And Now, In Conclusion. . . .

I think I’ve finished with the topic of domestic violence for now.  I just want to say a couple of things to wrap up this topic. One of them is this:  The abuser uses silence to protect himself from being exposed.

Remember, this man is often respected in his workplace and, especially, in his church. He doesn’t want you to blow his cover.  He keeps you quiet by threats of more violence, or by promises that it won’t happen again.  He plays on your sympathy by pointing out that he could lose his job, or his position as an elder, deacon, or pastor.  He may even threaten to harm your children if you tell anyone what is going on in your home.

Years ago, in 1983, there was a case in central Minnesota in which a pastor’s wife shot and killed her husband. The whole area was shocked. This type of violence was pretty unusual. As the case was investigated, it became clear that the woman had been victimized for years by her control-freak spouse. He was smart, though. He never marked her anywhere that would show. He never let her go to a doctor or a hospital, either.

Once, however, the wife was having a dress fitted and needed to remove her outer clothing. The dressmaker saw the bruises.  If my memory is correct (and forgive me, it was a long time ago) the dressmaker testified at the trial about what she had seen. The woman acknowledged that she was indeed a victim of years of physical abuse. She never denied that she had shot and killed her husband.  She was so depressed and miserable that she was willing to go to prison or even death row in order to escape the pain, fear, and humiliation.

The jury found her innocent.  Self-defense.  Praise the Lord!

I’ve had some inquiries from women who are in violent marriages. They want help, but don’t know where to go.  I’ve done my best to give them some advice.  The one piece of advice I’d like to leave with you tonight is this:

If you are being hurt physically, get out right now. Call your local police and ask for help in finding a shelter if you don’t know where to go.

If you are being hurt emotionally, mentally, verbally, or spiritually you still need to consider separating for a time while you get your mind clear and can figure out what to do.

Please, do NOT allow yourself to be caught in the “just pray, obey, and stay” trap that well-meaning but clueless church leaders can often suggest to you. They don’t really understand.  If they could see even one incident of what goes on in your home, they would help you find a way to leave. Usually, they just can’t believe that someone they know and possibly respect could actually be capable of what you’re describing.

Leaving is not equivalent with divorcing. You can still try to get your abuser into some kind of counseling help. You can work on your own issues that kept you in this awful situation for so long.

Above all, don’t just do nothing.  Get help. God does not require you to accept a life of misery in the name of wifely submission.

Domestic Violence: Profile of a Victim

Really?  There’s a profile that fits victims of domestic abuse?  Yes. Absolutely. I’m going to write tonight strictly from my heart and from my personal observations  during my years of working as a therapist.  You can probably find similar information if you google it. Nothing that I say here is backed up by longitudinal  or anecdotal studies that I have seen, but I’m pretty sure there are some studies out there. 

Here’s a list of characteristics as they occur to me:

1.  The victim has suffered some type of abuse at an earlier point in her life. 

2.  The victim has a very low opinion of her own worth and value. 

3.   She has a desire to please the people in her life. 

4.   She is comfortable with a strict regimen of rules to follow. 

5.   She carries a strong sense of guilt.  About everything. 

6.   She has trouble with confrontation.  She’d rather give in than fight. 

7.    She is not usually quick with words to defend herself. 

8.    In the beginning of their relationship, her abuser made her feel very special because        he  paid so much attention to her, demanded to know where she would be, who she          would be with, and so on.  All this in the name of “worrying for her safety.”

9.   Early on, her abuser may have told her he would kill himself if she ever left him. 

10.  The victim is willing to accept blame, almost always. 

11.  When asked why she stays, she typically responds that she loves him, and that when           things are good, it’s wonderful. 

12.  She often has no education beyond high school; she stays because she feels she can’t         support herself and the children on her own. 

13.  The abuser has successfully cut her off from family, friends, neighbors. Often she has        no transportation and must rely on him to drive her wherever she needs to go. 

14.  The abuser handles all the money, all the time.  He gives her a small allowance, for             which she is to express gratitude. 

