Published: 1/1/18


The International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) is conducting its 2018 Annual Conference in Philadelphia, PA  2017 Annual International Conference in Bordeaux, France from July 5-7, 2018 (preconference workshops on Wednesday July 4). Dylesia was selected as a speaker! She will co-facilitate a presentation entitled Spiritual Abuse: Blaming the Victim. Read the abstract below.

In the context of spiritual abuse, the phrase victim blaming refers to actions or words that hold spiritually abused persons partially or completely responsible for the maltreatment they endure. Victim blamers may use language to insinuate that weakness in the victim – not impairment in the abuser – led to spiritual abuse. Unfortunately, because victims of spiritual abuse often blame themselves for their involvement with spiritually abusive individuals and/or in spiritually abusive organizations, victim blaming only exacerbates already present anxiety, confusion, depression, and worthlessness. This presentation will educate attendees about spiritual abuse victim blaming, also addressing some of its underlying causes and its impact on victims. Implications for clergy members and mental health providers as well as exit challenges faced by victims that should be considered by those in connection with them will also be presented. Recognizing victim blaming as a global challenge faced by those who have been spiritually abused, the presenters seek to educate attendees about the importance of empathetic, attentive, and advocacy-oriented support.

Dylesia will also present a poster on How the Evolution of Child Sociology Impacts Child Involvement in Spiritual Practice. Read the abstract below.

Though sometimes supported by followers, the evangelical customs upheld by many religions are capable of leading parents, guardians, and other parishioners to abuse children by training them for proselytization or holding them to unreasonable expectations, such as living without fault (Cooper, 2012). These behaviors – sometimes severely and repetitiously patterned in religious settings – represent psychological maltreatment as they have the capacity to convey to children that they are inadequate, contemptible, or only suitable to be exploited (Cooper, 2012). Though sometimes well-intentioned, the approaches used to indoctrinate children support outmoded concepts of child sociology, which has evolved from viewing children as property, to viewing them as inexperienced, assailable, and powerless, and currently to viewing them as people who have privileges and rights (Segura-April, 2016). This evolution has impacted how child participation is viewed, leading many professionals to consider models such as Roger Hart’s Ladder of Participation when assessing if child-involved pursuits are exploitative, frivolous, or appropriate (Hart, 1992; Segura-April, 2016). In this presentation, the facilitator will define and provide examples of childhood spiritual abuse, share concepts about theology in children and data about peer influence that support the potential for spiritual abuse, and guide attendees through the process of assessing spiritual abuse in children.

Cooper, C. (2012). Confronting religiously motivated psychological maltreatment of children: A framework for policy reform. Virginia Journal of Social Policy & The Law 20(1), 11; 24-25.

Hart, R.A. (1992). Children’s participation: From tokenism to citizenship. Florence: UNICEF.

Segura-April. (2016). Appropriate child participation and the risks of spiritual abuse. Transformation, 33(3), 177-178.

Published: 1/5/17


The Virginia Association of Counselor Education and Supervision (VACES) 2017 Graduate Student Conference is being co-sponsored by Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) and Old Dominion University (ODU). The conference will be held on February 25, 2017 (Inclement Weather Day: March 4, 2017) at ODU, located in Norfolk, Virginia. Dylesia was selected as a speaker! She will host an educational session entitled Spiritual Abuse: Implications for Counselors. Read Dylesia’s proposal below.

Spiritual abuse is a complex and often ignored trauma commonly made up of disparate traumas, the effects of which can range from depression and suicide to psychosis and homicide. In this presentation, the presenter will deliver insight about spiritual abuse, including historical facts and statistics, risk factors, warning signs, and suggested clinical approaches – to include assessment strategies and treatment options.

Learning Objectives:

1) To develop a basic understanding of spiritual abuse and its prevalence.

2) To identify risk factors and warning signs of spiritual abuse.

3) To explore interventions that can be utilized when working with spiritual abuse victims.


The International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) is conducting its 2017 Annual International Conference in Bordeaux, France from June 29 through July 1, 2017 (preconference workshops on Wednesday June 28). Dylesia was selected as a speaker! She will deliver an original presentation entitled The Degrees of Spiritual Abuse and Effective Treatment Modalities for Victims Experiencing Each Degree. Read Dylesia’s abstract below.

It was not until recently that social understanding of the term “abuse” began to include invisibly scarring experiences such as emotional, verbal, and psychological maltreatment. The task of raising awareness about spiritual abuse is like the plight faced by pioneers in the endeavor toward global recognition of these forms of torment. Despite what difficulties her advocacy efforts may face; however, Dylesia Barner is committed to using her survivor and mental health provider perspectives to introduce spiritual abuse in a way that challenges others to reflect upon their own experiences with the unique – and mostly undetected – form of victimization. This presentation will explore the varying degrees of spiritual abuse, beginning with the often banteringly presented criticism of the social choices of those professing faith and concluding with a look at how victims become perpetrators. Dylesia will pull upon popular, personal, and clinical examples to encourage the recognition of spiritual abuse at its introductory stages in order to prevent its advancement. She will also identify exit challenges faced by victims as well as public and practitioner interventions that can be used to aid victims experiencing each of the varying degrees. Questions that will be addressed include: How does spiritual abuse escalate to the point of cult membership/leadership, why is it so difficult for victims to exit the progression, and what can the public do to help? The presentation will introduce spiritual abuse in a relatable way and provide attendees with clear methods of intervening.

Published: 11/28/16


Join Save a Child to Save Our World in our 2nd annual mid-year school supply drive benefiting youth in Virginia and – new this year – Alabama! Last year, thanks to the amazing generosity of our donors and board members, we were able to donate over $200 in supplies to youth programs and public schools in VA & Atlanta. Realizing that not all families are fortunate enough to be able to replace broken, misplaced, or heavily used materials before the start of second semester, we hope to donate even more this year. Click here to give a monetary donation.