Perception vs. Per”crap”tion
This post is by one of our readers.
Pffffttt. Was that the sound of a can opening? Perhaps a can of worms? My perception is that it is tuna, but your perception may be that it is albacore, because the smell while similar is still different, but the fact is, that this can opening right now, is a can of worms.
Perception, or per”crap”tion, as I prefer to now call it, is an aid and tool of abusers and their counselors / pastors / elders, who insist that the victim’s perception is out of balance and the victim is in fact not being abused.
Let’s use this example. Abuser pushes his victim up against a wall in anger. His “perception” and description of the event, was that he was just moving the victim. Victim’s perception is that he forcefully pushed her up against a wall, in anger, before he stormed out of the house. Much later on, in an effort to entrap the victim, the counselor asks, “has he ever shoved you?” to which the victim replies “no”, because her “perception” is that shoving is a move that happens from behind and knocks one down, so “no, he has not shoved me”, would be accurate. With no further questions asked by the counselors, they later state that the victim’s story is inconsistent, because of the above event. Shoves, pushes, what really is the difference. If the victim was not thinking about those specific events at the time the question was asked, then the victim’s answer may be inconsistent.
Here is a time when “perception” could have been accurately used and talked through. If the counselors had asked the victim about the incidents, maybe the victim’s eyes would have been opened, she would have remembered that particular incident, and she could have realized that the abuser had in fact “shoved” her. Dumbing down and minimizing abuse for decades, just to be able to continue to live and breathe, can leave one very weak and vulnerable, not to mention confused. My personal case involved the fact that I was done giving information to counselors who were just further abusing me, and so I was vague when they continued to ask questions, feeling that I couldn’t just not answer them, as I was feeling threatened by the power stature they were taking with me. I am seeing here on this blog and even in my own life, that victims of abuse live in such fog and confusion, that it would be easy to seem inconsistent, if the questions asked were plotted against the victim to make the victim even more confused, and if the counselors were trying to paint the abuser in a better light, or trying to save the marriage, for their own glory.
Another example. Someone walks up and slaps another person. Is it fair to say that the person that got slapped has a wrong perception, and the one slapping has a right perception, that in fact, it was not a slap, but just a hard love pat?
Or what about this one. Let’s say that Ashley says to Chris, “you’d really miss the kids if they were gone, wouldn’t you?”, but Chris is a victim of abuse in the relationship with Ashley, which is the entire reason counseling was started. Chris’s perception is that Ashley is making a veiled threat, because Ashley is a verbal abuser, at the very, very least, but also has a history of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse that the counselors have been made aware of. However, in the presence of the counselors, Ashley states that he/she meant absolutely nothing by it, and in fact was delivering Chris a compliment, by saying what a good parent they were. Chris has a hard time accepting that, because of the tone of Ashley’s voice when the statement was made, and the fact that Ashley is an abusive person, but is then jumped on by the counselors, because Chris won’t just accept Ashley’s words as kind. The counselors tell Chris that he/she has a perception problem, as Ashley says nothing bad was meant by it, and the counselors then demand that Chris simply get over it and move on. However, Chris lives in the daily truth with Ashley, something the counselors do not do.
Perception, when used this way, seems to take the truth and shelve it. It seems to make up its own definitions when used in cases of abuse.
There are times when perception can be properly used. For example, let’s say I think the tree is pine green and my neighbor thinks it is lime green. Okay, my neighbor’s perception is not harming me, nor anyone else, and after all, I cannot guarantee that my eyes are seeing colors the way they truly are, so no big deal. This can happen with many, many things and perception is just accepted as being okay. This would be a proper way to use perception. I can also see perception being properly used when a husband and wife have an argument and she thinks he has been short with her because of “A”, and later she finds out that he had a really bad day at the office, and that was the reason for his being curt. Her perception was that he was upset with her, when in fact, it was something completely different. His perception was that she was just being fussy again, and later would find that his perception was faulty too. Easy to fix.
But, when perception begins to invade the truth, we have another problem and a big one at that. If I were to say that the tree were a pine tree, rather than just pine colored, but the tree was in fact an oak tree, then we would have a problem. I cannot intertwine my perception with the truth and come out ahead. I will end up believing a lie and being deceived.
When an abuser dumbs down and minimizes his/her abuse, using perception as his / her ally, then what should we do? I know of some people who have taught that abuse is a perception, not a real event. Lots of searching and couples counseling and digging into each person’s thoughts and actions will reveal this, they think. Really, this is nothing more than a counselor playing some sort of investigator, instead of just listening to both sides of the story told separately and using an abuse advocate to unravel the findings. Finding one inconsistency in the victim’s account, these so-called counselors/investigators determine that it is a matter of the victim’s perception, not abuse. This is why I advocate that no one without adequate abuse education counsel anyone who is claiming to have been abused. Without adequate knowledge, and if the counselors / pastors are already power hungry to begin with, it is nothing more than a fatal blow to the victim, just waiting to happen.
It always struck me as funny that one of the counselors would share the details of the abuse they suffered, and when I shared mine, which was at least the same in some areas and much worse in other areas, my abuse was just “perception” but theirs was “real abuse”. I could see then how deceived the people I was working with were, but it took much more than that for me to figure it all out. I was so deeply embedded in the abuse by my abuser, that I could not see the spiritual abuse that was happening to me by these counselors. However I will give myself an ounce of credit here, and say that I did try to get away from them when I saw that they were deceived and just causing more harm.
So I am wondering how many of you have had to deal with this false idea of perception, when it came to dealing with your abuser? How many of you heard that word from your pastor / elders / leaders? I am wondering if my case was an isolated instance of the wrongful use of “perception”, or if there are others who were dealt this incredibly awful ordeal, where the abuse happening to them was simply identified as a “perception” problem.
[April 19, 2022: Editor’s note. We added the link to the quote in Barnabasintraining’s comment. The Internet Archive link we added is to a copy of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. The quote is in chapter 6 of the Internet Archive copy.]
Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking Glass [Internet Archive link]
Honestly, I should almost change my screen name to Alice. Through the looking glass….down the rabbit hole….
Bingo, BIT! 🙂
My husband and I have been to over 13 different “Christian” counselors. We moved 7 times out of our 13 years of marriage. Once I realized what was going on after 13 years of marriage the church we were attending I went to for help and they turned their back on me. The kids and I went to a shelter and I learned even more about the cycle of abuse. I have since tried to reach out to the elder, pastors and counselors involved in our situation to help them better understand abuse. They were offended that I forwarded the blog post about being naive and unqualified. The elder was very defensive and I in no way meant it to be mean, but hoped it would help them better understand abuse. The “lay” counselors from the church have testified on my husband’s behalf in court. The GAL and Custody Evaluator in our case are completely snowed by my husband. I see and understand the abuse and so do my kids….where is the help for the REAL people that need it??? I cry out for Justice and for God to move in a mighty way. Any advice would be helpful!!!! Thanks
J – congratulations on offending those church leaders by sending them that post. Good job. And it is obvious why they didn’t like it. Too bad. Truth hurts those who hate light.
LOL Jeff – Good answer. 🙂
My ex-idiot’s pastor was also furious at me for forwarding him a post from Cry for Justice. He says he understood abuse fine. That my case was a case of “he said, she said” . I honestly just sent him the post not to make him angry but I knew he didn’t understand abuse and he’s a pastor and will have to deal with it again. Sigh.
I can’t understand why anyone would be “furious” at being presented something that validates truth. Even if he understood abuse, what was he upset about? That you insinuated he didn’t know enough? If that’s the case, it’s unrighteous anger, because it’s out of pride. If someone gave me an article about prayer, or salvation, or giving, I would be happy to read it even if I already “understood it fine”. Most importantly, I would be happy to increase my knowledge about truth.
Sometimes time it feels like with some pastors and leaders there can be this ”i’m the shepherd…your the sheep.” And because of this stance that’s as far as any interaction can go. It then becomes difficult to freely express what’s on one’s heart. Then anything said or given to a leader becomes suspicious. It’s deemed wrong then to have any kind of concern. I just don’t get it.
Freetogo, the only way I can get it is by conceiving that such people are too proud to be teachable.
Let them be offended. If telling the truth and giving your time to aid them offends them, then so be it. There comes a time to “shake the dust” and when people refuse to even desire to contemplate that perhaps they are in error, it is time to move on.
I hope that you have a good counselor now, for you and the children, and if you don’t perhaps you could contact the Center for Prevention of Abuse and ask them for a name. I know some of these centers also offer counseling, but you should read Barb’s post on this, before you seek counsel there. We will pray for you.
Yes Barbara! Instead of always scratching my head about it. I just need to come to terms that the root of all this madness is ‘pride.’
For me it was 6 pastors, 3 christian counselors and 6 moves. And several vocal Christian “friends.” All I can say is that if I hear a whiff of any of the christianese, “rising up” to tell me what God says, scriptures that support abuse in any way, etc., my ears, mind and heart snap shut. I don’t even open myself to that any more. I can’t and won’t. I am finding the support I need through blogs such as this one, and through services provided by area domestic violence and women’s empowerment programs – including counseling and support groups. Most Christians don’t “get” it, and will continue to abuse – well meaning, or not. So look for those who hear you, believe you, and either know or will quickly learn the realities of abuse, Christian or not, in order to support you wisely. There are a number of people out there attempting to educate others about abuse, but I’ve heard from several that Pastors/Churches are the toughest sell – more willing to defend their theology and customs than an abused family. Blessings to you! Diane
I do believe my husband has minimized everything that has happened in our situation to the church…he has rallied people to his side and the church accused me of doing this which was not true.
Homerun, such an excellent post! Thank you.
The whole relationship was a false idea of perceptions. I was told over and over again that I “misperceived” and “misunderstood” his actions and words. I was crazy and unstable according to him and any other woman would have been happy with him. (Whether he truly believed this or not, is beyond me. Or did he say it to further manipulate me?).
Here’s an example of one of my “misperceptions.” I smelled alcohol on his breath many times in the marriage. (He swore to me that he was a nondrinker). When I smelled alcohol on his breath he’d always say I was imagining it, and when I persisted he’d tell me that “Alcohol has no odor, so you are NOT smelling alcohol.” I know now that alcohol has no odor, but that the distillates they add to it does, but I didn’t know that then. So, he’d use a half truth to try to persuade me that I was most certainly imagining what I smelled.
Another time I smelled natural gas all around our home and yard. I was scared (especially for the children) and told him that we should call the gas company. He yelled and berated me for being an “alarmist” and he insisted that there was no odor. Again, I was imagining it according to him. Finally, days later I decided to call the gas company without his knowledge and they literally RUSHED over, and sure enough we had a gas leak on the house. The fixed it free of charge and told me it was a good thing I called. Never wanting to look like the fool that he is, when I told him he said, “Well, I did smell it, but I didn’t want you to worry.” Oh, what a guy! He didn’t want me to worry. How sweet. BTW, the reason he didn’t want to admit that there was an odor was that he was afraid it would cost money to have the gas company come out and check/fix it, and he was never willing to spend money on anything except toys for himself.
When we were in couple’s counseling the therapist told me that my heart was hard towards my anti-husband. No kidding! A woman tends to feel that way when she’s married to a man who won’t even get out of bed when she’s in labor, having a gall bladder attack, chest pains, or any other myriad of issues. Most of this session consisted of the counselor talking to my anti-husband about what God expects from men in marriage; that they love their wives like Christ loves the church, that they lead in love, that they take initiative, etc. But my anti-husband took that one comment that the therapist said about my heart being hard towards him, and ran with it. After that session he must have said 1,000 times that BLANK (the counselor) said that I had a hard heart and therefore there was absolutely nothing he (the anti-husband) could do to save the marriage. It was all on me. I had a hard heart and he was completely innocent and helpless. The anti-husband doesn’t seem to remember that the counselor also said that he had a hard heart as well. And he certainly never said that there was nothing my anti-husband could do. In fact, most of the session was about what the anti-husband should and could do. But, of course, in the anti-husband’s mind, I had misheard and misperceived everything the counselor said. It was hopeless because I had a heart hard.
