A Cry For Justice

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

Abuse and the Church: A Theory About Why Victims are Not Helped

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 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

I have proceeded in my reading of Judith Herman’s book, Trauma and Recovery: The aftermath of violence — from domestic abuse to political terror [*Affiliate link].  I say, proceeded, because this is a book that I can only read in small bits.  Why?  Because it sets my mind racing.  It explains so many things and blog articles start firing off in my brain.  So I have to take it slow.

I am reading the fourth chapter entitled, Captivity.  Here, Herman sets out the tactics used by political terrorists, prisoner of war camps, totalitarian regimes, criminals, and yes, domestic violence perpetrators.  She also discusses the effects of these tactics on the victim.  Effects which are predictable and which are intentionally produced by the abuser.  Some of the tactics she discusses are known to most of our readers in all too real and personal way:

  • Despotic control over every aspect of the victim’s life
  • A demand for the victim to show him respect, gratitude, or even “love.”
  • Physical violence is often used as a last resort
  • Outbursts of violence
  • Capricious enforcement of petty rules
  • Fear-instilling methods
  • Giving occasional rewards in order to effect a traumatic bonding
  • Sexual humiliation

And on and on we could go.  Now, consider just some of the effects of these tactics upon the victim which Herman points out:

  • Victim comes to see the abuser as the most powerful person in her life
  • Ultimately, the victim may become the willing victim which the abuser desires her to be
  • Personal disempowerment
  • Disconnection from her environment
  • Continual fear of death/gratitude for being allowed to live
  • A loss of autonomy
  • Reliance upon the abuser for even her emotional needs being met
  • Finally, being forced to violate her own conscience and morals (sexual humiliation often occurs here)
  • Loss of even the will to live
  • Longstanding effects of chronic trauma (in domestic abuse cases)

Now, how often have you heard people say things like this:

  • “But he never physically abused her, did he?”
  • “Has he ever hit you?”
  • “Did he slap you or use his fist?”

You know the stuff, right?  We have heard it all too often.  Here then is my theory.  It isn’t comprehensive.  That is to say, it doesn’t attempt to explain every reason churches don’t help abuse victims, but I propose that this is a really big part of the reason:

Pastors and church leaders and Christians regularly fail to render aid and justice to victims of abuse because they do not believe that abuse is all that serious or damaging.  They know little or nothing about the tactics and effects Judith Herman sets out for us.  All they believe is that the effects of abuse really don’t go past the victim’s skin.  Sticks and stones break bones, and that hurts a lot but you will get over it.  Words…words?  Mere words?

And therefore what we have in our churches, in the brand of Christianity that is all around us, is a plague of the ignorance of evil.  When Jesus said we are to be wise as serpents, He wasn’t just chattering because He had nothing else to do.  He was telling us that we had better know our enemy and the weapons that enemy uses.

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

How, I ask, could any pastor or Christian fully understand the tactics and effects that Judith Herman is describing here and then turn right around and tell the victim of such wickedness that she must remain in that prison camp?  Only someone totally devoid of empathy could insist upon such a thing, or perhaps someone who is actually a member of the enemy’s forces.  And certainly someone ignorant of the Scriptures.  The above-cited verse, Matthew 10:28, shows that soul destruction is much more serious than body destruction!

With these things in mind, you can now understand more of the mentality of people who use the term “physical abuse” for abuse.  Or for what they imagine is the worst kind of abuse.  “But if he ever hits you, you can leave.”  These kinds of statements betray an underlying mentality which says people can only be seriously hurt physically. And after all, as John Piper says, “so she got slapped last night.”

Don’t expect help or justice from anyone who believes that.

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


  1. Song

    Jeff C.,
    Thank you for writing about this subject. I agree with you when you say, “And therefore what we have in our churches, in the brand of Christianity that is all around us, is a plague of the ignorance of evil.” The closest I can get to describing some of my experiences is to think of it as mis-placed empathy stemming from the ignorance of evil in regards to how one person can perpetrated evil towards another person. And possibly selfishness. I remembering watching how people would react in disgust and protect themselves at being treated with verbal/emotional abuse and manipulation by my abuser, and then turn around and defend him when I would mention something similar he did to me. I thought I had a safe place to confide in with these people because they had had a similar experience and that possibly they would be able to help me as I saw they were able to protect themselves. I still don’t understand that one.

    “How, I ask, could any pastor or Christian fully understand the tactics and effects that Judith Herman is describing here and then turn right around and tell the victim of such wickedness that she must remain in that prison camp?” Good question!!! I was checking out a website for a large church this morning and ran across the pastor answering the question of What is the biblical grounds for divorce? He stated the common “only two provisions of divorce” we are all so familiar with. And then my heart sank even further and my stomach turned as he said “if there is physical, constant physical abuse going on” that you need to get out of that relationship, but that wasn’t synonymous with getting a divorce. The only way he said you could get a divorce from the abuser was for the abuser to want and get the divorce, and / or that you had to have grace to be single until the abuser got into another relationship, which means that then you are set free to get a divorce. Arghh!! And to cover all the bases, he said if you get an “unbiblical divorce”, and you or your ex-spouse has remarried, there’s nothing you can do about it except repent for the sin of divorcing and continue on in your new marriage, moving forward with the correct, present tense theology of what a sinful divorce is. I would venture to say that these types of pastors and “Christians” are deceived or wolves themselves.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Song – Your conclusion is certainly correct I think. Either way, they aren’t anyone we should listen to. Blind leading the blind.

