A Cry For Justice

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

The Real Parental Alienation — part 2

PAS, or Parental Alienation Syndrome, refers to the poisoning of children’s minds by one parent (usually the mother), against the other (usually the father). The so-called “cure” is to take the children away from the parent who is “poisoning” them and place them with the other parent. Richard Gardner, a known pedophile apologist came up with this theory from his own research with his clients in 1985, while working to defend abusers in court who were at risk of losing access to their children to protective parents. Gardner self-published his work and had no scientific basis for his PAS theory. But it’s still successfully used today, by many lawyers, to underhandedly win custody for abusive men.

The National District Attorneys Association [Internet Archive link] says that, “PAS is an unproven theory that can threaten the integrity of the criminal justice system and the safety of abused children.”

Yet many courts still allow it and many abusers know it.

The twisted part to all this, is that alienation actually does exist. Parents do attempt to turn their kids against the other parent. But not the way Gardner suggests. It’s usually the abuser who does the actual alienation, all while they are busy taking the protective parent to court and using PAS as a magic bullet to win more custody of the kids.

Here is how it often seems to work:

When the kids withdraw or distance themselves from the abusive parent, or when the protective parent attempts to limit the children’s exposure to the abusive parent because they are (no shock here) abusive, the abusive parent says this distancing behavior is ‘proof’ of PAS. The abusive parent lies to the court, claiming that the protective parent is alienating the children from them. This deceitful tactic is often used to scare the protective parent and silence the protective parent. The abuser doesn’t want the protective parent speaking up and exposing the abuse.

Tragically, this tactic often works. Many abusive parents get custody this way. Many others get unsupervised access when they are in fact so dangerous to the kids that the kids are suffering severe traumatic symptoms. We are talking here not just about abusers intimidating the kids, or modeling poor character and morals to the kids. We are also talking about abusers who sexually abuse kids, who drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol with the kids in the car, who fail to feed the kids properly, change nappies/diapers regularly, and all the other things that parents should do to keep kids healthy and safe. These are just a few examples.

Once they have custody, the abusive parents often start their own aggressive campaign with their children, to set the children against the protective parent. When the protective parent points that out as real and legitimate parental alienation, the courts often dismiss it, as they consider the behavior to be “paternal bonding”.

Leave it to abusers to find a way to project their own behaviors onto their victims, so that they can continue to get away with their abuse! It’s the old ‘turn everything upside down and inside out’ game, the crazy-making game that abusers specialize in. Not only are they actually alienating their kids from the protective parent, but they blame-shift onto the protective parent, in order to deliver a knock out blow and punish the protective parent for ever having crossed them. Slowly but surely, or sometimes before the protective parent even knows what has happened, the abuser has stripped the protective parent of both their legal rights and their emotional connection to their children.

Gardner and his theory of PAS have done much to discredit the real alienation that happens in abusive custody situations, succeeding in confusing the real perpetrators with the true victims, and many children and protective parents have suffered horribly for this, since its wider acceptance in 1987.

But there is hope. The tide of justice seems to be slowly shifting now. The American Psychological Association dismissed and rejected PAS as junk science, refusing to include it in the fifth revision of their Diagnostic Manual (DSM-5). Many courts around America are also beginning to refuse to hear PAS evidence, citing the lack of research to back it as a valid theory as well as its potential danger to true victims of abuse. Lawyers are now being taught how to defend Protective parents against allegations of PAS.

The truth is beginning to show through the darkness. Lies are starting to be exposed. Abusers are being called out, slowly, but it is happening. Still, it’s not enough. There is much damage that still needs repairing. Abusers need to be held accountable for the true alienation that they are perpetrating between kids and their protective parents and for those of us, still fighting, trying anything we can to protect our kids, there are still miles to go before we sleep…


Posts in this series

Part 1: The Truth Behind Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)

Part 2: Is this post.


Further Reading

Update to Deborah’s post on Richard Gardner and Parental Alienation Syndrome

For more information on PAS, its validity, perceptions in the courts today and how to defend against it, please visit:

Defending against PAS [Internet Archive link]

The Liz Library

American Psychological Association position on PAS [Internet Archive link]

Redefining PAS [Internet Archive link]


  1. BeenThereDoneThat

    I was glad to see this as many of us have experienced this. In my own case, this was adult (or almost) children who were too old to be taken with me when I finally left the abusiveness. I was not there at the dinner table for any discussions, although I read an e-mail from my ex (which had been sent to a pastor of our church) which described the joking around at the dinner table about how Mom “looted” the house during the day. Even for a 21 year old, this doesn’t exactly build respect and honor. When this had been preceded by years of not encouraging respect for Mom (and worse), this sets up a different sort of PAS. I pray frequently that as my children age, progress in relationships and parent their OWN children they will someday think about the parental relationship that they grew up with and see for themselves that they were encouraged to think illogically. If only my adult children would replay in their minds the lack of tenderness, respect and partnering that they witnessed as they compare to what their own partners bring to a relationship, I would be pleased. So far, this is not the case and my children are in their 30’s. I wait, but for 13 years now, I have been treated as if I was sent to Siberia for a terrible crime I committed. Why they can’t remember all that this parent did for them while they were growing up is astounding. Why they can’t remember that their dad did no driving around, no managing of the homeschool program, no shopping to provide them with clothing or other needs I don’t know. I don’t know what life would have been like if I had been spiritually convinced that leaving the abuse earlier with young children was ok with God. Harder financially. Easier spiritually? I’ll never know and I can’t relate to custody issues that some of you talk about. BUT, PAS is alive and well with older children who are with the abusive spouse.

