A message to my abuser

You’ve told me that you loved me and to “go to hell” with equal passion.
You made me feel beautiful, loved, and cherished, and I had hope for our future; you made me feel stupid, worthless, and so very alone and I had no hope for anything.
So many times you told me that I was suffocating you; when it suited you, you demanded attention even when I was too tired, too sick, too broken, to give it.
You would treat me well when it pleased you and my hopes would soar; you’d get tired of trying and I’d find myself alone, my dreams dying in the dust.
You told others you were glad I was your wife; you told me that I was beneath you in every way possible.
You said I was enough for you but endlessly lusted for other women as you looked at porn.
You say that you are sorry for all of the times, all of the ways, that you hurt me; you “just weren’t thinking” as if that makes everything alright.
You fooled me so many times and believing you, I threw caution to the wind and trusted you; only you hadn’t changed and my heart, and my mind, were broken anew.
I’ve lived so long with the shame of the words you broke me with, with the humiliation of what I let myself endure in order to please you.
How can I see the truth and just ignore it? How can I live if I know who you are but do nothing? How can I stand for anything if I believe your lies?
I can’t do it, not anymore. You’re not the broken little boy you like to pretend you are and I’m not the woman you wish I were.
I refuse to be your doormat ever again.

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The Christian response to domestic abuse

Psalms 72: 4, He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor.

We know domestic abuse exists within the world but can it really exist within the families of the redeemed? Sadly, the answer is yes. But because most church families don’t have any experience with domestic abuse, because pastors don’t usually address it from the pulpit, because church leadership isn’t prepared to identify it or help the abused, and Christians in general have only a vague, often incomplete and incorrect understanding of it, the church often isn’t a safe place for victims of domestic abuse—even when the victim is a member of the local church and is reaching out for help from her own pastor, elders, or her brothers and sisters in Christ. When abuse victims get up enough courage to reach out for help from the church, they are more often than not given bad or even dangerous advice—if they are given advice at all. Too many are either turned away without any effort to help them, or are sent back home to their abuser.

Our love for Christ demands that this change. Even as you read this, there are members of God’s church, perhaps from your own congregation, who are being abused by their spouses. These precious Christians are living in a man-made war zone in their own homes and many have no one to help them. Think about how this affects their children. What do they come to believe about family relationships? What does living in abuse do to their sense of security? And, if they see their mothers being refused help by the church, what does that say to them about believers? Or even about Jesus? Then think about the moms. What would you think, how would you feel, if you desperately needed help, but God’s people treated you as if you were a leper? What if you were blamed for what isn’t your fault? What if they sided with the one who was hurting you and turned you away? All of these things and more continue to be the reality of godly women who are being abused by their husbands, women who have tried, and failed, to get help for their situation from God’s people.

If we desire to serve our Lord, we must learn to help the moms, and help the children, who are living in abuse. We must respond to them in a way that glorifies Christ and that actually offers them a way out of abuse—should they desire it—rather than just teaching them to tread water in it. As Christians, our first job is to do all that we do in a way that glorifies our Lord. Our goal should be to serve these women as Jesus Himself would.

Characteristics of a potential abuser

 

There is no one personality type that is more or less likely to be abusive. There are, however, characteristics that you can look for that might help you to identify potential abusers. Some of these are:

Pushes potential victim for quick involvement
Rushes the physical aspect of the relationship
Declares love for potential victim within a matter of days or weeks
Displays jealousy
Minimizes his actions or abuse
Might have been abused as a child
May have witnessed abuse as a child
May have had problems with angry or cruelty as a child
Abused or killed animals as a child
Has a persecution complex
Sees himself as smarter, stronger, more successful, more handsome, etc., than he actually is
Blames his problems on others, on stress, or on circumstances
Believes others are jealous of him
Has a Jekyll and Hyde personality
Has unrealistic expectations
Feels out of control in his life
Has an explosive temper
Suffers from low self-esteem
Secretive
Known to be a charmer
Lies
Manipulative
Unpredictable
Controlling
Possessive
Is cruel to animals or children
Is a narcissist
Moody
May have a drug or alcohol problem
Easily insulted or offended
Uses cruel humor
Demeaning
Condemns known abusers