    • Barnabasintraining

      he said “if there is physical, constant physical abuse going on” that you need to get out of that relationship, but that wasn’t synonymous with getting a divorce.

      I don’t suppose he explained how you can get out of the relationship and remain in the relationship at the same time?

      • Song

        Barnabasintraining – I know, right! His explantation of getting out of the relationship but remaining in the relationship was separation until the abusive person wanted a divorce or got into another relationship. It’s craziness. And it was slick and slimy.

      • Anonymous

        And my question remains, how do you biblically separate from an abuser? They recommend this, but has anyone been given actual Scriptures to support THAT? Funny, you can’t divorce for abuse and in some cases, even for sexual immorality, even though Scripture, taken as a whole, supports that, but you can separate, something Scripture does not really support, for long periods of time. It always ends up with Scripture fitting whatever picture others have in their minds as “right”. I can never quite put it together, that we are allowed to have varying interpretations on other Scriptures, but no varying interpretations for divorce, on biblical grounds! According to those who believe abuse is to be tolerated and/or taken as their allotted persecution in life for being a Christian, divorce IS the unpardonable sin. This battle is exhausting and it seems to me, that I am already in an exhausting battle.

      • Song

        Anonymous, You’re absolutely right – it is exhaustion added to exhaustion, a burden heaped upon a burden, and it can never quite be put together as making sense because it is verses ignorantly, wrongly, or evilly applied. As Jeff so aptly stated in the post about the people who insist a person stay in abuse, “Only someone totally devoid of empathy could insist upon such a thing, or perhaps someone who is actually a member of the enemy’s forces. And certainly someone ignorant of the Scriptures.”

  2. Katy

    I don’t even recognize this Christianity in Jesus. Now that I’ve survived this and experienced freedom in God, I can’t believe in their false Jesus anymore. THEIR “Jesus” turns his back on the most vulnerable. THEIR “Jesus” humiliates and destroys women and children under bondage to cruel evil men, and then He tells us to suck it up and like it or He’s going to abandon us (some more).
    THEIR “Jesus” says He doesn’t care how bad you hurt, because the only thing that matters to God is marriage certificates. That piece of paper that our pastor signed – that’s what God’s going to hold up as my “good work” in heaven someday -( maybe after my husband kills me). It’s like martyrdom for these weirdo “Christians”.

    • Memphis Rayne

      Katy you have my wholehearted “Shaking my head, complete and udder knod of approval and a gigantic AMEN sister!!!” They always preach BEWARE of “”strange fire!!”” and look at how they are burning themselves up!!! It is not my behind that is in the hot seat, nor the behind of my children, its going to be their big ole behinds getting the final burn.

      Okay call me harsh, but whatever? It took awhile to see through the smoke from all that strange fire they were roasting their money bags on, but thank GOD there are TRUE weirdos like us that see right through them!!! First thing that should be tossed in their fire is all the meaningless marriage certificates that do not certify anything much less ABUSERS as Christians much less husbands!!

      Well there I go, just letting it all out again!! I am now in the mood to make a bon fire and roast something.

  3. iamdarlene

    I wonder if Christians are so busy trying to be what they think the Lord wants them to be, (instead of just being a person Jesus saved) that they aren’t aware of the awful problem of emotional abuse…even in churches.

    • Yes, Iamdarlene, the mask wearing and trying to live up to the group ‘norm’ — so many people are being inauthentic, and trying to measure up to Pharisaic ideals of ‘Christian’ lifestyle. And the people who run churches are often not pointing this out; often they enable and promote it, so the sheep think “That’s how we ought to be… the leaders say so, so it must be right.”
      But if leaders were following Jesus’ teaching and example fully, they would be teaching their flocks that being Christlike includes rebuking sin, having nothing to do with heinous sinners who pretend to be Christians, tearing strips off Pharisees and legalists, and upholding justice for the weak and the oppressed without fear or favour.

    • Memphis Rayne

      “Instead of just being a person Jesus saved”……..I like that.
      Seems the church has completely forgotten who Jesus is? Christs only purpose here on earth was to save the helpless, and the weak, HE saved us because we could not save ourselves.. its like the church has gone mad, because the simple truth is no where to be found?

    • Diane

      I agree with you.

  4. Barnabasintraining

    And therefore what we have in our churches, in the brand of Christianity that is all around us, is a plague of the ignorance of evil. When Jesus said we are to be wise as serpents, He wasn’t just chattering because He had nothing else to do. He was telling us that we had better know our enemy and the weapons that enemy uses.

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


    Either you’re reading my mind or I’m reading yours because I cannot tell you how many times this very thought has run through my head lately.

  5. Laurie

    !!@!! =”like” button. Great posts here, thanks to you all for sharing. Nice to know I am not alone in these things.

  6. Deborah

    Proverbs: “The power of death and life are in the tongue.”

