A Cry For Justice

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

Listening to Victims Who Talk and Talk and Talk

Psalms 142:4-6 Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul. (5) I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” (6) Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low! Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me!

Get me going on the subject of abuse and… well, I will end up talking too much.  At some point this voice in my head starts going off, “Jeff, shut up.  You are wearing these people out.  They are going to think you are nuts.”  It takes several warnings from that voice before I actually stop.  Why?

Victims of abuse, and those who are seeing the terrible injustices done to them — especially at the hands of their own churches — don’t have a whole pile of people standing in line to listen to them.  Most people don’t want to hear it because they don’t want to be bothered.  Because it is just too unpleasant of a thing to think about.  It’s a party-killer.  “Excuse me, would you, I need to freshen up this drink.”  Oh man, I’ve done it again!

But let me make a suggestion to all of us.  One of the best things we can do for abused people is to listen to them.  Listen to them for a long time.  Then listen to them again, and again, and again.  And I mean, really listen.  They aren’t crazy.  I told a friend not too long ago that for a long time I thought she was just a little — strange.  Turns out she isn’t strange at all.  She just doesn’t have many people who will listen to her, and since I have started to listen, I have learned quite a lot from her.

Victims of abuse — once they realize that you are willing to listen to and believe them — are going to gush.  The dam bursts and here comes the story.  I have come to the point of asking them for their stories.  I love to hear those stories for several reasons.  First, because I think it really helps them to tell it. Second, because it is good and right to be a person who takes notice of the oppressed.  Third, because listening to them is to take care of their soul.  And fourth, because these stories are lectures in the school of abuse.  And I want to learn more.

They talk.  They ramble.  I mean, who wouldn’t ramble?  How do you put years and years of terrible confusion and oppression into a neat outline?  You can’t.  They apologize for talking so long.  They doubt that what they are saying makes any sense.  Then they talk some more.  And in reality, if you think about it, they really aren’t talking so excessively after all.  Just how long does it take for a person to describe 35 years of suffering to you?  Two hours?  A day?

So, listen.  And don’t think that you are listening to someone who is weird or who just likes to hear themselves talk.  Don’t turn and go the other way when you see them coming.  In fact, consider it an honor that they choose to talk to you.  Because rest assured, there are scant few who ever have listened to them before.

24 Comments

  1. Jeff – yes, yes, YES. I have so few people in my life that truly listen. Most are the amazing people I have met here by opening myself up via my blog and the other is my therapist. I have yet to make any leap into the real live people in my life to really get into the nitty gritty. I have to say though, this small group of people that do listen…really, it is an amazing feeling. I am so glad you put this out there. People like me desperately need people like you. To hear us. To really, genuinely hear what we are saying, to not think we are crazy, to believe us. Having my blog has enabled that. I honestly do not know where I would be without it.

    • Jeff Crippen

      It is a good feeling, isn’t it? So glad you are being helped by listeners!! I know exactly what you mean.

  2. Amy KurschnerKroenke

    thank you for writing this, as a victim, I always wanted someone to talk to and since I’ve started to talk, I’ve lost friends and family.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Amy- Keep talking when someone will listen. You aren’t at all alone in suffering the loss of friends and family. Most everyone here in the blog community has gone through the very same thing, so it’s not you. This is what happens when we start telling the truth. But it’s the only way to freedom.

    • Hi Amy,

      Yes, this happened to me as well. Once I started talking, I lost most of those I considered close friends. I lost all of my acquaintances and the community that I socialized with (an extremely conservative segment of the religious community). My children lost their friends as their parents didn’t want them associating with my rebellion. I think its very common but it sure hurts, doesn’t it?

      I finally had to realize that those who left were never friends in the first place. Those who stayed, the ones who listened to my endless word-vomit tirades– those were my true friends and that is one reason I am so thankful for them.

      But I can tell you that the Lord has added to the few who stayed true, who listened and offered comfort without judgement and these new friendships are strong. I do believe the Lord will continue adding to their number, restoring what the locust gobbled up 🙂

  3. When I first left, I could *not* shut up! The moment someone asked how I was doing, boy howdy, were they in for it. I called it word vomit.