15.   The victim has often been so browbeaten that she has lost all hope, feels she is not            worth rescuing.  She feels that if she just tries harder, he won’t have to abuse her  any more. 

16.    The victim tends to be very gentle in spirit, softhearted, and a sucker for tears of                apparent remorse. 

17.    The victim often has a strong belief in the inherent goodness of her abuser; if only                     he could stop drinking/doing drugs/having temper tantrums etc., then everything                     would be wonderful. 

18.   The victim worries about hurting her abuser’s feelings. “He’ll be so sad if I leave!”

19.    The victim may feel her abuser did her a favor by marrying her, rescuing her from                       the terrible household in which she grew up.

20.    The victim has given up everything that made her a unique individual. This can                              include dressing well, letting her hair grow very long, stopping the use of makeup                      and/or jewelry; it can include her giving up a loved hobby or talent because it “takes                  too much time away from him.”  She does all this because it’s what he wants. 

That’s not all, but it’s enough.  Quite a list, isn’t it?  The thing that amazes me is how many women fit every single one of these points, and yet do not realize, or admit, that they are living with an abuser. Often, if they get as far as seeing someone like me, they think it’s because they’re depressed, or have chronic fatigue, or need to learn how to be more submissive. 

It’s very tempting for me to take these women by their cheeks and say, “What is WRONG with you!” But I don’t. That would only pile on more guilt. I’m very gentle with them, and I try to show them from God’s Word that there is a Man Who loves them, and Who will never hurt them; I try to show them that there is hope. 

There is always hope. 

Domestic Violence: Divorce and Remarriage

Matthew 12:7. “For if ye had known what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the sabbath day.”

Time after time, in His ministry on earth, Jesus overturned the rules.  He not only desired that mercy be practiced; He showed us how to do that.  He forgave, He loved, He accepted those who had sinned—which, really, is all of us, isn’t it?  He never condoned the sin; in many other scriptures, we see His judgment on continuous sin.

The major topic today is remarriage after divorce for reasons of abuse.  I want to stop here and say a heartfelt thanks for the reception of my post on divorce last week.  I’m so surprised that not even one person wrote to argue with me.  Maybe those who disagree just don’t read my blog 🙂  Many of you sent positive responses, and my reader statistics soared on that post.  Every writer wants to know that she’s being “heard.” So thank you.

If you’ll remember the story behind today’s picture, you know that this woman was caught in the very act of adultery.  She was taken out to be stoned, and the Pharisees even brought her to Jesus, to see what He would do.  Of course you know that He embarrassed the Pharisees, forgave the woman, and told her to go and sin no more.  Mercy.

I’m slowly reading through a remarkable book by Jeff Crippen, A Cry for Justice, Calvary Press, 2012.  You should get the book, if you have an interest or a situation you’re not sure how to handle.  It’s written with great compassion and a lot of common sense. Pastor Crippen, thank you for sharing your book with me.

One of the things this author says is that we need to look at  any part of the scriptures in the light of how they support the totality of scripture.  For example, Micah 6:8 teaches us that the Lord requires of us  that we do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.  This is an overarching principle in the Bible.  It is echoed in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep  His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret things, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”

So then, every other  part of the scriptures needs to be consistent with these principles of justice, mercy, humility before God, respect for God, and obedience to God.  If we are to follow the example set by Jesus, we will show mercy rather than judgment. There is no thought of stepping outside of or over the Word of God here. Rather, the point is to fulfill God’s purpose that we live, behave, walk, as Jesus walked.  Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

I know all the arguments, scripturally derived and supported, that slam down a life sentence on anyone who divorces for any reason and then remarries.  I’ve been uncomfortable with most of them for many years, as I’ve seen sincere believers struggle with what they’ve always been taught amidst the misery their lives have become. And, as I’ve said before, the abuser is always quick to use those very scriptures to keep his victim in bondage.

Last week, I think I made it pretty clear that I do believe God has provided escape from an abusive situation.  The question remains, though, about whether or not He allows remarriage.   I cannot come down with an absolute yes or no here.  I wish I could.

