A Cry For Justice

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

How to Ruin Your Credibility

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.

***

Victims of abuse have an uphill battle when it comes to being believed.  Most of you know this from firsthand, hard experience.  Many times your churches, your friends, or your relatives are less than eager to come to your aid.  That is wrong, and one of the purposes of this blog is to work toward righting it.

But let me explain to you how a victim can do some real damage to her case.  Quite a few years ago, a woman came to me, sat down in my office, and said “I am going to divorce my husband.  I have already filed the papers.”  Boom.  I knew nothing of any problems in the marriage.  This was the first I knew of it.  Now, I will admit that since that time I have learned a whole bunch about abuse, and if that woman came to me today there are things I would do differently.  Instead of asking her to show me in Scripture how she was justified in divorcing him, I would ask her to tell me what had been going on to lead her to this point.  In this particular case, I believe it was verbal abuse.  She may well have had grounds for the divorce, but we didn’t get that far.

Shortly after her divorce, she took up with another guy.  He wasn’t a Christian.  And on top of that, she conducted herself in an immoral manner with him.  She wasn’t at all shamed about it and the church she was attending then did nothing about it.

Now, as I have have learned about abuse, I have gone back over cases like hers in my mind, wondering about how I would handle them differently now than I did years ago.  As I said, there are some things in this particular woman’s case that I would approach differently now.  Maybe she did have a sound case for divorce.  But you know what?  She really hurt her credibility with me and with others when she rather quickly tied up with this other guy and conducted herself in the manner that she did.  Yes, she could well have been emotionally starved and weak and so on.  But this kind of thing does not help a victim’s case at all and I would like to caution all of our readers.  There are probably not many ways that you can more effectively harm your credibility with your church, with the courts, and with your family and friends than rushing off into some ill-advised and even un-biblical relationship.

So take care.  Trust the Lord.  Obey Him and glorify Him in all that you do.

17 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Ps Crippen, thanks for the heartfelt warning.

    I have also heard of such cases, but since becoming a survivor myself and getting to know many others (strangely, many are from churches I used to attend!), I must say I have not come across this as the norm. Most of my survivor friends are far too busy warding off post-separation attacks, rebuilding their own lives and picking up the pieces in their shattered children’s lives to go gallivanting after the next knight-in-shining-armour. Most female survivors are also suspicious of males, and will not touch another relationship with a barge pole. Most are also not keen on divorcing. I know of several who prayed so hard against divorce when their abusive husbands served them the papers.

    So I don’t know where this caricature comes from, but I am sure there are those who dive impetuously into the next relationship, blessed of God or not, as I have heard pastors talk about these women too. Maybe they had already lined up the next partner and was looking for an excuse to divorce, who knows.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Yes, I think you are correct that this is not the norm, at least for Christians. But we have had enough stories of this thing come to our attention that it is worth issuing a caution about. One Christian abuse survivor actually was quite insistent that getting together with another man while still married to her abuser was fine and turned out for the best. We disagree. Certainly though, the majority of victims who have told me their story are of the thinking that you describe. The last thing they want is to get into another relationship, and yes, for years they often have done everything they could to try to fix their original marriage and family.

  2. Jim

    It was already too late by the time she got to your office,probably by months. I don’t know what was happening with her and my situation would be different, but when you go on in a bad situaion for a long time, it seems clear you are expected to keep your mouth shut and suck it up, and the church people are tolerant or maybe even on the side of the people harming you, respecting their rules and getting their approval loses importance. She didn’t care if she had any credibility with you or your congregation, and why should she? You and they didn’t have any credibility with her.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Jim- I suppose what you say could have been true to an extent, but in this particular case she would not have been completely disregarded. I do know this, that it is not going to do an abuse victim any good to come to the point of saying, “well, I don’t care what anyone else thinks. I want this and I am going to do it.” Because whether we like it or not, even in difficult situations when we are treated unfairly, we do still need to take some notice of how our actions are going to affect others. It is easy to tell ourselves that we don’t care what other people think. But in the end, it does matter. No, we can’t be absolutely ruled by the opinions of others — we must ultimately follow and obey Christ alone. And that is the point. If we follow and obey Christ alone, we won’t dash into another relationship carelessly which Christ does not approve of.

      • Jim

        Jeff, while you say you don’t know the whole story, you know a lot more than me. So I won’t argue the specifics. Maybe she was not strongly devoted to Christianity or Jesus in the first place. She had enough attachment to it to join another church after leaving yours. But losing heart or despairing is a process that happens over time, and when it is complete or well advanced you just don’t care any more.

      • “She had enough attachment to it to join another church after leaving yours. But losing heart or despairing is a process that happens over time, and when it is complete or well advanced you just don’t care any more.”

        I hear you and I do understand. It happens. Sure does make things harder all around but it does happen.

  3. Bottom Line– an adulterous relationship *does* hurt credibility and not only with pastors and church folk, but also with family, children, friends and anyone else that hears the story. It’s called, giving the enemy the moral high ground.

    Doesn’t mean the abuse allegations are bogus. But frankly (and lets be totally honest here) abuse is much harder to prove as it occurs in secret with just the spouse and a few demoralized children about. Taking up with another man is right out there in the open for all the world to see and judge. And they do whether we think its fair or not.