    But that came after 30 plus years of silence where I told no one. Not my mother, not my best friend, not the pastor, not the Lord, not even myself. When the dam broke I couldn’t have stopped if I wanted and believe me, I did want to stop.

    Eventually the torrent slowed and I can now carry on a semi-normal conversation about things like kittens and the weather without one mention of you-know-what. I’m still extremely grateful for those friends who let me gush and I ask the Lord to bless them every time I remember their kindness and patience.

    • anonymous

      My mom used to get so frustrated with me for keeping it all boggled up inside. But I didn’t know how to speak or how to express the pain in words. Too busy trying to be strong through it all. My parents could see that something was totally off with the former marriage but for me it too much work having to explain myself. I was exhausted as it was! Now it’s a different story. For some reason, because I am no longer in the marriage I have no problem talking about the abuse and the adultery with others.

  4. Maree

    Thanks Jeff. A new lady came to my church about four years ago and we became instant friends. She had never married but had seen abuse in her friends’ marriages and her parents’ marriage and so could relate to it. She listened to my story. She listened again. And again. And again. She believed me. My story was very similar to her friends’ stories. She never doubted that I was lying or exaggerating. Over the last four years I have talked a lot about my experiences. Now that I’m healing, and a lot of that is due to her listening to me, I don’t feel that I need to talk about my experiences as much as I used to. I can now move on. She moved from the city to my town and didn’t understand why she wanted to move to that town, but I am positive the Lord sent her to me to help. Since leaving my former husband two pastors didn’t know how to deal with me, and so they didn’t really try. One of them made occasional phone calls to check, but I felt that it was more like a business call and that he only wanted to cross me off his list of phone calls to make. Another pastor, new to town, didn’t even go that far. No phone calls, no visits. I left the church and found a lovely, sincere pastor in another town (who understood abuse because he had been abused as a child). It really does make a difference to someone who has a story to tell, just to listen and give them some of your time. Pastors, please take note. Visit these ladies with your wife. Maybe meet them in a public place for a coffee. Please listen to them.

  5. Maree

    I just want to say that my friend gave me opportunities to talk, but I didn’t talk non-stop about me for four years!

    • Fluffy Goodness

      Amy and Ida Mae,

      The friends you met after …. are the ones you want to keep!

      • Fluffy Goodness

        Jeff, these victims must be very cautious of who the ” tell all too” ….they are very vulnerable and easy prey…I have been a Ministers daughter about 47 years…my father took advantage of women who needed guidance with marriage, abuse, and abandonment……

      • Jeff Crippen

        FG – Yes, very, very good point that you make. I am so sorry you had to have that experience in your past. It is most probably best to seek out a woman who will listen. Most pastors, I am sorry to say, don’t get it when it comes to abuse. Most Christians don’t for that matter. So finding someone who does and who will listen is something to really pray for. It is best to share a little at first to “test the waters.” We formed a small abuse victim’s support group in our church and I sit in on it and read from various books, but the members interact with one another and counsel one another. I think that is the best setting of all, apart from perhaps a professional counselor/therapist. The two combined are pretty powerful.

    • LOL! 🙂

  6. Yeah. When I left my first husband and started trying to tell other Christians about it all, they didn’t want to hear. They only seemed to want to relate to me if I acted all normal like one of them (talked about my kids’ sporting or musical activities, or shopping or cooking tips, or maybe a little politics-lite, or whatever. But if I talked about my gaping wounds, the softly silent bristles came out. I got so mad at this and so desperate to gush that I eventually tried to explain to them how domestic abuse survivors’ greatest need is to talk and be listened to. Still they didn’t get it. I even arranged one day where a few Christian ladies would come to a home meeting and sit and listen to me and my few survivor friends tell our stories. Well, we told some of our stories. Still felt like we’d dropped lead balloons with fart-gas inside them. I wish now I’d not tried so hard to make them listen. It was as painful as throwing myself at an electric fence over and over again. Silly me! I thought they ought to show compassion: after all, they were Christians, weren’t they?

  7. Maree

    Um, no Barbara, Christians don’t always want to listen. I am also to blame in this regard. Not long after I left my former husband I needed someone to speak with and told my bible study leader, an older woman, a few things. After about 20 minutes, she finally said, “you’re a moaner”. I never confided in her again.

