A Cry For Justice

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

‘Respect Me R.U.L.E.S.’ — Will setting boundaries make the abuser decide to leave?

One of our readers told us about these sites. We have not checked them out in depth but are passing the info on to you. If you think they are good sites, we will add them to our resources page.

Respect Me R.U.L.E.S [Internet Archive link]. a blog by Mike and Shelly Marshall about verbal and emotional abuse.

This site has related site which is a free workshop: You Are A Target [Internet Archive link]


  1. Anonymous

    I don’t know. In the disclaimer portion, it says that it is for domestic abuse only and not for domestic violence. I see what they mean, but is that a good way to approach abuse? I already felt that it was making verbal and/or emotional abuse, less serious than physical abuse and almost like anyone can deal with “domestic abuse”, but not “domestic violence”. Anyone else? I will keep reading.

    • I agree, Anon, it is confusing and dangerous to try to make some artificial differentiation between ‘domestic abuse’ and ‘domestic violence’. As we know, it is ALL abuse, whether or not it has a physical violence component, and it generally gets worse over time. I have read of many cases where physical violence was added into the mix of abuse tactics as the abuse went on, and cases where physical violence occurred for the first time after separation. And I have also heard of cases where physical violence was part of the mix in the early years but ceased at some point, while the other tactics of abuse never ceased and in fact became more intense and more cunningly refined as the years went on. So if anyone is positing some distinction between domestic abuse and domestic violence, that tells me they don’t know all that much about domestic abuse.

      • MeganC

        I agree, as well. Also, abuse is violent . . . every kind of it. Verbal, emotional, psychological abuse (and so on) violently rips apart a soul . . . it violently disturbs and distorts the mind and ways of thinking . . . I do not understand the clarification at all!

    • MeganC

      I agree. Psychological, emotional and mental abuse (and so on) violently rips apart the soul . . . it violently severs the mind from reality . . . I do not really understand the distinction. All abuse is violent!

  2. Anonymous

    One more note, my counselor says that when someone uses actions, their body, looks, etc., to intimidate you, and cause you to be afraid, it is considered physical abuse. They just say on this site, that it is intimidation. So, I get really confused on some of these issues. Sorry to comment again.

    • Yes, Anon, I am not sure whether this applies in all jurisdictions, but certainly in my State of Australia, the legal concept of assault covers not just unwanted and non-consensual actual bodily contact, but where someone’s behavior is such that it threatens or makes you feel that you are at immediate physical danger from them. For example, someone standing very close to you and punching or kicking the wall right next to you in a way that makes you afraid for your physical safety. Or ‘being in your face’ with a raised fist or a fierce look that makes you think they are about to lash out at you. Or brandishing a weapon.

  3. Barnabasintraining

    Well, I did a little digging to see what I could find out about the Respect Me RULES. I didn’t turn up a whole lot on their site about what the RULES are. They have a class online you can take for free where you send your work to them and they give you a certificate upon completion. I couldn’t find any samples of the specific content, though. You have to sign up for the class to get into it, and they take signing up as committing to the class. I don’t know what you do if you decide it’s not for you as I didn’t sign up.

    I still wanted to get more particular information about what the RULES are. So I went to Amazon and read a bit of the book sample they have. Actually, I didn’t get past page 10 (x) of the introduction because they said this:

    Other books often encourage the victim to leave the relationship and get away from the abuser. We think a superior choice is to try to stop the abuse within the relationship. Only if this fails is it time to end the relationship. Surprisingly, if the target uses the abuse stopping methods we offer but the relationship is not salvageable, the abuser will often decide to leave first and save the target the trouble!

    We’ve had some discussions about this view that the abuser has to or should be the one to vacate the relationship/file for divorce. Alas, but I’m at a loss for what threads that was in. 😦 Maybe Barbara knows as she always knows where everything is. 🙂 Anyway, the general consensus was a thumbs down on that.

    Because I didn’t sign up (and didn’t read beyond that comment on page x) I don’t know if they have anything truly useful or not. Their main theme seems to be becoming less abusable, or learning how to prevent being seen as a target for an abuser.

    That’s everything I’ve got on the matter.

    • Memphis Rayne

      I do not think stopping abuse or an abuser is in the hands of the victom….and if you REALLY understand the menatality involved when dealing with an abuser you would understand they dont respect YOU much less your WORDS….much less BOUNDARIES…so wether you are to continue being abused by a person you are married to, well that is not in YOUR hands, that is just going back to “Change how YOU react, change how YOU percieve things, Change what YOU do, change what YOU say, do a little jigg say TA-DA! and the abuser will magically snap out of what he is!!!! Why? Because we SAID so!!! ……yeeeeeeya? right?…..make those changes for yourself, but as far as changing him, it will matter little…..and throw in that method of “”Defiance” which is what he and the church will see it as, and your screwed. This may be effective on say, a worksite, or school, job situation? Then maybe an abuser would leave you alone, pick on somebody else…..but its not going to stop them or change their mind or heart. You know when you use your tongue by stinking it out and then blowing, and spit comes out everywhere? Well I do not know how to write that sound, but Im doing it now! Im going to call it PHEWY!!!

