A Cry For Justice

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

How Many Times Should Abuse be Tolerated?

I may be mistaken – watch it yourself and see – but in the excellent When Love Hurts DVD series by Radio Bible Class that we commended in another blog post, it seems to me that the host made a statement about not tolerating physical abuse more than one time.  As I said, check me on that if you watch the series, which I hope you do.  Whether that statement was made or not, it poses a good question.

Let’s limit a hypothetical example to physical abuse.  Slapping across the face, knocking the victim down, that kind of thing.  I may be wrong here in not considering all kinds of abuse – which are equally evil – but I am just trying to clarify our illustration.  Here is the question then – How many times should a woman (for example) forgive her husband for slapping her across the face?  By “forgive,” I mean, he says he is sorry and she says ok, and she stays with him – end of story.

I have a suspicion that the idea of “letting bygones be bygones once” is not going to sit very well with many of you.  I mean, what does it say when a husband, let’s say one month into the marriage, slaps his wife in the face?  Immediately questions about the context start to arise, right?  What was she doing?  What was he doing?  Was it a mutual argument?  Was she verbally abusing him and he just lost it?  Could be.  But as we know, slapping someone in the face just isn’t justified (well, unless like in the movies someone is losing their mind and endangering the whole mission to save the world so you slap them back into their senses and they say thank you).  Let’s say it is a slap delivered as a true abusive power-control punishment to instill fear.  How many times should the victim let that happen before taking action?

Some people say once.  I have heard other victims, in hindsight, say “the first time it happens, get out of there.  It will only get worse.”

What do you think?

Joe Gives Encouragement: 

Hindsight’s 20/20, isn’t it?  It is so easy to look back and say, “I  should have seen…I should have known…I should have handled things differently…”

I look back, now, and see so many warning signs that I “should have” heeded.  So many things that I would not, now, tolerate…

And yet, I can honestly say I was doing the best I knew at the time, based on what I knew and my level of understanding and maturity.

And so, I have grace for that young man who truly loved unconditionally…who truly gave his full heart in living out his marriage vows…who made 1 Corinthians 13 his constant companion thru a myriad of difficulties…

Would I counsel someone else to do the same?  No, I would not.  I would try to help them see the inevitability of unnecessary pain in that path.

Would I change anything I did, if I could?  No, I would not; for it was thru this path that My Father walked beside, drew me closer to Himself, and taught me a deeper understanding of His love!

You are all heroes, as far as I’m concerned!  Well Done!

Ida Mae Gives the Correct Answer –  The estranged only hit me once. About two years into the marriage, he backhanded me across the face during an argument. As my ears rang, he apologized profusely, and said ‘you know I’d never hurt you, right?’ Then proceeded to inform me not to cross him because  ‘if I pushed him, he wouldn’t be accountable for his actions’ and ‘once he started, he would not stop’

I should have walked out the door. I did not and I never told anyone. Now he says it never happened.

He never hit me like that again but he pushed me into corners and refused to let me out, pinned me against the kitchen counter while he groped me, pushed me backwards across the room while calling me his servant or his concubine. He climbed on me when I tried to nap and held me down beneath the covers until i screamed all ‘in fun’ and refusing to stop while I pleaded. He grabbed my leg above the knee and called it ‘the horse eating the apple’– when he didn’t like something I said. He poked me with one finger in the side, over and over until I bruised. And I’m just getting started.

We lived under the threat of violence at all times, every day. He said we had ‘no right’ to be afraid of him.

I see that first backhand now as a cold, calculated maneuver to put me in my place and instill fear. Once is too much.

And Now Free Says –

I still amaze myself when I think of how, 2 years into my 42 year marriage, my husband slapped and beat me in the face, hitting me so hard and leaving so many swellings and bruises, that I didn’t leave the house for almost 2 weeks. I didn’t want anyone to know. It was decades before I told anyone about this abuse, and it was in confidence, to a counsellor. This is going to be hard to read further so please be warned.

We were arguing about his lack of affection towards me. I said he was a cold fish. I don’t remember much about what happened next, the actual beating. it was 40 years ago and my mind must have blocked out a lot of the painful details. I do remember crying myself to sleep. Next morning when I looked into the mirror, I didn’t recognize myself…my face was so bruised and swollen. Nothing was said…life went on as usual. It was like it never happened. He never beat me again, but the verbal and emotional abuse continued.

All this from a man I thought truly loved me, as I did him. I truly loved this man. I blocked this abuse for a very long time. Well it’s hard for me to continue so will leave it at that for now. If anyone does have any questions though I will try to answer. I want to be able to help people in any way possible, and what it can do to the heart and soul of a wife and mother.