    • Jeff Crippen

      BTDT- Thank you. This is a story we hear very often. While the abuser plays and charms and acts like an irresponsible child when it comes to taking care of the real business of life, mom breaks her back out of love for the children doing all the things you have listed, and more. Yet the accusations, the charm, the putting down of mom by the abuser seem to trump it all in so many cases. One day, on that Day, Christ is going to reveal it all. The whole truth and nothing but the truth. On a giant screen the whole universe will see. There will be no hiding then. No secrets. No lies. Just the stark, naked truth of the evil that evil people have done for so long and seem to have gotten away with. Nope. They won’t. There’s no escape from that blinding light to come. Jesus is truth and His truth is one of the most fearful things the wicked are going to endure. At the same time, that Truth is going to be the most wonderful thing Christ’s people have ever tasted. He is coming.

    • Heather

      BTDT, my situation was very similar. My ex wanted us to have a “good bye” lunch the day I left, after they all returned home from church. My children were all grown also, the youngest just a month away from turning 21. I declined his suggestion, needless to say. But it was so weird. I was told that the family lunch happened as though their was nothing unusual, except that I wasn’t there! This from the man who didn’t understand why I was done with it all!
      To this day the youngest remains distant and my heart breaks over and over again. I lived my life for my family! They were everything of value to me. I have moved to Scotland after remarrying and my children remain in the US. I gave everything for three decades. I lost a child in death, and now I experience the loss of a child who would rather believe what John Piper says than what her mother experienced being married to a passive aggressive cheater who is still welcomed at church. Life is not fair. That’s the sad truth. To hear your story and how long you have walked in this valley breaks my heart. We share tears, dear sister. May you find peace in our Lords arms.

      • Anonymous

        BTDT & HEATHER – Thank you for sharing. So much of what you stated I am trying to cope with in my decision making as to where I fit in with my family:

        If only my adult children would replay in their minds the lack of tenderness, respect and partnering that they witnessed as they compare to what their own partners bring to a relationship, I would be pleased. So far, this is not the case and my children are in their 30′s.


        To this day the youngest remains distant and my heart breaks over and over again. I lived my life for my family! They were everything of value to me…. I gave everything for three decades.

        I gave everything because I valued each family member as a gift from God.
        PASTOR CRIPPEN – In our hearts, we know what the Lord promises, however, it’s always reassuring when you and other contributors put it so succinctly, “One day, on that Day, Christ is going to reveal it all.”

  2. fiftyandfree

    The anti-husband kept me “in line” and got everything he wanted in the divorce in part by threatening to accuse me of PAS. I knew I didn’t stand a chance against him in the family court, him being a licensed psychologist with no conscience whatsoever, so I caved and let him have what he wanted so the kids could be safe with me.

    It’s a blessing that the tides are slowly shifting, but it’s a tragedy that it’s coming far too late for so many innocent children and parents.

    • Jeff Crippen

      50Free – I don’t think you should put yourself down by using the word “caved.” You sacrificed for your children is the reality of it. That doesn’t sound like caving. It sounds like courage to me.

      • fiftyandfree

        Thanks Jeff. You’re right, but I do still kick myself for a lot of what happened during the divorce. I hired an unscrupulous lawyer who ripped me off to the tune of $25,000 and did nothing to protect my interests. Then I hired another lawyer and while she did a better job she talked me into settling and basically letting him have all the money. He even got my engagement ring which he obtained through an underhanded altering of documents at the 12th hour which slipped by my attorney. She apologized profusely for this, but I blamed myself and still do.

        Also, I was stupidly involved in marital counseling when I first filed for divorce and I foolishly cancelled the divorce the first time because he feigned repentance and the counselor believed him and I was trying to do the “Christian” thing which ended up giving him lots of time to plan a strategy against me. I need to forgive myself but the kids and I live continually in the poverty those mistakes created and that makes it hard to let it go and forgive myself.

        Lest I dishonor my God, I will say that the Lord has provided our every need and we are all okay, but in my humanness I often relive the whole thing and wonder if things would have turned out better for me and the kids had I hired a better lawyer, fought more for what the kids and I deserved (monetarily), and not settled out of court with the anti-husband.

  3. Psalm 37

    Another problem with this nonsense of parental alienation syndrome is that it’s all hearsay “evidence”presented by the abuser. Idiot judges take that into account and make decisions based on it. I thought you had to back up your accusations with proof via transcripts, recordings, emails, instead of just telling stories?!

    I have had a PAS-loving judge tell me my behavior was “unconscionable and egregious” based on the abuser’s slander. Just a few weeks ago, the same judge threatened me with a custody hearing because of my supposed PAS. Interestingly, the abuser’s first wife and three children have a permanent restraining order against him, and he owes me $20,000+ in child support. Aren’t those things unconscionable and egregious?
    I wish God would do something to turn this tide of lies and injustice. All thus court nonsense is exhausting and demoralizing.

    • fiftyandfree

      I feel so angry when I read things like this. Family Court is disgrace in this country and innocent children suffer because of it.

