To the Victims of Bride Ministries:
Over the past couple of years, Carolyn and I have interacted with some of you, and have received emails from others of you, who have described your painful experiences with Duval, his “coaching” staff, his “support group” leaders, and some of his other clients. Some of you have already gone through a process of healing from the pain you experienced because of Duval and his associates at Bride Ministries, and a couple of you who have gone through this healing process have asked us to put your testimony up on our website.
On the other hand, many of you are still reeling from the pain that has been caused, and you are still working through the healing process, so you have asked us to not reveal your name and to not share the details of your experiences. We will not. That’s not our place.
But then… there are yet others of you, some whom we used to be acquainted with, who, unfortunately, have gone right back to the BM pile from which you came, in varying degrees.
It is to these last two groups of people that this letter is addressed. So, regardless of whether you are a past or current victim of Duval and BM, and regardless of whether you have completely separated yourself from the BM or whether you are still stuck in that muck, there are a few things that each of you need to understand.
A few days ago, I came across an article via one of the Facebook pages I follow. The article is titled “Research Finds That Narcissists Try To Remain Friends With Their Exes For Darker Reasons.”
For the purposes of general education on topics that can help victims of abusive situations and toxic relationships, I highly recommend it.
I am a fan of education. In the case of healing from a lifetime of abuse, properly educating oneself on a variety of topics brings understanding; and with understanding comes the ability to recognize abusive situations and abusive people; and with that recognition comes the ability to avoid and get out of abusive situations and relationships; and finally, healing is able to take place.
You see, healing isn’t always about “feeling better.” It’s about learning better. Doing better. And then, as a result, “feeling better” gradually happens.
That’s probably not the most scientific way of describing the healing process, but it’s one way to explain it, I guess.
The Unhealthy Cycle of Trauma Bonding and Hoovering
At any rate, one specific dynamic that the aforementioned article discusses is trauma bonds and how it relates to hoovering within toxic relationships.
Hoovering, named after the Hoover vacuum cleaner, is a word that describes the process whereby abusive individuals use whatever means necessary to continue to control and manipulate their victims. Specifically, the article describes hoovering as “a technique narcissists use to try to “suck” their victims back into the vicious cycle of abuse and regain control.”
Hoovering, as the article depicts, is most effective when there is a trauma bond that has taken place between the victim and the perpetrator.
Definition: Trauma Bond
The article describes a trauma bond as “the intense bonds we formed with our toxic partner in an attempt to survive our abusive experiences,” but the term can be used to describe an unhealthy bond that is formed within a variety of unhealthy relationships. For instance, the toxic relationship might be between partners (as the article describes), or it could be an unhealthy relationship between an abusive parent and a child. Or between a mind control programmer and his mind control victim. Or between a so-called “counselor/life-coach” and his client.
… keeps us tied to abusive people through the very abuse that they heap upon us; and when we try to leave, hoovering sucks us back in.
… keeps us confused as to who is the victim and who is the perpetrator.
… turns our thinking around into incorrectly believing that we have done something wrong to deserve the abuse; therefore, we incorrectly believe that we have to do everything in our power to make it right again.
… keeps us from forming healthy boundaries, and keeps us in an unhealthy cycle of abuse, susceptible to hoovering, and generally causes us to accept behaviors from people that would otherwise be unacceptable.
… leads to an increased dependency (co-dependency) on the abuser to make decisions for us; and at the same time, we begin to have an inability or a decreased capacity to make decisions for ourselves, or the inability to trust our own judgement outside of the opinion of our abuser.
… can manifest as a desperation to please our abuser, even to the point of saying or doing things that are untrue or wrong, but are things we know will please our abuser.
… often has us internalizing the emotions of our abuser. (For example, sensing or knowing that our abuser is not pleased, will cause us to wonder what we did wrong.)
…causes feelings of protection and loyalty towards our abuser, and a strong desire to defend them against any threat, imagined or real.
So, to summarize: trauma bonds make it easy for abusers to continue to have access to you (to “hoover” you), as they manipulate and control your emotions and thinking that has become twisted through the abuses that you have had to survive. Because of the trauma bond that is in place, you are more susceptible to being sucked back into a toxic relationship, either with the toxic person or group of people that you left, or with another person or group of people who are just as toxic!
Unless you educate yourself!
The Importance of Education
I had never heard the exact term “hoovering” before this week, but because of my experiences with abusive people of all walks of life that I’ve come across throughout my lifetime, I’m certainly familiar with the process it describes.
I also know precisely what trauma bonding is. I’ve experienced it through the unhealthy relationship I had with my mother; through the unhealthy relationships I had with my programmers; through the unhealthy relationships I had with other handlers in my life; and through the unhealthy client/coach relationship I had with Dan Duval, the man who, as with you, was supposed to be my “Christian life coach.”
But the process of healing from traumatic experiences and from toxic relationships must involve education.