I could write pages and pages of incidences in which the anti-husband challenged my perception of reality.
Here’s one of my dreams:
One day society will understand and penalize domestic abusers so well, that an incident like the gas leak would lead to the abuser being charged and convicted for ‘Conduct Endangering Life’. His wife had smelled the gas but was too scared (because of the abuser’s longstanding pattern of coercive control) to ring the gas company about it. The husband had smelled the gas and was quite happy to ignore it because he didn’t want to spend money on it: and was therefore quite happy to endanger the life of his wife and children. They could have been killed if that gas had caused an explosion.
I had a similar incident with electricity (wires exposed by my husband). I ‘defied’ his accusations that I was a ‘panic merchant’ and ran to the fuse box and turned off all the switches. He would have been happy to leave those wire all exposed with me and our little girl (about 8 at the time) walking round the house day after day. After the power was turned off I wrapped and taped copious numbers of plastic bags round the bare wires — which were in several places in the rooms he’d been ‘renovating’, without my agreement, btw — in the hope that we would not accidentally touch the wires. It worked; those bags were in place for weeks, and there were no electrical accidents, thank God.
Barbara, I love your dream. I dream it too! Your ex sounds a lot like mine. He had no problem endangering the lives of his wife and children if it meant he could spend his money on whatever he wanted. “Panic merchant.” Ugh…. that makes me so mad. My anti-husband had many terms like that to describe my very normal behavior. He used to leave all kinds of dangerous items (sharp items like razors, dangerous medications etc.) within reach of the children when they were just infants and toddlers, refusing to put them out of reach, because it would have been inconvenient for himself. Of course, I was “inconsiderate” and “over protective” if I expected him to move his items to an inconvenient location or lock them up.
I was reading this thread and having flashbacks to the times when my ex left his open bottle of cough medicine on the counter and went to work, and my 2 year old drank it and I had to rush him to the hospital for the night…and then 2 days later my ex left an open bottle of lighter fluid sitting on the back porch and didn’t bother to watch the (same) 2 year old who was playing a few feet from him and my baby drank the lighter fluid – I had the biggest screaming panic attack of my life and my ex ridiculed me the whole time, laughing in my face as I sobbed and begged him to help us.
I also remember him setting the baby down by a pool and turning away, my baby was on the edge about to fall in when I saw him and raced over to catch him in time — my ex was totally vicious to me when I showed my panic over that incident too.
All these flashbacks are illuminating why I have such bad panic and anxiety issues to this day…. 😦
Outsiders will never understand all of this fear. People brush this stuff off and say “oh – you know men, they aren’t as safety conscious as women” .. I wonder if that is the truth though.
Fifty…All I can say is “Amen, and Amen!” Sounds like we had the same husband.
It is really disturbing how textbook similar some of these people are! It’s almost like there is a school for this stuff.
I am very sorry that your counselor enabled this man to continue to deny his abuse and therefore continue on in his sin against God, you and your children. If you haven’t yet read here on the blog, couple’s counseling is a no-no for abuse situations. I think you could probably search that here and find some info to help you in that area.
Oh my, does this ever ring true for me! I have lost count of how many times I’ve been told that its my perceptions that are wrong. , NOT his behavior. I believed it for a lot of years…. But finally went to a few good counsellors who helped me see that my PERCEPTIONS were actually spot on. I’m incredibly thankful for them. The line doesn’t work anymore, just makes me angry… Especially when people believe the ‘crap’ he’s saying. And the story wouldn’t be complete unless a pastor bought the whole thing too… so yes, the pastor believes my perceptions are wrong as well.
I take comfort every day that God is for the oppressed and has promised to bring all this insanity to justice, one day. Some days that’s all there is to hang on to. But it’s enough and keeps me sane and full if hope.
Yep, my case worker from family advocates at the Air Force base where my husband is stationed. She kept saying that there was a lot of mind reading going on. I finally lost it and gave her a little lecture. I told her that if I had been taught during previous incidents in our marriage that a certain expression, body language, tone of voice, meant he was agitated and I had better get the eggshells out, the it was not “mind reading” to take that into future encounters. I was not misreading situations, I was responding in the way I had been trained. I also lost it when he kept saying in his best wounded voice that I had lied to him our whole marriage because he would ask what was wrong and I just said fine, so how was he supposed to know there was a problem. My answer? “Everybody knew! Strangers at church knew something was off, my parents knew despite my lame attempts to cover up and make excuses, you were living with me and watching me die inside and you are trying to claim ignorance? How about intentionall blindness, because that makes more sense. Also, I did tell you, I told you for years. I asked if we could get counseling three and half years ago. I tried to talk to you over and over and over. I was guilted ‘I just can’t seem to do enough for you can I?’ deflected ‘why are you always trying to change me?’ thrown under so much manipulation that I ended up apologizing before the end of the conversation, and you wonder why I just stopped brining things up. It took days to work up the courage to bring up an issue, and I usually rehearsed it to death before coming to you with just the right tone and mannerism, and it was still never worth it. So don’t pout that it’s my fault you didn’t know there was a problem, I told you there was a problem in plain English, as plainly as I could possibly put it. So don’t ever blame your ignorance on me again.” We were on the phone for that one, which is why I had the guts to say those things. When I start to believe those lies because I’m just so used to accepting them, I remember specific moments that remind me of the truth. I play them in my mind until I’m grounded again, and when I was healed and strong enough I repeated those truths to my husband and our case worker. It doesn’t matter if they hear it, it just feels good to say it. In a dark moment I asked the Holy Spirit if I was wrong, if I had just imagined it, if I was misreading situations. The NO I recieved was almost audible, and the next day I was telling my facilitator about it and before I finished she said she heard a deafening NO in response to my question. Thank God for his love in that he is willing to come speak to me in my weakness and darkness. Thank God for His direction and patience and peace. He is truly a more majestic, wonderful, faithful and loving God than I ever realized before.
