Resisting slanderous misrepresentations of our work, like the claim that we say ‘you can label anyone you don’t like as an abuser’.

Recently a pastor asserted on his blog that Jeff Crippen basically teaches that we can take anyone we don’t like, label them as an abuser, and then shun them and run them out of the church without due process or possibility of forgiveness.

Let it be know to all and sundry that Jeff Crippen does not say we can label anyone we don’t like as an abuser. Let it be known that at A Cry For Justice we do not advise our readers that they can label anyone they don’t like as an abuser.

What we say is this: There are certain common marks that are found in abusers. And as part of our job as maturing Christians, we all do well to learn what those marks are.

We also say that church discipline takes more varieties and forms than just the Matthew 18:15-17 procedure. Sometimes church discipline should be much more sharp and quick than the step by step Matthew 18 process. The case study and principles of that ‘sharper quicker discipline’ are found in 1 Corinthians 5.

It is possible for Christians to learn how to discern and identify abusers and bullies.

Yes, believers still battle against their own flesh and so they must guard against becoming proud or arrogant about their powers of discernment. But as believers we do have the Holy Spirit guiding and leading us, and if we work on our sanctification we can indeed become more wise and more discerning as we live our Christian lives. It is rather harsh and unbending to denounce or discount any claim by a Christian who asserts he or she has learned to discern the common characteristics of evildoers and how one may generally detect evildoers from knowing these ‘red flags’.

Not only is it harsh and unbending; it is foolish. We are supposed to be as harmless as doves and as wise as serpents. If we aren’t as wise as the serpents, the serpents will trick and oppress us. They will trap us in their smoke and mirrors.

Furthermore, this denunciation of discernment is a tactic frequently used by abusers who fight against their evil characters being exposed.

Good Pastors: if you were to read and learn and study about the mentality and tactics of abusers as much as Jeff Crippen has, and if you were to get runs on the board for ministering to as many victims of abuse as he has ministered to, I think you would come to agree with him about the marks of abusers, bullies and coverts-aggressive individuals. Some of you are well down the track in this learning, and are doing good work with victims of abuse. Others of you think you are doing good work and don’t need to learn much more about it. It’s a spectrum, of course, not two watertight categories of pastors. And God is sifting. — Where are you on that spectrum?

What about false accusations of abuse?

Yes, there are such things as false accusations of abuse. In our observation (and the professionals who work in the domestic abuse and violence field agree with us on this) false accusations of abuse are COMMONLY made by the perpetrators of abuse.

Naysayers and those who want to pick on me, please note that I am saying ‘commonly’ not ‘always’. I try to refrain from ‘all or nothing’ assertions. One of the marks of a disordered character, by the way, is that they make ‘all or nothing’ assertions (see Dr George Simon’s book Character Disturbance [Affiliate link]).

Genuine victims of abuse commonly take years if not decades to realise that what they are suffering is properly called “Abuse”.  If they do come to that realisation, they are often very tentative and self-doubting about it at first, so they may not assert it very firmly when initially seeking help from bystanders. When the victim does seek help from bystanders or officials in authority such as church leaders, the perpetrator typically turns the tables and accuses the target (their victim) of being the real abuser. In other words, perpetrators usually feign victimhood and seek pity and ‘support’ from bystanders and authority figures.

That knotty problem means that a standard Matthew 18 process could easily end up with the church leaders condemning the true victim and condoning the perpetrator. Seminaries do not teach this stuff adequately, so most pastors are ill-prepared for recognising the marks of a true victim versus a pretend victim. And likewise, they are ill-prepared to know how best to deal with abusers.

Good pastors, you might like to read this post of mine: Marks of a pretend victim versus a true victim.

We will not link to that pastor’s blog.


Further reading

Good men: please denounce the Permanence View of Marriage that denies any reason for divorce.


UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.

46 thoughts on “Resisting slanderous misrepresentations of our work, like the claim that we say ‘you can label anyone you don’t like as an abuser’.”

