A Cry For Justice

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

“I am abused.” Those words are so hard to say

[November 2, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]

Note: this post (“I am abused”. Those words are so hard to say. [Internet Archive link]) was first published at my [old] notunderbondage blog before I’d made contact with Jeff Crippen and joined ACFJ. [Click here for the home page of the new Not Under Bondage website. Editors.]


Every survivor of abuse will identify with those words. Saying “I am abused” means passing through a membrane into a whole new reality. In this new world everything is different, scary, confronting….

I’m one of those women — a victim of abuse!

(I admit: I used to subconsciously look down on victims of abuse….until I realised I was one myself. Then I looked down on myself too, for years, until I learned to hold my head high again.)

I’m afraid I’ll be ostracised, judged, disbelieved, shunned, etc….

Like the surface tension on the skin of water, or the surface tension on a soap bubble, there is a tension at that membrane. Will the victim pass through it and acknowledge “Yes, I am abused.”? Or will she shy away to avoid going through into that unknown world where everything will (at first) seem upside down, inside out and back to front?

Only when she has passed through the membrane and has educated herself more about abuse will she realise that the world that was actually upside down, inside out and back to front, was the world the abuser imposed on her.

Once she’s learned to breathe the air in the new world, and smell the flowers and fruit (and maybe even grow some) she realises that this new world is actually the place where things are upright, right side out, and facing forwards.

Dear reader, whether you’re approaching that membrane, newly transitioned, or have been across for years, or whether you just know someone on that journey, I’d love you to share what it’s been like for you.

And if you’ve gone through the membrane, what was the thing that precipitated you going through it? What was the thing that overcame the surface tension?

[November 2, 2022: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to November 2, 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 November 2, 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 November 2, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (November 2, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]


  1. Brenda R

    It was much simpler covering up the abuse than admitting it was happening. I felt like people would look down at me or blame me for what he did and some do. “What did you do to make your husband treat you that way?” “Why didn’t you just tell someone when your stepfather was molesting you?” I was so trained to say nothing, that words still sometimes are hard to get out even when the answers have nothing to do with abuse. The other day Pastor thanked me for making sure an older woman got to church. I wasn’t doing it for recognition, I did it because I love her. But I could not speak. I could not answer him. I am so trained not to say a word that at times I still can’t.

    I smell the trees, I feel the cold snow, I have read many books and reading more and know it is not my fault, but the feelings have not all gone away. I was asked by someone who seems very nice to go out with him. It is all too scary. I am not ready. My wall is too tall and too thick. My heart is guarded by an infantry. I can admit that I was abused, I have not gotten completely past it. I was already ridiculed this morning. X thought I had gone back to work and I didn’t respond to his calls. I can change my email address, but I can’t change my work number. I don’t think it will ever be over.

    • It was much simpler covering up the abuse than admitting it was happening.


      • Jenn

        It was so much simpler to cover it up because it felt as if I was hiding my own insufficiency. If only I hadn’t disappointed him, been a better wife, become whatever it was he expected me to be in that particular moment. Clearly our problems were my fault and why would I want anyone else to witness my failures to be a good, obedient, submissive wife?

  2. becky

    I heard the story about the minister’s wife in N.C. I believe where she shot and killed him. [November 2, 2022: The minister’s wife was Mary Winkler and the state was Tennessee. For more information about her story, read here [Internet Archive link]. Editors.]

    The very first time I heard that story I was drawn to it. Felt a kinship to this lady. I didn’t understand why. The part that stuck was she kept asking him why he had to be so mean. She said she picked up the gun to get him to take her seriously to make him listen to her. She said she didn’t mean to shoot him just to get him to listen to her. Since she spent only a little time in prison the jury must have believed her. And there were alot [of] other abuses that came out in court. I read the story several times over a period of time. One day on the side it listed “7 Signs You Are Bein Abused”. My ex was doing 5 out of 7. That was probably the first time it pierced the membrane. It took a lot more time to break it. The final thing that really made me see clearly was when someone gave me the cryingoutforjustice web site. By then I was out of the marriage but taking alot of abuse from Christian circles. For the first time in my life I felt validated about my marriage and what I had endured.

  3. AJ

    Good morning, Barbara! Happy New Year to you. I think I sat on the verge of breaking the tension for a very very long time. I was afraid of what would be required if I truly looked at the ugliness of it all. I was really stuck in a pit where I wasn’t strong enough to leave but wasn’t strong enough to stay either. God met me there and gave me the time I needed to build my strength.

    My default is to dissociate so sometimes God would reveal truth, the membrane would be broken but I would conveniently “forget” and go back. When I would rediscover some horrifying truth a year later my beautiful friends would remind me that I had already made that discovery but had refused to face it. 🙂 I truly love that they gave me safe space to unlearn what I couldn’t face at that time.

    Sometimes it takes time to get ready to deal with the cost involved with facing and living in the reality of your situation. I try to rely every day on God’s strength and most days I can say I am an abuse survivor but sometimes I still revert to being unable to face the reality. God bless you all with strength and provision in 2014.

    [Paragraph breaks added to enhance readability. Editors.]

    • Your friends sound extraordinary. Many of us did not have friends like that as we went back and forth through the membrane. If we are believers, we always had Jesus as our friend….but friends with skin on — that’s special. 🙂

    • Marah

      Oh gosh, I dissociate too! I [had] gotten so bad in the last few years that I worry about maybe having early Alzheimer’s. And I’ve been working slowly through the book, “The Verbally Abusive Relationship”. I’ve been having bits and pieces of remembering fall into place. Like how he used to get a bit hostile when I insisted on changing the channel when a violent ad came on (trying to protect the kids’ tender hearts). Or berate me for not being absolutely clear in my communication, because I was apparently dancing around something rather than coming right out with it to his satisfaction. Or how, in the first ten years or so, I’d give him a list of specific things to pick up at the store, and he’d shame me for being upset when he substituted something similar rather than getting what I’d asked for.

      I wonder if I’ll get any of my capacity for memory back if I maintain the separation.

  4. Brenda R

    It is the beginning of a New Year. I pray that each one of you will be much further removed from any form of abuse and that God will provide a renewed life in Him and bless you with understanding, loving people to support you.

  5. Carla

    When he began going after the kids to get at me and I realized that I wasn’t able to protect them in the situation anymore. I am still not believed by most. It’s very painful, not feeling free to talk about it because of the skeptical response.

  6. Otter

    I’ve experienced the “membrane” breaking moment. It’s crazy that I did not recognize abuse when I was enduring completely psychotic behavior. I know people must ask, “What were you thinking?” In my case, I was dealing with a former child prodigy who had an abusive childhood. I remember even laughing off his first toddler-like tantrum. I told him, “That kind of behavior doesn’t work with me.” My teacher personality came out, and I just saw him as a spoiled, quirky genius who needed someone to say, “No” in a loving but firm way. I could handle this (let that be your first flag – if you feel you are in control, you are not).

    He ended up being what I now know is a Narcissistic psychopath (how’s that for a membrane break?). I spent two years enduring frightening rages….yelling, screaming, slamming objects, reality distortion, etc.. He paid two counselors to reinforce my belief that if I could just help him feel secure (marry him….love him “enough”), the rages would be healed. It’s amazing to me now that two counselors could be so manipulated. He was so gifted at controlling people (keeping them under the membrane?) that it was almost like hypnotism. While I watched all of this, I still believed him to be a confused but good man. I worked really hard to understand / empathize with him (with an insane person, that keeps you busy). I was hypnotized too and had no clue but a constant bad feeling in my gut.

