A Cry For Justice

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

How victim’s responses to abuse are mis-labelled, and how abusers’ tactics of abuse are mis-labelled.

Most people (and most of our social institutions) do not know how to honour the many creative ways victims resist abuse, oppression and violence. Rather than seeing and honoring a victim’s resistance, they see the victim’s responses to the abuse as indicating her deficiency or defectiveness. And because they see her as deficient, they put negative labels on her behavior.

Examples of how victims resist abuse and how people negatively label victims’ resistance

If a victim resists the abuse by not sharing her emotions, people may label her as “emotionally detached” or “having flat affect” or “unable to express emotions” or “avoidant”.

If she resists the abuse by not doing what the abuser wants her to do, people might label her as “passive-aggressive” or “difficult/uncooperative”.

If she resists the abuse by refusing to stoop to the abuser’s level of behavior and by doing nice things for him, people might label her as “co-dependent.”

If she resists the abuse by numbing her feelings, people might label her as “dissociative.”

If she resists the abuse by squirreling small amounts of the housekeeping money away so that she can have enough to feed the kids / pay for herself to see the dentist / buy a book she wants to read / have enough money to leave the abuser one day, people might label her as “conniving” or “deceptive” or “secretive” or “dishonest” of “in-submissive to her husband”.

If she resists the abuse by disclosing her plight to someone in church, people might say she is “gossiping”.

If she resists the abuse by making the bed so that the bed cover comes only three and a half inches above the floor, not three inches as her husband demands, people might label her as “obsessive” or “disobedient”.

If she resists the abuse by not giving eye contact to her abuser, people might label her as “cold” or “aloof” or “rude”.

If she resists the abuse by wearing frumpy clothes and no make-up (because her abuser accuses her of flirting with other men if she dresses nice) people might say she has “let herself go”.

If she resists the abuse by always keeping the blinds down, because if she puts the blinds up the abuser accuses her of eying off other men in the street, people might label her as “anti-social”.

If she resists the abuse by getting angry at her abuser for being so immature and for not pulling his weight (or any other legitimate grievance she has against him), people might label her as being “crazy” or having “borderline personality disorder”.

If she tries to keep safe, both at home and in the church, by being the submissive wife – so she doesn’t get accused by him of being unsupportive and so she doesn’t lose church support if they see her as being unsubmissive – she is labelled “too submissive”, especially when they can’t think of why else he would abuse her. (thanks to Anon for that suggestion)

Examples of how abusers exercise abuse and how people positively or leniently label the abusers’ conduct

Abusers love these labels! The labels let them off the hook. The labels help them avoid accountability.

If an abuser exercises abuse by not sharing his emotions in relationships, people may label him as “a poor communicator” or “insecure”.

If an abuser exercises abuse by venting his emotions to browbeat and blame his victim for his behaviour and to pressure her to comply with his selfish vices, people may label him as “hen-pecked” or say “he just snapped” or “he lost control” or “he has an anger problem” or may go easy on him because “he has a problem with alcohol”.

If an abuser exercises abuse by making promises but not keeping them, people might label him as “needing more encouragement” or “needing more prayer” or “needing men to come along side him” or “needing more praise from his wife” or “needing to do a Bible study with the pastor”.

If an abuser exercises abuse by going on rampages of sexual and financial immorality and then feels so sorry for himself afterwards that he deems himself unable to clean up the mess, people might label him as “bi-polar”.

If the abuser exercises abuse by treating his wife like a princess for a few days after exploding at her having been exceptionally vicious to her, people might label him as “full of remorse” or “repentant”.

If an abuser exercises sexualized abuse by raping his wife or his child, or being addicted to porn, or treating his wife’s sexual wishes and preferences with contempt, people might label him as “suffering from intimacy anorexia”.

If an abuser exercises abuse by avoiding pulling his weight in the relationship and indulging in escapist, hedonistic behaviors, people might label him as having “arrested development”.

If an abuser exercises abuse by not allowing his wife a say in the financial decisions, people might say he is “saving his wife from having to bother with money matters”.

If an abuser exercise abuse by micro-managing the household expenditure, or hiding some of his income and investments from his wife, people might say he is “exercising godly leadership in the home”.

If an abuser exercises abuse by dropping hints to people in church that his wife sometimes gets a little hysterical and has trouble coping with the kids, people might say he is “concerned for his wife”.

If an abuser exercises abuse by weeping to Christians that he really loves his wife and is desolate that she has left him and will do everything he can to restore the marriage, people might label him “a broken man”.


Note: I put this post under our blog-category ‘culture’. The ‘abuser’ category didn’t really cover it, nor did the ‘victim’ category. And the labels I’ve talked about are very much part of our whole culture.