  4. Here’s a timely post from the Protective Mothers Alliance. It contains a very moving song.
    “Mother”- Lita Ford [Internet Archive link]

  5. BeenThereDoneThat

    Some days (or weeks) in life are harder than others. It just feels good to hear from others who know where I have been and am. Thanks all.

  6. One reason the Family Courts are so often (but not always) unjust is that the judges are simply like so many other people in society:
    — They not sufficiently aware of the non-merited privilege that men in our culture have just by being men.
    — And they are not sufficiently aware of the non-merited under-privilege that women in our culture have, just because they are women.

    Okay; that’s me laying my gender cards on the table. And I know it’s a generalization, but it’s a fair generalization. We have talked a lot on this blog about the Christian version of Patriarchy (or hyper-Patriarchy, as we sometimes call it, to distinguish it from the kind of godly male servant-hearted leadership that Paul endorses in Ephesians 5:25).

    Seeing things through a gender lens like this does not deny or ignore the Christian worldview or the reality of sin, it simply gives us a more effective and I believe a more useful way of understanding this sin-of-the-culture-as-a-whole: this blindness to non-merited gendered privilege.

    So I take the view that the injustices we are confronting on this blog are multi-layered:
    individual sins (the sins of the spousal abuser),
    institutional sins (the sins of churches, seminaries and denominations that contribute to the injustice which victims are suffering),
    and the sins of society as a whole (the gender bias and bestowing of unmerited privilege on one gender at the expense of the other).

    All of these sins need to be exposed and repented of.

    • Annie

      Multilayered. That’s exactly what the whole issue is. The contexts in which an individual (usually the woman, but not always) finds herself in are layered and complex, and each adds to the injustices of abuse. A male victim probably does not have to deal with the consequences of gender imbalance of power in society as a whole. Similarly, a secular woman does not have to deal with the sins of the churches. This seems to indicate that a devoted Christian woman is at greater risk of suffering and staying in abuse than an un-churched woman or a male. By the same reasoning, a Christian male victim has a harder time than a secular male who is abused.

      • Yes Annie. And that is one reason why research has shown that Christian women stay longer in abusive marriages than women who don’t have a religious faith.

  7. UnNamed Female

    I am one of the rare ones who is female and at the receiving end of an abuser who is doing PAS on my children against me.
    Even CASA (court appointed advocates for children) saw the PAS in my kids and reported it to the judge. Because I dared to stop putting up with the abuse my “punishment” is the abuser using his intense skills to brainwash the kids into thinking I did and said this or that. Now the children are sure that I did and said things I never did. They are sure I am mean and abusive and that I left them all of which are not true.
    The abuser uses legal ways to continue to harass me now that he can no longer directly harass me due to the protective order I have on him. So now he abuses me via going through my kids as well as mutual friends he has literally spying on me. It all sounds so weird like a Hollywood movie but believe me many of us live it.
    From my experience PAS is very real as I am living it right now. The judge ordered for the abuser to pay for professional mental help for my children and for him to pay for me to have sessions with my kids as the doctor works on de-programming the kids. We are only in the very very beginning stage of this.
    CASA reported to the judge that my case is very sever and is only the 2nd case they have ever seen that is this bad.
    My kids went from thinking I was the fun and cool parent to suddenly being the abusive, cruel, hateful and immoral parent over night literally. Their dad began his campaign of lets-slaughter-her-because-she-is-no-longer-allowing-herself-to-be-my-in house victim early on. He gets on Facebook and uses it as a public means to humiliate me, he now has our children doing the same thing. He has hacked into my FB and emails changing their passwords so I cant get access to them then he sends stuff out pretending to be me and prints it up to show others the “proof” that I admitted to things I never did or said.
    I never thought my children, whom I raised and homeschooled, would turn on me like this. They are ages 11 and 14 now. This all began in November 2013 (it is now May 2014). The brainwashing is so sever that I fear my children will have life long mental and emotional issues and troubles in their future marriages.
    PAS is not a false thing, it is a very real thing that is literally mentally and emotionally killing both me and my children. My kids are so far gone that people are afraid to be alone with them due to my kids making up wild accusations against anyone who isn’t on their dads side. My kids loved my parents and other family members but now they think we are all evil and out to get their dad. My family always pampered my kids with clothes, toys and so forth having fun with them and now my kids isolate themselves against me and my family. It is as if their dad is the cult leader and the kids are the faithful mindless followers who worship him. It is very strange and weird.
    Daily I log onto my new Facebook account to find yet more messages from my kids (I’ve been living in shelters due domestic violence and the judge gave temp custody to the abuser so they could be in a “regular” home and not in a shelter). Their messages contain the same warped things over and over as they state how loving and kind their dear daddy is. Before all this began they would frequently be frustrated with their dad for living on the computer and ignoring them and or yelling at them often, now he is suddenly the savior that can do no wrong. Daily they leave me messages telling me how horrible I am and how I broke their dads heart and so on and so on. They leave hurtful messages saying how much better of a mother my husbands girlfriend is to them and how I am a bad mother. This list of PAS signs goes on and on and is a big concern for many.
    I sometimes wonder if perhaps maybe my kids are correct and I really am a horrid person. Guilt and shame sets in as I curl up in bed wishing death would come for me. God has sent friends to pick me up over and over until now finally I am standing tall more often and better even amidst the continuous emotional/verbal abuse from my husband via the typing fingers and mouths of my kids. It hurts but now I am seeing hope as the courts have finally saw the issues and are getting help for me and the kids.
    PAS is so very real and damaging. My husband continues to literally email, call and visit with many people as he draws them into his web of psychoticness as they become his well meaning bleeding hart victims.
    As I walk in town people take pics of me and send them to him via texting. They report to him whom I’m with and where and other details. He then uses that as some sort of weird evidence to show our children giving them more “proof” of how bad and evil their mother is. He breaks down in tears tugging at their hearts even more. Those who truly do PAS are great actors you know.
    Even after CASA gave my husband the report of the PAS he is doing he still continues to do it but even stronger now as he feels the self made noose getting tighter and tighter as he is loosing many of his cult followers over time as they see the truth.
    So, for those who doubt PAS exist know that it does exist and it is very damaging. I am living in the middle of it right now as I type. Am I perfect? of course not. I am not trying to point a finger at him making him seem like the monster as I am the innocent angel. I know I’m no angel and I also know that he is not 100% monster. He does have good qualities but sadly he is not choosing to use them at this time. To appeal to his better side does no good as he seems to not care.
    His goal seems to be to keep the kids from loving me and to make sure he looks as good as possible to others. Anything that might make his character look flawed sets him into overdrive to make up sensible sounding but twisted stories explaining away every story until the ending results of the story point to him as the poor helpless abused father.
    I and my family have prayed begging God for help for my children. Now God is sending it via the CASA, judge and mental professional. I am now seeing some hope in the future although it will likely be a very long process.
    Soon my kids may be in a foster home so that they can be away from the PAS their father does to them and so the mental health professional can more affectively de-program them. They cant live with me at this point due to how they are brainwashed into believing that I’m evil and out to get them. They have made up accusations saying I abuse them whenever they spend the weekends with me at the shelter to the point of the police coming to check me out. It is crazy stuff and sadly very true. He was only letting them come spend weekends with me because the judge ordered it but now he wont even abide by that and it will be coming back to bite him.
    So yes PAS is very real and extremely damaging.