    Counselors need to be membrane-breakers since many abuse victims not only don’t speak out –– they don’t even recognize their own abuse. As someone on the blog wrote recently, “Call a spade a spade.” My counselor spoke truth to my protests of empathy: “I don’t care if this is PTSD or childhood trauma. It’s still ABUSE, and he is an abusive man. He will DESTROY you.” I actually had to be told I was being abused! When I broke up with the fiance, he did escalate, and I see now that this counselor may have saved my life.

    A few days ago, another abuse victim and I discussed how we have discernment after we’ve been so blind (membrane victims). I’ve been reading tons of literature about abusive personalities. It’s amazing how I’ve begun to see red flags that I would have totally missed before. I’ve also stopped trying to over-empathize / excuse harmful behaviors from “friends.” This has helped me to cut off people for things like anger or lying (two things I don’t tolerate anymore). I’m also beginning to have zero tolerance for Narcissistic behavior (example….”that person is just talking about himself and doesn’t even really listen when I try to say something”). As one of my friends recently told me, “You don’t have to be friends with that.” It’s been a happy relief!

    • Good stuff, Otter!

      If I may, I’d like to add that anger per se is not abusive. I like Patricia Evan’s term ‘abusive anger’ because it indicates that someone is using their anger to abuse others with. We can all get angry from time to time, and on this blog we often express anger (outrage) at abusers and their allies. But people who have healthy consciences don’t use their anger to unjustly accuse and frighten others. It’s the deliberate instrumental expression of unjust anger which make it abusive anger. I know you know this, Otter, and I’m not wanting to talk down to you; I’m only wanting to help others who might still be somewhat confused in thinking that anger per se is sinful and wrong.

      ….God is angry with the wicked every day. (Psalm 7:11)

      • Jean Marie

        Thank you for clarifying anger. What a simple way to remove the temptation for holding ourselves hostage over anger.

      • Otter

        Thanks for this, Barbara! I should have been more specific — I was talking about rage or anger used inappropriately (in this example, I had to drop a friend because he continued to attack everyone around him with rants and profanity out of his personal frustrations). I recently read an amazing article about anger that really helped after I dealt with inappropriate anger for so long:
        3 Marks of Righteous Anger [Internet Archive link]

      • Brenda R

        I sat in an Applebee’s yesterday having lunch when I remembered an incident from several years ago. We were having lunch with my youngest daughter who has asthma at that same restaurant. X was smoking, at that time it was still legal, praise the Lord it no longer is. The smoke was blowing right at her and she began coughing so I asked if he could please put it out. He got angry and yelled at me because of his right to have a cigarette, got up and went and sat in the car. I cried then and I cried again thinking about it yesterday. It was just as real to me after all these years. Why was it such a crime to wait for a smoke until he went outside? I think that falls under inappropriate anger and a sincere lack of love for others.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Brenda R – his anger is just a tactic to control. He can turn it on and off at will. Any father who would smoke around his asthmatic child….I mean, what can we say about such a creature? If he departs this life unchanged in heart, he better like the smell of smoke.

      • I think that falls under inappropriate anger and a sincere lack of love for others.

        It sure does!

  7. Daniel Davis

    Your web page states “Sometimes the genders are reversed.”

    Do you really mean that?

    Because if you do; your statement (with the genders reversed) that —

    ….tactics of verbal, emotional, financial, social, sexual and spiritual abuse. Thus, an abuser may never actually lay a hand on her husband and yet be very actively terrorizing him in incredibly damaging ways. [“His wife” changed to “her husband” by the commenter.]

    —applies to me.

    I find very few resources for husbands with verbally and / or emotionally abusive wives.

    • Yes, Daniel, we do mean it. We have a few men on this blog who were abused by their wives (Jeff S and Joe Pote, for example). We support all genuine victims regardless of gender, but we reserve the right to discern the genuineness of a commenter. That is how we keep the blog a safe place for victims.

      • Katy

        I’ve met two male victims of domestic abuse this year, and it was difficult both times for me [to] immediately recognize it because the women weren’t making any violent threats — when it’s psychological tactics only, it takes me longer to figure it out. Both of these men thought that either 1) she was mentally ill, or 2) they were going crazy themselves. They both had huge burdens of false guilt and tortured consciences and lots of confusion. There are lots of abusive women, but they usually aren’t the ones making the news for killing their whole families. Out of the 7 abuse victims that have come across my path this year, 5 were women and 2 were men. (Out of the 5 women, 4 of them had been beaten or threatened with beatings / death.) I have been wondering if that reflects the true picture or not….

  8. fiftyandfree

    The membrane-breaking moment for me was of a gradual process which I now call a “rescue” because I know without a doubt that the Lord rescued me and the children from a life of hell on earth. There were two things keeping me from breaking free: fear of him (the abuser), and fear of God. I feared that the anti-husband would make good on his threats to sue for full custody if I ever left him, and I feared that I would be sinning against God if I divorced him. The “membrane” finally broke when 1) a wonderful Christian counselor helped me to see that the wisest thing for me to do was to put the children and my own life in God’s hands and trust Him to protect us through the family court nightmare (which He did, praise God!), and, 2) Barbara’s book (and Instone-Brewer’s book) helped me to see that I would not be sinning if I left my abusive anti-husband.

    But what led me to the membrane breaking point in the first place (finally seeking out a counselor and researching biblical divorce for myself) is that I was becoming aware of the fact that the relationship was destroying me and the children. I felt like I would die if I did not get out. I really can’t explain it other than to say that I felt that I had taken as much as I could take and I knew I could not live the rest of my life the way I had been living the previous 12 years.

    • There were two things keeping me from breaking free: fear of him (the abuser), and fear of God.

      This made me think of even more details of the membrane metaphor. When you have a membrane like a soap bubble where there is air inside the bubble and outside the bubble, the reason the water in that membrane is not easy to break is the air pressure both outside and inside the thin layer of water that the bubble is composed of. This pressure, and the nature of the water molecules and how the hydrogen bonds with oxygen in the water molecule, makes the chemical bonds tighter when water is in a membrane than when it is just in a big pool or container. (Okay, I did not do much chemistry so my knowledge of the molecular bonds may be a little faulty, but bear with for the sake of the the metaphor.)

      Fear of the abuser is the air pressing on the inside the bubble. That fear is real.

      Fear of God is (we think) the air pressing on the outside of the bubble. We think that God will condemn us if we break through the bubble: we think that the air out there will be full of God’s condemnation for us for breaching the membrane and escaping from the abuser. But that is a misconception, created partly by the abuser’s lies and partly or largely by the church’s mistaken doctrines about divorce, the “virtue of suffering”, “forgiveness = reconciliation”, etcetera. When we come out through the membrane, if we find the right help to disentangle and undo these faulty doctrines, we find that that God was never going to condemn us for leaving an abuser. The air outside the bubble is not pressing down on us with condemnation, it is inviting us to come out into the love and light of God’s truth.

      • Brenda R

        I lived in both of those fears for well over 50 years. As a sexually, physically, emotionally, verbally abused child, I believed that I was bad and God was punishing me. I had no voice and had no one to correct my false way of thinking. That carried on into abusive marriages — 3. All forms of abuse throughout. I used pot for several years to make it go away. It didn’t, but it deadened me.

        When I stopped self-medicating I realized how good God really was and it changed everything. The fear of my abuser wasn’t gone, but my unhealthy fear of God was. I finally learned to really lean on Jesus. I began to see what He really thought of me. I wasn’t bad when I was 4. I was born into sin as we all are, but the evil that I experienced was not because of me. It was because of an evil man. Bad things were happening to me and He was shedding tears for me. The rest I have voiced before and won’t rehash right now. I pray that God uses my experiences throughout this year to help others in crisis.

