Dissertation Title:

Voices Reclaimed: The Lived Experience of Women Who Left Protestant Fundamentalism


Tracy Marie Gillette

Date, Time & Place:

March 5, 2016 at 12:30 am
Studio, Lambert Road campus


The literature on leaving fundamentalist religious traditions is persistently insensitive to gender differences, specifically the experiences of women who have left a fundamentalist religion (Peek, Lowe, & Williams, 1991). Recently, women have begun sharing their personal experiences of apostasy through memoirs, blogs, and social media (Cross, 2006; Drain & Pulitzer, 2013; Jessop & Palmer, 2008). Utilizing Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2009) this dissertation illuminates the lived experience of women who left a Protestant fundamentalist religion. The findings reflect the participants’ experiences in four dimensions of life: the psychological consequences of leaving fundamentalism, the identity consequences of leaving fundamentalism, the gendered consequences of leaving fundamentalism, and the relational consequences of leaving fundamentalism. The psychological findings highlight an often painful and traumatizing experience of leaving fundamentalism. The identity findings indicate that fundamentalism impedes identity development and individuals have the freedom to explore their own identity subsequent to leaving. The gendered findings point at particularly, internalized oppression women carry related to being raised in fundamentalism, as well as a sense of empowerment many discover after leaving. Finally, the relational findings emphasize often long-standing interpersonal challenges women face after leaving fundamentalism, while also finding community and support outside, which proves immensely healing. The results from this study articulate the deeply meaningful experience of leaving Protestant fundamentalism for women, and provide insight into the clinical implications for treatment of the effects of leaving fundamentalism on women.



This is due to Pacifica’s conditional use permit, which restricts campus parking. Please call 896-1887 or 896-1888 for a shuttle pickup from the Best Western. A Pacifica shuttle driver will pick you up within 10 minutes or so and take you to the campus.

*Please be considerate of students on campus for coursework and note that dining room service is not available for oral defense attendees”

Thank you for your kind consideration

  • Program/Track/Year: Clinical Psychology, Track A, 2011
  • Chair: Dr. Juliet Rohde-Brown
  • Reader: Dr. Diana Sharpe
  • External Reader: Dr. Valerie Tarico
  • Keywords: Religious