I wrote this post after being prompted by a comment from our reader Anewanon on another post at this blog: Thursday Thought — Abuse Victims Always Resist.

Thank you so much, Anewanon, for your comment! I hope this post helps the fog lift a little bit more. Bless you.


  1. Amy

    If an abuser exercises abuse by weeping to Christians that he really loves his wife and is desolate that she has left him and will do everything he can to restore the marriage, people might label him “a broken man”.

    Oh yes, this one — my poor, poor abusive ex was just a broken a man willing to do anything to reconcile our marriage. I was told over and over how he truly loved me (yeah, he showed his true love for me when he closed out our bank accounts without me knowing after he walked out), wanted to come back home (he’s the one who left me!) and was changing (hmmm, those hateful and mean emails didn’t make it appear he was changing).

    When this played out in my life almost 7 years ago when my abusive ex walked out on me it was devastating. But then it became eye opening and led me to seek God more than ever in my life and listen only to Him and His leading. Although not easy, I learned to stand up to those who questioned me and thought me to be so terrible because I would not reconcile with this poor broken man.

    • poohbear

      Good for you, Amy…I’m glad you finally broke free and didn’t fall back into the “I’m sorry, I really do love you, I can change” trap…God will never steer us in the wrong direction. ((hugs))

      • Amy

        It wasn’t easy, but only because God took my ex out of our home was I able to see the truth. I know God set me free from that marriage…and I believe it’s because He saw one of His children (me) being destroyed by someone (my ex) whose heart was so hardened they were not going to change. So He set me free and let my unrepentant ex go.

        Yes, God does always lead us in the right direction and for that I’m grateful! Next month will mark my 4th wedding anniversary to the loving man God brought into my life after years of abuse. I’ve been redeemed and all those years of my life have been restored.

  2. a prodigal daughter returns

    Thank you Barbara for this articulate, liberating and wisdom filled post. Abusers love those labels and they use them to perpetrate more cruel abuse. When I worked in mental health, often victims of the profession’s labels would introduce themselves by their label. Their identity was coopted by something hideous and rather than know themselves as beloved, adored, sacred child of God, they were “bipolar, or borderline, or schizo-affective” or whatever the flavor of the month label was. Labeling people is far more subjective than the public might imagine and misdiagnoses is also far more frequent too.

    What deeply saddened me as the former wife of a sadistically abusive monster that was also a clinical director of a county mental health center was what I knew about the power of labels to destroy the lives of the labeled. My ex, exploited women and covered it up by labeling them with a personality disorder. He could so completely discredit women that no one believed them when they complained about his “treatment’. He played on the fears of other medical professionals that some woman would falsely accuse them of impropriety. So he’d share in charting that became part of their medical record “borderline personality disorder, manipulative, dishonest, giving to psychotic delusions, and false accusations”

    When something like that becomes part of a medical record, God have mercy on your soul if you want good medical care. The right tests will not be done, serious illnesses overlooked because hidden in a chart somewhere is a description that the person sitting in front of the doctor lies to manipulate and for attention.

    Breaking down mentally from abuse is the minds way of letting our bodies know “its too much and I need a break”. Yet, the abuser runs with that and batters his victim emotionally with “everyone knows you are crazy”. They get tremendous traction from other professionals as well. My advice to anyone that sought treatment is to ask to read your records, get your chart, find out exactly what is said and put corrections in writing if you dispute it. The record is permanent, they will not change it, but you can at least go on record that you are not in agreement.

    It also helps to get another trusted medical professional to dispute a misdiagnosed and have that put in writing as well. When I met my husband because he had a trusted position in the community and talked the compassionate loving talk as a therapist I blindly trusted him. He cured me of that and now I am very wary particularly of those in professions that people blindly trust.

    • KayE

      Very very wise advice. Been there, done that. I’ve had serious illness overlooked because of false and derogatory information written in the records. The most effective solution was to get a letter from a respected medical professional included in my file. Don’t automatically trust the medical personnel, get your file and read it. Especially if you are getting the feeling you are not being treated with respect.

  3. Anon

    This is pretty much what I grew up with in conservative churches, the woman is nuts and to blame, and the man just needs understanding and his wife to be more submissive.

    • twbtc

      Hi Anon,

      Welcome to the blog!

      You will notice that I changed your screen name as it may have been identifying. If you haven’t already may I suggest you read our New User’s page. It gives tips for staying safe when commenting on the blog.

