Could my husband really be an abuser? Types of domestic abuse–part 4

A continuing look at types of domestic abuse.

Intimidation:

Your abuser uses looks, actions, gestures, tone of voice, etc., to frighten or terrify you. He is argumentative. When you see “that look” or hear “that tone”, you cower in fear. He picks fights to keep you in your place. He insists that you say or do only that which he demands or allows. He is liable to smash, break, and destroy items in order to intimate or frighten you. The abuser might threaten your children and your pets with harm, or might actually harm them, in order to strengthen or maintain control over you.

 

Property Violence:

Your abuser destroys or threatens to destroy things that are important to you. He puts on a display of physical force when he is angry in order to frighten you. He is liable to punch holes in walls, break through locked doors, pounds tables, or throw things. When he breaks something, he then is likely to insist that you clean up the mess because you “caused” him to do it.

 

Verbal Abuse:

Your abuser withholds information from you that you might need, chiding you or fussing at when you ask for it. He might curse you out or curse your children. You cannot make an observation or state a fact without him correcting you. He does not want you to have an opinion of your own. He judges and criticizes you. He trivializes your beliefs, your reactions, and your feelings. He makes unreasonable demands. He “forgets” special occasions, promises, or to do what he’s promised he’d do on a regular basis. He orders you around. He discounts your feelings, denies your feelings, denies that he has said or done things even though you know he said or did it. He controls the home atmosphere and your relationship with him. He sets limits on what can and cannot be discussed. He controls how you talk to him, only allowing you to approach him at certain times, with a certain tone, a certain demeanor, using or not using certain words. He might demand that you approach him only with permission or when he’s ready. He is likely to change his demands on a whim. His intention is to make communication difficult or non-existent.

 

Silence:

You are given the silent treatment by your abuser. He uses silence as a weapon in order to control you. He refuses to communicate with you even when you beg him to. He does not express love to you, will turn away from you or ignore you when you attempt to speak to him. He will stare straight ahead, refusing to make eye contact. He refuses to answer questions. He pretends he doesn’t hear you. He might storm out in the middle of a conversation and refuse to acknowledge you calling after him. In his own timetable, things will suddenly be alright again and you are left to wonder what happened to make things bad as well as what happened to make things better.

 

Jealousy:

Your abuser is jealous of you, of your interaction with men, or of attention by other men. He uses this jealousy to control you and to “prove my love”. He controls who you talk to, what you do, who you see, and who you are allowed to be friends with. He controls your activities saying that he “doesn’t want to have to share you”. He might drop in on you at work, at school or anywhere else you have to be. He may accuse you of cheating (some abusers do this even as he himself is cheating on you). He isolates you from family, friends, and the church. He might pick fights with your male friends, accusing them of flirting with you or of wanting, or having, a physical relationship with you.

 

Conclusion:

Your abuser may or may not abuse you in all of the ways we’ve covered in this four-part series. His abuse might fall into one, two, or three or more categories. His abuse might fall under nearly all categories (as my abuser’s did). Whether the abuser used or uses one form of abuse or many forms of abuse, it is still destructive. Suffering “only” one type of abuse in no way diminishes what he’s done to you; abuse of any form is still abuse.

If you are being abused, please reach out for help.

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Information is power

Grace for my Heart

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

If information is power, then the narcissist will have it. Ever notice how the narcissist knows things you don’t? Or how the information you want is hard to get? Or how information is bottle-necked at the same place (person) all the time? Yeah, that’s on purpose.

Narcissists love to have information. They gather information about people especially. All the latest gossip and dirt. They make it a point to know the back story on everyone they think they can use. They know who is open to manipulation and compromise.

But there’s more than that. The narcissist knows that information is important to movement in our lives and in our organizations. So he/she will use it as a tool for control. You get only the information the narcissist wants you to have. Many of those who work with narcissists will tell about the bottleneck that is…

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She’s a victim of domestic abuse

Psalms 35: 10, All my bones will say, “LORD, who is like You, Who delivers the afflicted from him who is too strong for him, And the afflicted and the needy from him who robs him?” (NASV)

Look over there, do you see her? She’s a victim of domestic violence.

A woman whose man has torn the fabric of her life to shreds.

Once filled with dreams of a hopeful tomorrow, she’s now broken and wounded, and trying desperately to hold on to some dying shred of dignity and truth.