If only these counselors were aware of the pain and turmoil they cause when they disbelieve us. Yes, God is so GOOD!!! I asked Him over and over again to give me clarity once I finally had the courage to leave and He has delivered on His promise to answer all prayer. He continually shows me that my perceptions about my ex were spot on!!!! Praise the Lord!!!! Even a year after the divorce He shows me over and over again that “you know a tiger by it’s stripes” and that my ex is every bit as wicked as I suspected. Thank God for His faithfulness!!!!
The day I stopped praying that God would fix me or my marriage and just gave Him control and asked him to show me the truth — was the first day of really seeing what was going on. I owe it all to Him! I would have never imagined that it was HIs will all along that I get out of this sham called a marriage.
WOW! I’ve lived all of that except for the Air Force parts. You are strong and brave!
Kathy, it sounds like you were clear, strong and articulate in standing up for truth, reality, and you personal dignity and integrity. Well done! I would only suggest to you that you stop saying “I lost it” when you describe what such moments. Personally, I would say you did not “lose it” … because “losing it” is about losing your temper or becoming irrational or over the top. I would say you kept it — kept your dignity, stood your ground, affirmed the truth, and defended yourself against false accusations. You stood for righteousness and justice, and you sought to teach that counselor an appropriate lesson in how to understand the dynamics in an abusive relationship. You were advocating not just for yourself, but for all victims.
Thank you so much for that Barbara. I didn’t even realize I was doing that to myself, but you’re right. Calling out injustice with a rational and assertive manner is not “losing it”, I still forget sometimes that placing assertive boundaries is well within my rights as a human being. So thank you for pointing that out to me.
If I took someone (preferably one of these so called counselors — for their own benefit of course — we’ll call it abuse training) and put them in a room and everyday for a week, came in with a whip and whipped their feet, they would learn to “dance” when I came into the room. Probably by the third day, I would only have to raise the whip, and they would start to move their feet. You just learn to “dance” when you are married to an abuser. The training doesn’t take very long.
THANK YOU!!!! I have had a horrible experience with a pastor and two so called “Christian” counselors that all colluded with my husband…they have all said it was my perception due to my past history, after all, how could this intelligent, gentle man ever do the things I was accusing him of doing! Surely I am imagining it all…..When ever I call my husband on ANYTHING he accuses me of being an abuser and that its all my perception, its true, after all, didn’t all the counselors say so? It has been hell on earth, I have been suicidal and though I was losing my mind. I now have therapists that have worked with abusive narcissists and understand what I have been dealing with. Thank God for this website!
Oh, dear. Your post reminds me that he used to always tell me that my perceptions were clouded and I wouldn’t know love if it slapped me in the face because I grew up in a dysfunctional family. Oh, so if I hadn’t grown up in a dysfunctional family I would have perceived him refusing to get out of bed when I was in labor (and the myriad of other heartless things he did to me) as LOVE? I don’t think so. My abuser told me I was imagining it all too. And whenever I called him on anything he would manage to twist things so that I was the abuser, or I was crazy, or I was dysfunctional. Yes, it was hell on earth. I understand completely what you are describing. I am so happy that you have therapists who understand now.
Dear lauralee, and all victims out there who may be feeling suicidal, or have felt so in the past — my heart goes out to you. You are not crazy, your perceptions are not wrong, you abuser is a liar and has been fighting your attempts you make to get him to own the truth of how seriously he mistreats you.
If counselors do not affirm that you are not to blame and are not going crazy, if they don’t validate you by telling you that you are being abused and gaslighted, and the feeling of ‘going crazy’ is NORMAL for victims of abuse because what is being done to them is so underhanded and evil, then please trust your gut feelings and don’t accept those counselor’s views.
Lauralee- I can sooo relate to this “It has been hell on earth, I have been suicidal and though I was losing my mind. ” I once had a counselor look at me and say “You’re mean”. I fell apart. I really believed it — and yet there was a part of me way inside that protested that accusation. And the whole time the MIW was having an affair ( one of several). He would set me up over and over to be attacked by other people — including family, pastors, counselors, “friends” – you name it. Sooooo glad to be out — just waiting for the divorce to be final.
Pamplamousse – my “counselor” once said to me, “You know, you just seem so angry!”, when we were in couples counseling and were discussing a serious issue of abuse. Today, I would not have responded the way I did then, in fear and guilt and timidity, succumbing to additional “counselor abuse”. Today, after having received good godly counsel, I would have gotten up, said “excuse me, please” and walked out, and scratched that counselor’s name out of my circle of people I let in and trust. It sounds ridiculous that we have to live with “little circles” in our lives, but I have learned that those boundaries are life, mind and sanity savers! May God grant boldness to the victims here, to get up and walk out on bad counsel.
that part of us inside that protests against false accusations: oh how important it is! Thank you for putting this into words, Pamplamouse 🙂
“He would set me up over and over to be attacked by other people — including family, pastors, counselors, “friends” – you name it.” — that’s been my life.
“they have all said it was my perception due to my past history…”
Okay, so maybe it is, but if they were going to make any sense at all, they would have put it together and understood that your past IS the reason “why” you married an abuser in the first place! Not everyone who marries an abuser, has abuse in their past, but so what? If they wanted to blame your past, then they should have had the sense to put it all together. But instead, they are blind and in their arrogance, choose to remain that way. They hold to their position, defending it because they think they cannot be wrong, instead of humbling themselves and learning how to help and do what is right for the victim of abuse. It reminds me of the old saying, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink! I am glad that you are now getting the real help that you need, Lauralee, and hope you can find healing. You are welcome for the post and I am happy it spoke to you.
