A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

The Most Terrifying Reality About the Abuser/Sociopath

UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.

***

Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

Christians think that they “get” Jesus’ warning.  Sheep.  Wolf.  Ok, got it.  Not too hard.  One is woolly and the other has big teeth.  I think they sound different too.

But we don’t get it.  Wolves don’t come as wolves.  They come as sheep.  And they can even mimic the “bah’s” pretty well too.

We think we get it.  And largely, that is our problem.  That is why abusers are hiding out successfully in the church.  It is why they are winning entire churches to their alliance against their victims.  We should get it.  Jesus said that to discern between wolves and sheep, requires wisdom.  Exceptional wisdom.  A crafty, sly wisdom.  We don’t have that.  We aren’t like serpents.  We are, hmmmm….. , dumb as sheep, and innocent as doves.

In Judith Herman’s book, Trauma and Recovery [*Affiliate link] (Read it if you haven’t.  Did you hear that?  Read it), Herman discussed captivity as a special kind of trauma.  It isn’t a single traumatic event – it is continuous.  In captivity, the victim is the perpetrator’s prisoner.  She writes (Chapter 3) –

  • “The domestic captivity of women and children is often unseen.  A man’s home is his castle. Rarely is it understood that the same home may be a prison for women and children.  In domestic captivity, physical barriers to escape are rare.  In most homes, even the most oppressive, there are no bars on the windows, no barbed wire fences…. The barriers to escape are generally invisible.  They are nonetheless extremely powerful.  Children are rendered captive by their condition of dependency.  Women are rendered captive by economic, social, psychological, and legal subordination, as well as by physical force…. In situations of captivity, the perpetrator becomes the most powerful person in the life of the victim, and the psychology of the victim is shaped by the actions and beliefs of the perpetrator.

She continues –

  • Little is known about the mind of the perpetrator.  Since he is contemptuous of those who seek to understand him, he dos not volunteer to be studied.  Since he does not perceive that anything is wrong with him, he does not seek help — unless he is in trouble with  the law. His most consistent feature, in both the testimony of victims and the observations of psychologists, is his apparent normality.  Ordinary concepts of psychopathology fail to define or comprehend him.  [emphasis is mine].  This idea is deeply disturbing to most people.  How much more comforting it would be if the perpetrator were easily recognizable, obviously deviant or disturbed. But he is not.… many [are] terribly and terrifyingly normal.  From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality is much more terrifying than all [his] atrocities put together.  His demeanor provides an excellent camouflage, for few people believe that extraordinary crimes can be committed by men of such conventional appearance.

It turns out, you see, that it isn’t quite so simple to spot a wolf among the flock.  The most frightening and terrifying reality about the abuser is his shocking normalcy.  And yet, of all people, Christians have less excuse for our ignorance.  We have Christ in us, we have His Spirit, we have His Word.  We should be experts on sin, yet innocent in regard to it.  We in reformed churches claim that we believe in the total depravity of man, but in practice we deny it.  We think too highly of ourselves and of mankind in general.  And so, we fall for the abuser’s “normalcy” and welcome him in among us.  When his victim finally is able to raise an alarm, we don’t believe her.  We even condemn her for saying such things about here very normal husband (or, sometimes, wife).

Every Christian needs to take another look at what our Lord tells us in His Word about the heart of man.  We need to stop making foolish judgments based upon appearances.  Our seminaries would do well to step up their teaching on the doctrine and nature of sin.  But of course, that will require teachers who truly know what evil is, because they themselves have met it.

* Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ  gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link

18 Comments

  1. Now Free after 42 years

    Because of never-ending manipulation and abuse from her perpetrator, the victim has lost trust in people, and as a result, she is often perceived as being distant and not very open to people who are meeting her for the first time. How can she, when the person she loved has destroyed her trust and all that it holds? She appears “abnormal” while her abuser, by his nature, easily manages to don the “normal”, and yes, even extra charming, mode.

    It has often been pointed out that we form our first impressions on people within seconds on meeting them. It takes an effort to wave away our natural inclinations and stretch that time out to a lot more than a few seconds. We need to make a conscious effort to get to know these poor victims, to earn their trust. This takes time and effort. Are we willing to do this?

    Jesus never had respect to a person ‘s outward appearance and manner.

    1 Samuel 16:7…The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearances, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

  2. cindy burrell

    Some will say, “If it was so bad, why didn’t you leave?” Then when you leave, they say, “Why did you leave, he doesn’t seem so bad?” The church defends the wolves and blames the sheep.