There’s no plan for the future, no ability to plan one, just an aching prayer to make it through this one minute. Over and over, this one minute takes her places she’s both afraid to face and hungry to embrace. Maybe it will bring the change, the hopeful future, she longs for. More likely, the crawling seconds will bring more of the same deadness, the same pain, full of fear and confusion, that has haunted her life for years.

As fear grows, hope diminishes until she is afraid to hope.

As the blows from her husband intensify, as his words pound in her ears, she retreats further inside herself, afraid even to look up, lest she make him angry.

The life she lives, she lives alone. Afraid of the consequences she’ll face at home for reaching out to others, and of others reactions should they find out the secrets of her life, she hunkers down and cries out at the foot of the cross.

Does God see her? Does He care for her pain, for the pain of her children? Does He want her to stay? Will He enable her to leave?

How can she provide for her children if she leaves? How can she protect her babies if she stays? How can they make it through another minute, let alone another day, of life on an endless battlefield?

Thoughts and prayers, hopes and fears, bump hard into one another during long fearful minutes. In the late night hours fears intensify giving her yet another night of fitful sleep and horror-filled dreams. Every sound terrifies her. What if he explodes? What if he comes home drunk? What if…? Begging God to intervene, to send someone to help her, she finally falls into a restless sleep.

But no one ever comes.

You wouldn’t know by the responses of the church that anyone cares.

She has tried reaching out to the church only to be told to go home and “suffer for Christ”.

Only to be turned away and told, “We can’t help you.”

Only to hear the words, “If you tried harder to be a good wife, he wouldn’t do these things.”

They are more willing to ignore their abused sister than they are to get involved. Refusal to listen, to help, to get involved, crosses all denominational lines. If advice is given, it’s usually bad. “Go back home, serve him, keep praying and know that you are suffering for Christ,” seems to be the most widely used piece of junk advice Christians have to offer. Junk because in that one sentence, they are both linking Christ to her abuse, and excusing themselves from having to extend any effort to help her.

But her abuser still rages. Her pain remains. The tears keep falling. And she is all alone.

Church, do you hear the Savior biding you to help those who weep? To comfort those who are oppressed? Do you see her fears? Do you hear her crying? She is broken, and dying inside; will you not care?

Do you not hear the gut-wrenching sobs of her little ones?

Do you not remember that the same God who told you to rejoice with those who rejoice also said to weep with those who weep? She is weeping; will you not join her? Will you not weep with her? Will you not weep for her children? Will you not be Jesus’s hands to them, gently wiping away their tears?

Will you not lift them up?

She is your daughter, your sister, your friend. These are your children. Will you not care?

Matthew 25: 40, And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

 

Where are the Good Samaritans?

Abuse by Mike Knapek via flickrhttpwww.flickr.comphotos50390668@N04Luke 10:30-37, “And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.”

Every week women and children who have been broken by the cruelty of abusive husbands and fathers are sitting on church pews hoping someone will care enough to try to see behind their mask. If you look into their faces, these women and children are likely smiling, trying to convince themselves and others that all is well. But, if you take the time to come closer, look deeper, you will catch a glimpse of their crushed spirits behind their pain-filled eyes.

God has brought these suffering ones among us; fidelity to Christ demands that we seek to help them. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus decried the Priest and the Levite who passed by the man who had been beaten and left for dead. When we ignore victims of domestic abuse in our midst, are we not reacting as they did? When we refuse to acknowledge that domestic violence exists in our churches, when we downplay the damage done by abusers, when we  shun the victims because we don’t want to believe their stories or don’t want to get involved, we are walking by the wounded and leaving them for dead–just like the Priest and Levite.

It is past time for the Good Samaritans in our churches to take a stand against abuse. We must take time to listen to those who risk so much to share their stories; moreover, we must believe them. Then we must be willing to stand with them, and protect and defend both them and their children.

We don’t have a good history of this in our churches. Sadly, when victims come to the church for help, they are often dismissed. Our reactions are often weighted in favor of the one who has met out the abuse:

  • Surely the wife has exaggerated.
  • He’s such a godly man; there’s no way he could have done what she is accusing him of.
  • He may have an anger problem but so many of us do.
  • Perhaps marriage counseling would work; then both partners work out their problems.

We’re so sure that the accused men are good Christian husbands and fathers that very often the wife is often disbelieved, accused of exaggerating the abuse or is sent back into the fray with orders to love more, submit more, forgive more. To suffer for the cause of Christ.

But, would we do what we are telling them to do? Would we go back to one who has abused us knowing it means that our spirits will be further crushed, our bodies broken, and our children threatened? Few if any of us would be willing to do that. So why do we ask it of them?