  4. Jeff Crippen

    Both of these categories are absolutely maddening to me. Mis-labeling the victim is rank cruelty. Mis-labeling the abuser is…I’m struggling for the right words…to coddle and caress the devil. Are people co-dependent on the wicked when they enable evil like this? Does “give him a hug” thinking make people think they are models of “grace”? Whatever the motive, nothing good can be said about it.

    • poohbear

      WOW! This hits the nail on the head. I’ve long since stopped getting advice from “church” people (other than the lovely people on this site), so I don’t get called those things anymore by those outside my family.

      But, my anti-husband sure loves to use these terms, especially the “dishonest, conniving, secretive” re having a bitty bank account of my own, even though I work very hard outside the home, and even though he has so much squirrelled away that I can’t touch. And the “gossiping” label put on my trying to share with others as truthfully as I can, for reassurance that I’m really not “crazy” (another pet name)…touche! And I’m a hen-pecking “nag” for asking as sweetly as I possibly can, if he’d pretty please spend a bit of time with his child on his day off, instead of drinking while glued to the TV in his room.

      Nobody in the “church,” or his family of origin, would believe what goes on here if I told them! He can almost walk on water, in their eyes, because he never shows that side of himself to them.

      Thank you…I’m so grateful for this site and the validation it gives to me and others…

    • Valerie

      Barbara, you nailed this post and Jeff you nailed this response! I have been feeling the very things you mentioned. And even as I feel what I believe to be righteous indignation I am already trying to stuff those feelings because they are often seen as (mislabeled) bitterness, unresolved issues, etc. :-/

      Barbara mentions how the same actions are interpreted differently depending on if they are said by the husband or wife- specifically regarding when either of them comes forward with their version of truth in the marriage. The wife is seen as gossiping and being disrespectful of her husband, while the husband is seen as showing some kind of genuine concern. Though interestingly in reality the wife is saying, “ouch he’s hurting me” (emotionally or physically) and the husband is effectively saying, “look at how dysfunctional she is”. It would seem there is a strong gender bias seen in the evidence of the labels being effectively switched in this regard. He is the one who is truly gossiping…look at his words and the fact he is not looking for help but sympathy. Look at her words and see she is asking for help. She is the one to be given the benefit of the doubt by the essence of what she’s saying yet in reality it plays out as up is down, black is white, the abused is the abuser and the one abusing is the one comforted. I definitely saw this double standard being played out (along with many of the other things she listed). Spot on.

  5. Still Reforming

    And in my experience, the target of abuse is mislabeled when she speaks up, even respectfully by just stating facts about what has happened in the home, and she is called “unforgiving.”

    As Jeff wrote, my thinking is changing from how the church easily accepts the wicked among them, while knowing the facts. I used to consider it merely naive, but as of late, I see it with great disdain, because it is enabling evil, coddling the devil, straddling alongside him and welcoming him with open arms as they watch the target leave from what she thought were her family given to her by Christ. These people don’t treat their blood families this way. It’s truly despicable.

    • poohbear

      Still Reforming, I agree! I’ve been called “bitter” by my abuser more times than I can count, simply for trying to stand up for myself. Why does it seem that misogyny rules still in the evangelical church? Maybe I’m using too strong a word, but sometimes it’s hard to see it as otherwise…

      • Still Reforming

        I don’t think misogyny is too strong a word. It’s out there. It may be easily mixed in with patriarchy, which I would not have even believed until I lived it. Like the abuse, I didn’t recognize it for what it was for years, until it became glaringly obvious. It’s even moreso now that I’m not living under its heel.

      • Why does it seem that misogyny rules still in the evangelical church?

        I think misogyny is widespread in the general culture, not just the evangelical church. And in my observation, some sections of the church condone and promote misogyny (wittingly or unwittingly) more than the general culture. On this blog we tend to use the term ‘partriarchy’ for the beliefs of those more-misogynist sections of the church.

        But even churches which aren’t overtly promoting patriarchy can be quite misogynist. I’ve seen misogyny in Pentecostal churches, mainstream protestant churches, churches that do not subscribe to Reformed Theology (as well as churches that do), and I think I’ve even seen it in between the cracks in some leaders of the ‘egalitarian’ stream of the church.

        Misogyny seems like a component of the atmosphere which we all breathe, and it can be disguised as humility, generosity, kindness, servant-leadership, etc.

  6. Lori

    (And I love that you use “problem” instead of “issue” – it’s one of my pet peeves, that subtle semantic.)

  7. M.

    thank you for this. So much truth!