    • Heather2

      With every sentence my heart broke for you. He is a master of twisted lies, but it seems that others are now seeing how he operates.

      Ultimately, he will be judged by our very wise and just Lord.

      My deepest prayers are for the deprogramming of your children to be successful that you may wrap your arms around them and they respond in like manner.

      May you feel the love and peace of our Lord who is with you.

    • Dear UnNamed Female, the CASA people may be right that your case of PAS is extreme, but I don’t think that it is all that rare for male abusers to work on their kids so the kids become alienated from their mothers . . . the PROTECTIVE mothers who are actually being good parents in so far as they are able to, given the constant corrosion and undermining by the abuser. I am so sorry to hear of the straits you are in, but glad that the court has at last started to recognise the wrong your abuser is doing to the kids and trying to bring redress.

      I don’t want to tell you what to do re Facebook etc, but I’ll just pass on a little thing I heard from some Shelter (Womens’ Refuge) workers in Australia. They called Facebook “Stalkbook”. And they said that when a woman goes into a high security (secret location) refuge, one of the rules is that she has to agree not to use Facebook.

      Apparently too many abusers have managed to track down the location of these Women’s Refuges using Facebook. Often the leaks come from third parties: e.g. the victim tells her trusted friends on FB what town she is in, and the friends’ FB pages are not as tightly secured as the victim’s own FB page, and the abuser scours the friends’ pages till he can join the dots and figure out where she is. So, for the security of the Refuges overall, they have had to make this rule about No Facebook for refuge residents.

      Also, you might like to check out the Cyber Safety tips at the links on this page of our Resources Cyber Safety and Social Networking

  8. fiftyandfree

    Ugh… how awful. I wasn’t going to reply because words fail me, but I want you to know that people care and understand. I was married to a master manipulator and liar. My saving grace was that he didn’t really want the kids, but he did use custody as leverage in the divorce proceedings. All he really wanted was the money and once I gave in and let him have it all he gave up on custody threats. I hope and pray that it all works out for you and the children and that the truth comes out sooner than later. May the Lord protect your precious children and restore them to you. Amen.

  9. These two websites are run by adults who as children were victims of Court Appointed Child Abuse (where the Family Court orders them to have contact with or even live full time with their abusive parent).

    Children Against Court Appointed Child Abuse – CA3

    Courageous Kids Network

  10. newcreation

    dear unNamed and Barbara,
    I am new to the posts. I was just browsing for help and read these last posts. I am in the middle of this kind of abuse. I was just made aware of PAS when speaking with a friend whose ex tried to accuse her of this. I have a husband who is spiritually, emotionally, financially and sexually abusive. I am his third wife and have experienced many abuses over the past nine years. He has emotionally divorced me and has such a strong pseudo personality that everyone who meets him is wooed and won over. He positions and aligns each family member, friend, pastor or new acquaintance. He wins people over by giving them things or doing them favors while at home there is nothing given. He expends all of the his time and energy making people think he is who he is not. This man if now fighting for our son. We are a blended family with 8 combined children and one together.

    I have been trying to stand strong instead of walk on eggshells. I did this with my former husband of 13 years with 4 children and even my ex has tried to win the kids over to him. Fortunately my older boys see through, but my daughter (14) now tells me that her dad and step mom are better parents and I am just recently losing her.