Matthew 5:32 and Luke 14: 26, 33 are often the core passages used to deny remarriage after divorce.  For a very interesting discussion of these passages, go here: (always remembering that everything must be sifted through the filter of God’s Word, not the filter of our own prejudices).

I believe I can say, with conviction, that generally speaking, it is better for a divorced person to remain single. To do so prevents all the problems that can arise in step-families, with all the baggage that both families bring into the new relationship. I’ve personally known of more than one situation in which a divorced person stayed single until the ex-spouse died.  I think that’s commendable, and certainly in keeping with Jesus’ teaching.

I’ve also known many couples who have divorced and remarried, both before and after coming to know the Lord; most are doing very well, rearing kids in the church, serving God wherever they can.  I cannot and will not stand in judgment on these people.  God, Who knows the hearts of all men, will deal with all that.  I don’t have to.

What I must do, however, is to show mercy and forgiveness; I have to remember that Jesus told the Pharisees, “Whoever is without sin may cast the first stone.”

The only sin that God cannot forgive is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit; that is, to attribute the powers of Jesus to the devil rather than to the Spirit.  Unbelief is the only unforgivable sin. We need to remember that when we look down our noses at divorced people, and especially at those who have remarried.

We need to put down our stones.

Domestic Abuse: Divorce, part two

Some of you may be wondering why there’s any question at all about this.  If he’s abusive, divorce him!  Seems like an easy answer, but for those who want to follow what the Bible teaches, it’s not that easy.  I do NOT claim to have the only definitive answer.   I certainly cannot pretend to solve a problem that has been debated for centuries.  All I can share here is my own understanding of what God’s Word has to say.

I’ve been studying I Corinthians 7 every day this week.  It seems to me that the key verse here is verse 15: “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God hath called us to peace.”

Depart is the word chorizo,  and means to separate, put space between; it was commonly used at the time to denote divorce, or putting asunder.

Usually, this verse has been applied to desertion; more specifically, to the desertion by an unbelieving spouse of a believing spouse. Abandonment has been seen as cause for separation, but not divorce.

Abusers, however, do not typically leave the relationship.  They want to keep it, because they crave the power, control, and warped sense of entitlement  it gives them.  So, the power still remains in  the hands of the abuser, because the believing spouse does not feel she has biblical authority to leave.

A quick review:  Abuse is defined as a pattern of behavior that belittles, demeans, degrades, and crushes the victim.  This abuse can happen in so many ways, including verbal, emotional, mental, and physical.  Many professing Christian men are quite adept at twisting the scriptures and using them against their wives, thereby using her own desire to obey God as a way to keep her under his control.

When the victim, finally exhausted and at the end of her strength to withstand the abuse, finally leaves the relationship, the question of “Who left?” is often used to bring her back into the marriage.  Maybe it would be better to ask, “Who caused her to leave?”  The one who perpetrated the abuse is the one who caused the chorizo,  NOT the one who finally escaped!

Let me put this in simpler terms.  I was watching a rerun of an old program the other night. The high school jock, star athlete, and conceited brat, was failing algebra.  He would be kicked off the team if he didn’t pass.  A concerned teacher got him a tutor, a peer; a girl in his class who was not one of the “cool girls.”  Mr. Jock wanted her to just do his assignments for him, saying “Come on, be a friend.” When she reluctantly refused, he stormed out.  Just before he got to the door, he said, “When I get kicked off the team, just remember it will be YOUR FAULT!”

Okay, we all know that was a classic job of blame-shifting.  It was his own fault, and he was trying to make it hers.

When a marriage breaks up, the abuser ALWAYS says it’s the victim’s fault for leaving. He shifts the blame to her, ignoring his years and years of tormenting her, degrading her, and beating her up. The abuser caused the separation.  The victim escaped.  If she had been held by any other man besides her husband, and been mistreated in the same way, everyone would be up in arms to rescue her and set her free.

Why don’t we have the same concern for a wife who needs to be rescued?

I still haven’t mentioned whether or not remarriage is an option for the believing spouse who has left an abusive relationship.  We’ll take a look at that next week.