    • Why didn’t you leave? (says one bystander)
      How un-Christian of you to rebel against such a nice man! (says another)
      How could you be so stupid as to have gotten together with such a dead-beat? (says one)
      How could you be so unkind as to abandon him when he’s trying so hard to do the right thing? (says another)
      Why did you put up with it? I wouldn’t have put up with treatment like that! (says one)
      Are you going to let Satan destroy your marriage? Get back to that man and love him into the Kingdom! (says another)

      Are such messages crazy-making? Yes.
      Does a victim feel speechless at such verbal onslaughts? Yes.
      Must victim-survivors bow under the pressure of such onslaughts? No.
      Trust you gut. Believe that if something feels wrong, it IS wrong. And bystanders often have it wrong because they don’t understand abuse.

      • Barnabasintraining

        Trust you gut.

        Our victim is doing well, all things considered, in the decision making department because this is just what she is doing and has been doing.

        Incidentally Barbara, your book just arrived in the mail today. I’m in the middle of Bancroft’s book right now (and I’m learning *A LOT*). Yours is next.

  3. Anonymous

    Cindy, So true!

    My non-believing family members scoffed, “Why didn’t you leave? There must be something wrong with you.” Christian mentors who knew him said, “Why did you leave? No bad how bad it is, God doesn’t want you to leave.” Christians who only knew me and subsequently met him said, “Gee, he is quite nice, I can see why you married him.”

    (They are all direct quotes, by the way.)

    Then there’s the child protection social workers who try to get you to leave and take the kids or you will get charged for not protecting them. But the judges insist you have to cooperate and allow those same kids to see their father. The domestic violence case workers say No Contact, and the judge chides me for not discussing things with him.

    It’s like nobody can decide the right course of action because nobody really knows who he is. And before we blame the various bystanders, we should place the primary blame where it belongs – at the feet of the abuser, because he deliberately creates the confusion.

    • YES. I would like to shout your statement from the rooftops! Wake up, family court. Wake up, church. Wake up, unbelieving family members. Wake up, Child Protection workers. Wake up. See what’s happening in the lions’ den, and rescue the victims!

  4. Sheryl

    Barbara,
    Ditto to shout it from the rooftops. I am coming to be thankful that I did not leave when my kids were young as they would have had visits with him. As a functional multiple addiction abuser, without any legal infractions, there would have been no basis for the courts to deny him shared custody and yet he drives drunk, drinks on the job. Only recently (he is 53) has the extent of his addiction had any documentation when he attacked our grown daughter and authorities came and he blew a .317 and more recently was arrested for Drunk in Public.
    I regret that I did not leave years ago and can’t deny the effects on our two adult children. But I was not healthy enough at the time that I could have handled the kind of treatment from the courts that I read about here.
    All the more reason, I feel so blessed to have gotten the help that I have and am now able to volunteer my time in a local organization that is designed to partner with women’s abuse agencies in two counties in offering extended help, via many avenues, that is intended to be life transforming in order to break the cycle and the sin that holds us in bondage.
    Sheryl

    • Sheryl, when you wrote “I regret that I did not leave years ago and can’t deny the effects on our two adult children. But I was not healthy enough at the time that I could have handled the kind of treatment from the courts that I read about here.” I think you put words to a very characteristic thing that victims face: – When is the best time to leave?
      I asked that of one of the workers in a refuge I stayed at once. She couldn’t answer it. But she did tell me that abusers don’t change.

      There maybe never is a ‘best’ time (unless God tells you the exact time to leave, which seems to happen to quite a few of us, even down to the precise minute sometimes).

      There are always reasons to stay AND reasons to go. Reasons to delay going AND reasons to not delay so long. So many things to weigh up, and so little mental space with which to do the weighing up thoughtfully.
      In the end, the decision is made for a myriad of reasons, some of which are obvious and some of which may not be very obvious at all. In my case, why did I leave after that assault, rather than after any other assault, any other verbal tirade, any other scary episode, any other silent treatment? I don’t exactly know. I just felt like I’d gotten worn out and there was nothing left in me that could go on putting up with it. Like when you’ve worn a sweater for years and years and one day you just happen to glance down at a sleeve and realise that the cuff is worn away and there’s no fabric left, the material is just frayed and frazzled and … well… gone.

      • annawood

        How beautifully stated. Good analogy. Thank you.

  5. Anon Friend

    Hi Jeff, thank you to you and Barbara for your website. My best friend introduced me to both. Thank you for this post. I can relate and connect with many of the things you have shared.

    I am just now free to be able to share my life experiences. All the experiences I talk about here I have received full permission from my best friend to share, since they include her.

