Isolating the victim from her family of origin (and the family of Christ)

Just a quick post to let you know that Cindy Burrell’s latest post Isolation: another weapon in the abuser’s arsenal is well worth a read. It discusses the situation where the victim (under pressure from the abuser) cuts herself off from her family of origin.

As I read Cindy’s post, it occurred to me that the tactic of isolating the victim from her family of origin has a parallel in how some abusers isolate their victim from God’s family into which all regenerate believers have been adopted. Many survivors have told us of their abuser’s outbursts occurring most intensely on Sunday morning, when the victim wants to attend church to be with the family of Christ.

20 thoughts on “Isolating the victim from her family of origin (and the family of Christ)”

  1. I grew up in a divided home and every Sunday morning was a battle. My stepfather would be in a rage each and every Sunday. He would accuse my mom of wanting to be there so she could rub up against “those” men. We, meaning the kids, were afraid to go home afterwards because we knew it was going to be another typical Sunday/
    This morning the ex showed up at the early service at church, which we agreed would be my time. He sat in the back of the sanctuary and I didn’t know he was there until communion time. He brought some papers up and handed them to me. My peaceful worship turned into pure fear, if fear can be pure. When I got home I checked my email. He deliberately went so he could “prove that I didn’t have to be afraid”. Backfire!!!
    Does anyone have an opinion on Tim Keller’s books? I haven’t read any of them but they were brought up in the sermon this morning.

    1. he deliberately went so he could further abuse you. Nice.
      I have liked the books that I’ve read so far from TK, but I don’t know how what his stance is on divorce and abuse so I can’t say if he’s a hardcore Piper-type patriarchy fiend. I kinda doubt it, I’ve watched one of his university talks on Christianity and I was always impressed. he seems very intelligent, very like C.S. Lewis.

      1. Thanks Katy, That’s 2 thumbs up, so far for TK. I feel a bit more confident of spending the money.

      1. Thank you. I’m sometimes a little leery of recommendations at my church, but Pastor is seeing the light in some respects.

    2. Brenda – I’m so sorry to hear that. Rude is not a strong enough word for his actions.. Can you solicit help from church leaders in this situation in the future?

      1. The verdict is still out on how much the church leaders will help, Julie Anne. They do ask how they can help, but I don’t know how they can really help or what they really want to do. One of the elders who consistently seems willing to do what he can did ask if the almost ex knew I would be there. I said yes and he is suppose to be going to the later serice. Although, he is a very quiet man and doesn’t say a lot, he seems to be putting it all together and not liking what is happening. The Pastor doesn’t like that he is mentioning abuse at all, but is beginning to acknowledge its existance, although straining to do so. He does not acknowledge that it is wide spread and prefers to say that it is 1 person. I have major doubts that is the situation and feel that more may come forward since he is mentioning it in his sermons.

    3. I like Tim Keller’s apologetic book (The Reason for God). If I am not wrong, his book on marriage was written to give people “a vision for what marriage is in the Bible”, that is, to reflect the glory of Christ. It looks like he interprets Eph 5:22-33 as a passage on marriage, or more specifically, marriage as God’s ideal way of displaying Christ’s relationship with the church. I don’t believe that is the most accurate interpretation of Ephesians 5.

      1. Thank you Annie. I will be looking for his his interpretation on Eph. 5. The reason for God seems to be a high recommendation

    1. Yes, BIT that is what he said. He deliberately went, sat in back of the room, walked up and handed me papers for the divorce during communion. I was doing great until I realized it was him. Panic set in quickly. He said he left during communion so I would not feel unsafe. He sat in the back of the room to prove that I didn’t need to be afraid of him. Too late. I think they call that stalking.
      An elder who knows about the situation, asked me about it on my way out. I told him of our agreement (me 1st service, him 2nd). He walks right over any agreement or promise he has ever made. The elder saw him give me the papers, but wasn’t sure how long he had been there. Soon to be ex’s email stated the scriptures that we heard “together”, so either he was there the whole time or he just came in knowing that I would be there to hand me these forms that he was suppose to mail to me. Either way the email was already sent by the time I got home so he didn’t go to the service that he was suppose to be at.
      He obviously wasn’t paying close attention to the sermon. Pastor spoke on 1 Peter 3. He spoke about how marriage should be, abuse is not a part of it and not even so much as to call your spouse a name of any sort. Pastor would shutter at the emails I have received today.

      1. You just have to wonder whether these guys believe their own propaganda or if they know it’s a load of hooey.

      2. He deliberately went so he could “prove that I didn’t have to be afraid”.
        He deliberately did it that way so:
        1. He could scare the pants off you. And he chose the most intimate time in the entire service, where you were probably at your deepest level of spiritual communion with God and feeling emotional and vulnerable. And least likely to expect someone to approach you for any purpose other than to give you the communion cup and bread. Pounce!

        2. He could ‘prove’ to the witnessing congregation that when he approaches you, you don’t appear to be afraid — you don’t cry out or tell him to get away or do anything to show that you are distressed, (…. But of course you don’t: you were too shocked to do anything! You probably froze with fear, and we all know that as victims we’ve learned for years to hide our emotions from fellow Christians and from our abusers. . . showing emotions can be downright dangerous a lot of the time.)