P.S. from Now Free

What I meant to convey in my first paragraph was how did I ever let him get away with the physical abuse and pretend it never happened. I would never stand for anything like it now. I think it was my desire to keep things as normal as possible. I believe a woman should leave after the first attack.

Sometimes I feel really angry at him. Myself too, for letting it happen. There’s less anger now…God is helping me let it go. There’s better use for that energy now. I want to help others.

About 15 years after the beating, to try and ease the anxiety, I started taking a tranquilizer (Lorazepam). I took it for 25+ years, and decided to wean myself off September 2010. It took me 11 months, but with God’s help, I was drug-free. Instead of being proud of me, he angrily said, “YOU CHANGED AND I DON’T LIKE IT!!!”

In October 2011, I was free of him. THANK GOD.

Lisa Gives this Advice –  My husband attacked me for the first time one month into the marriage. I believe the first time is a test as well as a statement. He wants to know just exactly what he can do and get away with, how the victim will respond, how “well” she’ll take it. It also sets a precedent for the relationship. It draws a line in the sand and let’s her know who the boss is going to be. Yes, a woman should run the very first time. Also, important to note, the legal system is set up so that staying brings everything into question……I’ve been asked, “If it was really that bad, why didn’t you leave earlier?” And, I’ve been told that past abuse doesn’t count, only current abuse. So, if he beats you for, say, ten years and then stops but remains so emotionally and verbally abusive that you finally seek help, you won’t find justice in the courts. Get out while that first iron is hot!!!

Anonymous says – 

My counselor told me in no uncertain terms that physical violence was not a reason to leave. He said there was no option, but to stay and work it out. He claimed to have helped a couple, where the husband used to beat the wife, go from the brink of divorce to turning their marriage around. He also insisted we go in for joint counselling, and eventually I stopped going. I think he continued to counsel my ex for a while, and probably gave him a lot of information or advice that he twisted and used against me.

Some of my friends also cornered me to tell me that it was wrong to leave for physical abuse. They cited their own experience of having been beaten and yet having God’s strength to remain faithful to their vows, or someone else they knew.

So, yes, indeed, Now Free, give yourself compassion as you were doing the best you could. Many are still being told the same thing right now, so why would they do anything different? We were condemned for leaving, we should not accept any condemnation for not having left sooner. I mean, get real, that’s ridiculous – either way, we get condemned!

And Still Another Says –

I know now that my situation was strongly affected by one incident in about the 7th year of our marriage. Until that time I was aware that my husband used verbal and emotional bullying tactics sometimes and never apologized, but I made excuses because he had grown up in a home where there was a lot of religious hypocrisy. I had grown up around hypocrisy as well, but I thought we were both committed to learning and growing as believers, so I accepted his selfish behavior as just part of the growing process. One day his discipline of our two small children went too far, and in his anger he injured them. He left the scene immediately and I took care of them. I was sure it was an accident, but I struggled with what to do about it.
He would not talk about it or apologize. Aside from this one incident he never physically hurt them again. But I knew he could not control his anger and it could happen again. I felt responsible to see that he never lost his temper like that again. Whenever I tried to talk with him about our disagreements and how we handled them, it just resulted in the verbal and emotional abuse escalating. I never could call it “abuse”, because he never hit me. There were times that I wished he would hit me so that I could then get help. I thought I was “protecting” our children because most of the abuse was directed at me, but I now know it hurt them terribly. It was because of them that I finally separated from him. I did not think I had the strength or self-confidence to be able to leave, but a mother will find the strength when she needs to protect her children. The Lord showed me that I was “protecting” them in the wrong way. He provided for every step, when I did not think I could, because my church leaders refused to get involved.

10 Comments

  1. Lisa Harris

    My husband attacked me for the first time one month into the marriage. I believe the first time is a test as well as a statement. He wants to know just exactly what he can do and get away with, how the victim will respond, how “well” she’ll take it. It also sets a precedent for the relationship. It draws a line in the sand and let’s her know who the boss is going to be. Yes, a woman should run the very first time. Also, important to note, the legal system is set up so that staying brings everything into question……I’ve been asked, “If it was really that bad, why didn’t you leave earlier?” And, I’ve been told that past abuse doesn’t count, only current abuse. So, if he beats you for, say, ten years and then stops but remains so emotionally and verbally abusive that you finally seek help, you won’t find justice in the courts. Get out while that first iron is hot!!!