The effects of domestic abuse on children

Even if a man isn’t abusive towards his children but is abusive towards their mother, they are still affected by the abuse. Witnessing their mother being abused is often more damaging to children than actually being abused themselves. Having to witness domestic abuse is a form of child abuse.
Children who live with abuse often struggle with:
Depression
Being withdrawn
Anxiety
Aggressiveness
Hostility
Resentment
Being a bully
Being a victim
Problems in school
Behavioral difficulties
Learning difficulties
Low self-esteem
Feeling numb
Anger
Fear
Nightmares
Sleep problems
Inability to make or keep friends
Inability to trust
Addictive behaviors
Long term effects of abuse on children are:
Alcoholism
Drug abuse
Stress
Anxiety
Health issues
Mental health issues
Poverty
Criminal behavior
Drifts from thing to thing
Can’t maintain relationships
Controlling
Perfectionist
Becomes a victim of domestic abuse
Becomes an abuser
As a mom, you recognize that your husband’s abuse is hurting your children. This is true even if he’s never lifted a hand to them. Children who live in abuse suffer the effects of the abuse, even if they themselves aren’t abused. Do whatever you can to protect them, even if that means leaving your abuser.

 

 

 

Helping a friend who is being abused

Your friend has told you she’s being abused or you’ve figured it out on your own. What can you do now?

For starters, talk to her. Ask her to meet you away from her house so she feels safe in talking. Listen to her. Give her your full attention. And no matter what she says, don’t act shocked.

As you talk, let her know you care. If you are worried about her, be honest with her. Tell her that she shouldn’t ever have to live this way. Encourage her to get help.

Offer to help her. Don’t just say “If you need me, call me.” Let her know how you can help, and how you are willing to help. If you are willing to be a prayer partner with her, tell her. If you can help her with transportation, with her children, to make plans, financially, or in any other way, tell her. Make your offer clear. That way there’s no misunderstanding and she knows what to expect.

Let her know you are praying for her. Ask her what she needs you to pray for and be faithful to do it.

Let her know that God hates abuse. She may have been told that God hates divorce. She may have been shamed for even thinking about leaving her abuser. She may have been blamed by other Christians for the abuse she is living under. She may have been treated poorly by the church for daring to tell the truth about her abuser. She likely hasn’t been told that God hates what her abuser is doing to her, or that “God hates divorce” is, more often than not, taken out of context. She may not ever know the real love of God, she may never know that genuine Christians can and do care for the abused, if you don’t step up and show her.

If she’s a Christian, be Jesus’s hands to her. If she’s not a Christian, teach her who He is–while being Jesus’s hands to her.

If she is willing to listen, tell her the truth about abuse. She may not understand that her husband’s “anger issues” are actually abuse issues. She may not have been told that her husband will probably never change. She may not have ever been validated by anyone. She may not realize that there can be life outside of abuse.

Just show up. Be her friend. Call her. Text her. Email her. Go by her house and check up on her. Let her know she’s not been forgotten.

Do something practical. Drive her to appointments. Wash her dishes, her clothes, or her car. Buy her an outfit. Help her celebrate her child’s birthday. Remember her at Christmas. Cook her a meal. Pay to put gas in her car.

Ask her what she needs. Make the request genuine. Keep asking.

Do something for her children. Her children are her biggest concern. What they’ve lived through, what they’ve been forced to do without, what they’ve had to endure and might still have to endure is a constant ache in her heart. The very best thing you can do for your friend is to do something to help her children. Love them. Care for them. Check up on them. Validate their pain. Encourage them. Buy them something they need but that she can’t afford. Do something fun for them. Include them in your own family activities whenever possible (for instance, take them on family picnics or when you’re going to the park).

Don’t tell her what to do. Don’t tell her “just leave.” Don’t make her feel bad for not having left. Don’t shame her. Don’t embarrass her by telling her you wouldn’t have put up with “that.” Make sure she knows she’s supported no matter what she chooses to do.