  7. Deborah

    Thessolonians, “Do not teach as DOCTRINE the precepts of men.” These churches who are waiting until you have a bruise are doing just this. The proverbs are full of warnings against evil doers whose methods of destruction are transmitted via the tongue. It is a value of harmony over holiness that motivates them to ignore these scriptures found in proverbs. More than that, it is malignant LAZINESS. If they can throw the “where are your bruises” dart at you, then they don’t have to assist you. They are sooo worried about the equal stats on divorce in and out of the church that they place the burden on the victim instead of doing their jobs of helping the oppressed. Is it Isaiah who wrote about the priests… rebuking them for dressing the wounds of Israel as if their wounds were not significant? And further rebukes the priests for placing burdens on the people that they cannot carry? If Proverbs says “The power of life and death are in the tongue” then why wait until you have a physical injury to leave? YOU are the prize, sisters. And don’t you forget that. The scripture says “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” “He”.. it doesn’t say “she.” How will these clowns know this if we stay for their bologne? Tell that pastor if he thinks your husband is such a super guy that he can set him up with an unmarried relative of HIS after you leave.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Deborah – The love of harmony over holiness. Very true. Which means, “our personal comfort is more important than helping you.” And yes, it is a malignant laziness.

      • Memphis Rayne

        “The love of harmony over holiness”…..wow this too has just stuck with me over the last few days….Since I have lived where I do now I have seen this, we have met alot of differrent people form many parts of the world here, I recently met a woman that was very earthy, spoke of peace, the whole you are what you eat mantra…but at the same time she was the most judgemental person I have ever met, very low tolerability for other peoples choices, very rigid, very her way or the high way, and her ultimate under current was that of ANGER??? She smelled like peace? Did away with all the earthly frills(bathing being one of them), and hey we did not mind? She was sure to tell my children the coffee in my hand would kill me, that their breakfast cereal would lead to cancer or brain tumors, then she prayed for us? My point is we open our home to her, and she wanted to change everything inside of it, claiming that she comes in peace. When in fact, it was lip service, a put on show? Fake peace, at the end of it all we felt dissrespected and exhausted. This person definately did not know God but was assurred of her higher power within her vegetable eating mantras. (keep in mind I too love vegetables, but I believe chocolate has a higher calling for me) Well in the spirit of fun, because fun is good, and we like fun, we tried to show our flexiblilty by making a cake out of green algae, we spent the next two weeks in the bathroom, BUT we had fun because it was actually funny that it tasted sooooo freakin bad!! She left seemingly irritated, free place to stay, no requirements on her part, but was very ungrateful due to our home did not jive with her PEACE within her???? hahahaha This story makes about as much sense as the FAKE showy peace withing our churches, underneath there is hostilitly, rigidness, panic over appearances etc…..where is God in all this? A church without understanding, compassion, empathy??? I think somewhere else on this blog this is refferred to a synagoge of DOOM!!! I can see alot of similarities between our randomn house guest and the state of the church, except I see more hope for her because she never claimed she was meditating, eating her vegies, or obstaining from meat in Jesus name. –I’m pretty sure she stole a bag of Doritos on her way out! lol ( My kids and I suppose she was so judgemental because she was a secret closet brownie eater) I am sure the church where I came from would most likely welcome here in, then ignore her because of the way she dressed. Nonetheless they would want people to acknowledge their welcome, in Jesus name of course.
        This is just a simple case of SHPS. The fake show of peace/harmony is that sneaky little pesky thing known as SHINY HAPPY PEOPLE SYNDROME!!

      • Jeff Crippen

        Memphis – I find this in most every single professing Christian organization I have been around. You can feel it. There’s the smiles, the warmy handshakes, the lingo (man, do I hate that fake Christian lingo), but there are also the strong vibes that say “don’t disagree with us. We have a party line and you will embrace it or else.”

        They are eating brownies, alright. But I suspect there must be more than algae in them.

      • Memphis you’ve done it again. Brilliant!
        I love the acronym SHPS… I must remember that one.
        And this: FAKE showy peace withing our churches, underneath there is hostility, rigidness, panic over appearances etc.

        And how churches welcome people in but then ignore them because they dress weird or have tatts or strange hair. Oh yah! And if they happen to mention they have been into some eastern religion or messed with the occult in the past, or been through childhood sexual abuse, or domestic abuse, or drug abuse … heaven help them! No matter how well they dress or fix their demeanor to toe the SHPS line, they will never be really accepted by the rigid, covertly hostile, masked-up people. I tried for years to fit in with people like that, and it was a waste of time. They would accept me only if I limited my conversation to the limited things they conversed about. The never once saw me as a resource they could learn from so they might become better evangelists to those who were caught up in or damaged by eastern religions, the occult, abuse, etc.

        [and their rejection still hurts.]

      • Katy

        thanks for the laugh Memphis – algae cake and closet brownie eater! lol Everyone is judgmental, it’s just that most people don’t want to admit what their criteria are. 🙂

    • Anonymous

      “Tell that pastor if he thinks your husband is such a super guy that he can set him up with an unmarried relative of HIS after you leave.”

      Ooo, now there’s an idea!

      I agree here, that pastors need to start using the entire Bible as an aid in helping victims of abuse and not just the 3 or 4 passages they use regarding marriage. I don’t believe that an abusive marriage, is a marriage at all in God’s eyes, because He did not institute marriage that way, or to ever be that!

