Spiritual abuse is the use of religion to control the behaviour of the partner. It usually involves deliberately misquoting, or making up religious laws that do not exist.

It is easy - and very common - to use religion as a method of coercion. Here are some examples from the Jewish tradition of how our clients have been coerced in this way:

"It says in the Torah that a wife has to obey her husband...."

"The Shulchan Aruch says a wife is obligated to sleep with her husband whenever he wants..." [including when she is niddah, ritually impure around menstruation, when a woman abstains from intercourse]

"My Rabbi said you are not allowed to refuse...."

These types of spiritual abuse are often possible because in the more orthodox communities it is men who study the Jewish texts and learn with Rabbis. The women therefore do not have the level of knowledge to challenge what their husband is asserting, and assume he is telling the truth.

Spiritual abuse could be thought of as literally "putting the fear of God" into you, to coerce you to do what he is demanding by suggesting he has God on his side: by disobeying him, you are also disobeying God. The thought of disobeying God would be deeply concerning to her.

Another form of Spiritual Abuse that we see is using the Rabbi as a tool for coercion. Our clients have experienced Rabbis being used to threaten the woman so she will stop speaking about the husband's abuse. The Rabbis in these cases take the side of the husband, unreservedly. "If you tell anyone else, your children will not be allowed to come to this school", or "You must stop saying that about your husband, or else we will put a herem [ban] on your business", or "If you ever speak to anyone about this again, you and your children will be cut off from this community".

Get refusal - refusing to give a woman her religious divorce, her Get - can also be categorised as Spiritual Abuse.

Refusing to let a partner practice their religion is also a form of Spiritual Abuse.