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  • Writer's pictureWendy Millgate

Triggered at a healing service and Christmas dinner (and meet my cat!)


His fingers grazed lightly the skin of my neck. Ewwww!

TRIGGERS: This article speaks of adult sexual grooming, cult abuse and trauma triggering.

Once again seeking more healing (will I ever stop?), I went to a Christian healing service last September. As a man and woman held my hands and prayed for me, I felt through my shirt sleeve the man’s hand slowly caressing my left arm. Up and down and up again. His fingers grazed lightly the skin of my neck, like a feather. Ewww! I wanted to scream, “Don’t touch me!!!”

But what did I do? I froze and said through my tears at the end, “Oh thank you for your prayers. Can I keep in touch with you two? I don’t know anyone here”. What the??

They didn’t offer to become my friends, thankfully. They said I’d find them at the 5pm service most Sundays. Trust me, I never went to find them.

I went home that day, confused and disturbed! What just happened? 

I started unravelling. I felt discombobulated, screaming silently in my head.  I cried in the shower. The next day my heart was still fluttering. I even banged my head on the wall to take my focus off the ball of pain inside me threatening to explode. I sent a text to my psychologist, but she unfortunately was teaching at university and didn’t see it until the next day. I eventually talked with my husband and spoke to a friend who is a Christian counsellor-in-training.

She helped me recognise I’d been triggered, and I was able to calm down. The man’s touch in a church setting had reminded me of my sexual abuse in a religious institution, the Unification Church (the ''Moonies'), by the Korean elder Mr Son and his two henchmen.

Why the heck did I beg those ‘healers’ to be my friends despite feeling so uncomfortable and unsafe?

Fawning to keep safe from potential abuse

In my next psychology session, my psych helped me understand that not only had my trauma been triggered and boundaries breached, a long-held pattern had come into play: I had fawned to feel safe.

When I remembered how I’d almost begged them to be my friends, I felt sick and embarrassed. Though I am glad to now recognise this behaviour. I often do this people pleasing, or am on edge, with girlfriends’ husbands or anyone in authority position. (A parting gift from my first marriage too). I over-serve and am over-nice.

I thought I was over that incident at the healing service, then something happened on Christmas Day…

“I don’t want to talk about this at Christmas!!”

At the family Christmas dinner table last year, a family guest brought up the topic of church sexual abuse. God knows why. I listened for a bit and suddenly shouted, “I don’t want to talk about this topic now at Christmas!” I was shaking, obviously still raw from the triggering at the healing service and digging deep in my psych sessions. I wanted to ignore the emotions bubbling up inside, but it was too late.

A deep painful grief rose up and out. I sobbed as if my chest was cracking open. As I gasped for breath, my middle son’s beautiful fiancé grasped my hand tightly across the dinner table and got me to look into her eyes and breathe with her. In. Out. In. Out. It worked. I calmed down. My husband also put his loving arms around me.

We all agreed to move on … (My kids know my story and understand.) .… But I was left rattled. From then on, I knew I needed to see my psychologist weekly. Some deep shit needed to be dealt with.

Time to crack open what's at the root of the triggers

On the way to a psych appointment one day, I prayed aloud, “God, if you think I need cracking open, crack me open. I can’t ignore this pain inside anymore. Holy Spirit, help!” I just knew that today something inside me needed to be expressed and felt. Something that had scared me for a long time that I was skipping around.

I shared again with my psych, but in more detail, what happened with the elder Mr Son in the Unification Church; with the man who brought me into the 'church' (cult); and with the man Mr Son ‘matched’ me too. I remembered things like how I felt when two of these men exerted their psychological power over me in a small office, with their arms folded, making false accusations. And how my voice was taken away and self-belief. Then how it felt when Mr Son first made a pass at me and what he eventually got me to do.

As I shared my story, in detail, my psychologist clearly labelled all that I went through at the hands of those people as ‘horrendous’ and ‘disgusting’. She encouraged me to express what I was feeling.