    I do know a sociopath. He was my best friend’s husband. He was a church leader, volunteer biblical counselor for individuals and couples and elder in process at ______ Church [Eds: name of church and campus deleted, for the safety of ACFJ blog team.].

    Since [year given] I have watched him deceive pastors, leaders, church members and those attending my former church ___________, and currently deceive new people he comes in contact with. His deceit still continues as I write this. It’s been a daily nightmare and never ending trauma for my best friend.

    In the summer and fall of [year given] I prayed and waited and waited for others in church leadership like myself to “see” what was “right in front” of them; the abuse of a mom (my now best friend) who was also in church leadership and her several young children. I prayed on my knees, my heart breaking, feeling crushed deep inside that the pastors continued to not “see” the truth of who he truly is and knowing she and her children were being abused daily by him.

    I saw things that he was doing that were evil, heartless and he had no empathy for his wife. I saw him have no regard for her life. I held in the tears each Sunday as I had to pretend like I was comfortable near him while we did prayer team because I knew he would question my best friend when she returned home with him. I thought surely another pastor or leader would see his behavior and question him but they never did. I thought how could this man be in the elder process at our church? Did they really know him? They seemed to be more concerned with “feeling good”, welcoming the abuser’s compliments and literal pats on the back. While at the same time, he was not allowing his wife to have the most basic of needs met.

    I witnessed him lie to others in the church body including myself. I knew he was lying because I had a unique “window in” to what he was hiding in his home and the contrast of what he was saying and sharing with others because I spent time in his home and I saw things. Once when I was at her home he sent a text to her saying “I want to [physically assault] you, and tell [my name] I want to [physically assault] her too.” [Eds, the assault was described in detail but has been airbrushed here for safety reasons.] I was speechless when she told me what the text said as I stood in front of her.

    Many other dreadful, awful things happened. It was very much felt and apparent he wanted me completely removed from her life. He began to make it extremely difficult for us to spend any time together, threatening her regularly as well as heaping guilt, shame and confusion on her. It felt so scary and still does. Over time trust was built between my best friend and I and she began to share specific horrific details of the reality of her life. I’m still grieving all that she has shared with me (all the trauma) and all that I continue to see her go through and how I have seen others respond to her.

    In my own life I had seen and experienced abuse personally as a young child and young adult. My mom’s marriages all had some type of abuse/domestic violence present in them. Her former husbands deceived those around them leaving my mom abandoned and alone and me not believed. I do not wish to have contact with those husbands [my mom’s ex husbands] but they do try to contact me. They know I do not want contact with them so they try to contact my family members in an effort to get to me.

    In January [year given] my husband and I sought help for my best friend and her children from the Director of Biblical Counseling for all of ____________ Churches. She had expressed to me that she wished there was a real way out. I helped her escape with one suitcase for her and her children, leaving everything else behind. The church responded to this by supporting her husband financially, legally and emotionally even after a domestic violence protection order was granted for her and her children by the court. The church helped him find ways around the protection order and therefore she and the children had no protection at all. I felt I helped her escape from one nightmare into another.

    Her husband whom she is now legally separated from is allowed to have restricted regular contact with her regarding the children (however he abuses this contact) and her children now have unsupervised visits with their father. It’s awful that she still has to see him and hear his voice. He tries to contact me but I do not wish to have any contact with him. I told the church [many many months] ago that he is a sociopath. The church responded by attacking my character instead of me being taken seriously and believed.

    I journaled this in [Date given but withheld by Eds]:

    If you go forward with knowledge of abuse in your church:

    You will not be believed.

    Your character will be severely attacked.

    You and the victims(s) will not be protected.

    The people who claim to be helping the victim, abuse the victim too.

    People you thought genuinely loved and cared about you will stop talking to you.

    The abuser has the loudest, strongest voice and is believed over the victim.

    The abuser will wipe away any accusation made against them.

    When accusations of abuse are made known to the abuser they will use this information to abuse more in new forms and new ways.

    The victim will be asked to meet with their abuser over and over.

    The victim will be asked to do things against their will and putting them in more harm’s way.

    An abuser will do anything to protect the image they want to portray. They are pathological liars.

    Many, including and entire church body will support the abuser not the victim.

    The abuser will emotionally attack more when the victim has been “beaten down”.

    The abuser treats their victim like they are a child.

    The abuser will NEVER stop abusing, never.

    After all this you will grieve, weep, mourn, feel deep sorrow and anguish in your heart.