  8. Jodi H.

    Has anyone noticed the irony of there being more comments on a post about talking on and on, than there are on most of the other posts? LOL! I think we’ve proven your point Jeff!
    I have not found one person to listen to the slightest negative thing about my husband or marriage-I get shushed pretty much right away-so I’ve learned to keep the bad stuff to myself. That all changed one day when I met a woman at my homeschool group-she was new, and I ended up sitting beside her. I normally don’t start chatting up complete strangers, but I found myself asking her lots of personal questions(I found out she was divorced)-as I probed and she answered(she later told me that was completely unlike her as well)-I discovered she came from an abusive marriage and had a ministry to women abused as children! It was ,as they say “a God thing”- we immediately began to meet on regular basis as I told her my story-even she was shocked at some of the things I told her- but how wonderful to find someone who not only listened-but totally got it! I think that was what finally gave me the courage to leave my husband a month later.
    Even after almost 6 months I have only told 2 other people, and I totally regret one of them.
    Jodi

    • Jeff Crippen

      Jodi – Perhaps the formula running through a listener’s brain as they listen is, “What? He slaps her, rages at her, and accuses her of sleeping around. There must be something messed up with this woman, big time. I’m outta here!” And so it goes. People with troubles are trouble, and trouble threatens to rock our world. Thankfully the Lord raises up a few (and that number tends to grow over time) who come alongside.

    • Anonymous

      Among my homeschooling friends, there are only a few of us who are in the same boat. When we get together, we can really talk. We stand out like a sore thumb because nobody else wants have a bar of it!

  9. The abuse began shortly after the honeymoon (sound familiar?) and on one particularly horrible day, I ran to our best friend’s house, a couple that we did everything with, and the wife was home. I told her that my husband was being abusive. She was shocked and reached for the phone to call the domestic violence hotline, but out of fear, I stopped her (something I’ll ALWAYS regret). After that, they shunned me and had nothing to do with us again. My husband found out that I had “told” her and he looked at me and said, “See?… that’s why you don’t tell anyone… and it’s none of their business, anyway.”
    I kept silent for the next 27 years, but have slowly found my “voice”. Now, divorced after 33 years of marriage, I’m free from this abusive man and I share openly with whoever will listen. Many of my old friends choose not to “hear” or believe the Truth and fade away from my life… But, with my new found friends, many who have experienced similar wounding and pain; we share, cry, fuss, discuss, rant, rave, recollect and “talk and talk and talk”!!

    I’m so thankful for you, Jeff, and all who are a part of this site.

    • Jeff Crippen

      RV – What a lesson for bystanders here. A troubled marriage = trouble people = trouble that we want nothing to do with. That’s how it seems to go, isn’t it? Fear has to come into play to an extent also. We really do find out who our true friends are and which ones aren’t when we are in a storm and need help. There are not many around us who walk in the spirit of the Good Samaritan, but how refreshing when we do connect with one. Thank you too Renee for your courage and for sharing your story.

  10. Pippa

    And thank you Renee for being a wonderful listener and a great support to me!!!

  11. Anonymous

    I just had a long chat with a victim of abuse yesterday. A mutual friend once criticized her to me, claiming that she is attention-seeking and loving her victim status because she had poured her heart out to many. Well yesterday this victim revealed that she used to share her story with anyone who would listen, only to find that many couldn’t handle it, or would be put off, or over-burdened, or worse, put the blame on her. So she stopped. When she found out that I didn’t mind her talking her heart out, she sounded relieved. What people don’t realize is that the reason victims have so much to release is that they have been subjected to unspeakable acts of terrorism. It’s not because they are obsessed with being a victim and secretly loving that role!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Yes, I have even seen people tell women like this that they need to stop speaking so disrespectfully of their husband and honor him instead and then the problems would go away!

      • That’s about as logical as saying “If you washed your sheets whiter, he would’t hit you!”
        I have a book which is a collection of accounts from older women who have survived domestic abuse. One of these women recounts being ticked off by a ‘friend’ with those very words that I quote above. I suppose that was in the days when the detergent manufacturers had just started putting fluorescers in laundry detergent, and the TV ads were saying “Buy FAB, it makes your washing whiter than white!”
        Makes you wanna cry…

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