If you are just coming into this series, you may want to go back and read the previous Friday posts about abuse.  I am not advocating that a believing spouse quickly and easily walk out of an abusive marriage. Especially if the abuser is a believer, every effort must be made to reconcile. But no one should be forced to stay in a marriage that destroys the heart and soul of the victim.  This is not what God established.

The end of I Cor. 7:15 says that “God has called us to peace.”  If peace cannot be found inside the marriage, then it must be found in separating from the marriage.  Must a victim of abuse divorce her spouse?  No.  She can separate without divorcing.  I do believe, however, that the option of divorce is not closed to the spouse who has suffered years of humiliating, chronic abuse.

As my cursor hovers over the “publish” button, I have strong misgivings.  What I have said here will not be accepted by a lot of people for whom I have great respect. I need to emphasize again that I know there will be disagreement, and I welcome that as long as it’s courteous. Please, no long discourses.  Use your own blog for that.Also, as I said at the top of this post, I do not claim to have the definitive answer. I do claim, however, that this post has been covered in prayer, sincere searching of my own heart, and thorough study of what the scriptures teach.  I do not believe that the heart of God is willing for anyone to live life as a victim of ongoing abuse; I believe He has provided a way of escape.

Domestic Abuse: Divorce

Pretty miserable picture, isn’t it?  You can almost hear the hopelessness.  My heart breaks for the baby, who is already learning how to behave in difficult situations:  When in trouble, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout!

I wish there were an easy, one-size fits all solution for the problem of whether or not a spouse can divorce her abuser. There isn’t.  I would never presume to be THE ONE with the perfect answer when all down through the centuries there has not been a universally approved solution to this problem.

You have those who say “No. Never. God hates divorce. There is never any permission given for a spouse to divorce an abuser.  The only permission given for divorce is in the case of infidelity, and even then there is no allowance for remarriage.”  This position is the most absolute, and is based mainly on the passage in Matthew 19. In that scripture, the Pharisees tried to trip up Jesus (foolish men!) on the question of divorce.

In His response, Jesus reviewed the Father’s plan for marriage:  One man, one woman, becoming one flesh for life. Man is not to divide that which God has joined.

But the Pharisees were wily, and they reminded Him of Moses having given a command to “put away,” or divorce one’s wife.  Jesus’ response was quick, and right to the heart. He said, “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered (allowed) you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”

Many have referred to this passage as the “exception clause,” because it was the only valid reason for divorce.  However, to remarry after divorce was considered adultery for either the husband or the wife.

It would be wonderful, wouldn’t it, if there were no other behaviors that would make a woman want/need to leave her husband?  Then we wouldn’t need to have these discussions.

There is another position.  In I Corinthians 11, Paul wrote quite a bit about Christian marriage. You should read it, carefully and prayerfully, and as much without prejudice as possible.  If you were reared in the same generation or church environment that I was, you regard divorce as possibly the WORST of all sins.  That idea seems to have come from the statement that God hates divorce. It is also based on the picture in Ephesians 5 in which marriage represents Christ’s relationship with the church.  Marriage is sacred.

In I Corinthians, however, we’re given a little broader  scope to look at the possibility of leaving a spouse, and I will say at the outset that remarriage is still not an option; and I do not find it as an option anywhere else in the Bible.

Okay, let me stop here for just a minute.  And maybe this post is going to be in two parts 🙂

I can already hear the questions:  What?  God won’t forgive me if I remarry?  You’re telling me I have to just put up with the abuse?

God forgives all sin when it is brought to Him in repentance. I John 1:9. “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin, and to clease us from all unrighteousness.”

It is true that God hates divorce.  That does not mean He won’t forgive it.  He also hates lying (Proverbs 6), yet no one has ever turned anyone away from the church or declared them anathema because they have lied. Well, okay, there was Ananias and Sapphira, but that was a particularly nasty lie, and God dealt with it strongly.  It’s a good thing He doesn’t do that with us today, isn’t it?  We’d ALL be living in our mansions over the hilltop by now.

I am in no way minimizing the importance of marriage and divorce. It grieves the heart of God.  It destroys families.  It sets children up for all kinds of problems.  The povertization of women in America is largely due to divorce. There’s really just not much good to say about it.