      • Barnabasintraining

        do a little jigg say TA-DA! and the abuser will magically snap out of what he is!!!! Why? Because we SAID so!!!

        You know what? They did say something about some kind of “miracle” rule! Or miracle something.

        (Never did find out what the miracle was….)

    • I burrowed round and found this old comment by Jeff S https://cryingoutforjustice.blog/2012/11/16/what-happened-when-you-finally-told-your-abuser-it-was-over/#comment-8518
      in which he critiques the suggestion (of Cloud and Townsend in their Boundaries book) that victims should try to manipulate their abusers to the gain freedom they know they need.

      • Barnabasintraining

        I’m pretty sure there was another conversation about a letter someone had received from maybe Mary Kassian? Or someone like that. I think it was the person that spoke at the abuse conference at BJU that Jeff C went to, but I’m not sure. But the letter had several problems: that there was concern over someone choosing divorce “too soon” and then regretting it. Mary or whoever was afraid that would happen. The response around here was more like if there was any regret it was that they didn’t act sooner. NO ONE here regretted not giving the abuser more time. So that got the trash bin. Then there was the same line about waiting for the abuser to file. And that got trashed too. That’s all I recall but the whole letter was roundly denounced.

        It has also been said more than once around here that the idea of setting boundaries with the abuser only made things worse, and was downright dangerous if he was violent.

      • Barnabasintraining

        Oh that’s right. It was Debi Pryde, not Mary Kassian.

    • Thanks for all the comments here. I’ve also had emails from a few of you too. The general feeling seems to be that the approach taken at Respect Me RULES is not one we would fully endorse on this blog, so we will not be putting it on our Resources page.

      I have never heard of any data to support this claim that abusive people lose interest in relationships when their attitudes of entitlement are challenged. Rather, I hear that if the abuse has become entrenched and well established, it commonly escalates when the victim starts challenging the abuser’s attitudes of entitlement.

      I have read and heard a few accounts from people who challenged a behavior or attitude that seemed like it was abusive in the early stages of a relationship, and the other person never did tried it on again. But was that ‘other person’ a full blown abuser? or just a somewhat bad mannered person who responded rightly to being ticked off?

      • Anonymous

        Yes Barb, and you said yourself in an earlier response, that sometimes an abuser will stop one form of abuse, but they never actually stop abusing and maybe sometimes women say, “don’t do that to me” and an abuser will stop that form, but then find a zillion other ways to abuse instead of that “one” way that she told him not to do it. As a victim, she then just lives in the fog of still being abused, but at least he is not abusing “that” way she asked him not to. It is a foggy land in which to dwell.

    • Anonymous

      BIT, I think they write this, because their view is that unless you are being physically assaulted, it is just domestic abuse, not domestic violence and they make a huge and gaping distinction between the two. They are teaching that anyone can handle and stop domestic abuse, given the right tools. For example, you just stand up to the abuser! That’s right, just tell him “no, I’m not going to take that from you”. In my book, the next question the victims on this blog would ask would be, “I wonder if I am going to wake up in the morning?” after saying something like that to their abusers. That in and of itself, simply told me that they do not know what they are talking about and are probably even possibly endangering lives with that simplified mentality, “you can stand up to it” about abuse.

      That’s just my humble opinion, but I would be curious to know how many victims on this blog, feel that they could have just stood their ground with their abuser, because I know I certainly could not have, without encountering even more abuse. I don’t believe that is what God would have us do either. If you had a man who simply said unkind things to you, and that is what they are calling “domestic abuse”, then yeah, you could say to him, “Hey – don’t talk to me like that. I don’t like it.” and he probably would get the point. Say that to an abuser and you have no idea what he will say or do to you or your children, until he has done it.

  4. The Woman Behind the Curtain has remembered another place this idea was discussed. Thanks!
    It was in Jeff C’s post “God, Marriage, and Family” by Kostenberger and Jones: No Progress

    Jeff quoted from Kostenberger and Jones (the sentence in quote marks below) and then commented on their teaching:

    “If the offending party is unregenerate, after a time, he or she will likely depart.” So, once the victim separates, it is “likely” that that the unregenerate abuser will depart and thus the victim is home free because the abuser divorces her rather than the other way round. Now, this just doesn’t work out in real life and myriads of Christian abuse victims will say “Amen!” Abusers are all about power and control. Often, they just don’t depart that easily. They frequently make the victim hang on, refusing to initiate divorce and thereby exerting continuing control and abuse. In addition, the author leaves a glaring question unanswered, and you have already thought of it – “So, what does the author say about the case where the abuser does not “depart.” He doesn’t file for divorce, in other words. What then? In the end, Kostenberger leaves this question hanging and unanswered. In fact, he actually gives a pretty plain implication that the victim would be wrong in initiating the divorce proceedings. Maybe he didn’t mean to, but that certainly comes through to the reader.