There is no place in our churches for softness in dealing with domestic abuse. Any so-called Christianity that sides with the abuser over the victim or says to the victim “Lord bless you,” and then moves on to other things while leaving them to suffer abuse has lost its focus.

Who among us wants to be in a battle alone? No one of course and yet, all too often, that’s what we’re insisting these wives and children of abusers do: stand alone, survive alone, suffer alone. If we continue to turn these victims away, are we not making a statement about our faith? To claim we love God is one thing, but to really show we love Him requires commitment. When we love Him, we will also love His suffering children. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, in order to pass by the man beaten and left for dead, the Priest and Levite had to intentionally blind their eyes, harden their hearts, and rationalize an excuse. If we continue to ignore the abuse victims in our midst, are we not guilty of the very same things?

It is costly to get involved in the lives of those wounded by domestic abuse but it is even more costly not to. To fail to serve those most in need of our time, efforts and attention is to fail to serve the Lord Jesus Christ Himself for it is He Who has told us “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25: 40)

——-

Questions for thought: What can the church do to change their reactions to stories of abuse? How can you, as an individual, make a difference in your church? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

(Abuse by LicenseAttribution Some rights reserved by Mike Knapekhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/50390668@N04/)

Could my husband really be an abuser? Types of domestic abuse–part 3

A continuing look at different types of domestic abuse.

If your husband is an abuser, he might use your children as leverage against you:

Your abuser might seek to hurt you by hurting your children. He might yell at them, hit them, make fun of them, or in some other way abuse them.

He might seek to make you appear small to them by making fun of you in front of them, running you down to them, starting an argument in front of them, or by making them say things to you that are hurtful.

Your abuser might use your children to relay messages to you that are pointed or painful; by doing so, he puts them in the difficult position of being put in the middle or being forced to take sides.

He might seek to undermine your relationship with your children by telling you lies about them or them lies about you. He might lie to the children about you, perhaps blaming you for things he has done or failed to do. He might lie to you about the children, falsely telling you that they confided to him that they are afraid of you,  that they said you were cruel to them, etc..

If you have separated or divorced, he might use visitation rights to harass you. He might fail to keep up his child support. He might threaten to take the children away from you. He might threaten to hurt your children if you don’t talk to him, see him, etc.

 

He might isolate you:

Your abuser might prevent you from having contact with family or friends. He might prevent you from attending church. He might prevent you from having contact with family or friends (though he sees who he wants and has company over as he desires to). He might not allow you access to a computer or phone or strictly monitor your activity on them. He might refuse to allow you to use the car or strictly control when and how you are allowed to use it. He might refuse to allow you to have any outside interests or activities. He might move the family to remote locations. He might move the family frequently, move to run down houses or to dangerous areas as a means of controlling you. He might refuse to allow you to even exit the house without his permission.

 

He might control your every decision and act:

Your abuser might insist that you have no rights outside of those he grants you. He might make all of your decisions for you. He might tell you what you will believe, how you will act, how you will respond, how you will vote, and when and how you will speak to him or to others. He might give you more to do than you can possibly handle and insist that you complete the tasks in such a way or such a time knowing that you will fail so he can then justify punishing you. He might control the way you dress, wear your hair, what you do when, when you can sleep, what you can eat, how much bath water you use, when you can go to the bathroom and so on. He might control what you purchase. He might not give you enough money to buy what is needed but still blame you that there isn’t enough.

 

Smear Campaign — Blog of a Mad Black Woman

via Smear Campaign — Blog of a Mad Black Woman

My husband gets a little angry sometimes: What an abused woman is really saying

 

Fear is a mighty powerful motivator. For an abused woman, fear frequently motivates her to keep silent about the abuse her husband dishes out, or to downplay it in order to protect herself from further abuse. Because she’s often afraid to speak up and tell us just what’s on her heart, it’s up to Christians to listen between the lines. We cannot love God without loving each other. The best way to show love to your sister in Christ who is being abused by her husband is to learn to understand what she is really saying and then step up and do something about it.

 

When an abused woman says…she really means….