Big “however”:  There are times when a woman is driven to desperate measures; when she can no longer endure; when she must protect her children.  She doesn’t have to stay in such a situation. She doesn’t have to divorce, but if she does, she must remain unmarried until the ex-spouse dies.

I’m going to stop right there, and let you think about what I’ve written so far. Please, please feel free to comment.  I will respond, unless the comments are just evil. Then I delete them.


My word!  My Friday post, “Can I leave? Can I divorce Him?”  has literally gone to the top of my chart for readership.  I’m amazed at the number of hits on that post, and the number of shares.  I fervently hope and pray that the post has been helpful in clarifying the thinking of those who may be in an abusive situation. That’s what this blog is all about.

I will be posting on Friday, the 20th, about what I believe to be the biblical position on divorcing an abusive man.  Please pray for me as I prepare this one.  It’s a very difficult topic, and raises lots of controversy.  My heart is to say the truth, always.

While I am delighted at the readership on this one, I really wish there were more comments so that I know what you’re thinking.  Please feel free.  The only comments I won’t publish are those that are ugly, hateful, or full of foul language. I don’t mind if you disagree with me.  Just be polite 🙂

Domestic Violence: What Can I Do? (continued)

A client told me some time ago that she’d never known fear until she was trapped in a corner, watching her husband’s fist coming at her face, and knowing there was no escape.

The good news is, today she is free of him.  Not everyone can say that.   Violence typically escalates, and women show up in hospital emergency rooms with multiple bruises, contusions, lacerations, broken bones–because “a dresser fell on me.”  No one is fooled, but unless the woman asks for help, there is not much the hospital personnel can do.

Today, I want to discuss some other options besides leaving.  If the abuse is not physical, it may be possible to stay in the marriage.  Here are some things you can do:

Ask relatives, pastors, friends, to stage an intervention with the abuser.  During this intervention, the abuser is confronted honestly and in clear terms with his abusive behaviors.  Suggestions are made offering help to the abuser.

The problems with this approach center on two things.  First, it must be handled by an experienced, capable person who knows how and what to say and do.  Everyone involved must agree to be guided by this leader.

Second, if the abuser can’t be persuaded to stay, your cause may be lost.  And I would not go home with my abuser that night, were I in your shoes.

If your abuser is nonviolent and you don’t really think he will escalate, make it a practice to go after him every single time he manipulates, blame-shifts, belittles, orders, threatens, uses sarcasm, shame and humiliation.  Don’t let him get away with it even once.  Tell him you  will not tolerate being bullied ever again, and that he needs to change his behaviors.

Get your family into a good Bible-teaching church.  If your husband won’t go, go without him.

Suggest something like a marriage retreat, or a small group focusing on marriage.

Tell your husband you want to seek counseling, with or without him. Then do it.

Have a plan. This is so important.  Never let him put himself between you and your escape route.  Have car keys in your pocket at all times. Have a place to go. Contrary to what you may believe, there are people who know, or at least suspect, what is happening in your home.  One of them would be glad to give you shelter.  If you don’t have friends because your spouse has denied you that privilege, call your local police station and ask them where there is a women’s shelter near you. Have a list of possibilities, with phone numbers and addresses, that you keep in your purse.

Some men won’t let their wives have car keys.  If you don’t have access to a car, have the phone number of someone you know you can call to come and get you.  Be smart about how you make that call, though.

Have money stashed in a safe place.  If  you believe you’re going to have to leave, then open your own bank account without his name on it

And once again, I’ve gone from “what do I do if I stay” to “how can I leave safely.”  I guess that tells you something about what I believe needs to happen.

One of the counselors in our office worked for years with drug and alcohol issues.  He told me once that sometimes a woman’s most powerful tool is (a) tell him you’ll leave if the abuse doesn’t stop  and  (b) DO IT!  This doesn’t have to be a permanent leaving.  He just needs to know that you aren’t kidding.