    For the entirety of my marriage, I self-labeled. I read all the books and took them all to heart. I was crazy, I was a nag, I was not understanding enough, I was lazy, I was foolish. Yes, he sure did love that. He ate it all up with the spoon I handed him. 😦

    And in all honesty, I have given him those “pass” labels. I’ve tried to attribute his behavior to childhood trauma, PTSD, TBI, depression. He’d surely come away with a truckload of diagnoses if he ever sought mental health help. But he won’t. And even when I suggested maybe he didn’t remember forcing sex on me because he blacked out or something, he said “NO! I always know what I am doing! It just never happened!” :/

    And now he is doing that thing where he goes to everyone we know and tells them how sad and forlorn he is, and how I left him for no reason and took his children away. Whatever. I’m over the labels. He’s an abuser and I’m not crazy.

    • KayE

      I love this-“He’s an abuser and I’m not crazy.”

  8. M&M

    The most non-understandable part of this is when the SAME behaviors are given worse labels in the victim. If she hides money to feed the kids and he hides money to gamble then a person who doesn’t know their motives should at minimum treat them the same. Someone who mistakenly sees a mutual problem should treat the victim not-worse. I know the situations described in this post do happen, but thy don’t make any sense!!!!

    • M&M

      I suppose it makes as much sense as it can make by considering the curse in Genesis 3 and the devil hating women because Jesus was born of women. Still, anyone with logic or the love of Christ should know better……

  9. Bumble B

    Such a good post and comments!

    I so get this in my situation with my ex, both in the past, and now. He is still such a “victim”…poor him. His “crazy” wife ran off for no good reason, just when he was changing into a “better man…” and on and on and on.

    I’ve actually lost a few good friends over this. They believe his words, not his actions, and are mad at me for not being more forgiving of him. Hello!? I was a forgiving, loving wife for 17 years to a man who was abusive and mean, passive aggressive and narcissistic. He didn’t even try to pretend to change until I was leaving, and even then, it was an act of manipulation. His convos, texts, and emails (and his words behind my back to our children and family members) are still not very kind…and definitely don’t display a changed man.

    The one friend who hurt me the most said to me, “Well, I can see God working great things in him (the ex). He goes to church every Sunday and posts about God all of the time on Facebook. I’m not going to turn my back on a man who is such a wonderful Christian. Maybe you should have tried harder.” I wasn’t asking her to choose sides. I just wanted her to not judge me for leaving when she didn’t know the whole story (just ex’s side)…and to realize that maybe….just maybe, ex’s behavior is an act. UGH!

    Thank you for this article!

    • Still Reforming

      Bumble B,

      I’ve had that said to me as well about my now ex- JUST because he attends church. I remember detailing some of the abuse in our home to my (now ex-) employer because the employer had said that some parents of the school where I taught had restraining orders on them and that it’s important for the school and teachers to know that. Only because he said that and the fact that a state agency got involved in our home due to the abuse did I share my information with him. Otherwise, I generally try to not share personal information in the workplace. After I told this leader of the school what happened and why the state got involved, the employer asked me, “Does your ex-husband attend church?” I replied, “Yes,” to which he remarked, “Well, that’s to his credit.” I stammered something like, “Well, no, actually, because anyone can attend church. That doesn’t make the person a Christian.” It was an awkward moment and nothing more was said.

      It’s an attitude I have bumped into on more than one occasion – that church attendance is somehow an indication of either justification before God or even a minute interest in it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the question asked, “Are you attending anywhere?” whereas the person never asks, “Do you need anything?”

      I confess I probably used to think that way myself, that somehow attending a church would help someone because they’d be hearing the Word or rubbing shoulders with the saints as if that would somehow be good for one. No more do I think that way, thanks be to God. I don’t even necessarily wish I were attending somewhere local anymore. All I want is a truthful direct relationship with my Lord and Savior. In time, maybe I’ll connect somewhere with a church locally. For now, I’m really thankful to consider my online Christian contacts my church and that the Lord has provided such rich means for getting Christian teaching online. Thank God!

  10. Remedy

    Love this article for how it shows the “crazy making” when one or both reach to outsiders for help and how both spouses are then often blamed equally as difficult, hardhearted, on & on. Can we get a succinct description of how to tell who the abuser really is?

    I am thinking it has to do with the motives of the heart….but how to truly get that answered and demonstrated??

    • Hi Remedy, I have a post in the pipeline (half written) which will be addressing your request to some degree, but here is one we have already published which will help I think:
      Marks of a pretend victim versus a true victim

      • Remedy

        Thank you Barbara….I seem to remember this blog.