        [Paragraph break added to enhance readability. Editors.]

      • fiftyandfree

        Very good analogy, Barbara. I don’t know how I lived like that for so long. It took a good long time to disentangle and undo the faulty doctrines that ensnared me. If it weren’t for your book and Instone-Brewer’s book, I’m sure I’d still be living in that oppressive bubble of fear. Thank you again for all that you do to help women (and men) like me.

  9. br0nz18

    For me the journey was different. I lived with a covert-aggressive man (yes, I’ve learnt a more correct name for it!) for 28 years. No physical or verbal abuse but withdrawal and neglect by the bucket-load. I knew the relationship was dysfunctional but didn’t know how to fix it. Always saw myself as the strong one (and I am a strong woman) but it is only since divorcing (6 years now) that I have seen the abuse and understood what was happening to me all those years. It was only just recently though that I spoke those words: “I have been abused”….and I cried and swore and sobbed because the truth was so awful and I did not deserve that in any way….so unfair! Some close friends see the abuse for what it was but this is not something I have even broached yet with my sons, two of whom are now married with children of their own.

    It was a very hard thing to acknowledge that the strong intelligent articulate woman that I was and am was abused and could not see it — I did not put myself in the category of the abused wife….but that is what I was. The truth does set you free, and there’ve been lots of freeing moments over the last 6 – 7 years when I’ve gained new insights into my life. I’m thankful for those because even the difficult ugly and downright disgusting things that I’ve faced about my life mean that I see things more clearly for which I am very very grateful.

    [Paragraph break added to enhance readability. Editors.]

    • It was a very hard thing to acknowledge that the strong intelligent articulate woman that I was and am was abused and could not see it –– I did not put myself in the category of the abused wife….but that is what I was.

      BrOnz18, I have read a story from a female police officer who was a victim of domestic abuse but didn’t realise it — what woke her up was the day she was on a call-out to a DV incident and she heard herself saying to the victim “You don’t have to put up with it!”….and realised that what she’d just said applied to her as well! I have read of more than one female psychologist or counselor who was a victim of abuse and didn’t realise it even though she could and was identifying domestic abuse in the lives of some of her clients. Go figure.

      It’s a little like my experience of having Hep C. I had shared needles with other drug users in my eight months of heroin use when I was 20. Years later, as a trained nurse, I sat though an in-service about Hep C from a Hep C Nurse Trainer. I heard the repeated refrain “Anyone who has ever shared needles is at risk of having Hep C.” Did I think that it applied to myself? No; not at all. When some years later I was later diagnosed as Hep C positive (because of another health problem I had, which circuitously led to me having a blood test for Hep C antibodies) I was flabbergasted.

      • Brenda R

        Barbara, thank you for you honesty. It helps me and I am sure others feel safe about letting go of the fact that we were all once in bondage to the world and can be truly set free by those truths. I was fortunate to find a counselor the first time around who had experienced abuse and had gone through many of my experiences. It made it so much easier to let go of it all even though it took years before finally realizing that I needed counseling at all. It is mind-boggling to think about all of the people who know all of the signs, but don’t see it in their own lives.

  10. speakingtruthinlove
  11. God Fearing Mom

    Alright since you asked I’ll make this a mini testimony. Basically I am coming out of the patriarchy movement and my husband considers himself a Christian but he never reads the Bible. He is a carnal or baby Christian if he is one. I was persuaded by my brother, Debbie Pearl’s book, that “Me Obey Him?” book, and “Yahoo” group’s “Hidden Wisdom” and “Virtuous Sisters” (circle of women in troubled marriages) about submission for maybe 10 years. I think the teacher had “Stockholm Syndrome” or something like that with her husband and had to twist the Scriptures to feel spiritual.

    Anyway, I believed that somehow everything was going to be okay. I believed in submitting but I was really believing the Bible was the final authority but it conflicted with submitting to my husband against my conscience. I now believe that kind of submission is a destructive heresy because my husband was carnal and as a result it just quenched the Spirit of God within me. I was either persecuted subtly by my husband or I’d just give up trying for awhile. My husband is a dominant personality and he’s a sales manager. He knows the art of manipulation. With the spiritual abuse I heaped upon myself and my husband being spoiled by it and seduced into being a tyrant that basically treated me like a maid and with five children it was hard to be the wife he expected me to be after work.

    I came to a point where I bruised my leg really bad jumping out of bed to get the phone when he called because I tend to get stuck reading on the computer from time to time and the chores were getting neglected so I was nervous. He was like my new conscience and tantamount idolatry imo. I read your list of abuse several weeks ago and I have felt some of the covert abuse tactics to a degree but he was not realizing he was being so damaging. When I started pointing stuff out he was mad and wrinkled his forehead at me and leaned in raising his voice to try to intimidate me but I just kept a calm composure and pointed out what he was doing. He started to see it and he acknowledged it.

    Finally, I think we both have some of the tendencies on that list. We are both dominant personalities but I was suppressing it. I have seen how he accuses me falsely when I point stuff out in him that is selfish and has kept me oppressed. Things are getting better as we are talking. Basically part of what brought me out of thinking it was godly to submit to an ungodly man’s ideas was God didn’t protect me enough when I went against my conscience and deferred to him every time this summer with a friend that was a narcissistic abuser who made me an ally to take revenge on somebody and when I started disagreeing with her too much. She treated me very harshly like a religious demon and then she discarded me. Also I had no support or empathy and even felt like the ladies in the “Yahoo” group were giving me the silent treatment. The leader of the group subverted my arguments when I was telling her that I tried her way of interpreting the Bible for years and I felt like the Lord was chastising me for it and teaching me that theology is destructive especially in my situation. It persuades husbands to be tyrants and that the wife’s intuition needs correction. I have been writing my journey on my blog http://loverofjesusmylord.blogspot.com [This link is broken and there is no replacement. Editors.]

    • Hi, God Fearing Mom, thanks for sharing.

      When I started pointing stuff out he was mad and wrinkled his forehead at me and leaned in raising his voice to try to intimidate me but I just kept a calm composure and pointed out what he was doing. He started to see it and he acknowledged it.

      It will be interesting to see if your husband not only verbally acknowledges his abuse to you, but actually stops it. Abusers are very good at making verbal acknowledgment of (some of) their shortcomings when they are cornered, or when the victim or some wise bystander points out the abuser’s sins and character defects firmly, showing they are seeing the abuse for what it is and are not going to back down and let the abuser put them in the fog again. But words of acknowledgement are cheap and are often employed to manipulate the victim into backing down and going soft on the abuser by giving the abuser another chance. This tactic of deflection and deception (phoney repentance) can be strung out almost indefinitely by a canny abuser, unless the victim wises up to it. So my suggestion to you is this: Don’t put much weight on his words; evaluate his behaviour to see if it is consistent with his verbal admissions.

      BTW, I see on your blog you have a video of Sam Vaknin. I would like to suggest that you consider deleting that video. Vaknin is a self-confessed psychopath who makes his living out of educating naive people about what psychopaths are like. He has been formally diagnosed as a psychopath by competent mental health professionals. While Vaknin may teach some reliable facts about psychopathology, and he certainly has skills as a communicator and a social media user, my view is that we would all be better to study about psychopathology from professionals and mental health experts who are NOT psychopaths. Why let a conscienceless person make his living out of putting himself forward as a great expert who we all listen to? ABC TV (Australia) produced a very good doco about Vaknin, which fully backs up what I say about him. Here’s the link: I, Psychopath [Internet Archive link]. [This link gives a brief explanation of the documentary. The linked documentary was not available outside of Australia, although it can be found posted on YouTube — the postings aren’t ABC TV (Australia) postings. Editors.] It’s heavy viewing for those who may be triggered by watching a psychopath in action.

      • God Fearing Mom

        Well I know for sure I will always have to be sober and vigilant about his antics from now on and it is abuse on his part. I will have to maintain boundaries like a cop. He is not an angry abuser. He uses charm and humor to gaslight and it has worked. Sometimes he gets anxiety attacks and warns me but I do the same. I will be the first to break something or slam a cupboard or door (and you probably won’t agree with me but it’s because he drove me to it) but I am seeing a mental health therapist. I want you to see my post http://loverofjesusmylord.blogspot.com/2013/11/created-to-be-his-help-meet-book-review.html [This link is broken and there is no replacement. Editors.] so you can get an idea of what I felt driven to. In my childhood my brother bullied me and taunted me really bad to the point I had to see a therapist then too for chasing him with a sharp object to scare him.

        But I am really not that way. If I am taunted I fight really hard with prayer. Even still I decided to go through therapy now for awhile because of finding out he’s an abuser. I will have to remind him I’m the weaker vessel. I have to ask him why his needs are more important. Why I still always feel like it’s his money etc.. I don’t have a car or a license. I stay home with the children. We currently have separate bank accounts and mine hardly ever has much money. There is just a lot of subtle things that puts me in really uncomfortable and hard and oppressive situations. I see that he really tries to be kind, romantic, soft-spoken, charming, and mature but there is just this selfishness that he can’t seem to shake. His good character qualities are often shallow but he does work hard and long hours so that’s better than a man that doesn’t try to provide.

        We’ll see how this plays out but I know he is abusive because I’ve felt it and I know I will always have to stand tall and maintain equality but I believe if I can do that we can have a pretty good marriage. This blog is helpful. I appreciate you, Barbara and Jeff, for being a voice and support and a light. God bless.

        [Paragraph breaks added to enhance readability. Editors.]

      • Jeff Crippen

        GFM – I like your review of Debbie Pearl’s very bad and damaging book. Good job. In some ways dealing with the “charming” abuser is much more difficult, isn’t it? Thank you.

      • Friend of victim / survivor

        I have seen some of Vaknin’s videos on YouTube and have always been both interested and uncomfortable with them. (He seems to hit the nail on the head about narcissism in many ways, but I too, have felt uncomfortable with relying on and elevating a self-admitted narcissist (which by definition is an entitled lying manipulator) to find out about it. I’ve seen his coined term “Narcissistic Supply,” used on many a website. Anyway, I was very interested in watching the documentary, but when I clicked on the link and found out it is only available to people in Australia. I thought you would want to know.

      • How frustrating that the ABC documentary about Sam Vaknin is only available in Australia! I had no idea; thanks for letting us know. If anyone finds another link that can be viewed anywhere in the world, please put it on this thread and send me an email. I’ll then put the link on our Resources pages.

      • BeginHealing

        But words of acknowledgement are cheap and are often employed to manipulate the victim into backing down and going soft on the abuser by giving the abuser another chance. This tactic of deflection and deception (phoney repentance) can be strung our almost indefinitely by a canny abuser, unless the victim wises up to it. So my suggestion to you is this: Don’t put much weight on his words; evaluate his behaviour to see if it is consistent with his verbal admissions.

        So very well said, Barbara! Thank you so much for putting this into writing!

        I had to talk with my pastor about this very tactic the other day. Educating him as to why I trust NOTHING my husband says and why sitting in counseling with him is a waste of my time and would only serve to make him a better manipulator while making me a stressed out confused mess!

        Covert abuse from charming funny men. My husband would make me laugh about the things he did to me. I laughed on the outside but died a little on the inside every time.

    • Finally, I think we both have some of the tendencies on that list.

      Here’s a link that may help you think this issue through: Am I The Abusive One? [Internet Archive link] It’s a post by Lundy Bancroft which he published some time ago on his blog. Lundy’s work is always excellent.

      • Jean Marie

        Thank you for the “Am I the Abusive One?” link.

      • G. F. Mom

        Thank you, Barbara. Yes, my husband has tried to convince me that I’m “such a good closer” (salesman) and laughs when I point out some things. He often jokingly says I’m doing or trying to do the things he’s doing to me. But when it gets down to it he convinces me he’s going to change but things generally don’t change he only tries to pacify me or distract me not to feel it so much.

        And yes, Jeff, it is difficult dealing with a charming abuser. I prefer it over an angry one though because I think God knows our marriage wouldn’t succeed. He’s pulled the anger and intimidation card with me but it never works out well for him that way. I don’t tolerate it. The only way he can abuse me is covertly and when I just get tired. Realistically, I think with work it may not ever be 50 / 50 with us because he is a master covert manipulator and it’s just the air he breathes. His family is that way also. This blog helps me get wise to it.

        Thanks for the links and I removed that video from the psychopath off my blog. Thanks for the heads up.

        [Paragraph breaks added to enhance readability. Editors.]

  12. 10 are Free

    I also didn’t recognize that my miserable existence was because I was being abused. I had heard the terms….physical, mental, verbal and emotional abuse….but I realize now that I really had no idea what they meant. I had never heard the terms financial or spiritual abuse before. I didn’t know a wife could be sexually abused.

    My husband had started on a new tirade, telling me that I wasn’t in line with Scripture if I wasn’t initiating sex. I was desperate for help. Sex had become marital rape at this point….something I didn’t even know existed….and now my husband was demanding that I initiate my own rape, and he felt the Bible commanded me to do so.

    As much as I wanted to live my life by Biblical principles, I just couldn’t make myself do it. My husband’s basis for this was that I was to give him his “due benevolence”, and since this is what he wanted me to do that was his “due benevolence”. We fought about it all the time. I desperately started researching the issue, and that is how I accidentally came across articles that opened my eyes to the abuse I had been living with. It took a full year and half, for me to get out. In the meantime, as I was learning, I started speaking more openly to others, and though there weren’t many, some did refer to his behavior as abusive. Most people who knew us were reluctant to refer to this mild-mannered, laid-back man they knew as abusive….even if they knew what he had done. Thankfully, we started seeing a Christian marriage counselor, and he didn’t pull any punches about addressing my husband’s behavior as abusive. My husband of course, disagreed.

    I learned that physical abuse isn’t just hitting. I learned that every time he locked me in rooms or the garage, picked the locks and came in after me when I tried to lock myself away, chased me around the house, took or threatened to take my keys so I couldn’t go anywhere, or threatened to have me arrested if I left him at home, was physical abuse. So was the punching of the furniture, walls, and snapping a belt at me while we argued. I’ve learned nobody else in my circle knows that either.

    I learned that my husband using Scripture out of context, my Pastor and deacons, and spiritual headship as a way to control and manipulate me, was spiritual abuse.

    My husband would snarl at me that my body belonged to him, and he could do whatever he wanted with it. I didn’t get to say “no”. That was reinforced by our church leadership. He would have sex with me if we were fighting, if we weren’t talking to each other, even if I was crying. Several years ago, he informed me that he had been withholding all affection in order to punish me….because I had sex with him whenever he wanted. I tried to explain to him that his behavior toward me sexually made me feel used, and nothing more than a toilet for him to dump himself into. I just felt like I was being raped all the time. He told me that I don’t really feel that way, and I don’t get to say that because it makes him feel bad. He told me that I was just over-sensitive due to sexual abuse I had suffered as a child. I learned there really was such a thing as marital rape and sexual abuse within marriage.

    My husband controlled all the money. I was not allowed to know anything about our finances nor was I involved in financial decisions. Our finances were hidden from me. We just had to file [for] bankruptcy for $100,000.00 of debt that I didn’t know about. I had lawsuits filed against me for credit cards he took out in my name, charged, and then didn’t pay. I learned this was financial abuse.

    And of course, I learned that all the other things he did fell under the mental, verbal, emotional abuse.

    When others refer to his behavior as abusive, it is just the kind of validation I long for. I find myself still having difficulty referring to him as abusive. Not because I don’t believe it, but because I know that there are others that don’t. Kind of like I am “over-playing” my victim status.

    Someday, I hope I will get to the point that I will be able to refer to my abuse and my abuser without feeling like I have to do so in such a way as not to offend anybody, or apologetically. “A Cry for Justice” has been a life-saver….I can speak freely, and receive the validation I so desperately need.

    • Brenda R

      10 Are Free, we all need that validation, especially in the beginning. On the other hand, don’t let anyone tell you that what you went through was not abuse. I realize that people don’t want to admit its existence and don’t like to feel uncomfortable, but perhaps it is time for a wake up call. We live in a fallen world and Christians that think everything is coming up roses need to find out there are weeds out there.

      I know what sexual abuse is like. I experienced [it] as a child and through marriage. I was misguided by the theory that “a wife cannot be raped”, it is what she “signed up for” [in] theory. I don’t any longer believe that is what God had in mind whatsoever. A husband is to love his wife even unto death. Rape is not love and never has been. It is violent entitlement. In your description of what you went through, I saw my life the way it was. Even while we were arguing, even as I cried, even as I had just buried my 9 month old grandson that morning. It was all rape. There was no mutual consent in it anyway. It was not love. It was brutal.

      You will gain strength through this journey. Lean into the Lord with all your heart. He knows our pain and holds our tears. I will pray for you and much uplifting in this New Year. There are better days in store for you. I love God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11.

      For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. [NIV1984]

      Even if that future is not here on Earth, but in Heaven, what a promise it is. ((Huge Hug))

    • Still Scared (but getting angry)

      What you said about your husband demanding that you initiate your own rape….struck such a chord. The same thing happened to me repeatedly, and I thought I had to because “a wife’s body belongs to her husband”. How do you explain to people in normal marriages these kind of things that you have to heal from? They just don’t even have a frame of reference. The ex-idiot only got me Christmas gifts three times in 17 years. I happened to mention that on FB this year because I was enjoying not having to hide from the kids / family that he did not get me gifts. The wave of sorrow I heard from people….and I was thinking, “really, this is minor to the myriad of other things he did and didn’t do”.

      • Here is an excerpt from my chapter in the recently published book Intimate Partner Sexual Violence [*Affiliate link].

        Biblical sex is to be engaged in by mutual agreement and for mutual enjoyment. If one spouse does not feel comfortable with something, that thing shouldn’t be done. There is no other way of understanding 1 Corinthians 7:4. Women have been trained to think that they have no authority in the marital bed and that men have all the rights. But women have just as many rights and just as much authority as men in the marital bed. In fact, one could argue that the marital bed is the area of marriage where gender equality is most explicitly commanded, since of all the Scriptural passages which could be said to endorse gender equality in marriage, 1 Corinthians 7:4 most explicitly endorses the equal authority of wives and husbands.

        And for those who are new-ish to the blog, here are some of our posts that deal with sexual abuse. We have a tag for “sexual abuse” which has many posts in it, but here are three that are related to the issue of marital rape.

        Sermon explaining that Scripture prohibits sexual abuse in marriage

        She did not cry out while being raped….so is she guilty?

        Sexual abuse in marriage — what should a Christian wife do?

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

      Wow, 10 Are Free. Thanks for sharing all of this. I would have clung to your post [comment] like it was a beacon of light in my life a few years ago because so much of what you experienced and felt resonates, but I was still lost in the “fog” and doubting my own sanity at times. I too have a tough time calling him an abuser, except here where it is safe. Here I call him what he is; a monster, the anti-husband, evil, abuser. But in the real world I almost never say those words because no one really understands and people judge me harshly when I say those words. I get the raised eyebrow and the awkward silence. “He couldn’t have been that bad.” “He’s a poor lost soul.” I am often admonished “to pray for him and to forgive him.” Only a very few close friends and family know that what he did is abuse and are willing to call it that.

      I understand so much of what you went through. The marital rape. The threats of confinement. The accusations that I was either crazy or so damaged by childhood abuse that I couldn’t possibly be normal. The financial abuse, $50,000 worth of credit card debt behind my back. He wouldn’t buy boots or shoes for the kids but he had $1,000s and $1,000s of dollars worth of electronic equipment, toys, books and games. I was charging formula, diapers and wipes, and food for my kids on my own credit card because he controlled the money and would not give me enough to care for them.

      Your Christian marriage counselor must have been a gem. I find that most Christian counselors and clergy are reluctant to call abuse, abuse. Instead it’s all lumped into the category of “sin” which levels the playing field in the abuser’s eyes because we cannot deny that we also sin.

      Thanks for sharing. I really appreciate it. It’s posts [comments] like yours that were used by our Heavenly Father to rescue me.

      • Jean Marie

        FiftyAndFree, what a break through in explaining truth this is for me. I keep saying that sexual abuse is different then other sins. It is a difference I know, but have a hard time explaining. You explained it so well here.

      • 10 are Free

        Fiftyandfree….am still astounded at how all of our experiences are so similar. I have come to understand that that is because there is only [one] source of evil and he uses the same playbook. When it’s hard for me to explain to others that it really was “that bad”, I am grateful that I don’t ever have to do that here. What a priceless gift in the journey of healing.

  13. Jean Marie

    For me I had to cross the membrane many times. The official story was I “was the lucky one that got away. My dad was tempted once, he stopped himself just before anything happened. Just out of the goodness of his heart. Then he fully repented to the church.”

    Once I was a feisty young teen fighting for freedom and a way to voice my witness against my dad. I told him I would tell, and he felt forced to tell my mother under threat that I would tell. I believed he would tell the truth.

    When I was accused by the church my spirit broke. My dad was held on a pedestal for being so repentant. Everyone believed the above lie. And he had been grooming all around me to distrust me for years. I saw no way out except for one. Though it was not a conscious decision. Believe the lie. I was broken like a horse, and went from fighting to praising the “repentant” man like all around me.

    I was left with the strange bonds of abuse. My dad was my hero. The best man I knew. And of course always, he was repentant. I leaned on him for everything. Asking him for step-by-step guides on how to live my life correctly, and following the suggestions to the letter. Always hoping I would get some approval or praise from him. He was the only one who understood me. Everyone else distrusted me for some reason.

    Fast forward 16 years and trauma memories resurface because I was in a moment of trauma at the time. I had two miscarriages, then a house fire, and one more miscarriage. That is what it took to rock loose hints of real abuse.

    I had to break through a tough membrane to go to counseling the first time. I had to break through the membrane to keep going over and over….I saw my counselor for two years, telling him memory after memory around the abuse. But the story of abuse always stayed the same. I was “the one who got away, thank goodness.”

    Then a young girl was abducted in my neighborhood, and after three days her killer was caught. It was at this moment that I finally relived the abuse I endured around 12 – 13. I did not have words as a young pre-teen to say what happened to me. Only as I relived the sensations as an adult did I know what happened to me. I crossed the membrane to tell my husband I was molested. I crossed the membrane to tell my counselor I was molested. I crossed it again to tell my younger sister.

    But even still, two years in I had just scratched the surface. Over the next year I came to terms with the fact I was raped just before I turned eight. I now have reason to suspect the abuse went back to when I was an infant. But I don’t want to remember more.

    Finally, one day, by many miracles, I crossed the membrane to report my father. Now I am waiting to see what comes of that.

    • Wow, Jean Marie, thank you for sharing all that. What a story, and as you say there would be more….but you don’t want to remember more (yet).

      I completely understand you taking the route of believing your father’s lie that he told to the congregation. It was probably the only way you could survive at the time: to believe and affirm that lie of his. You have been very brave to follow the gentle nudgings of God to face up to the truth. And to report him. Good on you.

      I love how you say “I crossed the membrane again…..and I crossed it again….and again.” That is how it so often is for us victims / survivors. We face the truth by degrees; we tell the truth by degrees. We only hid the truth because the price of telling the truth was so ginormously high. But we do tell the truth in the end, where we can. And we would tell the truth a whole lot more if there were more people willing to believe us rather than scoff at us or condemn us.

      Cindy Burrell has good advice for victims of abuse: Tell your secrets. I love that.

    • fiftyandfree

      How awful Jean Marie. I’m so sorry for all that you endured. I am grateful for your bravery in reporting your father. I pray that he never harms another child and that you continue to heal.

  14. KayE

    I’m afraid I’ll be ostracised, judged, disbelieved, shunned….

    I never ever expected those things to happen but that’s exactly how I was treated by the majority of people I know who call themselves Christian. Their response made me wish I’d remained silent. Something is really really wrong about that.

    • Brenda R

      It is wrong, Kay. Christians only want to admit to bad things happening in 3rd world countries. They want to have to send missionaries to far away places. Marriages here at home are only supposed to follow their guidelines which are all “good, loving, yet imperfect relationships”.

      There are other things too though. Last year I was on crutches (and never did get the hang of them) and in a cast after foot surgery. I had been mostly bedridden for 3 months. There was a missions conference at my church that I wanted so much to attend. I managed to scoot my way down the stairs of my house and get to that conference. I came close to falling several times. During a break, I made my way to the “Ladies Room”. There was water on many places on the tile floor and dodging them was not easy. There were ladies sitting in the chairs in this large room talking about how the Lord was working in the mission field. As that was happening, one of my crutches slid away from me, leaving me to catch myself before I hit the floor. Eyes literally turned away from my need as the conversation continued. They could see what was happening 2k miles away or more, but chose not to see what was right in front of their eyes. It broke my heart and turned me on to local missions and away from foreign.

      If we can’t help those that are right here at home, how can we expect to make the rest of the world better. Because, I was already a Christian apparently I had no other need. Expecting understanding about abuse — that really didn’t happen. It was more like – “you left him, it’s all over now, get on with it.”

      [Paragraph breaks added to enhance readability. Editors.]

      • KayE

        The missionary thing really irritates me. People with no skills spend loads of money taking themselves over to Africa to build a church, instead of giving that money in payment to a local tradesperson who needs the work…. Then they boast about their good works and look down on everyone else. But if you are poor or sick or — shock horror — a victim of domestic violence — well “you should just stop complaining, get some more faith and give more money to the church”. I particularly detest missionary prayer letters and meetings. People are willing to pray for the missionaries itchy left toe, but they couldn’t care less that without a doubt there are children in their own neighborhood who are suffering from family violence.

      • Brenda and Kay, I have similar feelings. I used to attend a church that got more and more focused, actually I would say obsessed, with supporting missions. I was by that stage writing for “A Cry For Justice” (the blog), which I think is just as much a mission as missions to the “Third World”. And I would sit there during the prayers and sermons that hammered the cause of missions, and think to myself “They will never ever pray for the mission I’m involved in.” And then I’d have to battle the ‘sin’ of resentment.

        The traditional idea of missions is to evangelize the unsaved, so some might argue that ACFJ is not a mission because it’s not evangelising the lost. I don’t agree with that perspective: while most people who are being helped by “A Cry For Justice” are already converted to Christ, they are often in great need and some are in danger of walking away from the faith (certainly from the church) because of the harsh treatment they’ve received from Christians. So in my view, this blog IS a mission, and it’s just as worthy of recognition for its missional characteristics as “Third World” missions to the unsaved are. In fact, I would say that a mission like ours may be fulfilling the “Great Commission” even more than many other so-called missions, because part of what we do here is teach good doctrine, and the “Great Commission” is about not merely getting people to convert but to disciple them with solid good teaching.

      • Brenda R

        Barb, I agree. This is a mission. I had only gotten back in the church on a regular basis 3 years before finding ACFJ. I have heard many talk about not going because [of] what has happened to them and also heard and wrote feed-back about not giving up. Look for a church that you can be comfortable with. One woman just a few days ago wanted to know where Ps Jeff’s church was so she could go there. There is more than one mission in this work. And you are right the majority are not going to see this as a mission.

        Sadly, I got into a blog this past month that I thought was a Christian-oriented site. I made comment that I couldn’t remember how I got there. Wow, “it was my choice and I was trying to shuck responsibility.” I was condemned for suggesting a young woman should get down on her knees and pray. I was not suggesting anything that I was not doing myself and didn’t think it was condemning her in any way as she was professing to be a Christian. I also said I was praying for her, as well. If it were me I would want someone pointing out my need. You’d have thought I was the anti-Christ from the responses I got. Apparently, I was “down-grading her”, “being a legalist”, “abusive” and “a Fundamentalist”. On the second day of patiently holding my ground, continually telling this woman that I meant no harm to her if she was offended – but not apologizing to anyone flogging me and this lady never responding whatsoever – I gave up.

        Before leaving permanently from this site, I told them that I had recently left an abusive marriage and felt that their responses were no less abusive than he was. Maybe not the best thing to have said, but it was how I felt. The writer of the blog, who’s post was actually quite good responded “uh-oh”. I found nothing Christian about this blog or any attempts at looking like there was going to be any move at trying to win anyone to Christ. If there was any legalism in any comments, it was definitely theirs. If I didn’t say things exactly as they thought it should be said, it was picked apart. The originator of the blog had little input other than the “uh-oh” comment. I have no problem with correction or being told that maybe something could be worded a little different. I do have a problem with what happened in that site.

        So glad for ACFJ and what it stands for.

        [Paragraph breaks added to enhance readability. Editors.]

    • Jeff Crippen

      Kay – call me cynical (as many have), but I have to conclude when I hear of these things you are reporting that so many so-called churches are just that — so-called. Christian in name only. Filled with people who do not know nor belong to Christ. How else can this be explained?

      • Brenda R

        Jeff, if you are being cynical, then count me in too. I believe exactly the same way. I have recently also [been] called “judgmental” and “a fundamentalist” over my view. The funny part is they had no other explanation for it.

  15. BeginHealing

    My membrane broke when my husband asked me for a divorce when I was facing surgery and an escalating ovarian cancer scare. You see, I didn’t have sex with him the night before and he just could not live like that anymore. I am sure many of you understand my general loss of attraction to my manipulative husband. For years any intimacy we did share (if you can call it that) was coercive. I was bullied, guilted, or manipulated into it. I had absolutely no desire to be vulnerable with him on that level. But that is just a general statement about our intimate life. At the time he asked me for a divorce I had a 9 cm mass on my ovary (had surgery in August it was benign, thank God). Sex in general would have caused me pain. It also could have ruptured the mass or caused my ovary to twist cutting off blood supply. Either of these things would have caused me tremendous pain (he knew this). In addition we also ran the potential risk of spraying cancer cells throughout my abdomen (he knew this too). None of this mattered to him. When I asked why he couldn’t wait until we knew whether or not I had cancer to ask me for the divorce he told me it wouldn’t have mattered to him. Something very interesting happened to me in that moment. I heard a pop. The health science person in me has been trying to reason that pop away as some sort of sympathetic nervous system response (fight or flight) because I heard it and I felt it. That pop was real. From now on I am going to refer to that moment as the moment that my membrane popped. Gone. Obliterated. Shattered and destroyed.

    After the pop….well…it took some time and a very gentle counselor to show me that what I have been living with was abuse. I didn’t believe her. I really didn’t. You see I was living the exact same patterns that I saw growing up. But I was in complete denial. I am an educated woman. I am a woman that has always been praised for my strength. How could I be living in an abusive marriage. I would NEVER make the same mistakes that my mother made…. Sure it was a lonely and a decidedly not fun marriage but abusive? Ok, he punched holes in the walls, threw and kicked things but never me so surely that wasn’t abusive, right??? He raged at the children and threatened to “kick their ass” but he never did so that isn’t abuse, right?!?! Don’t all marriages have these problems??? He has depression, anxiety, ADHD….I can’t have needs or emotions….it stresses him out. Don’t all wives have to shoulder 95% of the work while meeting all of their husband’s needs (an impossible task for any person, his needs were endless)?? This isn’t REALLY abuse, right?!?!?! YES IT IS. Accepting that truth was the first step to starting to clear that awful crazy-making barrel of monkeys I had going on in my head.

    Abused….well I didn’t want to pronounce that title to the world, but I was getting so much pressure from people to accept my husband’s “repentance” and “obvious sorrow” for what he had done. I needed to start to let people in on my little secret. I started to shine the light on my truth. It is freeing. Rot can not grow in the light.

    Meeting with the Pastor….”God Hates Divorce” (trigger words for so many of us, sorry). I have to stay I don’t have a biblical reason for divorce. If I divorce I will have to live the rest of my life single without a husband. Marrying again would be seen as adultery in the eyes of God. I am going to directly quote my pastor here “I don’t know how you managed to stay as long as you have.” “He is a Narcissist.” “….you don’t have biblical grounds for divorce” “Only adultery breaks the marriage covenant” I left that meeting more shattered, depressed, and confused. I am sure many of you can relate.

    2 a.m. desperate prayer to God to settle my mind….I get out of bed and give up on sleep. Turn on my computer….within minutes I find Barbara’s book, next her blog, then within a few minutes I am here. My safe place. My sanity making place. 🙂 The place of affirmation and understanding. Understanding the true depths of God’s unconditional love, mercy, and grace.

    Dark moments….I have had moments that I wanted to crawl back into my membrane and hide in the comfort of the predicable but I realize that would not be honoring the work that God is trying to do in my life.

    Next steps….the more I learn the more I accept that this pattern in my life was wrong. People should not be treated the way he treated me. I am not “high-maintenance” or “difficult” for wanting to be treated well and with love. The mental fog is clearing. I am starting to see my way. God has made my footsteps firm. He is healing this broken heart. He is my comforter and strength. He is faithful. He is love. He won’t forsake me.

    Sorry that this is so long. I think I needed to write this out….

    • fiftyandfree

      BeginHealing, truly the Lord was with you when you found this blog and Barbara’s book!! What a beautiful story of His love and guidance. Thanks for sharing that. I remember when the Lord led me to finally understand that divorcing an abuser does NOT condemn me, but rather it sets me free. To see the hand of the Almighty God leading and guiding you to truth, setting you free — what joy!

      The way your ex treated you through that cancer scare is depraved, unspeakably cruel, and downright wicked. I wish I could say that I don’t understand, but unfortunately I do. I was treated the same way through many crises during the so-called marriage. His needs must be met at all times, but mine were inappropriate, excessive, or dysfunctional according to him.

      When my sweet nephew died suddenly at the age of 20, he told me that my nephew wasn’t as “important” as his grandfather who had died a few years prior, and therefore he would not be accompanying me to NY [New York] for the funeral. When I was having chest pains and scared to death that I was having a heart attack, he told me to go sleep on the couch because I was keeping him awake. He also made me sleep on the couch when I was having gall bladder attacks because my moaning and writhing in pain was disturbing him. After gall bladder surgery he refused to load up the kids and come get me, telling me I should call a cab. I called a friend instead. When I got home he refused to get out of bed to take care of our baby in the middle of the night so I had to do it just hours post-op. While at the cardiologist’s office due to my chest pains, he refused to stay with me for a test the the doctor was willing to arrange for me to have that day (with an indeterminate wait in the waiting room) because didn’t want to “waste time sitting around in a hospital.” He insisted that we go home (a two hour drive) and wait until a definite “scheduled time” was available which meant I had to wait nearly two weeks to find out if my heart was okay or not. When I was in labor with my firstborn he refused to get out of bed and I nearly had the baby on the living room floor. When I had my third baby he refused to go home and take care of our 2 and 3 yr olds so I had to check out of the hospital 24 hours after the birth to go home and care for them. I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

      I post these things so others can see that they are not alone, and that being treated this way is surely abusive. You don’t have to be punched, choked, slapped, or thrown down the stairs to be an abuse victim. Depraved indifference to your basic needs is a form of abuse.

      Thank God for leading us to a place of peace and safety.

      [Paragraph break added to enhance readability. Editors.]

      • Barnabasintraining


        Honest to goodness. I can’t even….

      • KayE

        This is just too familiar. I had severe chest pains which the cardiologist later said was angina. I got left on the couch overnight too. The ex didn’t call an ambulance until the very last minute. If he hadn’t chosen to call the ambulance when he finally did I don’t think I would have survived. I was really sick, alone at the hospital, he certainly didn’t come to the hospital to see if I was OK. I think he enjoyed seeing me suffer, and he enjoyed having the power of life and death over me. But he only shoved me a couple of times so that’s not really abuse is it? (Being sarcastic.)

      • BeginHealing

        Fifty, I am so sorry for what you have had to endure. So very very sorry. Thank you so much for sharing your story and wisdom here. It helps.

        I truly do feel that God uses this blog. Pastor Jeff’s post today on the Spirit leading us is so true and wonderful affirmation. I had found other books from Christians during my desperate search for understanding and help….none of them “felt right”, none of them were found after a heart-wrenching prayer for help. When I found Barbara’s book and this site….it was like everything inside of me finally lined up and fell into place. I have openly wept at moments of profound gratitude for the blessings that this site has brought to me. In the beginning it was as though God had me wired to the writers. I would be struggling with something and that day that very thing would be addressed in this blog. This song says it so well The Afters — Light Up The Sky. He lit up my night….He was with me. He made it so obvious that I was supposed to be here at this blog that I had no room for self-doubt (which was crippling me at the time). I shudder to think where I would be now without His leading and this place.

      • Jeff Crippen

        50 And Free – is there some way we could invite your ex to write a post here, explaining his reasons for all of those actions? Just kidding of course, but it would be an interesting exercise. Let’s see, his main thesis would be that “those things never happened”, or at minimum you have “highly-exaggerated” them. We need to figure out some way that our readers could (if an abuser would write a post) throw cyber-tomatoes at him. Sorry for being silly, I’m really actually angry at what happened to you. Hey, the guy better practice up at defending himself because on that Day he is going to have to tell the King why he did it. I don’t think he will get the first word out.

    • Oh, BeginHealing, if you had been with me in the room as I was reading your comment just now, you would have seen me almost in tears gasping “oohs” and “aarghs” and groaning in empathy and….I just want to hug you so badly. And cry with you. Thank God you found my book and my blog and then this site. And I love how it cascaded so quickly.

      Now I have to tell you another thing. I read you comment without being aware that it was on this post where I talked about the membrane. And the first few words of your comment —

      My membrane broke when….

      —made me think I was reading a story of a pregnant woman whose waters broke and the story would go on (like Katy’s did) with how her abuser was furious that she asked him to drive her to the hospital. So I was reading your account and then I realised you were talking not about the membrane of the amniotic sac, but the membrane I’d written about in my post. LOL!

      • BeginHealing

        Electronic (((((hugs))))), Barbara. 🙂 Thank you so much for your work, support, affirmations, and understanding. God is so very VERY good and faithful. I am sure that the work He has called you to is not easy at times. I cannot thank you enough for doing this work and walking this path for us.

        LOL!!! I love the membrane analogy but I can see how it can be confused. 😉

      • fiftyandfree

        Jeff, this would be his explanation. 1) “It never happened — she’s crazy, delusional, psychotic, or making it up to make me look bad.” 2) “I loved her more than anything, she just wouldn’t know love if it smacked her in the face.” 3) “I’m really a great guy. Any other woman would have been happy with me.” (He actually said all of these things many times over.)

      • Brenda R

        Fifty, we must have been married to the same man. Those are all things X said. Only he added, “she was on new MS meds and it made her leave me”. I read nowhere on the side effects, may make you see your spouse as an abuser.

      • Barnabasintraining


        I know that guy too. He really gets around!

      • Brenda R

        BIT, he sure does! lol. It’s like he was cloned or something.

  16. Barnabasintraining

    That was encouraging to read, BeginHealing.

    Regarding the pop, I’ve had that happen too though over other things.

    About the pastor, I have to wonder if they ever hear themselves. “You’re situation is clearly impossible to sustain but you have to since you can’t get out because God said so.” Ummm….Mr. Pastor dude….

    • The pop. The abuser = the weasel.
      Pop goes the weasel!

      Okay, that was lame but I’m a long way from you all and you can’t shoot water pistols at me!

    • BeginHealing

      Loading virtual squirt gun and giggling, Barbara. ❤ Very cheeky of you, that song is going to be stuck in my head all day now. 😉

      BIT, I do not know what my pastor was thinking. All I know is that it left me very confused and I felt worse after meeting with him. I trusted that feeling and have not gone back to him for counsel. In some ways it felt good that he saw that my husband was not well but to then be told I have no choice but to stay and what he did didn’t break the covenant….I just couldn’t get my head and heart around that. How was him having sex with another woman worse in the eyes of God than repeated sin that came from the root of selfishness meant to keep me focused on my husband and his needs at all times while systematically destroying me spiritually and emotionally?!?!?!

      With the help of people like you both I am learning to put more faith in the heart of God and a little less in the hearts of men telling me about the heart of God. 🙂

      • Barnabasintraining

        Maybe he wasn’t thinking. He probably blanked out on “God hates divorce.” It has this brain-wiping effect, apparently.

        With the help of people like you both I am learning to put more faith in the heart of God and a little less in the heart’s of men telling me about the heart of God. 🙂

        Yes! He is the one with the nail scars.

  17. AJ

    So, so thankful for all of you in this “sanity making place.”

    These words oh my…”My husband had started on a new tirade, telling me that I wasn’t in line with Scripture if I wasn’t initiating sex. I was desperate for help. Sex had become marital rape at this point…something I didn’t even know existed…and now my husband was demanding that I initiate my own rape, and he felt the Bible commanded me to do so.”
    Terrifying to hear of your experience. Terrifying to hear my own in your words. Can you hear those popping sounds? May God walk with you as you continue to recover 10 are free.

  18. Bev

    Wow, I feel I’m on holy ground, as you all open up your hearts and allow yourselves to be transparent and vulnerable here…. it’s a beautiful place to be with you….thank you….

  19. Marah

    I think I’m still in the “push against the membrane, then retreat, push, retreat….” phase of things. The incident that forced the blinders from my eyes again, and resulted in the current situation where husband is informally out of the home, was realizing that he was drinking again. He’s not an angry drunk, so that wasn’t the problem, but the deceit (after promising many times that he wouldn’t drink again) and that he had driven drunk with the kids (and me) in the past.

    When I started looking for a good couple’s counselor, I was recommended an amazing (Christian) woman who categorically stated, from our first telephone conversation, that she does not do any couple’s counseling where there’s any active addiction. Turned out that she has no problem “calling a spade a spade”, and I began to see the pattern of controlling behavior my husband uses. I began attending “Abuse Recovery Ministry” meetings, have been reading through “The Verbally Abusive Relationship,” and found this website in the last several weeks.

    My biggest struggle right now may be that although I see mountains of evidence of abuse piling up, my heart and mind refuse to grasp it yet. In so many ways, my husband is a great guy: funny, smart, talented, generous….and the abuse (I’m still struggling to call it that) is mostly very subtle, and tends to be uneven. I’m also so conditioned to it that I don’t even think about it much of the time, like how I no longer feel frightened when I hear someone up at night, now that he’s not here (even though he never did anything at night to make me feel afraid). He’s not violent, rarely uses anger, and seems very supportive in many areas, so the confusion is still very great.

    There are times when I feel like I can’t do this. But when I think about the alternative, letting him back in, I know that will kill me. So I have to stay the course. He doesn’t know that I consider our relationship abusive, and isn’t aware that I’m realizing that I don’t really see a future regardless of what he may do, because I simply will never trust him again. I’m also struggling with feeling sorry for his pain. I hate this.

    • Marah, ((((hugs))))) and keep reading….and keep breathing. Yes it’s hard, but if others have managed to do this journey, so can you, and you will probably be surprised to find how God unexpectedly gives you strength when you feel your tank is utterly empty. Don’t be hard on yourself, don’t expect the fog to all lift quickly, and, where possible, pace yourself so you keep from spinning out altogether.

      One step at a time.

    • Jul

      Yes, Marah, I feel the same way. It is like he is so good in other ways and considerate, somewhat supportive. But after he threatened “to have a completely different marriage” if I left on a trip he didn’t want me to go on, I lost most of the love just then. I don’t believe he has my best interests at heart, I feel like he wants me because of what I do for the family. So he keeps me in his little box and is cruel when I try to step out of it.

  20. Jul

    In my mind, I hate saying it because I feel like a poser compared to women who have it soooo much worse than I do. My marriage looks wholesome compared to theirs, so I feel like I am doing them a disservice by saying I am abused.

  21. Fogislifting

    I first ‘woke up’ to what I was living with after reading Lundy Bancroft’s book, “Why Does He DO That?”

    However, it took a few months to actually be able to call it ‘abuse’ in my own mind. I mean, isn’t it awful to admit that about my own h, who promised to love and cherish me?! I’ve only just begun being able to tell others about it and call it abuse.

    Another breakthrough moment came when he told me to get out (I won’t type his exact words) about a month ago. I felt like something got severed. I packed a bag and left. Previously I would’ve gone to another room and cried. It would’ve got smoothed over and off we’d go again with no real change.

    Not this time. Something happened inside and I was given a deep assurance that I had to stay apart. A week or so later, he said he would live somewhere else so I could be home with our kids.

    We are part of a small church and with it being obvious that something has happened, I’m beginning to be honest rather than remaining silent. That is also another layer to push through and get used to being ok about.

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