    I have battled in courts to keep custody once a year (he brings me back to court) and have won each time. But now my second husband, who I thought was a believer (I became a believer in 2001 and my first husband left) is now trying to take my youngest son away form me. I have seen how his three children have alienated themselves from their mom because of their father. They think she is an awful person and make fun of her. I defend her and God even gave me the opportunity to speak with her a few months ago to tell her it was not her fault and that she is not a loser as she is convinced she is.

    My husband takes my son hunting, fishing and trapping with his buddies and son and son-in-law just to get him away from me. He calls me throughout the day seeing when I willl be home and then takes him for hours when I get home. Any thing my son tries to share with him about what we did that day is ignored and countered and he redirects his attention of where he is taking my son and how that is so much better. My husband primes him by bragging on him in front of his friends and others saying that he is an “expert fisherman or an expert trapper, etc.”

    My husband goes on missions trips and leads them, is a Gideon, gives to the church, prays each morning for people, is seen as a spiritual leader. I have men coming to me saying how blessed I am to have such a wonderful man as a husband. Women envy me. I have a “real” man. Men tell him that they want to be like him. They want their sons to work for him and be under a good Christian man.

    He favors his sons in this house and puts down my three. He is from a patriarchal, legalistic church. He believes I should be at home. I am at home and am thankful…it is what I feel the Lord wants me to do. I homeschool my children while his have gone to the public school. He for the last two years has been talking about putting our son in school only to get him away from me.

    I pray for protection for our minds, but things are getting worse. He triggers now everytime I do something with friends and their children over this summer and I get paid back. He has taken our son on multiple weekend trips these past months. He tells our son that I am not invited bc this is a father/son outing. He has been using that term more. My husband tells me there is nothing wrong with him spending time with him but I now now after intense out of state counseling sessions that he is dong this for reasons of alienation.

    I have int he past tried to talk to him but now say nothing. It seems hopeless. I am starting to feel it physically. I have always stayed fit. But recently I have had panic attacks and am now recovering from pleurisy. I have rapid heart rates each morning and am wondering what I can do to counter what he is doing. What can I do now before more damage it done?

    Do you have any advice as to what to do to stop being abused? I want to leave, but my husband is from a very enmeshed family system. Even his children are way too close…weird things going on here and I constantly feel as if I have to guard our son. Even his kids try to manipulate him and get him on “their” team. It feels like a mess here and the more I try to protect my son, the more angered they get and the more they try to “move” in on him.

    It is so overwhelming at times…..it is a miracle I can write this…

    If you have any advice, it would be welcomed!

    • deborahmom

      New creation,

      The situation you are in is most definitely abusive and extremely so. I have a few thoughts to share and some resources I hope I can point you to that will help. As far as your son, this is so scary, watching this happen to him. I think you homeschooling him will give you a chance to do this, and my suggestion is to concentrate on teaching him what manipulation looks like. Teach him to recognize it and to think critically about it on his own. Use that homeschool time to do it so his father doesn’t know you are doing it. Read Lundy Bancroft’s When Dad Hurts Mom [*Affiliate link]. It gives many helpful ideas on how to do this. Also I would recommend you read Why Does He Do That [Affiliate link] by Lundy Bancroft, which will help you see your husbands tactics even more clearly. Please know I am praying for you now.

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

      New Creation, my heart goes out to you as I read of your suffering. Please remember Jesus loves you with an everlasting love. I had dark days (years) when I had difficulty praying. All I could think of was “Thank You Lord, I have two eyes to see, two legs to walk, two ears to hear.” Even these little things got me through.
      I can’t offer much advice but please don’t give up! Remember Phil.4:13 I can do all things through Him (Jesus Christ) who strengthens me.
      Keep on being truthful with your son so he can see the truth also. Don’t let fear take over your life. I did and I suffered much because of it. Confide in someone you can trust to help you.

      • Don’t let fear take over your life. I did and I suffered much because of it.

        Here is something I wrote at another site recently. I’ll be developing it into a full post for this blog, so this is just a teaser.

        1 Peter 3:6

        as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. (ESV)

        Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. (KJV)

        like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. (NIV)

        If a victim of abuse desires to obey scripture then she can feel herself to be perpetually knifed by the blade of the Word in 1 Peter 3:1-6. It seems to say: Put up with the abuse no matter how bad, because if you respond out of fear you are failing in your Christian walk.

        And Be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled (3:14 KJV) seems to be an injunction to suppress emotion and stay in denial about the covenant destroying pattern of conduct her husband is showing, and the damage it is causing her and the kids.

        But there is a limit to what wives should suffer at the hands of ungodly husbands. The limit is set by Peter’s command to ‘do good’, to do the right thing, even in the face of intimidation.
        Peter tells wives to do good and not give way to the fear of what their husbands might do.

        We should submit to our husbands only in so far as righteous obedience to God will permit.

        When a Christian woman who is being abused by her husband attempts to do good to her husband by (e.g.) admonishing him for his sinful ways, resisting his abuse, setting boundaries against his destructive conduct, etc, the abuser tries even harder to make her afraid of him so that she backs down and complies with his wickedness, which will enable him to continue in his wicked ways. Such a woman does good and the result is: her husband escalates and intimidates her even more.