  11. loves6

    Timely post yet again. ..
    I am on the verge of leaving … I told the father of my children (he is no longer my husband in my eyes) today that I need respite. I had a visit to the doctor and told him after this visit. I have decided to go to a lose relative and this only became available a few days ago, the chance I have been waiting for (God I believe).
    He was talking to some of our children (his henchmen) today and unwisely said mum might not be around for Christmas … next thing I’m getting angry texts from these grown kids telling me to grow up and stop being poisonous and calm down!!!!! I then realized he had told them of our conversation which wasn’t completed.

    The misunderstanding and the evilness I’m enduring is shocking. I have survived for years doing the above. I’m over it. I have to shut my kids out of my life so I can strengthen and heal. I am so alone and fighting a terrible battle.

    The father of my kids is acting so Christian and being so accommodating. He is an intelligent man that is trying to protect his reputation that I tarnished just a little by exposing one abusive episode and he goes on and on about it. The kids know nothing of his jealous rageful abuse I received when my parent was dying. … yes how disgusting is that?!

    I’m heartbroken after years of trying to hold my family together. I hate him … I’m struggling with my faith but somehow at times I feel God is with me. I raise my voice and get so angry at my ex for treating me so badly and crushing me. He continued to justify himself and continues to tell me where I’m abusive ….

    [Eds. Note: comment slightly edited to protect identity.]

    • Still Reforming

      You will continue to be in my prayers as you take the time you need to step out of that oppressive, hateful environment filled with evil. Please know that it wasn’t YOU who tarnished his reputation, but he. You only spoke truth, and that which you had kept guarded (protecting him without realizing it) for so long. Had he not done what he did, his precious reputation wouldn’t be tarnished. It’s not your fault; It’s his. He’s just projecting all the evil that he is only you, and you are seeing clearly through that fog. You took a stand at long last and he blames you for speaking truth. They hated Jesus; They’ll hate you too, but know that you’re standing for righteousness, and you are not alone.

    • The father of my kids is acting so Christian and being so accommodating

      The ‘c’hristian abuser is the WORST kind of abuser.

      Why the christian abuser is the worst kind — by Jeff Crippen. and here is a quote from that post:

      just consider what is required for a person to be an abuser and then in addition, play out his abuse in the charade of a Christian character. Surely we must see that this kind of act requires a much harder heart and lack of conscience than doing the same thing “out there” in the world. Notice that the Lord Jesus and the Apostle Paul both called wicked, abusive people within the visible church “wolves.” Does the Bible call any enemies of Christ who are outside the visible church by this same title? Maybe I have missed such a Scripture passage, but I can’t think of one. A wolf who dons a sheep’s disguise and sneaks in among the flock is a far greater danger and of a greater savagery than one that makes no pretense to be anything but what he is, a wolf.

  12. hopeful

    How would you label an abuser who refuses to discuss anything pertaining to the marriage, and when the wife (me) makes attempts to get clarification on statements he has said, or needs to see what’s his plans are. My h. typically blows up and storms off when confronted. He quickly labels me as controlling, confusing, nagging, manipulative, untrustworthy, abusive.

    I would like to know what is an effective way to communicate with a spouse who is like this. We are no longer in counseling, so there is no third party to help. I have been praying and asking for direction on whether to write my thoughts, feelings, and questions on paper and communicate that way, or have a trusted friend come over and be present during these conversations.

    Yesterday I told my h. That if he is not committed to me as a husband, then I cannot be sexually intimate with him. How could I knowing he plans on divorcing me in June 2016? How can I get my hopes up when he doesn’t acknowledge me when he comes and goes and lives a separate life from me. He hasn’t worn his wedding ring in over a year. What word describes this kind of behavior? “A friend with benefits” is a good description.

    I would love to hear from others who are living in a marriage like this or have been able to be strong and stick to boundaries like I have set. This isn’t the first time I set this boundary. My emotions get in the way that maybe by giving in and meeting his physical needs he will come back to the marriage.

    • standsfortruth

      Once I realised that my H was an abusive and cruel manipulator, I too refused to be intimate with him. I also had to secure a new lock on my bedroom door so that my belongings, my sleep, and privacy, would not be taken or violated by him at will.
      Once you stop being intimate with your abuser, they can become unpredictably angry because you have taken away what they feel they are entitled to.
      Mine liked to hide his intent to be vindictive and malicious, quietly plotting his evil against me, while acting cool and casual on the outside. So much of his covert retaliation came to me blindsided, but I remained unshaken.
      I do not regret making this stand, as it aided my separation, helped establish personal boundaries, and showed my determination to no longer play a role in his dysfunctional marriage.