      • Memphis Rayne

        I like what Deborah wrote also abut setting up a relative with the perpetrator. EVEN then though, they may apply their “special” stalk answer to an abuse victom, the only twist may be that they would secretly give them shelter and food and a safe place to come for help. I have seen this in fact, where the persons involved were relatives, and the RULES for preaching to the masses are urgently adjusted for this special case. Yet still even when a daughter or other relative was involved they STILL tried to help the perpetrator, out of the christian goodness of their hearts. I think what was done in private was ENTIRELY different than the display with the relative in public. I did see more empathy towards her, however the placating of the perpetrator in public remained the same…..they did not want to send the WRONG message afterall??? …….sigh.

        Its like my Dad, he is an abuser….he would defend me against an attack BUT he would not change his overall mentality over my sufferring….nope, if an abusive mentality is in charge, NOTHING is going to get across that pond!

  8. Renee

    I still get a sick feeling when I remember one of the last things my ex said to me when he finally left (after 32 years of me suffering his abuse)

    “You exaggerated the abuse…. I never BLOODIED you.”

    I stood there in shock at the pure evil.

    So thankful to be free…

    • Jeff Crippen

      Renee – The mentality behind that comment is incredibly evil, isn’t it? “There is always something worse I could have done, but I didn’t do it, therefore you must be thankful to me and tell me how good I am because I didn’t shove hot needles under your fingernails.” Self, self, self. It’s always about self. Such words evidence a hard, conscienceless heart that in most all cases, in my opinion, is beyond redemption.

    • Memphis Rayne

      I always heard the SAME thing “”If I REALLY wanted to hurt you, YOU would be dead right now!”” Oh? MY mistake? I meant THANK YOU for the shoving, pushing, spitting, head bashing, volitale disgusting language!!! …..my bad!?

    • absorbing those shock waves with you, Renee.

  9. bright sunshinin' day

    We need “bouncers” at the church doors. Jude urges those who are called to contend for the faith because “…certain people have CREPT in UNNOTICED who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who PERVERT the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 4)

    • Jeff Crippen

      BSD – Absolutely! No kidding, this business of “Come on in, All are Welcome!” drives me crazy. When I see that on a church sign I just want to vomit. ALL are welcome, huh? Tell me, is the devil welcome? Does Scripture tell us that all are welcome? “Put that man out when you gather together!” (1 Cor 5). If Judas feels warm and fuzzy in our church, is that ok? We don’t have bouncers at the doors of our building, but if someone comes who evidences signs of being one of those Jude 4 types you mention (and there are signs), then it won’t be long before the elders request to have a chat with them. One guy some years back marched up to the front of the church immediately upon the last Amen, held out a check in front of me, and ceremoniously dropped it into the offering box. I knew what he was then. I told him I would want to meet with him and find out more about him and his family (he came alone) and what his church background was. He never came back.


  10. forgedimagination

    I don’t know how many times I heard “be innocent concerning evil” preached at my fundamentalist church. They used it as an excuse to never have to open their eyes to realities like abuse and oppression. They taught that stuffing your fingers in your ears and ignoring the cries of the helpless was “biblical.”

    • Can you imagine Jesus stuffing his fingers in his ears and ignoring the cries of the helpless?
      What a ludicrous notion!

  11. Debbie Prce

    I have been there and I know first hand how that prison of being in an abusive marriage.
    When i wrote my song “Deceived” those words came out of my heart so real and poured out like a river of emotions and hurt!!

  12. Jeff S

    I think the “sticks and stones” mentality is a huge part of the problem, and not just related to abuse. I think it’s part of the “rugged American” spirit of individuality, especially among political conservatives. They believe that the only way to really hurt another person is physically, that psychology is a bunch of people trying to justify and make a social issues out of bad behavior, and that everything can be solved by “getting over it”. This affects a whole range of social issues, including how we treat the poor (“work is the cure for poverty”), but I think many of us have run into it with domestic violence. Unless someone has physically messed with you, you can just shut your eyes and ignore it.

    How such a mentality can find a place in Christianity is beyond me, since Christianity is all about healing the soul, moreso than the body. Scratch that, perhaps this is why these folks focus so much in the physical threat of hell over the spiritual state of souls. I’m not saying that hell isn’t physical, but scripture makes it clear that the spiritual health is far more important than physical health. Remember Jesus asking which is more difficult to do- forgive sins or heal physically? So they always return to scaring the hell out of people rather than appealing to the spiritual darkness the lost are already mired in. I guess it’s probably hard to preach about spiritual death when all you really accept are physical consequences.

    This brings me back to the Pharisee mindset that totally missed what Jesus was doing because they were looking for a physical and political kingdom rather than a spiritual one. Because physical is “real” and “tangible”- the rest of this “soul” stuff is just too touchy-feely.

    Well I have news for these folks- almost all physical wounds heal, but when you’ve damaged someone’s soul you may have created wounds that will not fully heal this side of heaven. Jesus knows this. Paul and the other Apostles knew it. It’s time the evangelical church of today learns it.

    • Good joining-of-dots, Jeff S. Thank you. And Amen to your conclusions.

