there, I was treated so nicely”.  Some staff members were good to me.  I will not lie about that.  I found safety in some of them and terror in others.  To the point where I would avert all eye contact and stare at the floor.  Unfortunately I felt that the staff members who scapegoated me the most, had the most power.

And then I hear stories about other young women who were defiant, refused to eat, and did all this other really horrible stuff and they “loved on them and told them about Jesus”.  Is that code for “love equals discipline” and by “told them about Jesus” they actually told them about how much they were sinning?  Or was I different for some reason?  I mean there were young women there that were far more defiant then I was and they never acted towards them like they did me.  They accepted them.  I constantly questioned, what was wrong with me?  But it wasn’t what was wrong with me.  It was what was wrong with them.

And I hear it over and over again.  The same thing.  They target someone and they choose her to take down.  And then you’re sitting there saying “it didn’t happen to my friend, it didn’t happen to me, so they’re perfect”.

So when a mother locks a child in a closet, and takes care of the other two, is she still a good mother?

I mean these stories are real.  Nobody made them up.  Nobody exaggerated.  Nobody is “bitter” or “resentful“.  I know for myself I am glad I never graduated the program.  And many people with abuse stories DID graduate the program.  It’s a common theme in each one.  Dozens of stories, and you’re still supporting them?  And there are dozens more that haven’t come forward.  I don’t get it.  I really just do not get why you’re not asking for change of some type?  With anything else in this world you would be at their door step telling them to shape up.  Don’t stop because this place helped you or helped someone you know.  You now know me and I was harmed by them.  They hurt a load of others also.  And that’s not right.  Ignorance is not bliss.

It wasn’t just “hurt”.  Some of us are still disabled, years later, from the PTSD.  Some of us still cannot look people in the eye.  Some of us are still terrified of authority.  Some of us hear a Hillsong  song and we quiver.  Some of us are so afraid we don’t talk about it at all.  We fear our words will not be heard and that we will be retaliated against if we do speak.  Some of us still have panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares.  Some would run the other way if we saw Mercy Ministries staff members.  We live in a house built with brick and we don’t trust anyone to knock it down.  Some of us never dated again, never got close to anyone, were never able to trust another therapist.  I could keep going.

It’s not common sense.  It’s not rational.  Think about it.

Here’s some that are public.  American Stories.  But there are many, many, more of which I have heard or am shocked by daily.

Had I not been abused and allowed myself to be open enough to hear stories of the young women who were abused, I would never be able to live with the guilt of supporting Mercy Ministries.  But we all have our demons.  You can chose yours.  I’m not forcing you stop supporting them, it’s clearly your decision, this is just maybe another side of the tracks story.

And what I am asking you to is stop blaming the victims in this situation, like we are at fault and we did this to them.  They did this to us.  We aren’t out to get Mercy Ministries, we are out to tell our stories.  We have that right.

After Mercy Ministries Australia was shut down and all of their stories came out and it made headlines and the young women felt safe to come forward.  1/3 of all Mercy Ministries residents came forward with stories of abuse. 1/3, that is not okay.  That is sad.

The Truth About Mercy: Liz’s story

Comfortably Numb: Poems by a former Mercy Ministries resident

Sean the Blogonaut: Hope’s Mercy Ministries story

The Nashville Scene: Jesus RX: The untold tale behind Mercy Ministries’ one-size-fits-all prescription for recovery

Mercy Survivors: Bethany – Mercy Ministries and the scapegoats of their irresponsibility

Free Thought Blogs: A tale of Mercy Ministries

Written By Chelsea