    • standsfortruth

      Also Hopeful, I discovered that my abuser liked to keep all his options open, and so he did not like to disclose information on what he was planning to do, or what decision he was going to make, when I asked him.
      This is part of their power play that leaves one feeling exasperated when trying to get to the bottom of anything.
      I soon realized that this was a form of withholding, and I needed to do somewhat the same to protect myself.
      Abusers love to know what there targets are planning or doing, but hate to reveal any information about themaelves.
      So any and all information about me became protected information and only revealed on a “What is your need to know basis” -and curiosity was not a valid reason.
      He soon enlisted the kids to become informents, so even with them I had to stick with “What is your need to know?” to protect myself from the children giving him information that he could use against me.

    • How would you label an abuser who refuses to discuss anything pertaining to the marriage, and when the wife(me) makes attempts to get clarification on statements he has said, or needs to see what’s his plans are.

      That is the verbal abuse tactic known as blocking. You can read about the tactics of verbal abuse in Patricia Evans’ book The Verbally Abusive Relationship [*Affiliate link]. Many victims, myself included, have had lightbulbs moments when reading that book. But bear in mind that we think Lundy Bancroft’s work is better overall than Evans; Bancroft seems to understand the mindset of abusers even better than Evans does.

      My h. typically blows up and storms off when confronted. He quickly labels me as controlling, confusing, nagging, manipulative, untrustworthy, abusive.

      Those are all tactics of fighting — fighting to resist having to take responsibility for his bad behaviour. Every one of the labels he puts on you is a false accusation. The one who is being controlling, confusing, nagging, manipulative, untrustworthy and abusive is him. He is accusing you of the bad things he does. He does this to try to stop you holding him accountable.

      How to communicate with such a person? Usually the best way is to aim for as little contact as you can possibly have with them (ideally no contact). There is no way you can effectively communicate and negotiate with a manipulative liar. You are trying to tell the truth. He is lying and fighting against having to become a responsible person. It is a total stalemate. There is no way that you or even the best ‘communicator’ in the world could communicate the truth to your husband in a way that he will believe and accept it and become a responsbile human being.

      God gave only one counselling session to Cain, and Cain rejected that counsel. See this post: God only did one counseling session with Cain

      Getting a trusted friend in to help — won’t help. Professional counselors didn’t help, so what chance does an untrained friend have of helping? They may help you by validating to you that you are not crazy and your husband IS abusing you. But they won’t be able to help your husband as he is resisting taking responsibility. And they may become enlisted by your husband to be his ally, which would leave you feeling worse — more isolated than ever.

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

      I had such an abuser. From my experience there is absolutely no way to communicate with someone like this. Except through a lawyer. When they refuse to discuss anything they have already ended the relationship in their own mind and are making their own plans. Entrusting them with your own thoughts and feelings just gives them more power over you. There are words to describe that behavior, none of them very complimentary. I don’t think “friend” comes into it at all. In my opinion, if someone is planning to divorce their spouse, they don’t have a right to any benefits at all. You should do whatever you feel is right for you. But when someone is treating their partner with so much contempt that they don’t acknowledge them, there’s nothing you yourself can do to change that.
      I’m not being cynical, this is just what I’ve learnt from hard personal experience. It’s hard to give up on someone who doesn’t verbalize what they’re really thinking. But actions speak loudest. You have my complete sympathy.

  13. listening ear

    A good book to read is Fool-Proofing Your Life by Jan Silvious. Based on scripture, addresses many of the issues you are your mention in your post., including questions about sexual intimacy. Slowly one realizes that “it is impossible to correct, change, alter, redefine, censure, sweet-talk, or reason with a fool”. I do believe the Lord sent me this book to better understand a very difficult marriage.

    • Hi listening ear, we do recommend that book in our list of Recommended Resources. Here is what we say, but please note that we have one caveat:

      Fool-Proofing Your Life: How to Deal Effectively with the Impossible People in Your Life [*Affiliate link]

      by Jan Silvious. Building upon the Book of Proverbs in the Bible, Silvious teaches us that abusers (fools) are not your normal brand of sinner and cannot be handled with typical methods we might use for dealing with other people. Caveat: This author says abuse is not grounds for divorce. We disagree with that, but find other useful things in the book.

      *Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.
    • Good book, bad advice on sex.

      I would have to say that I actually disagree with what she has to say about sexual intimacy with a fool. On one hand she says that the Bible gives permission to separate from your fool, but on the other hand she says that you MUST fulfill your sexual role if you choose to stay…..this after saying that there is a way to “detach” emotionally even when you are living with your fool.
      This brings me to the question, how can you “detach” emotionally and engage sexually with a fool. It makes no sense. Sexual intimacy is meant to be the peek of emotional intimacy, spiritual intimacy and physical intimacy. If you are engaging in sex with a fool – which goes against everything Proverbs says about how to relate to a fool, which essentially is to STAY AS FAR AWAY AS POSSIBLE, you are enabling him to continue abusing you emotionally.