    • Anonymous

      Agree. The Scriptures repeatedly warn us to stay away from those who can endanger our souls, even going so far as to tell us not to even eat with such a one. The focus on the physical aspect of abuse, to the neglect of one’s emotional/mental health is ridiculous. It seems they focus on aiding somehow, the one who is in the hospital asking for help because her jaw has been broken, but overlook the victim that calls saying, “I am losing touch with reality and cannot think for myself anymore”. They laugh and say, “well, if the victim is really a Christian, that wouldn’t be happening to her mind”. They think that somehow the victim in all the abuse she lives in, is still able to function as if nothing is happening to her. However, they understand victims of war coming home with PTSD. They fail to realize that living in abuse, is the same as living in a war. I just wonder, how any pastors/elders/leader/counselors can overlook the health of the souls of victims of abuse and still call themselves, Christian. I think they just don’t understand how much control and power the abuser has over the victim.

      I remember reading something from God’s Word and then directing change in our home to be more lined up with God’s Word. My abuser challenged that, and I thought to myself, “Well, he is the head and I cannot trust my own judgment (at least he has told me that for years and years), so I go with the abuser’s theory instead. Now they can all blame me for that, but they have no idea what living with an abuser is like and how much it changes who you really are, and your ability to trust yourself or even function in life – including hanging onto your relationship with God, while the abuser works to destroy it, because he wants you all to himself. Life with an abuser, changes the victim’s reality and ability to cope in life and make good decisions. Instead, the victim’s life is filled with fear and stress and hopelessness, and those are what end up governing her decisions.

      • Memphis Rayne

        Anon wow I can so relate to the stress, fear, and hopelessness….its like living but not being alive, and the despair is something that definately changes who you are, and I could never understand why this other “person” wanted to take everything from me, including my light? They are jealous and empty and they do want you all to themselves, and in their minds thats all you deserve is their misery, and how dare you want more than that?…….so many times other people, including Christians would tell me “” He can only take what you allow him to” which only deepens the despair, because now “I” somehow had allowed this to happen, “I” somehow gave him the rights to my soul? Or I would have people comfort me by saying go home and hold his hand, ask him to pray with you, trust the lord to heal you both…..and my heart would sink into the pit, because not only could I not reach out to God in my physical or emotional being, the people that were suppose to be HIS hands and feet kept throwing me back into the fire, it took me soooo long to realize that THEY were wrong, THEY really did not care, and it REALLY was not about ME….what I could do better, or I could say, or clean, or pray, or be more understanding. Nope nobody got it, nobody wanted to understand, even if as some christians I knew at the time were being abused also, they too pretended like it was not happening to them, because it only happen to me, I WAS THE FAULTY ONE. They were content with my shame being exposed, (even though I had nothing to be ashamed of, its just how I was made to feel in that place) what was happening to me was like a reflective coating for them, so nobody actually connected and looked around at each other.

        Nobody understands that everyday has become automatic survival mode, daily you are just trying to cope with all that fear, stress there is not room in one body for anything else when you live with an abuser….sigh….so many time the church told me actual scripts, at this time say that, when he is fed, and rested say this…..no time is the right time with an abuser, and if I had a dollar for everytime a pastor asked me “”well what caused him to be angry””….well I would be a very rich woman.
        It took about three years of this crap before I realize they were TEACHING me “How to walk on eggshells”” literally that is it. Nothing I could say or do could get rid of the stress of a decade of walking on eggshells, wether I did it their way or his. I daily live with the same stress, and it has now become apart of who I am. Someday though I want to be rid of it, and that will be a very happy day.

      • To Memphis and all who feel like her: (((hugs)))
        and it is not your fault and it was never your fault

        I know we say that many times here, but I believe those words can bear much repeating when talking to abuse survivors. 🙂