  • My husband gets a little angry sometimes — My husband is an abuser. He is often angry without cause or provocation–sometimes violently so.
  • I can’t; my husband won’t like it — If I make a decision without my husband’s permission, he will punish me.
  • I’m at the end of my rope — Please help me. Do something, say something, anything. I absolutely cannot go on this way any longer.
  • I tried talking to my former pastor about things — I am afraid you will think I am a difficult woman if I tell you just how bad I was treated in my former church. I was ignored. I was blamed. I was denied help. I was sent back home to repent and serve my abuser. I am terrified you will treat me the same way.
  • We’re behind on our bills — My husband is careless with our money. We’re being threatened with eviction. The power is going to be turned off. We’ve been sued. We’re going to be sued. I’m terrified of a knock on the door or the ringing of the phone because I’m afraid to talk to creditors; I have no idea what to say to them. I’m tired of dealing with the fallout from my husband’s bad decisions.
  • I’m not always able to get to church — We’re not in church because my husband won’t let me attend. Because we don’t have a running car. We’re often sick from the stress we live under. He hid the keys and said he lost them to keep me from leaving the house. He won’t let me buy gas for the car. I have no money of my own for gas. He refuses to let me drive the car.
  • He interferes with the children’s spiritual training —  He makes fun of my faith. He makes fun of them for their faith. He tells the children that I am “a zealot”, “a fanatic”, and “extreme” in my devotion to God. He makes fun of the Bible. He denies the Bible is true. He makes fun of our church, of our pastor, of our beliefs.
  • He gets upset easily — The least little thing will set him off. I have to walk on eggshells around him. He often lashes out. If we say or do the wrong thing, he will start a fight, yell at us, hit us, throw things, destroy something, kick the dog, storm out the door–and later blame us for it.
  • He’s a little erratic —  What upsets him one time, won’t another; what was okay today, will cause a fight tomorrow.
  • He is harsh with me — He calls me names, makes fun of anything I like, makes fun of my family or friends, makes cruel jokes, gets angry at me and then pretends he’s joking. Nothing I say or do is ever right.
  • He is harsh with our children — He gets angry at the children for being children. He yells at them for making mistakes, for spilling milk, for dropping things. He punishes them too harshly. He thinks it’s funny to humiliate them. He calls them names, then says he’s “joking”.
  • He interferes with my relationship with our children — He tells the children that I hate him, that I am not a good wife, that I am not a good mother, that I am not trying hard enough. He puts me down or makes fun of me in front of the children. He yells at me in front of the children.
  • He is somewhat demanding — He demands to be waited on hand and foot. When he’s at home, he won’t do anything for himself or for us. He says being the leader in our home means that he gets to order us around. Even when we’re sick, he insists on being served. He wants us to bring him his dinner, bring him ice, take off his shoes, bring him the remote, his magazine–everything. He won’t wait on us even when we’re sick.
  • He’s a bit controlling —  He controls everything–what we spend, where we go, what we do, who our friends are, our schedules, etc. His desires are the only ones that matter. His wants come before our needs.
  • He lies to me sometimes — He lies to me about everything. He says a man has a right to lie to his wife. I can’t trust anything he says. When he tells me something, my first thought is that he’s lying.
  • We have enough to get by — We barely have any food at home. We do without much of what we need. I can’t pay the bills. We’re behind on our rent.
  • He isolated us — He moved us to run down houses, houses way out in the middle of nowhere, houses that I’m humiliated to invite anyone into. He won’t let us have friends. He’s separated me from my family. He’s lied to friends and/or family about me. He won’t let me invite anyone over. The children can’t have any friends over. He won’t let me use the car.
  • He’s often on the computer late at night– He is into internet porn, some of it violent.
  • He doesn’t spend much time with us — He stays away as much as possible because he doesn’t want the responsibility that comes with being a husband and/or father. When he is home, he’s asleep, watching TV, on the computer, or in a bad mood.