  5. Here is another comment I made in a post a while ago.

    One of our readers had told us that Cloud and Townsend, in their book Boundaries in Marriage, teach that if the other person is boundary-resistant, the other person will initiate the divorce, in which case, you are not the one doing the divorce.

    To me, the idea that the boundary resistant person will initiate the divorce is ignorant or fanciful, at least when it comes to abuse. Abusers are notoriously boundary resistant but only rarely do they initiate separation, let alone divorce. They want to hang on to the marriage so they can continue to abuse, but of course, they don’t tell people that’s their motive: instead they turn up the fog machine, “I love my spouse! I want the marriage to continue! — yadda yadda yadda.”

    • That is the one I was remembering! I wasn’t around for any of the others, but I did remember it being discussed recently, I was wondering if I should go look for it myself LOL.

  6. Barnabasintraining

    One of these days someone is going to write a book called How to Bring About a Desired Divorce Without Ever Having to File for It Yourself.

    • Anonymous

      I think the abusers have already written that book, it just isn’t in print yet.

      • Barnabasintraining

        Yeah, no kidding!

      • Memphis Rayne

        The top ten ways to Tango yourself into a Mosh Pit. No Fox Trot nessicary.

        Honestly, I dunno why? But the advice to “Talk your way out of being abused” seems well, quite frankly……THE MOST RIDICULOUS THING I EVER HEARD. Your reaction to an abusive spouse doesnt mean squat to them!! Unless you are deep into hysteria, and in fear of “what could happen” they could care less about the words coming out of your mouth. We are talking about spousal abuse right? There is NO “ONE” way to make them stop, or a top ten list you should check off everday? Why not include (like my church counselors did) changing your tone of voice also, OH!!! and waiting for the appropriate time for him to allow you to speak your mind? Im inclined to ask a brain surgeon over the cracker jack advice of people that do not get the dynamics involved. Brain surgery? Hmmm? I might be onto a REAL solution there!! But then you would be stuck with a Zombie that most likely would eat you when you werent looking.

        Just sayin? After reading this stuff twice, I laughed.

  7. Song

    It is such a blessing to have extra eyes and minds to vet out these websites. After reading through the sites and doing the workshop, I’ve come to the conclusion that some of the information is helpful for knowing how to handle abusiveness in people you may run across in casual settings, but can be dangerous if applied to an abusive spouse.
    We all know, or are coming to the realization, that we can’t stop an abusive person from being abusive. We can learn ways to protect ourselves once it happens, but we don’t have control over another persons thoughts and actions. I do not and can not control someone else’s abusive nature. And because of that fact, some of their statements cause me concern, such as using the word miracle to describe a principle and that I never would have to be abused again. I see these as sales tactic, and consider them manipulative and false.
    While the workshop was good, useful, and thought provoking for me, for anyone in a more destructive environment would be well advised to be careful in following their advice.
    They have also used a private comment from me without asking me if they could post it publicly. I have requested that they remove it.

    • Good on you, Song. That is very helpful to know.

    • Barnabasintraining

      What did they say the miracle thing was?

      Inquiring minds and all that…. 🙂

      • Song

        I can’t quote it directly because of copyright laws. But the gist of it is stop Foxtrotting with the other person so that the Foxtrot stops.

      • Barnabasintraining

        Ah. OK. Thanks, Song!

      • Anonymous

        Right. If dealing with an abuser was that easy, “just stop dancing with him”, none of us would be living with an abuser anymore, because he would have stopped abusing long ago and none of us would be separated, divorced or even contemplating any of those things; and this blog would not even be here.

    • Song

      Update – They have removed my comment, and were very gracious about it. 🙂

  8. Finding Joy again

    I have read the Boundaries books and the Respect Me Rules book.They have generally good concepts except that they don’t really tell you how to deal with people whom refuse to abide by boundaries that you set to make you feel safe. Boundaries are not for the abuser. They don’t think they are doing anything wrong. It is “their right” to do what they want. Boundaries only work on people that have the right frame of mind. Abusers don’t have the right frame of mind. I had my daughters read the Boundaries in Dating book only to give them guidelines and behaviors to watch for. Safe People is a good book, but they are still recommending reconciliation no matter what. Abusers don’t want to let go and often will do anything to make you think they have changed. Their behavior becomes so ingrained in them that it is second nature making it difficult to truly change.

    • I think the Boundaries book is still a good resource for abuse victims because it helps correct the distorted thinking that we aren’t supposed to have boundaries. Once you realize what healthy boundaries look like and you can see they are being violated, it gives you something concrete to hold on to in terms of understanding the destructive nature of the relationship.

      But yes, applying boundaries is impossible if you cannot set up a consequence for violating them, and I think a lot of time attempting to set them will end in escalation.

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