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?