If she decides not to leave, know that she has the right to make that decision. You may not agree with it but she still needs you to support her. She may leave and go back, leave and go back, leave and go back time and time again. You may not understand her decision but know that she still needs you to be there for her. Women stay with their abusers for many reasons. Do whatever you can to help her even if she never leaves her abuser.

If she leaves, remember she is still going to need a friend. She will still struggle. She will lay awake at night crying. She will feel horribly alone at times. She will feel overwhelmed. She will be afraid. She will fear that she’s making poor decisions. She will wonder how she can make it on her own. She will be afraid of her abuser getting revenge. She will fear for all that her children have lived through and all they still have to face. She needs an encouraging word and a helping hand. Don’t forget her. Be there for her.

Remember–You don’t have to do all of this or even most of it in order to be a good friend. Just do what you can and you’ll have done more than most people ever think of doing.

 

Borderline vs Narcissism

Grace for my Heart

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

I have been reading a book that ties borderline and narcissistic personality disorders together as though they are the same. The author often uses a short-hand indication—BP/NP—to refer to both disorders together. In fact, the author considers both of them to be “mental illnesses.”

There are a limited number of personality and relationship disorder symptoms. It is easy to view a set of symptoms and come to an inaccurate conclusion. Non-professionals often jump to a diagnosis based on just a few observations. Professionals, however, are not supposed to do that. This author, a psychological professional, should either have a very good reason for making a connection like this, or should stop doing it. The two disorders are quite different.

To be fair, this author acknowledges the differences. The purpose of the book is to help those who have to care for people with these disorders…

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A message to my daughter…

Holly T. Ashley

And maybe yours too…

There are some things that I never taught you, some things that are so very important to the rest of your life.

Oh, I taught you Biblical precepts of being holy and that God commands us to walk worthy of the calling of a Disciple of Christ, but did I really teach you the way that God commands a mother to instruct her child?

“Train up a child in the way that they should go and even when they are old, they will not depart” (Proverbs 22:6).

I think back to rebuking you for the choices you made. The friends that you chose. The decisions that you made… as any good, God fearing woman should.

But did I ever teach you how to choose the man you would marry?

Did I instill upon you how precious you are and how beautifully and wonderfully you were made?…

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What domestic abuse victims need from the church

Matthew 22: 36-40, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

I was born into an abusive home. My father was a drunk and when drunk, he was violent. In the aftermath of our successfully escaping from him, my mother, unable to deal with all she’d been through, became an emotional abuser herself. I married into a family where emotional abuse and manipulation was the norm. I know abuse firsthand. I can testify as to the depths of its pain; moreover, I can testify, as an abuse survivor, to the overall failure of the church when it comes to understanding abuse or handling well those who have suffered abuse.

Statistics say that one out of four women experience domestic abuse of some form in their lifetime. Men are victims of domestic abuse far more than most people realize. When those who have suffered are members of the Lord’s church, God’s people have an obligation to help them. When, for whatever reason, we shy away from this obligation, either through ignorance or willful refusal to get involved, we lay waste to the Gospel we claim to believe. Christians are called to defend the oppressed yet when domestic violence is involved so few do.

What abuse victims need from their fellow Christians is pretty simple and straightforward. We need you to be Jesus to us. Christians are called to be His representative and “love your neighbor as yourself.” To fail in this is to fail in serving Christ.

Some Christians do care and want to help but have no idea where to begin. Domestic violence is terrifying and unnerving for the family involved and for those who are trying to help. But victims of abuse still need help. If God has put them in your path, perhaps He’s calling you to be His hands to them. Don’t know where to start? Here’s some things that Christian victims of domestic abuse need from their fellow believers:

The Pure Gospel
The church long ago got away from the pure gospel. We water it down, mix it up and serve it with a side of fun. No wonder it doesn’t save. It can’t save. It’s poison. We need preachers who are dedicated to the truth of God’s Word who are willing to stand up and preach that truth without changing it one iota. It is useless to save someone from a hellish life here only to help them find their spot in hell in eternity.