  1. Well said, Barbara. Thank you for this article, for your faithfulness to truth, you desire to defend those which need defending – your passion for protecting children and victims from wolves who sneak into our own doors wearing Sheeps clothing.
    As I read this, I thought of how many pastors I know who would never consider reading anything that a woman wrote, because women, are never allowed to teach a man, they say. One man – a leader – even says women should never witness to a man.

    I am grateful to pastor Jeff, and truly appreciate that he holds your work in respect, and co-authors with women as well. It has warmed my heart more than I can say to see how God uses men and women to work together for the furtherance of the gospel and the fight against those who would be Pharisee-like.

    I wish I had the words to express how your ministry has shown me so many things that have gone on and why my utter distaste for those things has been justified though all I did at the time was try to adjust my thinking to that which I was previously taught. It was so confusing and felt so wrong, but of course – I’m just a “woman”. I am familiar with abuse and confused as to why the church and our God would condone such things and punish the victim. This has clarified so many things for me. I can only say that I applaud your position and your thoroughly scriptural approach to standing against abuse. It is written over and over again in the Bible and we will stop our ears and find all kinds of excuses as to why we don’t have to stand against evil. “Just keep praying and submitting.” Oh Jesus, help us to honor You and continue to show us Your ways that we might know You.

    Sincerely and gratefully, Barbara and Jeff, and all the devoted workers on this site for the courage to stand against evil.
    With all my heart.

    1. MaxGrace, I see your ‘utter distaste for all those things that went on’ as a way you resisted the abuse. Those things felt so wrong. They were so confusing. They made no sense. You knew they made no sense. That was you resisting the impossible task of making sense out of nonsense. You were resisting being content with wrongdoing and falsehood.

  2. I too stand with Pastor Jeff Crippen on this one. Anyone who doesn’t take the time to read the facts but instead paint Ps. Crippen with a broad and negative brush for his selfless work ministering to abused spouses and family members as well as speaking tirelessly against the evil perpetrators – well, that other pastor is calling good evil.

    Woe to that other pastor for he finds himself standing against the work of Christ in this matter. Sounds like he needs to read a imprecatory psalms, Proverbs, and the whole counsel of God with respect to justice and dealing with evil.

    Puh! I dust the dirt off my feet with that other pastor. I’ve had enough of power-wielding leaders of the church stepping on the downtrodden and not caring to hear their testimonies. They only serve to validate the accounts of a Levite and a priest who walked past the beaten soul on the ground in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. This pastor is following in their footsteps, caring not to hear truth, but instead trying to rub salt in the wound. Sorry. Can’t do it. We’ve got the balm in Gilead, and much of it is here on this blog.

  3. I think any time a ministry is blessed by God and ministering to His people, detractors and accusers will rise up against that ministry. At best, this other pastor does not understand the nature of abuse, and at worst, he may be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I’m puzzled why this other pastor didn’t contact Pastor Crippen privately, to address any concerns he may have had, before (falsely) labeling Pastor Crippen on the internet. I know these attacks aren’t pleasant to endure, but, paradoxically, they may indicate Satan’s fury that Pastor Crippen’s ministry is helping victims. After all, if victims are freed from their bondage, they could put their energies and newfound clarity into fighting the kingdom of darkness.

    1. Hi, Kim, I changed your screen name for your safety. Please review our New Users Info page for tips on how to fill out the comment form and use a safe screen name, to protect your identity. The screen name you had given contained some parts of your email address, which is not a good idea on a blog like this as any abuser who knows you would be able to identify your comment as coming from you.

  4. You will know them by their fruit. If someone speaks in such a way to point others to Christ and God’s truth as well as HATES evil and clings to what is good, does that not indicate fruit? These kinds of accusations are not something new under the sun for even Jesus was accused of casting out demons by Beelzebub.

    I could also make this claim: Mr. X basically teaches that we can take anyone we like, label them as godly, and then honor them and give them rank at the church without them showing real fruit or sincerity. Hmm…..

    If this man’s claim were true, what is the motivation? To spread hate? If that were true I would expect to see account after account (hey, let’s just make it ONE account) of a reader who comments about her abusive husband yet does not have substantial long-term evidence to back up her assertion.