      I don’t see how this is okay.

  14. Hi folks, I sent a link for this post to Allan Wade, the professional who first pointed me to the Honouring Resistance: How Women Resist Abuse in Intimate Relationships [Internet Archive link] pdf. He gave me this feedback:

    you might reconsider the word “exploding” in the texts on abusers as this too lets them off the hook – but, nice job of the examples.

    I agree with him and am grateful that he pointed this out. To say that abusers ‘explode’ lets them off the hook by endorsing the myth that abusers ‘lose control’ when they use violence / abuse their targets. Abusers actually choose to do what they do and they do not ‘lose control’ of themselves.

    So I will consider how to change my wording in the post.

  15. I have changed the wording of this post where I talked about the abuser ‘exploding’. It now reads:

    If the abuser exercises abuse by treating his wife like a princess for a few days after having been exceptionally vicious to her, people might label him as “full of remorse” or “repentant”.

  16. His Child

    Touche! This must be the most insightful post I have read in a long time.

    The language of victim-blaming and perpetrator-supporting (or violence-minimizing) really does suggest that society at large discredits victims and excuses perpetrators. Is it because they unknowingly buy the story of the perpetrator and therefore take on his thinking and value system, or is it because society thinks this way that victims have a hard time being believed and hence domestic abuse flourishes the way it does?

    • I think it’s both of the reasons you proposed.

      Certainly abusers work hard at spreading and keeping alive the myths about domestic abuse.
      And society at large swallows the myths and helps keep them alive.
      Victims are muffled, silenced, disbelieved, shamed, stigmatized.
      Some victims are so intimidated or shamed or in the fog that they don’t identify themselves as victims. They remain silent. That means the abusers can dominate the airwaves.

      But slowly this is changing and society in general is becoming more awake to the myths and is starting to reject them in favour of the facts.

      Myths and facts [Internet Archive link]

  17. Anon

    If the abused tries to keep safe, both at home and in the church, by being the submissive wife – so she doesn’t get accused by him of being unsupportive and so she doesn’t lose church support if they see her as being unsubmissive – she is labelled “too submissive”, especially when they can’t think of why else he would abuse her.

    • oh yeah! Thanks Anon. May I add that to the text of the post?

      • Anon

        As you please!

  18. standingfirm

    I found out a long time ago that trying to communicate with a abuser is like banging your head against a brick wall. It is true, they will not share honest feelings about the relationship as they see it as a power struggle and they want to be on top and remain in control. Control of their wife’s feelings! I wish way back when I knew what I know now. It would have spared me so much grief of trying to figure out what was so wrong. I have old e-mails from the abuser that shows how he could “open up” to me when he wanted to sweeten me up for another round of mind bending distortion! He pulled every trick in the book to keep from being accountable for vicious behavior. Lying, blocking, diverting, gas lighting etc. and the famous “you are reading too much into that”. When the Lord led me to Lundy Bancroft’s book “Why does he do that?” (three years ago now) all of the abuse tactics were exposed for what they are. After three decades of his crazy making behavior, did I finally have a clear picture of what was really going on. As Barbara has said, it was my light bulb moment.
    I also understood completely why I was “punished” for having “feelings”. His heart had grown so hardened that I heard him once tell a counselor that “I have no feelings.” (meaning himself) I have also read Patricia Evans book (both of them) and could see the abuser saw me as a extension of himself and was trying to take away my identity. I always felt way back that he was trying to put me in a invisible straight jacket! It always grieves my heart to see people who are not trained in abuse tactics and the abuser’s mindset, sugarcoat the evil with nice sounding words. Something our God does not do in the Bible.

  19. healinginhim

    Thank you for posting this … and you were right in saying, “Note: I put this post under our blog-category ‘culture’. The ‘abuser’ category didn’t really cover it, nor did the ‘victim’ category. And the labels I’ve talked about are very much part of our whole culture.”

  20. Lost

    A pastor and wife took me in to help. Many hours away from home. The pastor had said to his wife “I’ve been praying for you ALL day.” Hmmm. They sat me down at dinner and listened to me briefly the first night and said he’d start to help- talk to the pastors involved. Said he’d stood up to angry abusive men before that he’s not afraid. The second night he tells me “I don’t want to hear your ranting, you’re acting like a child. I don’t judge hearts but you are bitter and your anger is very bad and it will cause very bad things to happen. You’ve made things terrible for my wife.”
    I got up from the table and walked away as he proceeded to say “look at you. You don’t want help, you’re a child. You’re a hypocrite.”