For someone to listen to her
If a woman came to you and confided to you that her husband was abusing her, would you listen? Most of us are uncomfortable when it comes to hearing such things but listening is actually the first step towards helping abuse victims. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to come forward and say, “I’m being abused.” If someone comes to you with a story of abuse, sit down with her and listen. Ask her questions. Believe her. She has far more to lose from confiding in you than most could imagine. Yes, some people lie about being abused and you have to be aware of that but remember it’s not the norm; far more women lie about not being abused when they are being abused because they are afraid of their abusers. So listen.

Someone to pray for her
After listening to her, pray with her. Pray specifically for her needs. Then continue to pray for her and let her know you are praying. Put feet to your prayers. Do what you can to meet her needs for often we are the answer to our own prayers.

Someone to care and to help
Do you know what keeps a lot of abused women and children with their abusers? The lack of money to leave. If a woman is trying to get herself and her children to safety, don’t spend time telling her why she’s wrong, what you think about her decision, or trying to talk her out of it. She knows what it’s like to live in abuse and you don’t. Do what you can to help her. Offer her a room to stay for a while, help her find a job or find a way to work from home, help her with her children, offer the use of a car and so on. Even if she stays with her abuser, chances are great that she and her children need something or maybe a lot of things. Financial abuse often accompanies other types of abuse. Instead of lecturing, get busy serving and help them.

An advocate
Leaving an abuser is dangerous. Staying in an abusive marriage is also dangerous.An abused wife needs an advocate, someone who will stand up for her, help her find the help she needs, help her to navigate the legal system should she choose to leave.

Someone to point her in the right direction
You are in a fog when you live in abuse. It’s difficult to get through the day let alone make all of the decisions you have to make. You’re constantly afraid and don’t know who to turn to or even who you can trust. If you have children, it’s even worse. There’s nothing–nothing at all–more painful for a mother than to watch, hear, or see your children being hurt–be it physical or not–and being unable to do anything to stop it. You aren’t sure who will believe you, or who will be willing to get involved. So many aren’t. Remember this and get involved. If she turns to you, do what you can to help her to make good decisions.

Someone who will let her make her own decisions while offering guidance as needed
With all that said, it’s also important to let the victim learn to make their own decisions. She must move from victim to survivor and learn to discern truth from lie. She has to learn to trust again and that includes trusting in herself. She’s been lied to by her abuser, told she was worthless, that her opinions didn’t matter. You know what? After hearing it over and over, she started to believe it. She’s been told she can’t do anything and she feels helpless. Help her to grow and learn to believe in herself. Help her learn to discern truth from lie. Help her to find the information she desperately needs and offer your guidance when asked for it but, through it all, help her see the importance of making decisions about her life herself.

Abuse victims have suffered much from their abuser. Don’t add to that hurt by seeing and refusing to help. Get involved. Do something. Anything. Just be determined to honor God through your efforts and He’ll give you the opportunity to serve and to glorify Him as you do.

Some Facts on Emotional Manipulators

Meeting the needs of the abused in the church

I remember talking to a pastor who told me that “IF” I was telling the truth about my husband that my life was “a mixed up mess”. He went on to order me to get rid of my children’s pets and make other “recommendations” that sounded more like orders as to what and how I should go about doing in order to make things better. I appreciate the man’s ability to preach. I didn’t appreciate the way he handled my coming to him for guidance. Honestly, it hurt. It was invasive. And, in the end, it wasn’t helpful.

What should a pastor do when a Christian sister shares that she’s being abused? He should believe her. I was telling the truth; most women who make claims of abuse in their marriage to the church are telling the truth. That’s the first thing pastors, elders, other church leaders, and Christians in general need to remember. We’ve got nothing to gain by lying but a whole lot to lose by telling the truth.

Ordering me to get rid of my children’s pets was just wrong. Yes, I know that they cost money but it isn’t that much. They need their pets. Having them has helped them to heal and to cope. Other women have been ordered to stay with her abuser, to leave him, or to make some other decision she wasn’t ready or able to make. If your sister in Christ comes to you in need of help, it’s a terrible time to start ordering her around. Ask her questions, let her know you are there for her, listen, suggest, recommend perhaps, but don’t order her to do something she isn’t ready or able to do.