I talk a lot about boundaries and consequences in my work.  Boundaries are the rules, or the lines in the sand that mark your territory.  Those are fairly easy.  The trouble comes with the consequence part.  You can draw all the boundaries you want, but if you don’t set and enforce an adequate consequence, you’ve lost the battle.

Don’t tell him, “I’ll walk out of here and NEVER come back!”  if you know very well you’ll be back in time to cook supper.  Instead, tell him that if he doesn’t stop being hateful and abusive, you will not cook supper that night.  See?  Clear boundary, simple consequence that you are able and willing to enforce. NEVER make threats you know you won’t enforce. To do so only makes your position weaker.

We need to talk about forgiveness; we need to talk about surviving violence; we need to talk about what to do when you can’t get help from your church.

Lots and lots to talk about.

Domestic Violence: The Abuser

They don’t wear signs around their necks or on their foreheads. They don’t belong to any group or club or organization called Abusers, Inc.  They are not all low-life, drunken, ignorant bums.  In fact, many of them are executives, police officers, doctors, lawyers,  pastors and deacons. They look like normal people.  They are often quite charming and fun to be around.  They are often intelligent.

The one thing they have in common that very few people outside their homes know about is an absolute need to have total dominance, power, and control.  They are careful to mask this unpleasant need from people they really can’t control; but if you live with one of these people, you know how absolutely terrifying he can be behind closed doors.

I believe many abusers are actually sociopaths.  Here is a website you can look at to find out what a sociopath is like:

Often, a sociopath was his mother’s fair-haired child who could do no wrong and was never denied anything, so he grows up with a strong sense of entitlement. He simply expects the people in his life to bow to his will.  If they won’t, then they’ll learn the hard way that they’re much better off if they give in.

Not all abusers use their fists, as we have already discussed.  Some are uniquely gifted at destroying a spouse’s confidence with a steady drip of mental, verbal, and emotional abuse.

Another thing they have in common is their inability to love unselfishly.  They see love as possession, not as relationship.  I’ll never forget the man who, sitting in my office as if he owned it, told me that his wife’s body belonged to him and he would “use” it any time and any way he pleased; he then went on to try to convince me that his behavior was God’s will.  As you can imagine, that didn’t go too well—for him 🙂 (Oh, by the way, he never came back.  Told his wife I was against him. I’m still trying to help her find the wherewithal to stand up to her bully.)

Never make the mistake of believing that an abuser can be reasoned with, or that he thinks the same way as  all of us who do NOT abuse the people we say we love.  They are unreasonable; they do not think normally.  Even the most self-centered “normal” person can often be convinced that if he’s going to have friends, he’d better start learning to care about someone besides himself.  The abuser really doesn’t care about having friends.  His best friend is control, however that best works for him.

Abusers are outstandingly good at shifting blame.  Anything you say to try to make the man face his sin is immediately returned, like a speeding tennis ball slammed back over the net, with, “Well, but SHE said/did such and so and that really offended me, so yes, I may have hit her, but she just made me lose control.”

Women who live with these guys already know it’s always all their fault.  They know that if he hits, it’s because she messed up somewhere, somehow, in some infinitesimal way. Or, even worse, he comes home in a rage because of something that happened at work.  He can’t display his temper there, so he saves it all for his wife and kids.  It’s pretty ugly.

It is true that abusers were often abused themselves in their childhood.  However, that is an issue that needs to be addressed separately from the marital abuse.  Having been a victim does NOT make it ok to victimize others.  It is a behavior that is chosen, not forced on the abuser.  I’ve known plenty of people who grew up watching marital abuse or being abused themselves who decided before they ever left home that their lives were going to be different.

Abuse requires the abuser to be very skilled at manipulation and deception.  He has to be able to convince his victim(s) that it is their fault, not his; that if they would just behave correctly at all times, the abuse would stop.

It doesn’t.  The abuser is also very adept at finding new  faults in his victims.

Next Friday, I’m going to suggest some ways of dealing with, or escaping, the abuse.