“But, when perception begins to invade the truth, we have another problem ”
Love that quote! How completely TRUE!
As for experience with “perception”… I was chided for my perception of my husband’s abuse because (as our pastor determined) I was teaching this “perception” to our children! Even in the fog I knew this was horse poop! I didn’t stand up or speak up about it, but I will claim the tiny victory that I did not accept that “perception” as reality– if only in my own mind!
It is really sad, that those “counselors” think that children are so stupid, that they cannot see abuse in the home or feel the experience of it.
The survivor I know did not have to teach her children any perception. They learned the perception that the abuser was bad from the abuser himself.
Yes, that seems to be what happens in some cases, the children figure out the abuser’s character on their own. In other cases the abuser is so good at disguising his true nature from the children and enlisting them to side with him against the victim, that the children DO need (at some stage) to be helped to see the truth. And then there are many shades of grey along that spectrum, where the kids sort of know the abuser is the one to blame, but are also kind of blaming the victim and siding with the abuser.
In situations where the children are partly believing the abuser’s lies, the victim often has to walk a tightrope between not challenging the children’s beliefs, and questioning/challenging/encouraging the children to re-evaluate their beliefs, so they become more wised up to abuse and abusers’ tactics. When a good parent is educating the children like this, it is not primarily to get the children to side with her, but to educate the kids so they can be wise and astute human beings: able to detect any abusers they will meet throughout their lives and respond by setting good boundaries.
that’s just sick. “you’re teaching your children to view this abuse as abuse, that’s so wrong” – ha ha
My dad said to me the other day “why don’t you try laughing at him instead of the immediate panic reaction?” and I said “sure. But in order for something to really be funny, first it needs to not be a threat”.
Is there any hope for a good outcome? This is like being tangled up and stuck in a bad spider web…is it wrong to want God to come and rescue us from this situation? There seems to be no justice in our court system and the church experience I had was terrible when I brought the abuse to their attention. I need help!!! God is my only hope! I think I now understand why people just take off with their kids to try and protect them. Where is our help??????
J, I wish I could say something reassuring about the court system, but sadly I am not sure I can. There seems to be so much injustice in the ‘justice’ system, and abusers seem able to manipulate judges, GALs (Guardians ad litem = lawyers appointed on behalf of the chilren) and custody evaluators. I shall pray for you. Some readers of this blog have reported that God gave them justice even when the courts didn’t want to; I shall pray that God will do likewise for you. Have you followed the thread at our recent post on October Snow? Some of the comments there may be of interest to you as they relate to the Family Court system.
J, I am one of those who got justice despite the injustice of the courts. I was told by wise Christian friends that God is sovereign and to trust Him for the outcome despite all the injustices of this world, and PRAISE GOD, despite having a wicked lawyer, and an ex who was capable of pure evil and who was willing to use the children as pawns, I somehow (a miracle for sure) got close to the best possible outcome for my children. I can’t even explain how it happened because it was surely at least partially supernatural. God can use anything, even evil, to obtain His will. I will pray for you too.
I heard: It’s just PMS. Our moods are just coinciding. You just don’t WANT to be happy. You poor wacked out thing, you don’t know what you’re doing. How can you say our marriage is a “4” – it’s more like a “9.5!” Etc. Really, really good post.
Apparently I’m just a pessimist, because our marriage has improved in the last 4 months, but I just don’t see it.
That’s the main thing that came out of our last couples counseling session.
Again my perception of how things are is off, but of course my pastor isn’t interested in taking sides. Maybe not, but it seems like he has.
I was always told that the reason I didn’t think our relationship (I refuse to call it a marriage because it was really an entrapment followed by a hostage situation) was not a 9.5 was because: –I grew up in a dysfunctional family and I wouldn’t know love it if smacked me in the face, –I was suffering from premenstrual dysmorphic syndrome, –I was unstable and dysfunctional, –I failed to “perceive” things correctly, –I was hard-hearted and unforgiving, –I held grudges, –I imagined every despicable thing he ever did (again I had “perception” deficits), –I didn’t really want the relationship to work, and truly laughable….. –any other woman would have been happy with him, therefore there was something seriously wrong with me.
This hits home. I excused so many of his tantrums and scary, aggressive behavior because he had me believe they were due to “PTSD” from his childhood abuse. Because of this, I allowed him to minimize his awful treatment of me. Because he never “hit” me, I accepted screaming, yelling, standing over me, pinning me down, grabbing me by the shoulders and shoving his scary, raging face into mine, and not allowing me to leave when he became crazy/violent (slamming walls). I remember him grabbing me hard in a hold and whirling me around until I busted out in tears because I felt something was really, really wrong with his actions and my utter loss of control in the situation. His immediate response? “I don’t know what goes on in your mind – you think I’m some kind of monster.” He made me believe that my gut intuition about his inappropriate, aggressive behavior was just all in my head…and that I was paranoid and crazy to believe he was being abusive.
This continued for almost 2 years as I dated him and became engaged to him. His bizarre rages came with no warning. If I stopped kissing him to get my breath, he would perceive this as a “rejection” and suddenly start yelling at me. If I fell asleep near him and turned in my sleep away from him…he would see it as “rejection” and he would slam the lights on and yell. If I was sick, he would believe that I was using this to reject him. His perception of reality was so messed up that when we first went to counseling, I couldn’t believe the distorted things he was telling the counselor. The well-meaning but unhelpful counselor simply responded to my confusion and distress by saying things like, “Well, you have your reality, and he has his reality.” She made me believe that both were legitimate, and that we had to honor both. I simply had to address and make amends for all the ways he thought I was wronging him as though they were reality when I knew in my heart that I hadn’t done those things. At one point, after trying to discuss in private with the counselor my concerns about his abuse and distortion she said, “You know if he was here talking to me by himself, he’d be saying the same exact things you are saying.” It made me feel guilty, accused, and I began to question my reality…taking the focus off the real reality that I was being abused and needed real help. Abusers are so adept at playing the victim that they turn their abuse into their own victimization and we take the blame for their “suffering.”