    Then he preached in church the next day. He runs a big Bible center. And his wife complained about me the whole time.
    Hey people show me some real Christians please! I’m sick of these squeaky clean – comply with me- be a good- non angry Christian- be angry but don’t sin so pretend you’re not angry so you won’t sin- yay!- and when we’re passive aggressive toward you and call you names don’t you dare say a word or we will shame you and shun you. Praise God- we know miracles- have me here everyday – but you don’t want our help- read your psalms but don’t tell me what’s going on- I don’t want to see you’re pain- get over yourself- people have it much worse than you- you have a hard heart- read your psalms and we will act like you’re the devil himself while you’re here.

    For one thing everyone I’m done with fake Christianity. I’m done complying. After reading articles on here I hear people differently. I hear the shame and blame in a way I never heard it before. I don’t just take it in anymore- I speak and people FREAK OUT and abandon me.

    It’s getting crazy over here friends. And I’ll call you friends b/c you guys say it like it is and I’m hearing what you say when you comment back and when you all share with each other. Thank you.

    • Lost — I think it’s great that you are done with fake Christianity and are seeing through all the lies and hypocrisy.

      If you read this, here is my suggestion. Rather than calling them out for all their garbage, just say “Stop it!” and walk away. Run away. Flee. Try to have as little contact with those people as you can.

      It will only deplete your energies trying to explain to them where they are wrong and how angry you are about it.

      Your anger is not wrong, but sometimes sharing one’s anger with snakes and dogs is pretty much like giving one’s pearls to swine. They just turn again and trample you and tear you to pieces.

      • Lost

        You’re right- that’s what they’ve been doing. Stop it and fleeing is much better. Thanks.

      • 🙂

        (and I’m so pleased you got my response!)

      • under the waterfall

        Re Lost`s experience of fake Christianity. It seems that there are two ways, perhaps three, to find out pretty quick what a church is really made of and how real its relationship to Christ is. Be transparent about your own life issues including sin. Or, be transparent about what life and sin issues you see there. Or, fall spiritually in front of them (although no one does this intentionally), their response to it will tell you all you ever wanted to know about the depth level of their brand of faith. A healthy church will embrace and walk beside and confront in love if necessary. An unhealthy church will be nice to your face but will go into threat management mode and you will find yourself labelled and shipped out of there or run out in one way or another, pretty quick.

  21. under the waterfall

    Regarding the label borderline personality disorder, I have observed some troubling things about the way it is used especially in church circles and amongst male leaders, often male ones. It can be a way of utterly demeaning and discrediting a woman. It’s one of those labels that has become a stereotype, that tells both truth and lies at the same time. One thing I would love to be able to point out to anyone esp a leader tempted to assume that about a woman who claims abuse, is this. One can be borderline and still be being abused. One can also be a BPD person and not necessarily be a habitual liar. My mother was most likely borderline. And she was most definitely married to a narcissistic abuser.

    One thing that is so obvious about BPD that it gets missed is this. BPD forms most often in situations where someone is powerless in the hands of corrupt, evil or abusive authority. When a person said or thought to have bpd for instance, claims that a leader has behaved sinfully, or a husband is being abusive or cruel, anyone who knows about the bpd or other spiritual and mental health issue due to an abusive past, will assume “Oh, she just has problems with authority and is being triggered, or mistakenly thinks that any exercise of authority is abusive”. This can be true.

    But what many fail to take into account is that a BPD person can also be equally and severely triggered by realizing that they are being dealt with the SAME way they were dealt with growing up, by seeing the same dynamics of underhanded control, scapegoating, blame-shifting, image guarding at her expense, selective “sharing” of slanted information that leaves out details that would drastically change the understanding of reality, bullying, intimidation etc. In other words, if you were in a fire fight in Viet Nam and suffered trauma as a result, you can be triggered by happening upon a group of kids lighting off firecrackers. But you can also be triggered by walking into a convenience store where the clerk gets shot right in front of you. In other words, there is actually something REAL that is provoking the response. It is not always a false alarm. In other words, just because he was a veteran and acquired PTSD from war time exposure to weapons fire, doesn’t mean there isn’t really a gun.

  22. Finding Answers

    From the original post:

    Rather than seeing and honoring a victim’s resistance, they see the victim’s responses to the abuse as indicating her deficiency or defectiveness. And because they see her as deficient, they put negative labels on her behavior.

    Or we apply the labels to ourselves and no one disagrees.

    Some days, it’s hard to reach past the self-imposed labels.

    The abused abuses herself.

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