        Verse 6 addresses this situation. It tells such wives to nevertheless continue to do the good without backing down, without giving way to fear or intimidation. And bear in mind, it is not wrong to feel the emotion of fear; it is wrong to let the fear intimidate you into sinning. And sinning in this case, often takes the form of complying with the abuser and ‘letting’ him wield his wicked rule over her.

        NB I am not blaming the victim here for ‘letting’ the abuser abuse. The abuser chooses to abuse and the abuser is always responsible for his own actions. The victims, with immense creativity and problem solving, choose micro-moment by micro-moment how to navigate this path of eggshells and minefields to try to avoid ‘trouble’. Victims must never be held to blame for the abuser’s wrongful choices. Period.

        Back to my topic. Peter is telling you (abused wife) that it is wrong to let the abuser’s power and control tactics intimidate you into fearful compliance with the abuser’s coercion and control.

        It does the wife no good to be further oppressed and downtrodden because that leads to mental and physical and spiritual exhaustion, not to mention all the health impacts on the woman’s body. And the same for the kids. And it does the abuser no good because it just enables him to become further entrenched in his evil ways and entitled mindset.

    • Dear newcreation
      Advice? Wish I had some that would be the magic wand!

      I shall see if Deborah can give you some pointers, as she is more experienced on this than I am. She has big problems with PAS with her ex, and she has read more on it than I have.

      My only general thoughts are: Trying to ‘handle’ (in the sense of ‘stay on top of’) an impossible situation is virtually impossible. If you stay with this man, your health is likely to suffer more, which can make it even harder to leave. But leaving is really hard too. So you are in the victim’s polylemma: all the alternatives and undesirable and scary and unwelcome, and you have to choose which of those options you think is ‘best’ when they all seem very hard and difficult and dangerous.

      You are not crazy. If you sense things are weird or off, they almost certainly are. I think you might find some help by talking to your local domestic abuse support service. They will not have magic wands either, but they will give you validation and maybe a few pointers about your options. And they will not judge you.

      Protection for your mind and the minds of your kids will not be achievable unless you can get to a situation where you and they have zero contact with the abuser. And that, as many of us know all too well, is almost like asking for the moon. But aiming for lower contact, if not no contact, is the way to go to protect your minds.

      Think about it: how can your minds be protected from the evil machinations and manipulative tactics and entitlement-to-male-superiority example that your current husband is showing, unless you have no contact with him? They can’t. Abuse hurts. It makes an impact. It turns our minds into pretzels. It plays games with our emotions. It affects our souls like breathing poisonous air affects out bodies. We are not made of titanium. We cannot make ourselves invulnerable to this even with prayer. We can certainly ask God to give us protection, and to intervene to save us from falling/drifting/being sucked under into the morass totally, but we cannot be impermeable to poison when it is all around us. Our minds and bodies and spirits are not made that way.

      We are created by God, even as unregenerate beings before we were converted to Christianity, to have circuits in our brains that emotionally resonate with other people’s emotions and attitudes. That Is what I mean by we are not impermeable.

      The abusers have seared their circuits: they are hardened, sensitive to other people’s emotions only in as much as that helps them manipulate us so they can use us instrumentally for their own ends, as objects to get their kicks from.

      But those of us who choose not to live life so selfishly, have to accept that we are permeable and vulnerable to the vibes and behaviour of those around us. That is why ‘no contact / low contact’ is the thing to aim for, when you are dealing with an abuser.

      Sorry for the bad news.

      Thanks for joining our blog. Hope you stick around. 🙂

  11. fiftyandfree

    New Creation, your husband is the worst of the worst when it comes to abusers; a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He may have the world fooled but he cannot fool God. I pray that the Lord leads you safely out of this nightmare. I lived a similar (but not as bad) nightmare for 14 years. My ex is a licensed psychologist and could present himself in the best light, but God knew the truth and He rescued me. Pray constantly for His protection and guidance and trust Him. I used to pray like it was my only hope and it truly was and God was faithful. He made away for me to escape safely with my children. I will pray that He does the same for you. Pray without ceasing and don’t give up.

  12. Newcreation

    Thank you all for the encouragement! I am so glad to have found this link. I had to figure out how to get back to this blog. Barbara, the Lord has been impressing that verse on me….what faith Sarah must have had to obey her husband not once, but twice in “playing” his sister. I wonder if her faith was so strong that she just laughed and waited to see how God would get her out of that one. I want to have that kind of faith but want deliverance in any form. Many prayers to remove the abuser have been prayed. How often does that happen? I am anxious to read the books and have a better understanding. I believe my husband has some serious mental ailments, but have read that that is not necessarily true. He just seems to be getting worse.

    • Yes Mary, many abusers like us to think they have serious ailments, but they don’t. If they have a physical ailment, they play it to the hilt to get sympathy and special treatment from the compassionate people around them. And even if they have a diagnosed mental disorder, we need to bear in mind that much of the field of mental health has sadly been missing or misdiagnosing character disturbance ( — see Dr George Simon’s books and other writings in our Resources section and the blog roll to the right.)