    • Dear Anon Friend,
      thank you so much for supporting your friend and believing her! Welcome to the blog.

      Your comment is very powerful and I hope many read it, especially Owen Strachan and CMBW who only yesterday tweeted this outrageous claim:

      As you will see I have changed your screen name and airbrushed some of the details in your comment. I did this partly for your safety and your friend’s safety, but also for the safety of the ACFJ team. We totally believe your story, but we are cautious about naming names since it could lead us into difficult waters.

      I am not saying we will be permanently unwilling to publish the name of the church, but initially I’m taking this precaution and Jeff and I may reconsider this in the future.

  6. Anon Friend

    Thank you Barbara and Jeff for believing me. Likewise I believed my best friend. It was never a question for me. Everything she has shared about her and her children being abused is true. I would like you to know there was a considerable amount of thought that went in to whether or not I was going to use my real name. I wish to use my real name and the name of the church I was a leader in because I cannot live being oppressed and silenced by the abuser and the church any longer. When my best friend contacted Jeff via email recently she chose to use her real name as well. She has given me full permission to discuss details that pertain to her life. The protection order for her and for the children ended in [month and year given] She has been horribly sinned against by the church and those who chose to support the abuser and even though she no longer is a part of [that] Church, she has to see the people each week who wrote legal declarations for her abuser and whom have forever impacted her life. She has to drive by the home she fled with her children each week. Every day is a nightmare as the abuser continues to abuse in new forms and new ways. I hope that you and Jeff would consider naming the church. Thank you.

    • Dear Anon Friend, we realise that you wish to use your real name and to name the church. The reason why we have removed them is for the safety and ongoing mission of A Cry For Justice. We need to give thought to whether ACFJ is willing and able to withstand the possible consequences to us if we publish details that would enable that church to identify itself in your comments.

      We have not in the past named individual churches for how badly they have dealt with individual cases; the only exception I can think of to this is that very recently in our post about Bethlehem Baptist we allowed a commenter to tell how that church hurt her in the past (years ago), because we know that BBC is making changes in how it handles domestic abuse and they say they are willing as time goes on (and they have dealt with the current cases) to deal with past injustices they may have dealt out, and at least in some of those cases, the historical injustices were dealt out under the watch of different leaders.

      So while we appreciate that you and your friend are willing to go public, we are not sure whether ACFJ (the team here, and in particular myself and Jeff who co-lead the blog and with whom the buck stops) are willing to be exposed to a potential lawsuit from a church.

      Risk assessment and safety needs to be considered not just for the victim and her children, and a victim’s friend like yourself, but for public advocates like us as well. I hope you will bear this in mind from now on.

      And we are very conscious that we want the blog to continue to keep going and helping as many survivors as possible, and if our energies got sucked into dealing with a litigious church, it would mean we were much less able to do the other work we do.

      Having said that, we will give consideration to your request, but please don’t push us.

  7. Anon Friend

    Thank you Barbara for your response. I understand where you are coming from and do also desire safety for this website. I trust your knowledge in handling these safety concerns and don’t desire to push. It has just been so agonizing having to watch first hand the devastation of ongoing abuse. I have and still do feel helpless to be able to impact it in any way. It is such a painful feeling. Thank you again for your response.

    • Thank you, Anon Friend, for your gracious reply.

      Yes, it is agonizing to watch the devastation of ongoing abuse!

      But I encourage you not to think of yourself as helpless — you have helped your friend immeasurably simply by believing her, validating her, and being a sounding-board and support for her. 🙂

      The impact on any churches which are allowing this abuse to go on under their watch — and more than allowing it, condoning it, facilating it, enabling it! — that is something God is indeed very angry about.

      • — and God will doubtless call them to account for it, and we long to see it happen. Maybe before too long the cry for justice re domestic abuse in the church will have gathered such momentum that all the churches which are sweeping it under the carpet and enabling abusers will be rushing to get in on the new wave and doing about turns before they lose all credibility.

        Maybe that’s an application of that perplexing saying in Luke 16:16

        the Good News of the Kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is eager to get in. (NLT)
        the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it. (NIV)

  8. Kandyce Brothers

    The most frightening and terrifying reality about the abuser is his shocking normalcy.

  9. Finding Answers

    Pastor Jeff wrote Every Christian needs to take another look at what our Lord tells us in His Word about the heart of man. We need to stop making foolish judgments based upon appearances. Our seminaries would do well to step up their teaching on the doctrine and nature of sin. But of course, that will require teachers who truly know what evil is, because they themselves have met it.

    [……insert net-speak for learning the hard way…….]

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