  • Things in the bedroom aren’t very good — He tries to recreate in our bedroom what he has seen on the internet. When we’re together, he fantasizes about having other men hurt me/rape me/punish me. He fantasizes about being with other women/punishing other women/raping other women. He tells me women want to be/deserve to be/raped. He’s tried to rape me. He has raped me. He hits, slaps or spanks me when we’re being intimate. He wants to try bondage. He has forcibly tried bondage. He wants to buy/has bought/a whip. He terrifies me when he comes into the bedroom with his belt in his hand. I’m too embarrassed to say that he has beaten me during sex.
  • Please pray for us — I am desperate. I don’t know what to do. Please pray for our safety. Pray for my children. Pray that God provides a way for us to leave. Pray that I have wisdom to get through the day. Pray prayers that acknowledge that we’re living in a war zone. Prayers backed up with action.
  • We’re alright for now — We’re not alright, not really. Ask me what’s really going on. Ask me if I’m safe, again and again. Call me. Message me. E-mail me. Have others do so. I’m scared. I have no idea what to do. I need your help.
  • He isn’t very good with money — We do without a lot of what we need. His actions have caused severe financial problems. We’re always behind on our bills, our utilities, our mortgage, our rent. He’s caused us to go bankrupt. He’s ruined his credit. He’s ruined my credit. He caused us to lose our house/our car/our van/our furniture. He refuses to follow a budget. When money gets tight, he blames me.
  • He hasn’t hit the children but I’m concerned for them — My children shouldn’t have to live through this. Just being around him, with him acting like he does, hurts them. I’m afraid for them. I don’t want my children to witness the things he does, hear the things he says. I don’t want them to emulate him. I don’t want them to grow up and treat me the way he does. I don’t want my sons to be abusers, my daughters to marry abusers. I don’t want them to be like him. I don’t know what to say to them when they ask why Daddy does/says thus and such. I don’t know what to ask except that you do for my children what you would hope that someone would do for yours if they were living in this horror.
  • I’m often tired — I am utterly exhausted. I’m always “on”. I don’t know what he’s going to do so it’s hard to ever relax. I have to do everything that needs to be done in our home and for our children. I function as both mother and father. He doesn’t help at all. I have to be continuously wary of him. I don’t know who he’s going to be from day-to-day so I always have to be ready to jump in to protect my children.
  • He sometimes has trouble with his jobs/he isn’t working — He has been fired at least once. He is continuously denied a promotion because of his attitudes at work. He has been written up multiple times. He is unemployed and isn’t looking for a job. He says he’s depressed from his job, from being unemployed, and that I should understand that he can’t help that it affects his attitude. He is using being unemployed/having stress at work/as an excuse to abuse us.
  • We’re often sick — The children and I are continuously stressed. Stress weakens your immune system. We catch everything that comes along. Getting sick so often makes everything so much harder.
  • Things have gotten some better — He’s not broken through any locked doors lately. He’s not pitched a fit in the middle of dinner this week. He’s not humiliated me in front of the children in the last three days. I’m walking on eggshells until he does.
  • My children are stressed — My children are hyper-vigilant due to the continuous stress. They are exhausted physically and emotionally from what we have to endure. They are angry with him and have no idea how to process what he does or says.
  • He’s tight with money — He gets angry when I need groceries, when the children need school supplies, when we have to buy clothes for the upcoming season. He buys whatever he wants while the children and I go without. He ignores our needs. He has nice clothes and nice shoes while ours are old, worn, don’t fit well, or not adequate for the season. He goes out to eat; we eat boxed mac’n’cheese–and sometimes not that. He buys himself brand new shoes (clothes, car, etc.) but we aren’t allowed to buy anything that doesn’t come from a thrift store/we’re not allowed to have anything that would give us independence.