      And even for the minority of abusers who actually DO have a mental illness, they have TWO problems which require two different kinds of treatment. The mental illness (e.g. hallucinations, or depression) requires psychiatric and psychological treatment. The abuse requires attitudinal change: belief and behaviour change. And most abusers don’t want to change their attitudes, beliefs and behaviours. They choose to keep their attitudes, beliefs and behaviours because they ‘work’ — the abuser gets perks and advantages from keeping them. The abusers remain happily irresponsible for their wrongdoing and their laziness by deflecting all the responsibility to others.

      That is one reason why we value Dr George Simon’s work so much on this blog. He is a very experienced psychologist who sees things from a much more moral/ethical framework (and Christian framework) than most psychology/psychiatry does. He is very careful about how he uses terms, and he explains how psychology is largely founded on the notion that neurosis is the main problem in human beings, whereas these days, character disorder (the Bible calls it foolishness, sloth, hardness of heart, Pharisaism, perversion and wickedness) is much more prevalent than neurosis.

    • Many prayers to remove the abuser have been prayed. How often does that happen?

      From our observations, not often. It is rare. I would guess that many women have wished and prayed that their Nabal would be struck down and removed by God. But actually, I have only heard of that happening in the Abigail story, not in any other cases.

      I do know of cases where God intervened temporarily and either removed the abuser from the victim’s home for a while, or made the abuser go to sleep while the victim packed and fled with her kids. But in those cases I know of, the victims sill had HEAPS of work to do to disentangle themselves legally and financially from the abuser, and there were major battles over custody and visitation.

      So yeah, pray for God to remove your abuser if you like, but don’t put all your hopes in that outcome. Plan, prepare, consult with Womens Resource Centres, shelters, refuges, lawyers, … do whatever leg work you feel you can do to effect the separation from the abuser, on the likelihood that God may not strike him with a bolt of lightning.

      I know. It’s very exhausting. That’s why we are all here to help and encourage each other. 🙂

    • what faith Sarah must have had to obey her husband not once, but twice in “playing” his sister.

      yeah. I have often wondered and pondered about what Sarah felt and thought during those episodes. It seems to me that we cannot know with any certainty that 1 Peter 3:6 is referring to those parts of the Sarah/Abraham narrative.

  13. Anonymous

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Dr George proposes that those who have been victimized tend to show symptoms of neurosis, and they will be likely to have been the victim of someone who is character disordered. The neurotic and the character disordered are on the opposite ends of the spectrum, and they do not operate out of the same premises or motives. Freud saw a lot of distressed women he termed “neurotic” and set about trying to analyse them and their issues, out of which came the psychoanalytic perspective. To this day, psychologists tend to look for symptoms of neurosis, and don’t distinguish between the difficulties faced by a victim and the agenda of the character disordered, who may present with defense mechanisms or mental issues, but in reality their problem is their attitude of entitlement, superiority and contempt.

    • Spot on, Anonymous. I think that’s a very good summary of what George Simon teaches on this.

  14. newcreation

    Dear Anonymous,
    Are you saying that the victim of the abuser usually has neurosis and is diagnosed with this before the abuse? I just wanted to clarify and what does that mean?

    My husband and I went to Florida to a ministry which was so edifying for the wife. The focus was on the Bible instead of the mental state of minds of the people there. Although they did claim that a lot of men there may have ADD, the basis of the ministry was to simply point out that it didn’t matter what personality a person had. If the husband would mature into the man that God created him to be (to “love your wives as Christ loved the church, He even gave himself us for her.”) and in turn put away selfishness and desires to fulfill the flesh, then the issues of the women will decrease and she will grow and mature into the woman God created her to be. All of this meaning that the woman would feel safe and secure and thrive in the marriage. It seems like an easy fix, but if you read their book, one would see that the responsibility of the marriage rests on the husband and as he gives like Christ did, the woman responds in a positive way. This took a huge weight off my shoulders.

    If Christ died first for us and we respond to his death and resurrection in accepting this gift and become born again, then the husband who is commanded to love his wife in this way, would “go first” and initiate good to his wife. They teach that a husband is the initiator and the woman if the responder. If we receive bad from our spouse, then we as women respond according to what has been “given” to us. Jesus sacrificed His life for us…..who wouldn’t respond to that in a good way? He gave HIs ALL! If the husband gives his all, then what woman wouldn’t respond in positive ways to serve and commune with a man that treats her as Jesus would?

    I have often said that if my husband represents Christ in this marriage, then I want nothing to do with Jesus.

    Barbara, thanks for the tip on praying for relief. My husband rejected everything this ministry taught and left me knowing that he has no interest in treating me like Jesus does or to obey Scripture. I know that he may never change and I am not believing he will change anytime soon.

    What then do we do? I cannot go on like this, but I cannot leave right now….are their any reports of pastors interceding that are a part of your ministry? Is there anyone willing to get personally involved? My pastor loves my husband. He has manipulated everyone around him. Would you say that my pastor would probably not listen to anyone? I probably don’t make sense but I am desperate. My friends just don’t know how to help anymore

    • Dear newcreation, I think I can answer on behalf of Anonymous, as she and I have both read George Simon’s books and have a reasonably good understanding of what he says.

      Unfortunately I’ve lend my copy of Character Disorder to someone, so I’m not quoting from it directly here, but as I recall, the term “neurosis” when used properly in psychology refers to the tendency to feel shame, guilt and self-blame when one has thoughts, feelings or actions that are disapproved of by society (or by God). In other words, neurosis is related to having a healthy conscience. Individuals who are very neurotic (more than the average) can become somewhat disabled by their internalised shame because they put a lot of effort into suppressing their feelings of shame, and may develop symptoms that hide their thoughts and feelings from even themselves. The women that Freud was typically seeing in his consulting rooms were like this. They were products of the Victorian Era which strongly suppressed many natural feelings.