    I would also be curious to know who this pastor is (though I understand not giving him more credence) but I can’t help but wonder how it is that this person is so invested and knowledgeable about the work at ACFJ? Does he come here to read regularly in order to make a basis for this claim? Why does he do this and what is his scriptural basis for determining that the momentum here is not biblically based?

    1. I could also make this claim: Mr. X basically teaches that we can take anyone we like, label them as godly, and then honor them and give them rank at the church without them showing real fruit or sincerity. Hmm…..


  5. I would also like to know who this pastor is?
    Wolves hide best in a mask.
    In the midst of the sheep.
    To the that pastor who may be reading this.
    I am claiming God’s word.

    Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be exposed before the whole congregation.
    Proverbs 26:36

    1. We do not think it is important to say who the person is who misrepresented us. He may or may not read this blog, we do not know. He appears to have formed his opinion of our work by reading on another website a favourable report and quote of some of Jeff’s written work.

      We are not really interested in engaging with that individual. We are much more interested in making clear what our principles and our beliefs are and what they are not, so that if anyone else in the future has similar misconceptions about our work and publishes their opinions (i.e. their misconceptions) in public, thus running us down and attempting to give our work a bad name, we can refer them to this post.

    2. Also, the man who misrepresented our work is not a big name. We quite often name the names of well known leaders or ministries which we believe are teaching dangerous things that will harm victims of domestic abuse. But don’t think its worth our energy to name lesser known people.

      1. and another thing, in this pastor’s case his blog seems to have very little traffic. We figure that if we name him it would increase traffic to his blog, which is not something we want to do!

  6. I’m not sure who is putting out the false accusations, but I do think they have not taken the time to thoroughly investigate this site. I’ve not yet noticed that Jeff C. labels anybody. Rather I’ve read a lot of information on this site on how to detect who is the abuser by using God’s discernment found in His Word, and how people who desire to love God are to deal with those types of people.

    Funny, the projection, ‘you can label anyone you don’t like as an abuser.” That’s actually what abusers do. They twist things, anyone who isn’t fulfilling their desire to go undetected in their quest for power and control they label as the abuser. They twist words and leave out the whole nature of the truth in order to play the victim and escape earthly consequences and responsibility. And those that believe and support the abuser love to point the finger at those that stand for the truth, seemingly without even taking the time to make sure their accusations are based in any truth. They are unwilling ‘to test the spirits’ lest they might be convicted to humble themselves.

  7. One thing for certain, standing up to abuse and confronting evil and calling it what it is and dealing with it according to Scripture is no easy task. Come on, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Or as Barbara said, “the fire in my bones” (I love this, I have it in mine too) cannot permit us to remain quiet on such evil as domestic abuse. Many in high places tolerate, enable, turn a blind eye, coddle the abuser or in all honesty are they themselves abusive in many ways.

    Pastor Jeff and Barbara, may your spine stiffen, your gravitas be imitated, and your calling to take head-on the fight against abuse be even more certain And know this, God is pleased with your noble work. Be certain in the knowledge that you both are chosen instruments used in the hands of our Lord to fight against the evil for which so many have chosen to turn a blind eye. As you fight this battle and help survivors of abuse, may we all do it for the glory of The One Who suffered the most horrific abuse ever in history in the Cross of Christ!

  8. Also, it does take discernment to tell who is the abuser and who is the victim since most abusers claim to be the victim, but I feel like if you look closely abusers are too “slick”, there is an exagerated quality to how harmless they make themselves appear to be, it is subtle but they present themselves as not merely good or kind but the type that “would never hurt a fly”. One way to discern is to look at the “mask” and ask yourself “what is it covering”–so someone who presents themselves as almost sickeningly sweet without any sin–that is one clue. Not all present themselves this way all the time, but with my abuser, who would do this in public sometimes present himself in a sickeningly sweet way that actually made a few women come up to me and say “I wish my husband was THAT nice!” So…for me, 2 ways to discern: 1) Is that person wearing a mask? 2) If I determine they are wearing a mask, what is it covering?