There’s definitely other things that could be added to this list. The important thing is that we listen with more than our ears and always be ready to help.

What would you add to this list?

If a woman is being abused by her husband…

Psalms 11: 5, The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. (ESV)

If a woman is being abused by her husband, the fault isn’t hers. Nothing a wife does or fails to do causes her husband to be abusive towards her. The choice to be abusive is his and his alone. The fault is his alone.

Domestic abuse isn’t caused by lack of submission on the wife’s part, it isn’t about a man’s struggle with anger, and isn’t something that “just happened”. A man isn’t abusive because he isn’t getting enough in the bedroom, because she isn’t trying hard enough to please him, or because she is pushing his buttons. A man who abuses his wife knows what he is doing. He is willful in his control, domination, and mistreatment of her.

Domestic abuse is a long-standing pattern of mistreatment designed to break and control her. Men who abuse their wives often abuse their children, also. A man is abusive because he desires ungodly control over his wife and his children.

 

It’s important to remember that when a woman is abused by her husband, it isn’t because…

  • she didn’t submit enough (most abused women are far more submissive than most women ever have to be)
  • she didn’t obey her husband often enough, or well enough (in the name of obedience, he has likely commanded her to do things that would disgust the rest of us)
  • she hasn’t tried hard enough to take care of the children, prepare good meals, clean her home, manage the money, etc. (she likely walks on eggshells constantly and does everything she can do in order to appease her husband)
  • she didn’t love him enough (the problem is he didn’t love her at all)
  • she was abusive towards him thus causing him to abuse her (some women might respond to his abuse by screaming, calling him names or even becoming violent in an effort to defend herself but that is a response to his abuse rather than the cause of the abuse–not the same thing at all)
  • she didn’t spend enough time in prayer for her husband and for their marriage (a Christian woman who is being abused will pray more not less for her husband and marriage)
  • she didn’t study or understand God’s Word (her husband is probably a master at twisting the Word of God in order to use it against her or to justify his abuse of her)
  • didn’t believe or obey the Word (God and His Word are all that she has to hold onto)

 

If an abused woman gets to the point where she is thinking about separating from her husband, or even divorcing him, after many hours of prayer and many hours of Bible study and more tears than you could ever even begin to imagine, it doesn’t follow that…

  • she never loved him
  • she is a radical feminist
  • she wants to be separated
  • she wants to be divorced
  • she isn’t a godly woman
  • she didn’t work at having a good marriage
  • she didn’t try to be a good wife
  • doesn’t believe the Bible
  • she isn’t a good Christian

 

If you should happen to meet a woman who has been abused by her husband, you will probably think that she is…

  • distant
  • cold
  • self-involved
  • shy

 

You might even think she is…

  • crazy
  • messy
  • sloppy

 

Most likely this is because she is…

  • shattered
  • broken
  • exhausted
  • terrified
  • confused

 

And also because her husband has…

  • continuously controlled her every action
  • caused her to lose herself
  • gaslighted her
  • forced her to walk on eggshells in order to keep from setting him off
  • repeatedly treated her abysmally so that she is unable to think clearly
  • prevented her from taking care of herself or owning nice clothes
  • worked on making others think he is the victim
  • made her life a living nightmare

 

If you have never walked in her steps, if you’ve never heard the words designed to destroy you coming from the mouth of the one who swore before God and others that he would love you forever, and if you’ve never been, figuratively or physically, backed into a corner with absolutely no way out, then you probably have no clue how…

  • betrayed
  • devastated
  • shocked
  • heart-broken
  • distrustful
  • frightened

she is and has been for a long, long, time.

 

If a woman has been beaten down physically or emotionally, seeking help is one of the hardest things she can imagine doing. It’s painful, humiliating, and just plain difficult to open up her life to you, risking ridicule, risking everything–including her life. So if she able to gather enough courage to open up to you about her husband’s abuse…

  • be open to her
  • listen to her
  • ask questions to help her clarify what she has endured
  • tell her God hates what her abuser has done
  • assure her of God’s love and mercy
  • encourage her to protect herself and her children
  • believe her
  • applaud her for her bravery
  • pray for her and with her
  • support her emotionally
  • be a friend to her
  • help her to understand her options
  • don’t push her
  • help her to find the resources she needs
  • find others who are also willing to help her
  • watch her children for a few hours or a few days so that she can handle the things she needs to handle

Remember that, if she has reached out to you for help and you turn her away, she may not ever reach out for help, from anyone, ever again. You may be it.

 

Wife abusers often go on to abuse their children, also. Even if the abuse is only aimed at the wife, her children will still be injured from the fallout. An abused woman’s fear and confusion will be even more evident, more overwhelming, if she has children. You can help her immensely by showing kindness and concern towards her children. She needs you to…

  • remember that by abusing her, her husband made himself an unfit father
  • know that even if they weren’t abused themselves, her children have still lived through unspeakable horrors
  • understand that her children are in pain
  • listen to them
  • let them know that nothing that happened was their fault
  • be gentle with them
  • comfort them
  • model godliness to them
  • pray for them
  • offer them hope in tangible ways
  • do something kind for them
  • do something unexpected and fun with them
  • include them in activities
  • let them know that someone cares for them
  • be careful not to be nosy or ask questions her children aren’t prepared to answer

 

Domestic abuse is far more common than many realize. It happens even in “Christian” families. Just because you see a man at church and think you know him doesn’t mean that you do. An abuser will appear kind and loving in front of others while at home he is terrorizing his wife and children. This man’s wife needs you to know that…

  • her husband is a master of disguise
  • bad men might pretend to be good but a good man won’t pretend to be bad
  • the mask he wears in public is meant to fool you
  • the good man you think you know beats her down with words or fists
  • if he seems sane and she seems crazy, it’s because he’s taking care of himself and his needs while she is doing without and being abused
  • what she tells you about his abuse is only the very tiny tip of the iceberg
  • it’s actually much worse at home than she can stomach saying

 

If a Christian woman comes to you and confides that she is being abused by her husband, please remember that…