A pastor can make sure that the gospel he is preaching is the pure Gospel with the power to save, rather than the social gospel that saves no on. It will do you or her no eternal good if you help her here and now but don’t offer her the truth that can truly set her free.

Address domestic abuse from the pulpit. Pastors should let abusers know that the church is not a safe place for them but is a safe place for his victim.

Announce from the pulpit, through a sign in the ladies’ room, or in Sunday school classes, that it is safe for abuse victims to confide in the church leaders. Tell them that they will be believed, and that, whatever the church can do to help, it will do.

Pastors should familiarize themselves about domestic abuse, then encourage his elders and his congregation to do the same. The reason for this isn’t to focus his ministry strictly on domestic abuse–the focus of the church is to be Christ Himself–but to enable the church to recognize abuse and to know how to help its victims.

Address practical issues and needs that Christian women in abusive relationships face. They are often told “Leave” but given no help to do so or they’re told “Stay and suffer for Christ” when that is against what Scripture actually teaches; Even Jesus Himself fled from danger when His time had not yet come. There’s many things that need to be addressed that often aren’t.

I remember reading about a church that had a ministry set up to help the single moms with car repairs. Another church that I knew of made it a point to paint and fix up houses for the elderly. The church I grew up in had what they called a clothes closet where church members in need could go find clothes for free. These programs are great but wouldn’t it be wonderful if, on top of those, individual Christians just looked for a need, found a need, and did what they could to fill it? Sure it happens sometimes, but encourage it to happen when it’s known that a sister in Christ has been abused. When it comes to those who have suffered under domestic abuse, the wife’s needs and the needs of her children are many but the church, even a small one, could do much to meet them. Call her up and check on her, pray for her specifically, offer to run errands for her, watch her children for a while, accompany her to her lawyer’s office, listen to her and offer advice where you can, give her $10.00 for gas, take her a meal, offer her a place to stay, include her and her children in a family outing or gathering, etc.

Also in the practical issues camp maybe deal with questions abused women might have such as “What do I tell my children about their father? How do I help them heal if I do leave? How can I take care of them if I stay? How truthful am I to be with others, his family, my family, the church?”. These kinds of questions are important and no pastor that I know of is addressing them. The church is, thankfully, becoming more aware of the issue of domestic abuse but we’re really only in the beginning stages of addressing it.

Many women who would leave, who have the biblical right to do so, don’t do so because they cannot afford to do so. Leaving an abusive man is hard, and often the expense falls on the wife. Do you have some place she could stay? Does a member of the church have an extra room? A vacation home? Can you help her to get set up in a new place? Does anyone have furniture they don’t need? Extra kitchen ware? Does anyone have a car she can use? Or a car that they would be willing to sell on the cheap? Or even give to her? A garden that is overproducing? Extra clothes? Would you be willing to buy her an outfit for her to wear interviews? What about teaching her to plant a garden, to sew,  to can, or do other things that will help her get set up in a new home? Can you help her move? Do you have a job you could offer her? Are you able to teach her a skill that she could turn into a home business? No, you can’t do everything, and your church can’t do everything, but there’s a lot that could be done.

Her children have been through a lot. Maybe she wants to work from home to be with them or to not incure the expense of daycare. She still needs a way to provide for them. Do you know how to write a business plan? Show her. Do you have a skill that you could teach her that she could then use to make money? Teach her. Do you have a job you could hire her for that she can work from home? Offer it.

Does she need training to get a job? Help her to figure out how to get it. Does she need somewhere safe for her children to stay while she is in school or working? Someone could watch her children for free or watch them in exchange for something she does for them (cooking? cleaning? errands?) just until she can get on her feet.

There are programs that provide sewing machines to poor women overseas, or goats to the family so that they can then start supporting themselves. The items might be different here but if they could do it there, we can do something like that here.

Anything your church can do to demonstrate the love of Christ that she and her children so desperately need to experience would be a blessing to them beyond your imagination. Pray, then serve.