And not just any old education! After all, as we all probably know from our abusive pasts, we can learn the wrong things, and that wrong learning leads to wrong thinking, and wrong thinking leads to being stuck in situations that are very wrong and with people who are wrong.
But as I began to educate myself on the truth of things, I learned to identify toxic behaviors in other people, as well as toxic cycles of abuse that I was stuck in. And this education caused me to be less susceptible to being sucked back into unhealthy relationships, either with past toxic people or with any toxic person I may come across in the future.
Proper education — not only on the truth that is found in the properly exegeted Word of God, but also on the more basic truths about mental health issues, such as narcissism, cycles of abuse, trauma bonding, etc — this education is what enabled me to get out of the BM pile and to stay out of the BM pile, and it is what will be most useful to you, too.
But unfortunately, some of you have not yet learned that education on truth is key to your survival and to your healing. And so, you either have been sucked back into Duval’s toxic BM environment (it is unhealthy and abusive to the spirit, to the mind, and to the emotions), or you are in danger of being sucked back in to either Duval’s BM pile or into another person’s BM pile sometime in the near future… because you have not educated yourself.
For example, if those of you who got sucked back into the BM pile would have educated yourselves properly, you would have realized the importance of cutting contact with toxic people and with toxic environments, and then you wouldn’t have gotten sucked back in.
At any rate, I hope this letter encourages you to begin properly educating yourself, because with the proper education comes proper understanding; and with proper understanding comes positive change; and over time, positive change brings healing.
Stop Excusing and Start Educating
All of this leads to my last point.
(If you’re still here, thank you for reading thus far.)
Over the past few years that Carolyn and I have interacted with you, some of you have made excuses for the abusive behavior you endured in BM.
Many of you have expressed to us (in so many words) this basic sentiment:
“Duval and the support leaders and the other clients treated me badly, but I was pretty messed up before I even got there, so it wasn’t all their fault.”
And, ironically enough, while I was thinking about writing this article and how to word everything, just today I read and responded to someone’s email who, sadly but not surprisingly (trauma bonds are difficult to work through, and don’t I know!), has on a couple of occasions now, made excuses in a similar manner for the abuses they have suffered under Duval and associates.
Without sharing anything that this person has shared with us in confidence, please allow me to share part of my response to this person.
If you had a brain tumor and went to the hospital to have surgery, how would you expect to be treated?
Would you expect the nurses and the other support staff to look at you with disdain? Would you expect them to roll their eyes when you were crying because of the horrible headaches you were having? Would you expect them to laugh behind your back and gossip about you because you shared with them your fears of surgery, or any other issues you were having? Would you expect them to complain about having to change your bed sheets or complain that they had to help you to the bathroom or help give you a bath?
Would you expect the support staff and the surgeon to allow the other patients to treat you with contempt and disdain? If the other patients started gossiping about you behind your back and spreading lies to the nurse staff and to the surgeons, would you expect the doctors and support staff to listen to and believe the other patients’ lies about you, and to then treat you according to those lies that they believe?
Would you expect the surgeon and support staff to play favorites with the patients? To ignore your concerns and needs, but provide everything that their favorite patients needed or requested?
Would you expect the surgeon to dismiss your concerns and fears? Would you expect him to force you to make decisions that you weren’t prepared to make? Would you expect him to treat you with disrespect and disdain? Would you expect your surgeon to lie about you and to gossip about you behind your back?
Would you expect the surgeon to be actually QUALIFIED to do surgery on you? Would it be acceptable to you if your brain surgeon had absolutely no qualifications whatsoever to open your head up and poke around your brain? Would you make excuses for his ineptitude and say to yourself, “Well, he says he’s qualified, and he does have a lot of other patients waiting for him to do surgery on THEM, so I guess it’s okay…”
Or would you demand to see proof of his qualifications? Would you expect to see evidence of an accredited degree that gave PROOF to the qualifications the surgeon claimed to have? If he didn’t have qualifications, would you stay there? Or, if you decided to leave, would you then blame yourself for leaving?
If you did leave and then warned other people of your horrible experiences so that they wouldn’t have to experience the same pain and danger that you did, and if you were attacked and maligned and slandered by the surgeon and his staff, would you find this abuse acceptable? Would you make excuses for it and say something like, “Well, I was messed up before I went there, so….”
But assuming you were okay with the lack of qualifications your surgeon had, would you expect to go into surgery without any anesthesia? Would you expect that the surgeon would stop halfway through surgery, leave you on the operating table, open to infection, and then when he finally decides to comes back, would you be okay with him ignoring your complaints and your cries of pain and anger?
What if your surgeon was verbally, emotionally, and spiritually abuse to you? Would it be okay for a professional to be this way?
Would you expect to be forced to sign a contract that you aren’t allowed to complain about the services you receive, even if he botched your surgery and it led to your harm?
And if you were treated this way, how would you react?