Thank goodness that I finally went to another counselor who I had heard was a godly man who had served many years on the domestic abuse council. I sat down and told him the whole story. He said so simply, “This guy doesn’t see reality.” It was no longer about, “My truth or his truth.” There was A Truth. There was A Reality. This is when he explained you can’t rationalize with a personality disorder. It is dangerous and futile. He said, “I see a girl in my office who is terrified and actually trembling as she tells her story. After I tell you the truth and you make the right decision to leave, I see a girl with enormous relief on her face.” I’m so thankful for his straight-up, practical sense.
Later when I broke up with my fiance, he again showed that he did not perceive reality. He pulled me across the room by grabbing my shoulders, pinned me down on my bed, and then in rage, he drew back his arm to hit me (which he had never done). I was able to get away, and I begged him not to make me call 9-11. I finally had to call because he wouldn’t stop raging, and as soon as I got on the phone with the operator, he cried out as though I had hit him and threw himself backwards on the floor as though he were the one being abused. The operator asked me to keep speaking, so I continued to describe the situation and what he was doing. He then got up and charged at me again, and I backed into a wall begging him to just leave. I think he finally realized the police must be coming, and he stormed out of the house. I was so shaken that I just collapsed for awhile until the police came. The amazing thing is that he went to my friend’s house around the corner and simply told her, “I just made her sit down on the coach so she would listen.” A day later, he left a voice mail on my machine that said again, “I don’t know what goes through your head, but you think I’m some kind of monster.” Again, no reality…no awareness of his horrible, scary, violent aggression. In an email after I broke up with him, he even said I was “too unstable” to have a relationship with. No apology…no recognition for his behavior…no remorse or conscience.
I’m so thankful God pulled me out of this mire with a good counselor who worked with the aid of the Holy Spirit. Unlike the other counselor, he opened in prayer and closed in prayer. I could tell that everything he said was guided by truth, honesty, and the desire to help do God’s will. He was caring, direct, and supportive while giving me the reality of the situation (no talking about “perceptions!”) and allowing me to make the choices. Despite the abuse, I really deeply loved the man I was going to marry, but the counselor helped me understand that even though he appeared o.k. 80% of the time, I would not be able to survive the other 15%-20% of his behavior. It has been a difficult and heartbreaking cut, but I know it was the right one. I know that God used this counselor to save me from what would have destroyed my health, my spirit, and my life.
Thank God you are free!
The survivor I know had the monster card thrown at her too. In trying to defend her once to someone else I got the same “two stories” treatment myself.
Everytime we have been in marriage counseling it gets turned on me and I’m the bad one and I should be grateful that my husband is so supportive of me in dealing with the csa that I didn’t tell him about before we were married.
He always comes off looking good and I look unforgiving and grudge holding. He plays the poor me card that he does his best to help me but blah blah blah.
In marriage counseling they never want you to be there without your spouse for more than a couple of sessions. “We can’t really help you if we don’t have ______ in here too.”
If only he’d slap me a few more times and the last time wasn’t 7 years ago, then maybe I’d know for sure it was abuse, and he couldn’t convince me it wasn’t. Since it’s “in the past” it doesn’t count. Today’s junk is easily dismissable as me getting my feelings hurt in arguements. And other things he knows I won’t say in counseling. So of course he is still the good guy and I’m the one with the problem. I’m the only one who ever threatened divorce, of course he thinks much of our marriage vows and would never even consider it.
as you will have read if you’ve been reading this blog, we believe that couple counseling is not advisable for domestic abuse. And we know that most victims of abuse take a long while to recognize that what is being done to them is abuse, and that they often encounter helping professionals who don’t get domestic abuse. And you will know that we recommend Bancroft’s book as the best one to assess whether you are being abused by your spouse. And abuse does not have to contain physical violence to merit the label abuse: the defining characteristic is the pattern of coercive control. It sounds like you might be wanting to consider dropping that couple counseling since the counselor doesn’t seem to want to explore the possibility that abuse is the problem, or if they do, they don’t know how to deal with abuse.
Hope you hang around here and comment more — we love it when we hear from new readers! Blessings to you. I encourage you to look thru the tags (see the tab at the top for a full list) and read topics that seem relevant to you.
It’s getting turned on me again but the pastor denies it in really believable terms. I very recently laid it all out in specific examples and included stuff my husband has always known I would never talk about.
If this doesn’t change the perception of improvement and how our counseling is handled….
Of course communication is one of our major problems. Duh
Any communication on taboo topics just leads to a shouting match(if I don’t yell, I cry), I ignore him (disassociation but he doesn’t get it that he drives my mind away until its safe to return), or I refuse to engage in the topic at all.
So I’m the prob because I won’t discuss things. I think my pastor believes his version, not sure now after my clear written explanation. Haven’t talked to him since then.
I love the points made in this Per”crap”tion article! If I had a nickel for every time my husband (whom I am now separated from) told me, “I am not an abuser. You just like being a victim so you live in an altered reality.” As if I didn’t/don’t question my sanity enough! And the bonus response from well-meaning but ignorant people- particularly church leaders- “Well, there’s two sides to every story, and you are not sinless.” I wonder how foolish my husband and “helpful” people would look if a woman walked into the room with a broken arm, a black eye, and hobbling on crutches, and then responded by telling her she lives in an altered reality and that she has sin, too.
This misunderstanding and bad counsel can be appalling! Bystanders and professionals who should know better can even think that a woman ‘sports’ such bruises to gain attention. Here is the most egregious example in the public sphere:
Dr James Dobson, in his book “Love Must Be Tough: New Hope for Marriages in Crisis” said “females are just as capable of hatred and anger as males, and a woman can devastate a man by enticing him to strike her.” (loc 2303 kindle) He goes on to say: “Once he has lost control and lashed out at his tormentor, she then sports undeniable evidence of his cruelty.” And then he talks about women who take delight in showing off their bruises to embarrass their husbands.