      • anonymous

        My life right now is as you say, filled with fear, and stress. I do feel like I am losing reality at times. At times I also feel hopeless but I hold on to what I know to be true in Scripture. I have been married for over 25 years with two adult children. By all outside appearances, we had the ‘perfect’ marriage. By his (I can’t bring myself to call him my abuser yet) own admission, I always made him to feel Number 1 in my life, (spoken before I came to a saving faith) although I was busy with the kids. He prided himself in that fact that we never argued. There is too much to write for this space but suffice it to say, I came to a place in my life that I realized how much was lacking in our marriage on the emotional level. I approached him about it and was met with the reasons why it was my fault. Although later he admitted to being self-absorbed and indifferent because of work. He also told me I “ceased to delight” in him. He Never wanted to reason through with me on getting to the root of the problem or what was going on inside of me. It was a rollercoaster of emotions for the next 4 years. I want to be transparent here and say I didn’t always handle things in a Godly way for which I repented. Things continued to escalate until finally I left 14 months ago. Life was sucked out of me. He struggles with anxieties, depression and was told he had a narcissitic disorder which was later reduced to ‘tendencies.” I filed for divorce when I saw that things were not getting better. I felt guilt, high stress and like I was going crazy in my dealings with him. I saw glimmers of his kindness but by in large I was met with the things that were wrong with me. He said God got ahold of him and was changed. I would never be one to say what God has done in someone’s life, but I wasn’t see the change he was talking about as it related to us. Now he believes in the permanence of marriage and I am being disobedient for not going back. “Where is your conviction?,” he asks. I have asked myself the same question. Whenever I was in his presence, I would get a punch to my gut or a visceral response that he even recognized. We went to counseling which he only went to 2 times. He does not like confrontation or criticism. Strange, but I was afraid to hurt his feelings. I was told to be honest that he is a man and needs to hear it. He became so arrogant and I became so distraught. I went so I would have a voice in a safe place and where it could be constructive. As dialogues continued between us, I was met with bullying, threats, denial and dismissal. At times, I was as you say trying to function in life and hold onto to my relationship with God. I knew to draw closer to Him and He draws close to us. I cried out to knowing He knows everything anyways but I wanted to bear my heart to Him in all desperation, fear, contrition and at times, hopelessness. It is as I have read here, some Christians quoted scripture that they thought, fit. “Fear is not of the Lord,” “Trust and obey.” I know that but it didn’t make sense in this context. Around and around my mind goes. Husband tells me Now he is the leader of the home and I need to obey and come home. “Trust in the change the Lord will do in your life when you do as He has done in mine.” Blessings follow obedience. He tells me I will see the change when I come back. Where is the genuine concern? Where is the love he says he has for me? I say I don’t want to live in the past but I do want to learn from it or else we will relive it. We are going to another counselor. I go double the amount of him because he has ‘nothing’ to say. “Whatever this trauma you are going through needs to finish up soon. It’s getting expensive.” I haven’t beat you or had multiple affairs.” In other words, I have a good man and I should be thankful. I am told I have PTSD and that explains a lot. But by in large, she doesn’t see or admit to any abuse. He has been talking to her about me being a ‘prodigal’ and that I am out finding myself….more knives to the heart. He uses scripture as a weapon not as the healing balm of Gilead. If it was true in the sense that he uses it, I should be drawn as Jesus draws not being pushed away. Worse yet, he is feeling our son with this indoctrination. Our son is angry with me though he tries not to be he says. I am tired of the manipulation, hypocrisy, judgment and condemnation. I have been on my face before the Lord, crying out for His will to be done. I refer to the scripture, “Husbands, love your wife as Christ loves the church and wives submit to your husband as unto the Lord.” The higher call is on the husband, that is the first command. When this happens, the wife will certainly follow. Jesus’ love for the church was sacrificial, and is filled with the fruit of the Spirit. In God’s design, marriage is a wonderful covenant. Two imperfect people, working out their own salvation and through covenant, putting on one another. If we did that, we would be loving each other as we love ourselves. Even in the secular world, great leaders have empowered followers! We are on the verge of ending counseling and he wants an answer concerning if I am going back or not. He went through a medical procedure not long ago. I was told I could go, if I committed to going home and promising not to leave again. My thought was who knows what God would’ve done in that time. I understand his lack of trust in me that I would leave again. But I equally, am looking to be in a safe place where it is not all about him again and I am privileged to live in it. Of course, more is involved but this is the basis of it. I want to be right in my understanding. I am told I overanalyze and its secular thinking and am living in the times of the Judges. He told me I can’t pray because God will not hear my prayers and how could I delight myself in the things of the Lord as I recently shared with him when I am separated from my husband. Looking forward to any feedback. Thank you so much

      • Jeff Crippen

        Thanks for your story Anon. This statement stood out to me in your comment: “We are going to another counselor. I go double the amount of him because he has ‘nothing’ to say. “Whatever this trauma you are going through needs to finish up soon. It’s getting expensive.” I haven’t beat you or had multiple affairs.” In other words, I have a good man and I should be thankful. I am told I have PTSD and that explains a lot. But by in large, she doesn’t see or admit to any abuse. He has been talking to her about me being a ‘prodigal’ and that I am out finding myself….more knives to the heart.”

        Couple’s counseling will only do you harm. It is not a tool for abuse situations. Abusers only use it to obtain more “ammo” to fire off at their victim. All of the “spiritual” advice abusers give is merely their tactic of using Scripture to further blast the victim – which is never the intent of God’s Word of course. Your description of your husband’s mindset is that he is rather classic in his abuse – in his thinking and in his tactics. So don’t doubt yourself in seeing them. All of his claims to have changed are in fact clear indicators that no change and no repentance have occurred.

        If you have not yet done some reading regarding abuse, please do so and your eyes will be further opened to what is happening. Get Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He do That? [*Affiliate link], and as to the biblical grounds for divorce, read Barbara Roberts’ book Not Under Bondage [Affiliate link]. Then if you want some insight into how “Christian” abusers operate, pick up my book, A Cry for Justice: How the Evil of Domestic Abuse Hides in Your Church [Affiliate link]. I can assure you that the “lights” will come on for you even more.

        In my opinion, abusers like your husband never change. Never. And at minimum, why should you wait around any longer hoping for change in him that has never happened all these years?

        *Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.
      • Hello Anon, welcome to the blog and thank you for sharing some of your story.

