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Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment
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Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  55 ratings  ·  12 reviews
High-profile cases such as the child sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church and "faith healing" deaths in certain fundamentalist Christian congregations have made the public aware that religion can sometimes mask deviant and harmful behavior. But the extent of the problem is far greater than most people realize. This revealing, disturbing, and thoroughly researched b...more
Paperback, 397 pages
Published June 21st 2011 by Prometheus Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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All churchgoers should read this book which explains why there is so much maltreatment of children within faith-based communities.

Hard to understand why abusers in churches get off with a slap on the hand, but the offended are judged harshly and are hurt even further.
This was really a fascinating book. It took me awhile to plow through it, mainly because - especially at first - it’s a bit “research dense” but once it got more into telling some of the personal stories of the people interviewed by the author it moved quickly.

In addition to being fascinating, this book is also: shocking; maddening; eye-opening; incredibly sad; and just downright hard to believe. (I don’t mean that the author’s research is faulty; I mean that it’s difficult to accept that the th...more
Mindi Rosser
How does religion provide opportunity for child abuse? I was one of those helpless children. Spankings, indoctrination, fear, dictatorships, and authoritarianism prove prevalent in fundamentalist Christian denominations. All cloaked beneath the guise of love.

Unwitting parents subject their children to the leadership of these "churches," without realizing the decades-long repercussions. Author Janet Heimlich spotlights this topic from her journalistic investigation.

Breaking Their Will: Shedding L...more
Pierre A Renaud
Feb 20, 2013 Pierre A Renaud marked it as to-read
"What Heimlich does offer are some important insights into the conditions that allow such abuses to happen in the first place. Her principal conclusion is that children are most at risk in religious cultures that are dangerously authoritarian. She describes “a perfect storm” of characteristics that signal danger. First, the group displays a strict social hierarchy. Second, its culture is fear-filled. And third, it’s separatist. The supporting evidence offered in the book is easily sufficient and...more
The writing style is a bit too passive for my liking, but the content is fascinating. The author breaks down the topic of religious child maltreatment to its many facets and explores each component with compassion and careful observation to detail. The author also cites other works on the topic, making this a great jumping off point for further investigation into this subject.
Thorn MotherIssues
The writing is weird, deliberately distanced from all the religious and parenting practices described in a way I found made for awfully slow going, but I think it would be good information for religious people even though I also think they'd be unlikely to slog through it.
T. Edmund
In Breaking their Will Janet Heimlich investigates, discusses and exposes the possible effect of religion on the mistreatment of children.

To do this Heimlich separates the issues into physical, emotional and sexual abuse, medical neglect and a final pair of essays on abuse through rituals and circumcision.

Despite the extreme topic and risk of controversy, Heimlich shows deft skill in addressing the idea without polemic or diatribe style. In fact the issue of whether religion is simply the medium...more
Sabrina Jennings
Don't have time to write a full review.


When people talk about the dangers of corporal punishment, they frequently focus on the physical harm. But, as any recipient of the treatment will say, the emotional toll is often the most detrimental. (92)

Larry Christenson in The Christian Family: "If the punishment is of the right kind, it not only takes effect physically but through physical terror and pain. It awakens and sharpens the consciousness that there is a moral power over us, a righte...more
Sheds light on an important but controversial aspect of religious life. Some of the sources are questionable (like one referenced study published "on the Internet") and the writing sometimes reads like a book report but the key concept, that certain kinds of religious ideologies and practices facilitate child abuse, is worth it.
Sara Sharick
A bit apologist in places, but otherwise a fantastic layout of the ways faith can cross the line into abuse of children, physically, emotionally, medically, and ritually. Some descriptions had me shaking in rage that people could treat children this way and think it justified. Few things are so enraging as the privileging of unverifiable faith over the verifiable suffering of children.

The final chapters on male and female circumcision and the rights of children were particularly good and inform...more
So long. About twice as long as it needed to be to make the same points. Things were repeated again and again.
Kristina Franken
I highly recommend this book for anyone

FTC: I received a free copy of this book and was not reimbursed in any other way.
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article about author and book 1 12 May 08, 2011 07:00PM  
Janet Heimlich received a B.A. in Communications from Stanford University in 1984 after which she began a career of producing and writing corporate and commercial film and video presentations in California. In 1996, she moved to Austin and turned her interests toward journalism. For eight years, Ms. Heimlich freelanced as a reporter for National Public Radio and other national radio networks. Work...more
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“Religion can bring great comfort to children.
It can also turn their lives into a living hell.”
More quotes…