        3. He could make sure he’d delivered the divorce papers to you without having to pay a process server to do the job. Cheapskate and stalker goals all achieved in one fell swoop.

        4. He could do all this with plausible deniability while leaving himself plenty of room to bite back at the church leaders if they tried to tick him off. “Oh yes Mr Pastor, I know you’ve told me I shouldn’t attend the early services, but I HAD to deliver the divorce papers to her, didn’t I? And that’s the one place I know she will be, so I had to do it then! And with all those other people around, they were witnesses so they know I didn’t do or say anything to hurt her! I didn’t mean her any harm! I even left before the end of the service, so she wouldn’t have to run into me afterwards! See how sensitive I am? What kind of guy do you think I am anyway? Aren’t you being a bit too harsh, pastor?”

      3. Good Morning Barbara,

        1, 2 and possibly 4. He didn’t need a process server for these papers. They were forms to divide his 401k. I can see that I didn’t give enough description of what the papers were for. He was suppose to mail them.

        You are right I froze and went on as best I could without making a scene. After service Pastor, who spoke on 1 Peter 3 shook my hand and said good to see you. He did manage to speak against abuse in the sermon, but also included the wife needing to always keep good Christian behavior through it. Never do anything that would not Glorify God and lead your husband to Jesus. He does not understand, but I suppose he tried. He did mention that he could do a whole series on the subject, but he couldn’t really do that for just one person and he didn’t want to start an entire epidemic of people using abuse as a reason to destroy their marriage.

        After that an older woman approached me who did understand. She was kind and gracious. What a God sent she was.

        Then an elder who has been kind over the past couple of months. I don’t know how he feels about the situation, but he does ask me questions and tries to put the situation in perspective. He asked if almost ex knew I would be there and was he suppose to be. He did say that almost ex hasn’t been attending as much. I don’t really want him to stop attending, there is always a chance that God will get ahold of him and true change will begin. I doubt that I would believe him though. Too much has already happened.

  2. Barbara so perfectly stated. They are so sly and slick at trying to make themselves look like the good, noble ones to outsiders who don’t know their tactics leaving the abused frightened and shaken up by their actions.

  3. If a perpetrator’s strategy is to isolate the victim, then would an appropriate counter-strategy be to re-connect the victim to the church and to the community by exposing an abuser’s sneaky underhanded tactics? The more we educate and alert the public about what domestic abuse is, what it looks like in the pews or in the neighborhood and the effects on our brothers and sisters, friends, Sunday School kids, the less it is going remain a hidden issue. If we know how to look out for and stand alongside victims of abuse, the less isolated they will feel. Abusers have their weapons. We have the weapons of righteousness.

  4. (Airbrushing as I write…)

    Barbara wrote:

    As I read Cindy’s post, it occurred to me that the tactic of isolating the victim from her family of origin has a parallel in how some abusers isolate their victim from God’s family into which all regenerate believers have been adopted. Many survivors have told us of their abuser’s outbursts occurring most intensely on Sunday morning, when the victim wants to attend church to be with the family of Christ.

    I read the original post, Cindy’s article, and the comments quite some time ago…

    The Holy Spirit led me to re-read the whole shebang today, though I’m not sure why.

    My entire family of origin was abusive…only I did not know to call them “abusive”, merely “toxic”. I had started limiting contact with them prior to my “marriage”.

    My anti-x, I think, tried to enlist them as his allies.

    In hindsight, I wonder…did my anti-x and family of origin succeed in isolating me? They were all masters of the game. At family gatherings, I was usually side-lined. A wall-flower. “On the outside, looking in.”

    On the other hand, my family of origin had a new toy in the sandbox. My anti-x, like a magpie, also had a bright, new, shiny toy.

    In later years – the “marriage” lasted almost two decades – I stayed away from family gatherings and my anti-x attended without me.

    To outward appearances, they may have succeeded in “ganging up” against me. But did they? Or did I, unknowingly, succeed in protecting myself?

    I attended “c”hurch intermittently, both before and after marriage. (I now know to write “c”hurch, rather than church.) My anti-x ridiculed “c”hurch and “C”hristians in general, so I was less guarded when he included mine.

    I served in “c”hurch (omitting details for safety) during the times I attended regularly. My attendance at “c”hurch dwindled, partially due to work schedule, partially due to proximity, and partially due to “not fitting in”. They were – like many of their ilk – more concerned with image. More concerned with “the poor folks overseas” then the reality in their own parish. At a later date, they ignored me when I was suicidal and unable (trained?) to reach out for help.

    To outward appearances, my anti-x succeeded in isolating me from the “c”hurch. But did he really? Or did I, unknowingly, succeed in protecting myself?

    Over time, though, perhaps where they all succeeded, was in leaving me feeling isolated from God.

    For over ten years, I have been No Contact with my anti-x.

    For over three years, I have been No Contact with my family of origin.

    (My “friends” were never friends. No loss there.)

    The process is painful, but I am re-establishing my connection with God.

    They lost the game. Family of origin. Anti-x. “C”hurch. And each “unit” is estranged from the other.

    Now to re-establish service to God where He wants me, not the abusers.

    Game, set, and match to God. 🙂

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