        I understand how hard it is to use the A word (abuse); most victims experience that — we are very reluctant to use the A word about our spouse because if we use the A word, it means seeing things in a whole new light, and maybe having to run the gauntlet of separation, finger pointing from the church and the abusive spouse’s allies, misunderstanding from counsellors, etc. I don’t want to minimise all these things for you, but I do want to encourage you that you can choose to build a safer life from now on — and if that means not returning to the marriage, you are free to not return. It sounds to me like your husband is indeed an abuser — what he is saying and doing it pretty classic for abusers. I strongly endorse Jeff C’s words that couple counselling is not helpful in cases like yours. I encourage you to read as much on this blog and the books we recommend on our resources page as you can. I think you will find lots of confirmation and validation that it is not your fault and you are not to blame.

        Many things that your husband and other people are telling are not the truth. For example: you can pray, you have not caused God to set his face against you because you left your husband due to your husband’s chronic mistreatment you. It is your husband whose prayers are hitting a brass ceiling, not yours.

        Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:1-7, ESV)

        Please keep commenting here; we love to hear from new readers. 🙂

      • Jeff S


        “He said God got ahold of him and was changed.” I would never be one to say what God has done in someone’s life, but I wasn’t see the change he was talking about as it related to us. Now he believes in the permanence of marriage and I am being disobedient for not going back.

        His response to you is not the true response of contrition or repentance. Basically he’s telling you that he has you bound by religious law and that makes you his to control — to me that does not sound like repentance.

        Please check out this article by George Simon:

        How to Recognize True (and false) Contrition — by Dr. George Simon, Jr.

      • Anonymous

        Memphis- I am late in writing this, but here is what I believe is some truth. So what, if we were wrong in some things we did! So what, if our responses were not as respectful as they should have been, when we were being torn to shreds! So what! At least we have repented and been forgiven by God, and are working to change who we are, by setting boundaries, getting good counsel and taking hold so as not to allow ourselves to be victimized anymore – and I might add, that is also what is most loving and best for the one abusing us as well! I am not belittling any sin any victim commits. We sin. We are human. But I do believe, that God separates and defines that sin, within His own boundaries and that the abuser will always be found to be more guilty, than the one he/she victimizes. Why? Because we are responding (sometimes sinfully) to being abused. Now, no one can make someone abuse. It is a choice on their part, whether the abuser recognizes it or not. People who do not live in abuse, cannot possibly recognize how incredibly volatile an abuser can be. You wake up one morning and happily say, “Can you smell that coffee? Doesn’t it smell good?” and it sets them off. There is no leveling the blame in abuse. Until “counselors” get that, they should not be counseling situations of abuse. I also believe, that if we look closely at the Bible, we will see accounts of situations, where in our minds, the people would have been in sin (ex: the midwives in Exodus) where God never addresses what they have done as sin. I tend to think, that when a victim of abuse or violence defends themselves or even says something during that period of time, that later could be seen as “sin” by some, may not be seen by God, as sin at all. The midwives were told by Pharaoh to murder the baby boys. The midwives lied and made an excuse not to do it, because they feared God. God never addresses what they did (lying) as sin. He actually blesses them. A woman is being abused. She screams at her abuser to “stop it” in a loud and what could be said “disrespectful” voice. Is she really guilty of sin? She is trying to get him to stop sinning (abusing) against her. I would have to let God alone answer that one. I cannot, in good conscience, decide that. But I certainly have my thoughts and questions about it.

        BUT, here is another thought that keeps creeping into my mind, as to why perhaps people ignore or put off a victim when they come for help. I think for some women, it may be because they live in abuse themselves, don’t recognize it, don’t plan to deal with it, perhaps just out and out deny it, and when you come seeking help, they have to deny you any aid whatsoever, because to help you, means they need help themselves, and they are NEVER going to admit to that. They cannot admit that they are victims of abuse and you are a reminder to them. So, they want you to just fix it, so they don’t have to deal with it themselves. Perhaps even, they want you to fix your mess, so they can have hope that they can fix theirs!

        I remember being asked by my pastor, who was counseling me at the time, if I was really serious in thinking that my abuser was never going to abuse me again! Incredible!

        These are just my thoughts.

      • triple AMEN to what you wrote, Anon!

        I am again rejoicing at the strength and clarity with which you are applying Biblical principles to situations of domestic and spiritual abuse. Happy dancing here in Oz!

      • Song

        Anon, I really appreciate how you have succinctly and clearly expressed your thoughts. Thank you for being so open and candid. You said, “These are just my thoughts.” In my opinion, your thoughts are just….and right, and truthful! They are beautiful!

  13. Hello! I just found your blog. We are on the same team! I am a survivor ot a 20 year Christian, psychologically (mostly) abusive marriage, who has lost most trust in God and all trust of the church, but is still searching. My goal is to create empathy through true events and educate about how unwise Christian counsel and scripture application further abuses. I’m listing links to a couple of the most directly related posts in my blog: About Me – About the Blog – Guidelines [Internet Archive link] and Sorry, It’s About the Salad Suppers! [Internet Archive link] and The Day I Figured It Out (contains obscenity, possible trigger) [Internet Archive link]. I’ve subscribed, and will be reading every word. Blessings! Diane

  14. dancingantelope

    Incredibly, a woman who touts herself openly (and loudly) in our local area says that if a woman is being abused, she must not have faith in God or direction from God; therefore, the local self-professed Christian woman said she is not responsible for helping — or listening to — someone who is being abused who is reaching out for help. I’m well-versed in theology and theodicy; I can’t comprehend someone like the local woman professing herself as a Christian with that attitude. From my studies, she is acting anything but Christian-like. So many suffer in isolation…

    • Jeff Crippen

      DA – as numbers of our articles here in this blog note, what you describe is not that untypical, unfortunately. Many people who profess to be Christian have a distorted take on Scripture and hold that following Christ means enduring all types of suffering and injustice patiently, turning oneself entirely over to Christ. This is entirely inconsistent with God’s own Word which gives numerous examples to the contrary. The Apostle Paul, for example, appealed his case to Caesar. Christ Himself escaped numbers of plots before willingly submitting to death on a cross for the redemption of His people from sin. So that woman in your area is no friend of abuse victims, nor even of Christ’s truth.