  2. Do we see a pattern emerging?

  3. Now Free After 42 Years

    What I meant to convey in my first paragraph was how did I ever let him get away with the physical abuse and pretend it never happened. I would never stand for anything like it now. I think it was my desire to keep things as normal as possible. I believe a woman should leave after the first attack.

    Sometimes I feel really angry at him. Myself too, for letting it happen. There’s less anger now…God is helping me let it go. There’s better use for that energy now. I want to help others.

    About 15 years after the beating, to try and ease the anxiety, I started taking a tranquilizer (Lorazepam). I took it for 25+ years, and decided to wean myself off September 2010. It took me 11 months, but with God’s help, I was drug-free. Instead of being proud of me, he angrily said, “YOU CHANGED AND I DON’T LIKE IT!!!”

    In October 2011, I was free of him. THANK GOD.

  4. Now Free After 42 Years

    I couldn’t stop the abuse from happening, but I could have have reported it to the police. Or ask pastor to help me, get medical assistance, etc. But that was unthinkable at the time.

    A thought just came to me..that I should treat myself in a loving way, try to understand this young woman 40 years ago, who was only doing the best she could do at the time. This gives me some relief. I don’t know if it makes sense to anyone else, but It works for me.

    • Dear Now Free,

      What you say makes perfect sense. I understand it completely. Once I was that very young woman simply doing the best I could. The me from back then needs my understanding, not my condemnation. God bless you~ Anna

      • Now Free After 42 Years

        Yes Anna…it’s very sad that abused women so often feel that they need to forgive and support their abusive husbands, and yet condemn themselves. What a totally false and deceiving web the abuser weaves. We play into his manipulative strategies, and he feels justified by our compliance.

        Like so many things the Lord is now revealing to me, I’m becoming aware of why I stayed and what a completely insidious, covert way this man managed the abuse pattern. I believe he repeatedly struck me and left those bruises and swellings because he wanted to impress upon me limits. Limits to what he simply wouldn’t tolerate. Nothing radical, just simple, everyday things that a normal couple discuss as part of their marriage partnership.

        The abuse continues..this time with uttering and writing malicious lies about my character and actions to family, friends, strangers, institutions. Hiding assets. WIll he never stop?

        I felt I needed to protect him at the time, and make myself invisible. No longer. The Lord has set me free.

        Thank you for the validation dear sister, You are in my prayers

      • I felt I needed to protect him at the time, and make myself invisible. No longer. The Lord has set me free.

        Amen. I once told everyone what a great man he was. No more. I know who he is and though it is not my intention to do to him what he once did to me, it is my intention to tell the truth AND live the truth. The Lord indeed sets the captives free–and I was one in so many ways.

        You also are in my prayers. God bless you.

  5. anonymous

    I know now that my situation was strongly affected by one incident in about the 7th year of our marriage. Until that time I was aware that my husband used verbal and emotional bullying tactics sometimes and never apologized, but I made excuses because he had grown up in a home where there was a lot of religious hypocrisy. I had grown up around hypocrisy as well, but I thought we were both committed to learning and growing as believers, so I accepted his selfish behavior as just part of the growing process. One day his discipline of our two small children went too far, and in his anger he injured them. He left the scene immediately and I took care of them. I was sure it was an accident, but I struggled with what to do about it.
    He would not talk about it or apologize. Aside from this one incident he never physically hurt them again. But I knew he could not control his anger and it could happen again. I felt responsible to see that he never lost his temper like that again. Whenever I tried to talk with him about our disagreements and how we handled them, it just resulted in the verbal and emotional abuse escalating. I never could call it “abuse”, because he never hit me. There were times that I wished he would hit me so that I could then get help. I thought I was “protecting” our children because most of the abuse was directed at me, but I now know it hurt them terribly. It was because of them that I finally separated from him. I did not think I had the strength or self-confidence to be able to leave, but a mother will find the strength when she needs to protect her children. The Lord showed me that I was “protecting” them in the wrong way. He provided for every step, when I did not think I could, because my church leaders refused to get involved.

  6. I think every comment and observation that others have written here is great. And thanks Joe especially for yours, because hearing from a genuine male victim drives it home in a new way, somehow – maybe because it validates our experience as victims, because it means we’re not just whining hormonal women. We, like you Joe, are victims and survivors of Abuse with a capital A.
    I’ve written a new post on this topic that Jeff raised.
    It’s called How Many Times Should Abuse be Tolerated? – the question revisited

Trackbacks

  1. How Many Times Should Abuse be Tolerated? – the question revisited « A Cry For Justice

Leave a comment. It's ok to use a made up name (e.g Anon37). For safety tips read 'New Users Info' (top menu). Tick the box if you want to be notified of new comments.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: