A Cry For Justice

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

The Art of War, by A New Free Life

We often hear ourselves referred to as Warrior Women or Protective Moms.  There are even alliances that include those phrases in their names.  Their aim being to equip and encourage mothers locked in the battle for their children’s safety and souls.

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I’ve read forums and articles outlining how to handle a narcissist in court and when attempting to co-parent with them.  So many of us survivors have become experts on the battle, and we’re armed and ready to help others with what we learned from our experiences. But, really, very little of it works for them because, though abusers are eerily similar, our cases are all unique.

Abusers change with the wind.  They are chameleons.  One time, they are stern and accusing.  Another, they are weak and play the victim.  For a time they seem to fade away. Weeks go by with no contact.  And, then, a barrage of unsolicited phone calls ensue wherein they demand their parental rights of visitation.  Or, worse.  They abuse the children in the dark and play Disneyland Dad for all to see.

Their supporting players are different, too:  The judges, attorneys, counselors, family members, church clergy, and long time friends.  Their roles shift and their lines change as the plot thickens.

Regardless of what we’d love to hope for or think we know after living with and divorcing a narcissistic abuser, there doesn’t appear to be a recipe for victory.  There are few certain rules of engagement with these types and their accomplices.

One of my sons will be entering the military in six short months.  He shared with me just two nights ago that he feels he has no other options.  Because of the timing of his father’s departure from our home and the following court battle that consumed his sophomore and junior years, his high school career was derailed.  That, combined with the financial disaster R left us with, has made my son’s college of choice dreams a fantasy.  He knows he has to do something, but it will not be that thing he longed for as a child.   He reluctantly accepts his new course as a warrior.  And, he prepares the best he can.

He trains.

He studies and reads.

He strengthens his body, increasing his endurance, asks questions of those who’ve already been there, and with fortitude determines his own survival.

Another of my sons is studying International Policy and Security.  Always the academic, he presented his younger brother with an exquisite copy of Sun Tzu’s classic The Art of War.

A quick look at Wikipedia, and this is what I found:

It has been the most famous and influential of China’s Seven Military Classics, and “for the last two thousand years it remained the most important military treatise in Asia, where even the common people knew it by name.”[1]  It has had an influence on Eastern and Western military thinking, business tactics, legal strategy and beyond.

The Bible, too, is full of battle euphemisms.  We Christians like to take the gentler, softer road in relationships, but that isn’t the picture we’re painted in the New Testament.  We’re even told our “ENEMIES [emphasis mine] will be those of [our] own household.”

The battle is real.  We are warriors.  So, perhaps, we should train and prepare like warriors.

Just as one leader cannot with certainty walk in, without being briefed thoroughly on the situation, and advise another leader on the best military strategy in that particular case, we cannot post on Facebook and ask another survivor how we should handle the particulars in our own cases.  We must be careful to support each other and share with each other what did or did not work for us, but that does not mean it will afford them the same results.  The details of our personal experiences are not broad, universal law.

I recently listened to a presentation by a former Marine.  He quoted Sun Tzu a lot.  This marine shared important gleanings from the great general:

  1. Victorious warriors win first and then go to war while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.
  1. The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy first with intel.
  1. There are five essentials for victory. Number one, He will win who knows WHEN to fight. Number two, He will win who knows how to handle superior and inferior forces. Number three, He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks. Number four, He will win who prepared himself ways to take the enemy unprepared. Number five, He will win who has military capacity, not the sovereign (that means the guy in the field makes the decisions, not the guy behind the desk).

May I propose something?  This may be controversial in the domestic violence circle.  But, I believe these war strategies are key for us.

I had been told, preached to, and believed, I had no right to leave my abuser.  However, if he abandoned me, then Biblically I’d be free.  Ironically, I waited for him to leave me, and I still found condemnation in the church!  I was told by pastor after pastor to forgive my husband and love him with the love of Christ and I’d see changes in him.

But, let’s accept the Bible’s parallels of this being a battle.  Let’s live by the Proverbs and be wise.  And, let’s prepare for this battle with the ancient wisdom of ancient warriors.

Number one, We must win first and then go to war, knowing victory comes with intel.  The only time in court that I was actually victorious was when I went unrepresented but armed with a log of abuse!  I had gathered my intel for a year and a half, knowing that ultimately that man would try to get his conviction removed from his record.  My intel was complete and accurate and detailed, and the judge found it convincing.  My ex did not come to court so prepared.  In fact, his family smiled at my son and me as we entered the courtroom.  They assumed we were there to support him as we had for sixteen years!

Please remember, again, this is only my experience.  He could have killed me in that year and a half!  Some women don’t have that kind of time!  He DID try to kill me on several occasions during that year and a half.  I’m just drawing parallels between Sun Tzu’s teachings and my personal experiences.  Each individual must carefully examine her own battleground!

Number two, The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy first with intel.  My focus during my court battle was on defending myself, though I’d done nothing wrong!!!  This was how my attorney viewed the case.  Oh, for an attorney who would have aggressively and quietly built a case AGAINST the abuser.  My second attorney was very chummy with my abuser’s attorney.  There was nothing about our case that was not known to her.  In essence, my attorney was handing her intel to use against me!

Number three, The five essentials for victory.  The first component of this last one is the most critical, in my humble opinion.  When I saw the game my attorney was playing with my life, I wrote him an impassioned but clear letter stating that I was willing to give up every single request EXCEPT for custody.  Ultimately, what did life or health insurance or alimony I’d never receive anyway or a truck mean if I had to share custody with my abuser?  Knowing my attorney, R’s attorney, and the judge all professed to be Christians (though I don’t believe any of them are), I shamelessly used that to my advantage in my argument.  (Now, before a Christian judges me for taking my Lord’s name in vain, didn’t Paul get snarky and use such language more than once to defend himself?)  I did not hang in there and fight to the bitter end, which meant that my children do have unsupervised visitation with their abuser.  BUT, the reality is that our courts time and time again give unsupervised visitation AND custody to abusers.  One woman wrote, “The more I mentioned abuse, the more time I lost.”  While that is a social ill that needs battled, it needs fought at the legislative level, not in the courtroom with my children’s lives and well being hanging in the balance.  That’s a battle for another day.

The second component, He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.  In my mind, this could apply to the counselors as the inferior forces.  They often make or break us.  They have the power to send one little piece of paper to the court that can alter the entire case.  They may not appear as intimidating as the superior force of the judge but don’t underestimate their cunning, their ability for deception, and who they are really allied to.  Don’t buy into the gentle demeanor and feigned words of concern for the children.  Dysfunction lines their pockets, too.

Thirdly, He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout its ranks.  I was so desperate for love and support that I clung to old friends who truly were not for me.   They had their own controlling and selfish agendas in my life.  Pruning is hard and seems to be a slow process, but it needs to be swift.  And, remember, our enemies can and will be those of our own households.  One woman called her brother-in-law as a witness during her trial.  He had watched a brutal attack where she was punched, thrown on a bed, sat on, and choked. He denied the entire thing on the stand, nodding to  her husband!  From the outside looking in, it doesn’t surprise me.  He stood and watched the attack then and didn’t intervene.  He couldn’t realistically be expected to suddenly defend her on the stand when he wasn’t willing to defend her very life.

Fourth, He will win who prepared himself ways to take the enemy unprepared.  This is one that weighs heavy on my mind.  Our local support group has an unofficial mantra, “Only you know when you’re ready to leave.”  The premise is that a woman is to be supported until she is ready to make that decision to leave.  I get that.  BUT, how much more effective would it be to encourage a woman to quickly file for divorce immediately following an abuser’s arrest? My narcissist was so worried about how his arrest was going to effect his job and social standing, I don’t believe he would have gone after me so hard had I filed at that time. Instead, I waited four years.  Four long years.  Time for him to complete MATVA classes and convince others he’d seen the error of his ways.  Time for him to save and hide money. Time for him to secretly create a life and a battle plan against me.  Time for him to develop a smear campaign against me behind my back.  I gave him the opportunity to prepare himself ways to take me unprepared!

And, lastly, He will win who has the military capacity, not the sovereign.  In other words, the guy in the field makes the decisions, not the guy behind the desk.  In our cases, the guy behind the desk, the sovereign–the attorneys and judges and counselors–makes the decisions.  However, it is truly the decisions made by us, the guys in the field, that decide our fate.  How do we handle the orders given to us?  How do we implement them when everything is going down around us?  As the bombs are exploding in front of us, do we choose to follow the sovereign’s orders to the T?  Or, do we use our critical thinking skills to preserve our lives and the lives of our children?

In Utopia the courts would exist to meter out justice and protect the innocent.  We know that isn’t the reality of our world though.  So, my sisters, fellow Warrior Women, let’s train.  Let’s study and read.  Let’s strengthen ourselves, increasing our endurance.  Let’s ask questions of those who have been there.  And, then, with fortitude, let’s determine our own survival.

***

This article was first published at A New Free Life and has been republished here with permission from ANFL. Many thanks.

18 Comments

  1. Deborah

    I needed to read this. Thank you Barbara. It just helps to know I’m not alone in the fight for my children’s safety. My momma warrior claws get so tired sometimes and have been lately. Thank you for this reminder to keep learning how to be wise in this battle for my babies.

  2. MeganC

    I love this post. Thank you, Anew. xo

  3. granonine

    Powerfully written. I love the warrior applications. I’m going to share this with a couple of women I’m seeing my counseling office. I’ve been urging them to take action and not wait for the abuser to reform, but they hesitate because of all the advice they’ve been given about just loving the abuser to Christ. God never says we have to be punching bags.

  4. Katy

    Anew, this is the kind of thinking that women have traditionally been taught to avoid. Sun Tzu??? marine tactics??
    And yet — it’s exactly what we need. Excellent post xoxo When there is no one to defend us, we can pick up our swords and shields. God gave us the instinct to protect our children – aren’t mother bears the most lethal threat?

    • Thank you very much, Katy! Yes, I LOVE the Biblical examples we have in Deborah and Jael.

      xoxo

  5. Valerie

    Ephesians tells us that our battle is against the evil forces and not flesh and blood. This is difficult for me at times because my H is the one hurting and neglecting me but if I only look at him then the real enemy gets to sit on the sidelines unnoticed helping call the shots. When I have seen my H alone in terms of an enemy it has made my heart ugly at times so when I recognize it I try to redirect my focus at God’s justice instead of solely mentally building a case against my husband. I need to turn my focus on to fighting for God rather than fighting for myself. This is so hard because years of invalidation make me want to fight for my honor but I must remind myself that God’s honor must be my highest concern and allow Him to fight for me. Such a hard road!

    • My heart goes out to you, Valerie, and I hope that you find that honor and validation as you fight the good fight. Hugs!

  6. I love the very fact that I am a mighty woman of valor.I am a warrior!!! I am a woman of God that is fighting the very powers of evil in my home!
    I met up with a member of my husbands family today and was told that the way my husband is with me is exactly the way his father was with his mother. My son is exactly the same way with his wife and me… My question is … Is this all learnt behaviour or is it genetic? The abusive controlling behaviors that are manifested. How can one son be so loving, sweet and gentle and the other one be emotionally and verbally abusive like his dad and grandfather and great grandfather? I now have my husbands family suspecting things aren’t good. They are concerned he has a mental illness all due to a situation that has arisen in his family recently. I am now telling them about the abuse he has put me through….. They are shocked, stunned and in disbelief…but they do believe me because they know what his dad was like.
    I’m feeling somewhat relieved to know that his family are understanding my dilemma.

  7. Not Too Late

    A New Free Life, what an amazing article you wrote!

    Allow me to comment on the fourth point: Fourth, He will win who prepared himself ways to take the enemy unprepared. Lest anyone beat themselves too hard over the head, there are advantages to not filing straightaway. Like most, I didn’t know what to do and wasn’t prepared to file right away. Firstly, I think I would have stumbled and also not coped, being much more fragile in the earlier days. Secondly, his initial rage at the separation was scary. The delay did not advantage him, though, because it gave him time to make mistakes, show his true colors and to trip himself up. Yes, it also gave him time to do the “right things” for court and to find allies, but I don’t think that it was all to his advantage. Delays also give survivors the time to get the right counseling, gain strength and knowledge, and plan for the best outcome. Survivors are used to being rushed into forced decisions, so having time allows a new pattern to be established.

    Once again, thank you for a piece full of substance, wisdom and relevance!

    • Thank you so much for the kind words! Yes, you make an excellent point. And, I don’t think it can be stated enough…..our situations are all different, and only we know the best route in our given situations. Bless you!

  8. As I See It Only

    Time to become wise in the art of war. War is an art form. There is no sense practicing the art of peace when your enemy is practicing war. That is foolish. Put away the crayons and devote yourselves to the study of this war–for it is a war of light against darkness. Stop being silly and whining over your refrigerator creations which have not be framed for the gallery. Study art. Become wise and wary as a serpent in the grass. That has a Spirit-ring to it. Let’s go! Our former weakness in the battle may be our best weapon moving forward because we will catch the enemy off guard and unprepared.

    • I love the comment !! Yes!! A scripture that has been coming to me of late … Peace Peace when there is no peace!

    • AMEN!!!

  9. A reader has asked “How does God fit into this picture?”
    Maybe some of our writers or readers would like to suggest answers. I am so busy writing posts I can’t do it right now.

    • Not Too Late

      “Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.” Ps 144:1

      Unlike the Israelites in the Old Testament, we are not called to conquer in a literal military sense. But we are still in a war. There is a battle going on, in many fronts. One of them is in the struggle to keep our homes and kids safe. Why not enter the battle fore-armed with the best strategies and principles out there? That’s not to say that we ought to follow principles a, b and c in a rigid way as each of our cases are different. To be sure, God intervenes and grants victory in ways that are unique to each of us, but just as certain is the fact that He has armed us for battle and being a Warrior Woman has everything to do with God!

  10. standsfortruth

    This post highlights an important truth.
    Once we know the wickedness of who we are fighting with, we must employ every facet that we have available to us to prove our case, so that in the end we fair as favorably as possible. This means we have to take advantage of every opportunity to gleen, confiscate and accumulate information that will prove and vindicate our position when the time comes.
    And keep in a safe location where the abuser cannot destroy it.

    Had I not been proactive and done this very thing when my abuser left the house or was sleeping heavily, -my abuser would have been able to pass off plotted lies, and skewed information durring our divorce. But oh contrair.. I had a bundle of documented info which gave me much leverage to cause my abuser to want to mediate out of court, with a pro tem Judge going between our “seperate rooms” to determine the terms of the final negotiation.

    Just know the capacity of your enemy and get the jump on him by documenting ahead of time anything he is likely to alter and use against you to try make himself look more favorable.
    Use your highest form of intellegence to gather this info. While he is gone or sleeping..

    Even if he “thinks” you have this information documented he would have wanted to alter, it will surely cause him to reconsider doing so..

    • Anotheranon

      I agree strongly with you. Money is needed to get away, so save plenty. Get your hands on important documents. Know your financial situation ahead of time so you can be ready.

      I had always handled the bills and checks so for over a year and a half I was preparing. Yet I did not do anything underhanded. I merely put away what was rightfully mine.

      Some who are not able to do this will have to do the best they can, especially if they are fleeing violence. I was not. And my children were grown up and had moved out.

      I remember telling a friend years ago that I was just trying to survive in life. She didn’t understand. I don’t think I really did either but as time went by it became more evident.

  11. Finding Answers

    Perhaps the lack of preparedness for war starts from the context in which the the battle is learned, a part of our uniqueness.

    Warrior?

    Momma bear?

    Christian?

    “C”hristian?

    Vitcim / Survivor?

    Advocate?

    Pharisee?

    Scribe?

    Tax collector?

    Child?

    Adult?

    Sometimes the art of war is learned during the battle.

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