  • she has only come forward because she is not sure how much longer she can hold on
  • she is humiliated
  • she is afraid to confide in you
  • she is afraid of her husband finding out that she has confided in you
  • if her abuser finds out she has “told”, he is likely to punish her
  • couples counseling doesn’t work in cases of domestic abuse; it simply puts her at risk so don’t suggest it–ever
  • it is rare that a wife will lie about being abused; if a godly woman says something is going on, something is going on
  • she probably has never confided in anyone about the abuse before
  • if you turn her away, she is not likely to ever confide in anyone else
  • she is terrified that you won’t believe her
  • she’s terrified–period

 

If your church knows of a family where domestic abuse is present, remember that God is against those who would oppress and on the side of those who are being oppressed. Remember, also, that no true Christian will ever be an abuser. A Christian wife who is being abused needs the church to come alongside of her. As members of the congregation are able, consider helping an abused wife and her children in these ways…

  • confront the abuser
  • let the abuser know that you will do whatever it takes to help his family, including keeping them away from him
  • pray for the wife and the children
  • listen to them
  • encourage them
  • find someone who has walked the dark road of abuse to listen to them (It would be best for a man not talk to a woman in private, even in the case of domestic abuse. A woman who is being abused needs a woman to listen to her or at least needs to have a woman present when she talks with an elder, preacher, etc., in order to protect all involved.)
  • help her financially
  • find her a job
  • help her get training so that she can work from her home
  • help her get training to find a job
  • help her find a safe place to stay as she begins her escape (temporarily and/or permanently)
  • provide food, clothing, transportation as needed
  • assist her in decision-making but don’t make decisions for her
  • make yourself available to her as she and her children try to rebuild their lives

 

Remember that she needs godly friends who are willing to…

  • pray with her
  • listen and continue listening
  • tell her it wasn’t her fault
  • believe her
  • not lay blame on her
  • who will not tell her “God hates divorce” while failing to read that verse in context (context is everything)
  • cry with her
  • just be with her
  • protect her and her children
  • defend her and her children
  • get her and her children to safety
  • help her get a restraining order
  • help her find a lawyer
  • go to court with her
  • help her start over
  • stand by them through the many hard times ahead
  • celebrate victories
  • include her and her children in activities (single Moms and their children are often overlooked by couples)
  • give her all of the time she needs to mourn

 

When she has taken the steps to insure their safety, even if that means divorcing her abuser, remember that…

  • she needs assurance that God approves of her protecting herself and her children
  • she needs reassurance that she did the right thing
  • she doesn’t need condemnation (she’s had quite enough of that already)

 

As you walk this road with her, keep in mind that…

  • she won’t trust easily for a long time so be gentle with her and don’t push her
  • her dreams are gone, and she needs help to dream new ones
  • her life is shattered; you can help her to build it again
  • her children need love and guidance; see yourself as part of their healing
  • she herself needs a friend, be one
  • she needs God’s people to continuously bear her family up in prayer

 

There are things that you as a pastor, as a congregation, can do to prepare to help the abused women God might bring to you…

  • pray to develop a heart for the oppressed
  • read what God’s Word says about oppression, memorize it, put it into action
  • keep your church and your sermons Christ-centered
  • read some solid books on domestic abuse (see resources)
  • talk to someone who has been abused, who is willing to open up their lives to you in order to help you to understand it (see my contact info above if you would like to talk to me)
  • have someone knowledgeable about abuse come in and talk with your church about how they can help the abused in their congregation; also you could email or talk via the phone if having them come to your church isn’t an option (see my contact info above if you would like to discuss my coming to talk to you or talking with me via other means or for recommendations for others you might talk with)
  • if there is a godly mature woman in your church who survived domestic abuse, ask her if she is willing to talk to other women who are being abused
  • partner with domestic abuse shelters, get involved in helping them help the abused, get information from them as to how they can help the abused, pass on the information to those who need it
  • set up a safe house for women who are leaving their abusers
  • find families within your congregation who will agree to host a family for a few days or a few weeks until something more permanent can be arranged
  • identify members of your congregation who have skills that they are willing to teach (some women who are married to an abuser were born in abuse and may have never had a chance to learn practical lessons such as cooking, budgeting, organizing, baking, car care, sewing, crafting, etc.)
  • identify members of your congregation who are willing to donate their time and efforts to help women with yard work, car repair, house repair, cleaning, child care and so on
  • love the Lord with all of your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself (the abused woman sitting in your church is your neighbor–love her as you, in her situation, would want to be loved)
  • do all that you do for God’s glory

May God guide you as you make yourself available to help those who need you so much.