A deep painful emotion bubbled up and burst out like a geyser. I sobbed and sobbed.

“What do you feel, Wendy?”

“I feel so sad for that girl. I feel so much grief.” There was so much pain. I was finally listening.

There was also a realisation: I was NOT to blame. Something my psych had been saying to me often, but only that day did it sink in. Guilt had been always eating at me. Self-blame.

That day I looked with new eyes at the 18-year-old-me who had joined this group a few years earlier. So innocent and vulnerable and hopeful. And a virgin. I was not to blame and I had no need for guilt. [Guilt is a topic in itself, as it is tied up with the programming from false teachings working in your brain. Throw perfectionism into the mix, and it can be powerful.]

The guilt was slowly lifting as my psychologist showed me a professional’s objective view – and an empathic human’s view – of what I went through. She highlighted how a young girl’s desire to love God, do His will, and also to receive love and affirmation (which all humans desire), was hijacked and manipulated.

Addressing the wounds and guilt, and feeling anger

My psych said that what I am doing now, as an adult, is addressing the wounds and hurt I felt as a young woman. I am revealing them, giving them a voice, naming them and allowing myself to feel them.

You can’t heal something you haven’t fully seen, fully felt and fully acknowledged. Deep wounds and hurts are silently driving so much of your subconscious and conscious thoughts and behaviours. If these deep feelings aren't acknowledged and felt, your subconscious keeps bringing them up in the form of depression, anxiety, guilt, confusion, triggering and even chronic health issues. Hello fibromyalgia.

Justified anger

Now another emotion is arising: anger. Finally not at myself but at what happened to me and those responsible in the cult. I’ve had an apology from some of those men, for some things. And I’ve even had a heart-felt, sincere apology from a dear friend who is a Unification church leader, unofficially on behalf of the ‘Church’ and its founders . It was also stated by my friend that they hoped I would forgive the Unification Church.

But it’s too soon for that. To honour that young woman, I have to acknowledge and feel my wounds and associated grief and hurt, and to fully understand what happened. To name things for what they were. And to feel righteous anger at the wrong that was done. I will get to the point of forgiving those that wronged me, for my own good. I know that will possibly be the final key to my healing. The ultimate goal is to release all and move forward...

Using my voice finally

I also eventually felt anger at what happened at the healing service, and I did something proactive this time. I used my voice. I reported the incident to the safeguarding officer, and now new guidelines have been put in place as to how and where people can be touched in healing services when they ask for prayer. I feel great that I spoke up and made a difference!

Not long after this, I was driving to the shops and saw a young girl, about 2 years old, sitting in the rain on the footpath crying. She was all alone near a busy road. I quickly pulled into a nearly shopping centre and ran with an umbrella to her as fast as I could. Just as I reached her, her grandmother came around the corner... "She's with me. She's with me". I wanted to shout at that lady, "She's been alone on the footpath crying for a few minutes. Anyone could have stopped and grabbed her!!" But I didn't. I didn't want to embarrass the grandmother further.

As I walked back to the car, I was shaking. Then I felt the Lord saying that little girl was Me. And now I am finally protecting her and saving her.


Thanks for listening to another stage of my cult recovery story as I 'crack' it (and me) open.

I hope this blog encourages you to also set boundaries and to listen in to what’s really going on inside. And to seek help if you need it. See my support page if you need assistance.




PS: Meet our new ragdoll cat, Mercy. Her name is a reminder of God’s love and mercy. My little cuddle pie. Her affection, and receiving of my affection, is a gift.

Fluffy brown and white ragdoll cat lying down on the author's desk



1 comentario

04 may

Such a hard story to tell, Wendy (you’ll always be Wendi to me). It takes such courage and hopefully will save others experiencing the same abuse and/or confronting their own pain.

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Feel free to connect via my via contact page. I am always open to new opportunities to share my story and learnings.

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