Would you accept it and say to yourself, “Well, it’s not their fault, because I had issues before I came here”?
Or would you say, “This is bullshit! They don’t have the right to treat me like this! THEY are the ones with the problem, not me!”
You see, it is NOT acceptable how you were treated in BM, and excusing or downplaying their behavior is not going to help you heal. Instead, you are in danger of falling back into toxic behaviors yourself…. by allowing yourself to accept the toxic behaviors of other people, either by people in Bride Ministries, or by other people.
You went there for help. OF COURSE you had problems! Why else would you have gone there if you didn’t have problems? The fact that you were treated badly is NOT a reflection of you, but of THEM.
Furthermore, DD and his staff (INCLUDING PRESTON BAILEY) are no more qualified to counsel people than I would be qualified to do brain surgery. You see, if I were to convince a dozen people — a hundred people… or even more!! — to let me cut open their skull and poke around in their brain, that does not qualify me as a brain surgeon!!
In the same way, just because DD and others have conned people into THINKING they are qualified to “counsel” them, does NOT make them actually qualified. They are not qualified, and unless something has changed with DD’s staff of so-called “counselors” since I last looked [please see the postscript], NONE of them have any real qualifications whatsoever in regards to mental health. In some cases, they have degrees from “colleges” that are not accredited! This means the “college” they went to wasn’t qualified! In the U.S., we call these “diploma mills.”
I’m all for alternative education. I home schooled my three children. I think alternative education is a great thing, when used properly and when taken seriously. However, if I need to have brain surgery, I don’t want to employ a brain surgeon who got their degree from a diploma mill!
By the same token, if I need help from a mental health counselor, I don’t want someone who got their so-called “qualifications” from a diploma mill!
And even if I weren’t concerned about real degrees from real colleges and was going to be happy with getting counsel from a “pastoral counselor” — such as from Preston Bailey, who, from my research, even though he has a fake degree in “counseling” from a diploma mill, does appear to have an actual, real degree in theology, potentially qualifying him as being a pastoral counselor — then I certainly don’t want a pastoral counselor who is teaching false doctrines, the way Preston Bailey, Dan Duval, and associates are!
You were conned by a narcissistic con artist and his group of con-artist friends who claim to be Christians, but who are actually making tons of money off of gullible people who mistakenly think they are qualified as “counselors” or as “life coaches.”
I was conned by them, too. So were a lot of other people.
That doesn’t make YOU the bad person. It doesn’t make ME the bad person.
It makes DANIEL and HIS STAFF the bad people!
So… all that to say this: learn to recognize toxicity (EDUCATE yourself on those things); learn that it’s okay to get away from it; and learn that it’s NOT your fault for the toxic, abusive, ungodly behaviors of other people.
Don’t take the blame for other people’s sins. That’s not healthy and it’s certainly not Godly or Biblical.
To all of you who have been victims of Duval and BM, and even to those of you who are still involved in Duval’s BM and who are continuing to gossip and spread lies and slander about me: I pray you come to love, know, and walk in the truth. I pray that you begin to properly educate yourself; and with that education, I pray you begin to have understanding; and with understanding, change; and with that change, healing.
Ultimately, I wish you the healing and peace that comes from a relationship with the Father, in walking in submission to His will, and in being obedient to His Word.
P.S. To the coaches at Bride Ministries:
Since I last did my research over two years ago, none of you were licensed to practice in the mental health field in any state. However, I don’t keep up with the latest happenings over there in BM, so you might have someone new on your team who is licensed. Also, perhaps my research is faulty, and I missed something. Therefore, if you are qualified to practice in the mental health field, then please provide verifiable evidence. This doesn’t mean making a blanket statement such as, “I studied at Harvard.” Not only does that not mean diddly-squat, but that is not the equivalent of a license to practice. Neither is your attendance and “degree” at a unaccredited learning institution (such as “Biblical Life Institute” or “Victory Bible Institute”) evidence of your qualifications. But please provide verifiable proof of your license to practice in the mental health field in any capacity in any of the 50 United States, and I will amend this article to reflect the correction.
Great article! Everyone should read this! If you are in this situation, get help and get out! It’s not your fault!
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Great description. Thank you! Knowledge is power. Know thy enemy. Narcissistic behaviors are heavily encouraged in our modern culture. It’s epidemic. Most people are not aware. Hope your good words help some souls who need it. Loved this… “Because with the proper education comes proper understanding; and with proper understanding comes positive change; and over time, positive change brings healing.” Powerful words. Thanks and praise to Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
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I agree with you on how narc behavior is epidemic now! They are portraying the characteristics of the demonic that they are being led by and that they are being used by. It’s very sad. I pray earnestly that the Father will open the eyes of those coaches in BM who are being used by the demonic in such a manner. It sure seems impossible with ME, but I know that with God, ALL things are possible! 🙂
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Very good post. I will be facing some of these issues as well..
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