A Typical Ally-Forming Letter from an Abuser
[October 25, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
I have talked with a lot of men and women who have been contacted by an abuser (who is trying to form allies). Sadly, some of these people have been my friends and they have only wanted me to know what is going on. Other times, a third party has contacted me to ask about “this weird email I got from so-and-so’s soon-to-be-ex husband”. Lastly, I have been able to compare notes with friends here on this blog who have been contacted by an abuser-who-is-trying-to-recruit-an-ally. We have discovered that there are so many similarities among these little missives of desired collaboration! They often contain these elements. Perhaps not all, but some:
1) Apology: I use that term loosely. An abuser rarely apologizes for abuse. He or she will apologize by saying things like, “I messed up” with some sort of excuse tacked on. For instance, an abuser will typically find some way to blame someone or something else….usually the victim. But, it could also be upbringing, church, the victim’s lack of meeting the abuser’s needs, an addiction, etc.. If one delves deeper, one finds that an abuser believes that all he has done must be forgotten immediately in favor of reconciliation.
2) Declaration of repentance: This may or may not come in words like this: “I have changed.” “I have seen the error of my ways.” “I have hurt her but I never will again.” Nothing ever concrete or detailed. Just vagueness. They may write about how much they love their victim and how they have apologized over and over again and yet (goodness me) she just will not forgive (translation: “she will not come back and let me abuse her more”).
3) Concern: Next, the abuser may exude concern for the victim (who got away). He might try to convince people that she is doing bad stuff. In the abuser’s mind, she probably is. She is now free from his control and that translates into sin within the aggressive mind. The abuser also might feign concern for the children. All of a sudden, the abusive person cares about the well-being of the children?
The concern will also be for the intended ally. “I am concerned she is a burden to you”, or “I am concerned she is taking advantage of you” — all of which is directly opposed to the Gospel. Christ never saw our neediness or destitute state with suspicion as though we might be “taking advantage”, and praise Him, He never sees us as burdensome. Rather, He desires a relationship with us….He loves us….He cherishes us. We can run to Him and be safe.
Then, the abuser closes in….
4) Asks for help or for prayer: He may say, “Please pray for my wife (or ex-wife). She is really in sin….she has forsaken her marriage vows and I am really worried for her safety and her sanity.” This is where the abusive person plants seeds that his wife is neither safe nor sane along with shifting blame to the victim. (It is always interesting to me that the “big sin” is the victim leaving. This is a deflection from the fact that all the sin over years of marriage from the abuser is why she left.) She needs to go back to him, right? Plus, no one wants an insane woman on their hands, do they? In fact, this man must be a saint. He is willing to take her back after all she’s done….
Now, what would the good Christian do? He or she would probably feel some confusion and then just, somehow, feel it is right to encourage the victim to return. When people do this, they are being very, very unwise and foolish and have, evidently, never looked into the antics and behavior of abusers or covert-aggressives.
Have you or anyone you know received letters or phone calls like these? What might I be missing as far as the elements of the conversation?
[October 25, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to October 25, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to October 25, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to October 25, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (October 25, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]