    I have to agree with anonymous– In general, I’ve found abuse victims to be obsessive about trying to keep the zombie-dead marriage together. and gun-shy about wanting to start another relationship.

  4. anonymous

    I don’t know a lot of other abuse victims. This is a new place for me, but one of the things I discussed with God from the beginning of my separation and purposed to do was not get involved in another relationship. Did I have plans to? No, of course not, but I also know that satan is subtle and we are all just one decision away from doing something we never thought we would do. I have been separated 7 months and I purposefully don’t tell people I’m getting a divorce, particularly men, and I always wear a ring on my left hand. People see a ring and they assume, and I let them. A side bar: I find it interesting that I’m the one who has prayerfully taken these precautions – I, the one who is disobeying God by divorcing my spouse, I, the one who has “snapped”, I, the one who has fallen off the deep end, but recently find out that my abuser is seeing someone. And that as recent as two months into our separation he was texting various women, at various times of the day/night, at the tune of 1000+ texts a month. Actions speak for themselves. Maybe, I should post this under the “Restoring Relationship with Estranged Children” – to victims: keep in the Word and on your knee and keep all actions and conversations spotless. Let your abuser sink his own ship. Because he will. It may take time, but he will.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Anon- I will also paste this into the other post on restoring relationships with children. It is very pertinent. Excellent! Thank you.

  5. anonymous

    Thanks so much for the warning. I take this word to heart. I am currently legally seperated and going through the divorce process. I came out of a marriage that was abusive and adulterous. At this new church I am attending I am forming new friendships with men and women alike. There is one particular male that I am finding i’m getting close with. His love and care towards me has really softened my heart to be able to receive love from a male. It can be very easy as an abusived victim to want to ‘latch’ on to him, romanticize him and get obsessive. I know this is due to never having intimacy, trust and friendship in the former marriage. I personally am so turned off with marriage, it has left me so fragmented, broken, vulnerable, and emotionally burnt out. Just the thought of makes me want to cry. I appreciate being single. Not belonging to any one person and not having to give myself, body, and emotions is totally liberating. Rebound relationships are never the solution.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Anon – You are very welcome. Boy, the lure can be really strong. This fellow may be a really great man, sincere, and so on. But danger lurks. We hear many stories of abuse victims being drawn right into another abusive situation with the very same first impressions you describe. For now, you are not divorced. If he knows that, this may be a good test of his character. How does he respond, knowing that legally you are still married? Just some things to consider. For now, you would probably do quite well to distance yourself from him. You can be quite upfront with him and tell him that this is not the time. Again, we find out much more about a person’s true character when we see how they react when we say “no” to them. One final note and then I will quit preaching:) You said you are turned off completely right now at the thought of marriage. That being the case, ask yourself “then where would a relationship with a man be headed right now, if not marriage?”

      • anonymous

        I appreciate the preaching I really do. My dilemna and question has been whether it is wrong to be friends with the opposite sex and can’t a friendship just be a friendship without it being more? Slowly, I have been pulling away because I realize I am way too vulnerable to be close to any man even if it a simple friendship.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Very, very, wise! Good job!

  6. Anonymous

    From one Anon to Another: Wise decision! good choice! No, there is nothing wrong with friendships, but that doesn’t make all friendships right. I think you are very wise to recognize that you are vulnerable at this time, and you need to react to that knowledge accordingly – create boundaries for yourself. Just like a toddler who is learning to walk on her own, parents don’t allow the toddler to walk wherever. No, they create safe boundaries where the toddler can practice and grow. Likewise, many victims are learning to “walk” on their own for the first time in a long time (29 years for me) and it is important that we identify our weaknesses and strengths and create boundaries for ourselves, so we have a safe environment in which we can grow. In addition to learning about the mentality of the abuser, we, the victims, need to learn why we were drawn into the relationship and how the abusive situation now affects us and our perceptions. We need to know this, not to condemn ourselves, but so that we can grow and prevent repeat performances. (One of Pastor Crippen’s sermons discusses two such characteristics found in victims, the caregiver and the rescuer. Sermon title: The Abuser wants you to make much about him). God will be faithful to show us ourselves, and the changes we need to make. We need only ask and seek. And possibly, Pastor Crippen, you know of some resources that focus on the typical victims’ mentality and perceptions and the cautions we should be mindful of.

    • Jeff Crippen

      I know that there is a section in the book Safe People by Cloud and Townsend (they also wrote the Boundaries series) that discusses why we choose unsafe people. I will look through my library and see what others I can locate.

    • anonymous

      Wow…thanks! What great insight and wisdom. My weakness is that I give in too easily and have a hard time saying ‘no.’ I respond by impulse rather than caution. With this particular person our first introduction was with a hug (and they never stopped after that) rather than a hand shake. Hugs are personal and should not being given to somebody i’m meeting for the first time or don’t even know. Because I was in a marriage where boundaries were crossed all of the time. Whether i like it or not I have start creating them.

  7. Anonymous

    From yet another Anonymous to two others, What I’ve found is that survivors do often go into another abusive relationship. There is a woman in our support group who is struggling with this. I’m not blaming her for that – anyone could have married her husband. All I’m saying is that these stories make me wary, and the wariness trumps any desire to fill the vacuum for acceptance/love/affection from the opposite sex. Right now, I feel very loved by Christ, and that seems more than sufficient!

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