Domestic Violence: Physical Abuse

The following italicized material is taken directly from the website

  • Between 600,000 and 6 million women are victims of domestic violence each year, andbetween 100,000 and 6 million men, depending on the type of survey used to obtain the data.
  • Women ages 20-24 are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence.
  • Between 1993 and 2004, intimate partner violence on average made up 22% of nonfatal intimate partner victimizations against women. The same year, intimate partners committed 3% of all violent crime against men.
  • Separated and divorced males and females are at a greater risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence.
  • Women and men of all races are about equally vulnerable to violence by an intimate partner.
  • Intimate partner violence affects people regardless of income. However, people with lower annual income (below $25K) are at a 3-times higher risk of intimate partner violence than people with higher annual income.
  • Studies show that access to shelter services leads to a 60-70% reduction in incidence and severity of re-assault during the 3-12 months’ follow up period compared to women who did not access shelter. Shelter services led to greater reduction in severe re-assault than did seeking court or law enforcement protection, or moving to a new location.
  • Nearly three out of four (74%) of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence. 30% of Americans say they know a woman who has been physically abused by her husband or boyfriend in the past year.

Physical Abuse Homicides:

  • On average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day. In 2000, 1,247 women were killed by an intimate partner. The same year, 440 men were killed by an intimate partner. Intimate partner homicides accounted for 30% of the murders of women and 5% percent of the murders of men.
  • Most intimate partner homicides occur between spouses, though boyfriends/girlfriends have committed about the same number of homicides in recent years.

Physical abuse is one of the most egregious dirty little secrets that most Christians don’t want to talk about.  It ranks right up there with childhood sexual abuse and other sexual abuses against, mostly, women.  To men who have been victimized, I want you to know I am just as outraged by your pain as I am by that of women who are victims.  I use the pronouns he, his, him primarily because it simplifies the writing and because the overwhelming numbers of victims are female.  Please understand that I am not ignoring the fact that men are also victimized.

Let me assure you that physical violence exists even in the church; in fact, some churches go so far as to condone what they like to call “domestic discipline” or some other euphemism that really means he hits; she gets hit. I’m reading a most informative book on this subject:  A Cry for Justice by Jeff Crippen and Anna Wood. Mr. Crippen is a pastor who served as a police officer for 12 years before entering training for the ministry. Anna Wood is an abuse survivor who maintains several blogs, one dealing specifically with physical abuse in marriage.  You can find their book easily online.

If your spouse has ever threatened you with physical violence if you don’t give him his way, you are in danger.  If he has ever pushed you or blocked your escape with his body, you are in danger. If he has ever slapped you for “being disrespectful” or for “disobedience,” you are in danger.  If he has ever used his fists on you, he will do it again.  You are in danger.  If he has kicked you, you are in danger.  If he has choked you or dragged you by your hair, you are in terrible danger. It doesn’t matter what excuse he gives, how much scripture he quotes to you, or how often he cries and says he is sorry and it will never happen again–he will do it again!

Is this really how you want your daughter to think she has to live?  Is it really how you want your son to treat the woman he says he loves?

Sometimes physical violence starts without it being directly on you.  Sometimes he slams doors, punches walls, breaks things, throws things at you and so on. But eventually, he will start hitting you.  If you accept it, you are teaching him how to treat you.  It won’t take long for him to learn his lesson very well.

One of the most frustrating things I have found, working as a Christian counselor, is the number of women who have been persuaded that it’s their fault.  It isn’t.  Not ever. The only way you could be blamed, I suppose, is if you continue to accept it.

When I ask an abused woman, “Why do you stay?” she invariably says, “Because I love him. When he’s not angry, things are really good.  I just keep hoping that if I can please him more he’ll quit hitting me.”  Often, these things are said through puffy, split lips as tears leak from bruised and swollen eyes.

Women, you need to understand that you are not responsible for his behavior; nor can you change him!  You neither caused his behavior, nor do you deserve to be beaten. In fact, my experience with abused women is usually that they are desperate to please, and can never quite manage it.

If you will read I Corinthians 13, you will find these characteristics of love:

It is patient; it is kind; it does not envy; it is not conceited and self-centered; love does not behave inappropriately; it looks after the needs of others more than of self; it is not easily angered; it doesn’t think ill of others; it rejoices in truth, not in sin; it bears what it must, believes truth, hopes in God, endures what it must. It never fails or runs dry.