      • dancingantelope

        Thank you for your reply. It is true that her attitude isn’t rare, unfortunately. Fortunately, though, there are those of us who do not share her attitude. Thank you!

  15. anonymous

    Thank you to those that responded to my post. (I’m the newbie anon!) After I read what you each wrote, the reality really hit me. I was walking in a store afterwards and I had such a feeling of mourning and had to hold back tears almost like I couldn’t breath. Never have I had that experience that before. I have taken this reality on and off the shelf many times, going too much by feeling and not enough of what I see before me….so hard for me to believe, how could I ever expect someone else to that knows us. Any thoughts on how to deal with adult children? I know they are being fed twisted truth and lies in regards to scripture and what has happened between their dad and I. How much do I tell them?

  16. meg

    Interestingly enough, it is not uncommon for the abused to develop Post Traumatic Stress from prolonged and ongoing abuse. I did–I even spent a month in a trauma treatment center in the US during my three year long divorce process. Let me tell you, PTSD is physical. Abuse alters the brain chemistry and make up. I had a brain scan while in treatment and my amygdala was lit up like the 4th of July night sky. It not only reshapes the physiological and chemical processes of the brain, it literally reshapes brain matter.

    How is it then, that so many can deny the physical reality of the effects of abuse other than broken bones and bruises? Do we deny the presence of cancer in someone with cancer because it doesn’t give them a black eye or broken rib? But alas, even evidence of abuse other than blood and broken bones (though I am sure these are often ignored by the church and courts as well) wasn’t enough to get the court to acknowledge the abuse in my case. Brain scans, complex (ongoing abuse) PTSD, letters from doctors citing the cause of the PTSD was prolonged and ongoing abuse–all of these were still completely ignored by the court. I attempted to bring its reality into light via affidavits, medical reports and my verbal testimony, but the neither the judge nor social workers ever acknowledged my submissions.

    Regardless, the physical consequences of emotional, financial, psychological and sexual abuse are very real, absolutely able to be medically documented (although so very few women are ever in a situation in which this is possible) and directly related to the trauma of abuse. And what of the physical consequences to the children who witness abuse? Raised cortisol levels due to prolonged exposure to trauma, and abuse is absolutely traumatic in whatever form it takes, changes the physical makeup of children’s brain tissue and how their brain develops.

    I don’t think that the church would fall into such a grey area if we were discussing the psychological torture of political prisoners and its morality. There are myriad resources and papers from various humanitarian and human rights organizations which validate the reality of psychological torture and its effect on the brain. Interestingly enough, a frightening similarity can be seen between “official” torture and the tactics of an abuser. This is the disgusting beauty of it for abusers with upstanding public reputations–absolute deniability. And a deniability often endorsed by church officials which leads to the syllogistic conclusion that the wife is mentally ill or just a liar.

    • meg, thanks so much for your comment. Very true, very important.

      We long for the day when family courts give credit and weight to all the evidence the abused person can give for the fact that she has been abused!

  17. Raped By Evil

    This is another [of] those things that should be taught at seminary / Bible college. The tactics and the effects of abuse. But again, it would open up a whole new can of worms because abusers are rampant there too.

    This book is one of the best I’ve ever read and quite frankly, should be required reading to graduate from any college–it’s that profound and that foundational for understanding humans and their reactions to abuse. Thank you Pastor Crippen for writing about it because it was here that I heard about it.

  18. Finding Answers

    Meg commented (22ND MAY 2015 – 10:28 AM) “Regardless, the physical consequences of emotional, financial, psychological and sexual abuse are very real…….”


    Meg also commented (22ND MAY 2015 – 10:28 AM) “……Raised cortisol levels due to prolonged exposure to trauma, and abuse is absolutely traumatic in whatever form it takes……..”


    Meg also commented (22ND MAY 2015 – 10:28 AM) “How is it then, that so many can deny the physical reality of the effects of abuse other than broken bones and bruises?…..”


    Meg also commented (22ND MAY 2015 – 10:28 AM) “……Let me tell you, PTSD is physical….”

    ^That includes the intense non-physical pain associated with healing a lifetime of abuse.

    From the original post “…..They know little or nothing about the tactics and effects Judith Herman sets out for us. All they believe is that the effects of abuse really don’t go past the victim’s skin…..”


    From the original post “……Here, Herman sets out the tactics used by political terrorists, prisoner of war camps, totalitarian regimes, criminals, and yes, domestic violence perpetrators. She also discusses the effects of these tactics on the victim……”

    ^That list names, one way or another, all the abusers I have had in my life.

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