He advises a wife who is being violently beaten by her husband to take a stand against his abuse by choosing “the most absurd demand her husband makes, then refuse to consent to it. Let him rage, if he must rage.” Yeah, and she gets beaten and maybe killed. He has never taken into account the absolute terror a woman faces when she knows her husband is going to explode. Dr. Dobson is asking a wife to do the most dangerous, frightening thing she could do, alone, with nobody to save her from his “rage”.
Dr. Dobson goes on to say of wives that “By taking a beating, she instantly achieves a moral advantage in the eyes of neighbors, friends, and the law.” He continues by saying that “Some wives are more verbal than their husbands and can win a war of words any day of the week. Finally, the men reach a point of such frustration that they explode, doing precisely what their wives were begging for in the first place.” (loc 2313 kindle)
He tries to excuse his ignorant, hateful words by ending the mercifully short coverage of this topic with the following: Women who are victims in the true sense of the word “may think I am suggesting they are responsible for their husband’s violence, not so! But domestic violence has more than one source of motivation, and that fact should be admitted” So, women ARE responsible for motivating the abusive behavior, according to the kind doctor.
Note: in this comment I have reproduced some of the text of this one-star review of Dobson’s book: Customer Review by Natalie from Texas
“…a woman can devastate a man by enticing him to strike her.”
So wives just need to make sure they don’t push the wrong buttons? Dr. Dobson, the next time you give this advice to a victim of abuse, I hope she tells you what I recently read, “If he really had buttons I could push, I would push the one that says “vacuum” instead of the one that says, “hit me”.
For us to dream . . . 🙂
I can relate to Jules. Although my husband has not been physically abusive in our 10 years of marriage, the verbal, emotional, and spiritual abuse and mind-games are exhausting and make you feel insane! And yet my husband would cling (and still is!) to the fact that he was NOT an abuser; he just “says some mean things sometimes”. According to him, my sense of reality is really broken; it’s just my perceived reality. Since leaving him 3 weeks ago, he is calling anyone who will listen to him- including the pastors at my church which he has not attended for almost a year- and telling them that I am crazy (I actually have fibromyalgia, which he knows) and that I am a secret control addict. Very strategic as any move I now make to take a stand for myself and have strong boundaries makes those statements appear true. It’s like being on a merry-go-round at a park in a nightmare. How do you ever really get off?!
You cut your losses and just get off… if you can. It helps to give up your desire that others like the pastors at your church will believe you. No harm in trying to get them to believe you, but it’s sometimes (often) impossible, especially when the abuser has sown all those lies to denigrate your character in their eyes.
Not caring what others think can be very freeing. When a victim cares so much about what others think about her that it makes her afraid of breaking free, that can be a real bind.
At the same time, I know it is NORMAL and HEALTHY to wish to be believed and vindicated! That’s a natural desire. But often we have to recognise that it is a desire which may not get fulfilled yet, or not even much at all . . . till Christ comes again and all will be revealed, praise God! So it helps to consider whether one can make up one’s mind to let go of wanting bystanders around us to believe us. Most bystanders just don’t want to be bothered with changing their mindset much. It’s too much hard work, and it demands too much from them. If they believe the victim that may mean they have to do some heavy haulage for her.
After describing verbal, emotional, and physical abuse i suffered I was told by a lay counselor at a church that “the ground at the cross is equal” and “there must be room for compassion for the abuser.” I was given a book to read that said, “the source of your present pain is found in the interpretation you have given the event”. It says it’s my beliefs about the the abuse and not the abuse itself that causes my pain. This just sounds like when I’ve told my abuser what his abuse does to me and says, “I’m sorry it makes you feel that way”–like making me feel wrong for my opposition to being treated wrongly.
Anonymous100 What you mention is a clear example of someone redefining reality to suit their purpose. The counselor wants you to believe lies so that he/she can have an easier time of “fixing” your marriage. It is irrational and essentially New Age philosophy with everyone defining their own reality and sin being an illusion. That is not Christianity despite Christian terminology used. Hope you are distanced from that counselor and abuser. Praying for you.
Anonymous100, we have a tag called Sin Leveling. Posts under that tag touch on the mistaken belief that ‘the ground at the Cross is equal’. It is not entirely wrong, but when it’s taught in an unbalanced way, it is sub-biblical.
And regarding the idea that “the source of your present pain is found in the interpretation you have given the event” — that is definitely a New Age teaching, like PW said. It can be found in many areas of the New Age and Eastern Mysticism.
I was sucked into the Course in Miracles for some years before I got to church. The Course in Miracles teaches that idea, and it’s very dangerous stuff. Flee from it! And flee from any counselor who believes it!
Thank you, I will look up the tag and read the posts there.
I would like to ask, do you see anyone who has been traumatized revert in their development back to the time before the abuse started?
Anonymous100, we are not counselors, so we only have the collective observations and stories we’ve heard from survivors, to answer your question. But from my lay reading of the trauma literature, I would think that such reversion would be understandable, and in a sense quite logical. Trauma stymies and messes up normal development. The traumatized person has to put all their energies into coping with the trauma. The body/mind/spirit in an abused, non-abusive person who desires to grow in the direction of life rather than anti-life/evil, will try to repair the stymied development. . . pick up from where it started to go wrong, and rebuild from there. So reversion to where they were before the abuse started is that kind of thing, I would imagine. Go back to where the stitches were dropped, pick them up, re-knit from there. . .
And we know that children who get traumatized often revert to earlier developmental stages, e.g. bedwetting, thumb-sucking, etc.