      [sidenote: George Simon does not talk about this in his books, but the women Freud was seeing had often been victims of sexual abuse and were probably also suffering PTSD as well as having disabling symptoms of extreme neurosis. Read about it in Judith Lewis Herman’s book Trauma and Recovery [*Affiliate link].]

      Anonymous above was not saying that victim of abuse these days are typically ‘neurotic’ in the sense of being diagnosed as neurotic. What she and George Simon mean is that victims of abuse tend to have active consciences and therefore take responsibility for their feelings, thoughts and actions. In contrast, people who have character disorders (the other end of the spectrum from neurotic individuals) tend to have deficient or absent consciences and take minimal responsibility for their thoughts feeling and actions, especially when they impact negatively on others.

      In this way of understanding things, the victim is not crazy, nor is she to blame, she just has a fairly healthy conscience. That is, she is on the neurotic end of the personality spectrum rather than the character disordered end of the spectrum. Quite often, as a result of both social conditioning (think ‘church teaching’) and the brainwashing by the abuser, the victim will develop an overactive conscience, and will become overly responsible for the bad/negligent conduct of the abuser. And of course, abusers take advantage of the sensitive consciences of victims. They even select and target people who have highly sensitive consciences as their victims, because they know that they can get more ‘mileage’ out of the compassionate hearts of such people.

      *Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.
      • and of course, the Bible talks about character disorder and people having seared consciences.

        Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared . . . (1 Timothy 4:1-2 ESV)

      • And likewise, the Bible talks about neurotic individuals who seek to maintain a good conscience. The Apostle Paul said:

        “So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man. (Acts 24:16)
        And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” (Acts 23:1)
        “I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— ” (Romans 9:1)
        For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. (2 Cor. 1:12)

        And of course, while it is right to try to maintain a clear conscience, we know that the conscience can only be truly and perfectly cleansed by repentance and faith in Christ.

        how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Heb. 9:14)


  15. Newcreation

    I am so glad you clarified that. I started looking up and reading from Dr. Simon’s website whatever I could find about neurosis and that maybe something was wrong with me. I was quite glad to read tonight that I am not mad or crazy. The verses you quoted referring to character disorders was something I have pondered before. I also have read over and over 2 Timothy 3 which speaks of men who have a form of godliness but deny the power. It says we are to turn away from such people. Verse 6 says that this sort “creep into households and make captive of gullible women…” My understanding is that Paul is referring to Christians that have gone astray from the true gospel and that we are to stay away from them. If we married them and then realize what kind of deceptive person they really are, what does the Lord want us to do?

    My husband has emotionally left me years ago. Life is all about his children and abuse to me continues. Is it your experience that there really is nowhere to turn when you find out you are living with a narcissistic person with a character disorder? Are there ways to cope and gave some kind of victory in the home? It does not leave for any hope reading that these types of people are quite happy how they are and have no motivation to change or seek help. That explains my husband to a tee.

    • Ellie

      Mary, abusers and manipulators would like us to think that we could somehow change enough to please them and then we could be happy. But it’s a moving target. In Your Body Knows I wrote about how I catch myself daydreaming and imagining that I could find a way to live with X, thinking that perhaps now that I’ve learned what to look out for, now that I’ve learned about healthy boundaries and so on, perhaps we could be together. But that’s not the case. X is deceived. X is not surrendered to Christ. X will choose to exalt himself at the expense of the Truth.

      • Newcreation

        Are you still with X? I want to get away from it all, but I have a difficult situation here. I recently read the post in which the writer spoke of praying for deliverance and how scripture that referred to God delivering was hard to read! I feel the same. I have had many answered prayers but this one has been left unanswered. The minute by minute abuse is so hard. When I try to avoid him so as not to hear any abusive words from him, I am still feeling abused by being reminded that he doesn’t miss me, doesn’t care and isn’t even concerned enough about me to wonder why I haven’t said a word for two days to him. I have zero expectations for us but finding that I don’t want to clean, cook, paint, shop or add to the house. It is a cesspool here with stagnant waters. My relationship with The Lord is life though!!

      • Ellie

        Newcreation, I am no longer married to my abuser and I interact with him as little as possible; only when he needs info about the kids and only via written communication that is easily documented. This is to protect my heart not to punish him or teach him anything. As I wrote in Trying to get revenge on an abuser is like trying to teach a fish to climb a tree, any attempt to make an abuser feel sorry for his actions fails. Reducing your interaction with your abuser will hopefully help you. My loved one has done this with hers and she has a better grasp on the real truth (not his skewed idea of reality) than I did when I was still under the same roof with X and he was constantly blame shifting and accusing me of all the things he was actually doing.

  16. Finding Answers

    I have no personal experience, no words of wisdom to add, though I have watched the alienation charade play out in the lives of others…

    In one case, the abusers were rife throughout one of the families. I cannot imagine how anyone could assemble anything resembling truth, let alone the court understand the meaning of “fair”.

    Thank you to all who have shared so generously.

    Though I try, I cannot imagine the depth of your pain.

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