I want to add here that love is not changed or altered by the behavior of others.  Someone who says he loves you, then turns around and knocks your teeth out, is lying.

Next week, we’ll talk about what you MUST do; what you CAN do; how to protect your kids; and at some point I want to talk about why the church often protects the abuser and tells the abused she just has to bear it.  Maybe that will be a lot more than just one or two more posts.

Domestic Violence: Mental Abuse

I hope you’re  realizing, if you’ve been following these Friday posts for the last three weeks, that all the forms of abuse in relationships are tied together. You almost can’t have one without the others.  Rarely is a physically violent abuser just as sweet as pie with his words when he’s not smacking his wife around.  The verbal, emotional, mental and physical abuse are all tied up together.  They are related.

So what constitutes mental or psychological abuse?  This one focuses on what the abuser wants you to believe about yourself, about him, and about who’s in charge.  He worries at his victim constantly, like the Chinese water torture, dripping cruel, hurtful words into the victim’s mind until she breaks.

Mental abuse is all about dominance.  The abuser loves to play mind games, setting up traps that the victim doesn’t see until it’s too late. His mind seems to be like a maze, with lots and lots of blank walls that keep the mouse running back to the beginning.  The mental abuser loves to make his victim feel stupid, and he takes special delight in making her think SHE is the one who has mental problems!

I remember an old movie.  Grace Kelly, I think.  I don’t remember the title.  London, fog, dark.  Her husband torments her with noises, creaks, groans, things that go bump in the night.  It seems to me he uses the telephone to confuse her andfrighten her.  I have no memory of what his point was, but I do remember watching the slow but steady drip, drip, drip of confusion and fear turn this confident, beautiful woman into a ghost. I don’t even remember how it ends, but maybe someone out there knows what movie I’m describing.

Power is the goal. The abuser uses money, physical intimidation (although he rarely uses his fists–he has more fun tormenting her, like a nasty little boy pulling the wings off flies) and verbal put-downs to control her and turn her into jello.  Then he scorns her for being such a fraidy-cat.

I don’t know if abusers are capable of truly loving anyone else.  They tend to see love in terms of ownership, possession, and control. For instance, an insecure man may marry a stunningly beautiful woman and then spend years denigrating her appearance, disallowing makeup, attractive clothing, jewely, and sometimes even new underwear.  I saw a woman some years ago whose husband refused to give her the money to buy new lingerie–after nearly 30 years of marriage!  The old things were good enough, because, after all, no one else ever saw them.

An abuser uses constant criticism over matters of small consequence; he excels at making false accusations and threats; and he uses malicious humor to humiliate and embarrass his victim. This behavior is meant to make you feel unworthy, fearful, ashamed and mentally unstable. He knows exactly what he is doing, and takes pleasure in doing it. He is cruel; he is heartless.  He expects his victim to meet his every need, but feels no obligation to return the favor.  If he’s upset, it’s your fault.  If he’s depressed, it’s your fault. If he feels great, you had nothing to do with that!

 He will  control your friendships, your job (if he allows you to have one), your attitudes and your thoughts. He will call you at work and scream at you over the phone, knowing others can hear.  He loves to belittle and embarrass you.  He’s an awful man. Truly awful.

 He goes to great lengths to confuse you and cause you to doubt your own sanity. He “misplaces”  your cell, or your bank card, or your  car keys.  Then he laughs while you frantically search for them, knowing all the time where they are. If you confront him, he will tell you it never really happened, and that you need to see a shrink.

If you are reading this and thinking, “That’s me!”  you absolutely need to get help.  So does he.  He desperately needs to seek counseling to deal with his own issues of cruelty, insecurity,  and bullying.  Help is out there. You can find counselors or pastors in your area by going online.  There are shelters for abused women that are kept secret.  You can find them by looking for a phone number in your county government phonebook section, under social services.  Or call your doctor, or the police.  There is help.

Please, don’t continue one more day to live in this awful environment.