Soli Deo gloria!

Beware the new friend

Excellent reminder.

Grace for my Heart

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

There’s an old saying that has been popular among preachers for generations:

“Beware of those who meet you at the train!”

So many pastors have been given a warm welcome by church members eager to please. They come with food and flowers and offers of help. They are ready to show the pastor and his family the new town and introduce them to the important people. But, after a while, these people become much less friendly. They may even become hostile, criticizing and challenging the pastor.

I have found this to be true in my own life. Those who meet you so graciously at the beginning often have something in mind. They expect that their warm welcome will somehow bond you to them. If, however, you don’t come through, their hearts seem to change easily. Or maybe the novelty wears off. In time they find…

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If she is being abused, why doesn’t she…?

Galatians 6: 2, Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Those on the outside of an abusive marriage might wonder why an abused wife doesn’t simply leave her abuser, why she isn’t reaching out for help, why she doesn’t try harder to make her marriage work. Why doesn’t she…whatever?

I’ve got news for you: She does. She tries harder in every way than anyone around her knows. She gets up in the morning heartbroken, bone weary, afraid, unsure, and yet she does all that she has to do–sometimes doing the things he refuses to do, sometimes managing while injured, always while afraid. An abused wife does more than most folks can imagine due to the terrible treacherous mountains she climbs daily. And then the next day, and all the days after, she gets up and she tries again. And again.

Because leaving her abuser isn’t just as easy as walking out the door. Especially if he’s ruined her credit. If she has no car at her disposal. If he’s lied about her, poisoning the minds and hearts of those who could help her but now won’t. If she has been cut off from friends and family. If she has not been allowed to have any money at her disposal. If….

If.

Reaching out for help isn’t as easy as making a phone call. Her emails and phone calls might be monitored. Her abuser might be seen as a pillar of the community and she as the crazy one. He might be known as “the nicest guy I know” while, because of his lies, she’s thought of as strange. She might not even have a phone, or a car, or a computer. Or maybe she does reach out only to find that no one believes her, or no one cares enough to help.

And telling an abused wife to “try harder to be a good wife” or “do more to please him” or “do whatever you can not to set him off” is to tell her to do that which she is already doing. Many, if not most, abused wives are already are doing absolutely everything they can to be a good wife or to not set their husbands off; they are afraid not to. That’s not to say that all abused women are perfect. They aren’t. But it is to say that a Christian woman, and even most abused women who aren’t, who is being abused by her husband is already doing every single thing she can to make the pain stop. She’s not being abused because she isn’t a good wife. She is being abused because he isn’t a good husband. But few care to hear that.

Confiding in her pastor or another church leader simply isn’t going to happen if she doesn’t have a church; some abusers prevent their wives from going to church out of a desire to control them. Or her wolf in sheeps’s clothing husband might go to church with her and put on a world class act so that everybody there believes him to be “such a godly man”. Maybe she’s already reached out to her pastor but was disbelieved, ignored or told to go home and “obey her husband and suffer for Jesus”. Maybe she has no way to contact anyone without her husband’s knowledge. Maybe church leaders have told her that divorce is a sin and that God will be angry with her if she leaves.

Why doesn’t she go to a domestic abuse shelter? Perhaps there isn’t one close by . Maybe she doesn’t think that they’ll help her if she isn’t bruised and bloodied. Maybe her husband monitors her every movement. Or maybe she doesn’t have a way to get there.

So she should reach out to a friend, a neighbor, or tell a family member…right? Not if she’s afraid that no one will believe her, or if she fears what her husband will do if he finds out she’s told. Maybe he’s told her he’ll kill her if she tries to leave. Or kill her family or friends if she tells them. He might have lied to family or friends about her and they now believe her to be a liar or unstable.

The road an abused wife walks is a dangerous one. It’s a lonely one. But it’s one on which you can come alongside her. Every abused woman’s story is different and yet heartbreakingly similar–each and every woman trapped in an abusive marriage is afraid, and in need of a friend. If you know someone who is being abused, or whom you think might be being abused, reach out to her. Ask her some questions–but do it gently and in private. Find out what she needs and then do whatever you can to help her.

Maybe with your help the road before her can lead to freedom.

Now your turn…

What’s the one thing you’d want someone to do for you if you admitted to them you’d been abused? What’s the one thing you’d want to do for a woman who came to you admitting  she’d been abused?