I just want to update on something I learned about the counselor. We were having a phone conversation and she became quit irritated as I was trying to explain why I hadn’t left yet. Her attitude and wording was ‘well if it’s that bad why are you still there?!’ She then said “if you leave you can always go back” and proceeded to use her own situation (which in the past she only alluded to her husband being ‘difficult’.) She said her husband did hit her. She left, then went back to him and they have had a good relationship now for 8 years. I asked her if he hit her when she went back. It seemed a little like she wanted to skirt the issue so she quickly admitted it and again went back to how things are much better. Now I see she had been telling me things in light of her choices and the thought that she sins too plus now that she has boundaries she doesn’t let him get to her. Not once did she say he repented or sought counseling. I stopped asking her for advice.
Anonymous100 – that type of counsel is not biblical but stems from New Age thinking. That is very popular among some of these counselors in the Church today. It is almost like “love child” thinking, where everyone loves everyone, even the one who is murdering others, because there is an equalizing effect going on. There is a difference between godly love and worldly/new age love. Godly love addresses sin and seeks out and even demands repentance for sin. It sees that God has different punishments and consequences for different types of sin.
Worldly/new age love, just loves and accepts everyone in all their sin and makes no defining lines for what Christ defines as a “new creation”. I notice that this type of thinking/counseling is becoming more and more prominent among Christians and I think it is a misleading and deceptive practice. It demands no change or repentance.
Almost mind over matter. If I can just love them out of their abuse, they will stop abusing. That is not the Gospel. Sin must be confronted. Repentance must be had and the fruit of it, must be seen in order to believe there has been true godly repentance and not just worldly sorrow. To say that a wife’s sin in the marriage is equal to being abused by her husband, is to blur the lines that God set out so well in His law by stating that all sin deserves eternal death, but not all sin was penalized by physical death. Different consequences for different sins. Perhaps divorce is the consequence of the sin of abuse in marriage,
I was told by my husband when I said “you know you abused me”–he replied ” they were abusive acts”, not abuse.”
Anonymous100, Great example of abuserese. Your comment is now on our GEMS page of notable quotes. Thanks for sharing.
I am so glad to have found this group. Every time I’ve read another page in the book I felt like I was being punched in the stomach. I’m going to meet with her again because I want to tell her face to face why I will not subscribe to this teaching. And I’m still with him; I have multiple health problems which prevent seeking work. Vicious cycle— need to get away to heal, but don’t have the money to do that. For a few years now he is having his paycheck deposited into an account with only his name. He gives only enough to me for food and gas. He pays the rest of the bills, but also charges lots of stuff. I think he maybe pocketing cash and using the credit card so that I will have to pay half the debt, as a means of punishing me, should I divorce him (this is a community property state).
That is called financial abuse and in some states under marital law, one-half of that money is yours and belongs to you – even if he earned it. You need to contact an attorney. Look in your yellow pages and find a free or low cost legal services organization and contact them. They will tell you yours rights and help you get what is yours financially. I also suggest that you contact your local Center For Prevention of Abuse and ask about all of their assistance aid. Those are both good places to start in finding a safe way out.
He is also refusing to pay for the things the doctor prescribed for me along with medical supplies I need.
Anonymous100, Refusing to provide medical supplies is also abuse. I agree with I am my beloved’s, you would find much valadation and good counsel if you go to the domestic abuse center. You are obviously living in abuse and you may discover that it is causing you to have health issues. I had unexplainable medical issues that have not returned since I separated from my ex. I think that my deteriorating health was caused by stress related to the abuse.
I feel so trapped. My health issues are multiple and not resolving. I can’t get a job because of them and I can’t get away because I will have no way to support myself. If I described the medical in detail it would be a clear identifier of my identity. I can say the whole ordeal started because of the stress.
Anonymous100, I hear you. And I’m glad you are aware of the risks of identifying yourself on the blog, since abusers and their allies might be reading here.
Maybe you might like to phone your local women’s resource centre, or a domestic abuse hotline, to vent and discuss your situation. I know one woman who got a lot of help from an advocate at a women’s resource centre – and most of that help was by phone. Before she left the abuser she could not see her advocate face to face because she could not go to advocate’s workplace in person, but the advocate spoke to her over the phone a lot, and gave her lots of information and support. Eventually, with the advocate’s support, she went to a high security shelter with her two kids. And from there, a bit at a time, she managed to build a new, safer life.
So my message to you is (1) I hear how trapped you feel, and (2) don’t overlook or discount the value of a phone call to an advocate at one of those centers. And if they seem busy, try to understand that those centers are ALWAYS underfunded, and they are doing the best they have with limited resources. But you deserve their help just as much as any other survivor does.
When I was in the early stages of my recovery, and whenever I had legal complications to tackle, I learned to become a ‘polite, persistent pest’. [The ‘pest’ was my term, not theirs. 🙂 ] I just kept at it, like the persistent widow, asking for help from all sorts of places, till I got sufficient information and help to enable me to get free and eventually recover.
I hope I don’t sound like I’m boasting or crowing; I’m just putting out ideas to you. If they don’t work in your situation, feel free to put them aside or send them to the trash bin.
Thank you Barbara. I will seek out that help.
Anonymous100 – Lots of these Centers also offer financial aid and low cost housing to get you out. They also have job services that will help you get a job. They will understand and “get” everything you are saying here.
PW – You are right. Getting rid of the high stress and constant abuse in the marriage can amazingly heal your body!
Just discovered this post. There is much to read — keep me informed.
[April 19, 2022: Editor’s note. We added the link to the quote in Finding Answers’ comment. The Internet Archive link we added is to a copy of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. The quote is in chapter 6 of the Internet Archive copy.]
Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking Glass [Internet Archive link]
My wires can get crossed – or not – in many different ways.
The true meaning of perception is so distorted for me, my only way of understanding is the Master, God.
Even when my perception of God is distorted, I rely on God to define what I am (mis)perceiving.
Sometimes my brain hurts.
I know a little about what that is like. When I was writing Not Under Bondage (it took me years) I would sometimes work late into the night trying to untangle all the Gordian knots that theologians and Bible interpreters had done — the knots they tied the scriptures into. The next day, my brain would physically hurt from the effort I had put it through.