  9. It’s kind of similar to what Lundy Bancroft says in “Why Does He Do That?” that the abuser will often say “youre just being too sensitive”. Similar to the accusation that those calling out abusers would label “anyone they dont like” as an abuser.
    And I agree, abusers are skilled in portraying themselves as the “victim”, the more sociopathic the better skilled they are at feigning victimhood. Think of Ted Bundy who escaped detection for many years who would put on a fake cast to portray himself as vulnerable and harmless in order to lure his victims and appear benign to any onlookers.

  10. My friend pointed out to me today that Boz Tchividian’s most recent post to his Rhymes with Religion blog titled Rebuking the Abused in the Name of Jesus [Internet Archive link] is also very good & fits with this post in that he identifies the real problem is the exact opposite of what this pastor alleges. Sadly more often than not it’s abuse victims who are rebuked & shunned by pastors. 2/3 of the pastors that show up to be supportive in court are there to support the perpetrator.

    [Note from Barb: I added the link to this comment. Boz’s post is very good. We would republish it here except that it is not available for republication.]

    1. Excellent article by Boz Tchividjian, thanks for the link FOT and Barb.
      The 2/3 Boz mentions is related to the audience, not the pastors though:

      I remember being at a conference years ago where hundreds of child sexual abuse prosecutors were asked about their observations of pastors who came to court in a supportive role. Sadly, over two-thirds of the audience reported that pastors appeared in court to support perpetrators, not victims.

      1. You’re welcome. I noticed that too after I posted it, but then thought perhaps it could be inferred as 2/3 of pastors or even worse depending on what the other 1/3 of prosecutors would say. i.e. Would they say the pastors support the victim or would they say it’s a mix? Or I guess I have to wonder on top of that how many pastors are complete no shows altogether? It seems the shepherds are really either wolves themselves or hired hands who run away. They are not protecting the flock and they certainly are not attracting other sheep to the fold. Unbelievers who see their support of predators are not going to be drawn to either Christ or the church.

      2. FOT, I agree that this passage of the article is ambiguous… Boz needs to clarify 2 things:
        1) what “the audience” is. Is it prosecutors only or prosecutors + other type of people / professionals, even including pastors?
        2) the 2/3 of that ‘audience’ reported that pastors were supporting perpetrators in court. Surely there would be at least a few pastors that support victims…? And what did the other 1/3 of the ‘audience’ have to say?
        Barb, I wonder if you could post again on their blog and find out..? I am really intrigued about this pastor’s thing in court.

        In any case, FOT whatever the number, as you say we know that sadly the majority of pastors are not looking after their flock and push away the seekers who have / are looking for justice. 😦 Ezekiel told us in chapter 34.

      3. Innoscent,
        In my case, I didn’t want my pastor to come to court with me because like my husband he too was an abusive man. I hadn’t realized the depth of his lack of character until my marriage was on its last legs – and while in his office, I was weepy and breathless because things were intensifying at home and I had to take our child the next day to a state agency to testify. After telling him of some things that my now ex- did that week, the pastor walked around his desk, stuck his thumb and pointer finger in my face demonstrating the length of about an inch and said to me, “You are THIS CLOSE to a nervous breakdown.” (I wasn’t, actually, but had I truly been close to a nervous breakdown – what he did and said would not have helped.) Within the hour, I recounted that incident to the woman in charge of the children’s education group, which I was a part of and in fact teaching that evening – within an hour of crying in the pastor’s office (which showed I wasn’t having that breakdown). That woman said to me, “You can’t tell the pastor anything anymore. What if he goes before a judge and says that he thinks you’re a nervous wreck? You could lose custody.” From that point on, I just represented myself as hunky-dory before the pastor. The woman later asked me a series of questions (Are you eating? Are you sleeping? etc) and said, “You’re not having a nervous breakdown.” But I didn’t want that pastor anywhere near court. From what I’ve read on this blog, very few have a pastor they’d want with them in court. Isn’t that a scathing indictment on the church today?

      4. Yes, Still Reforming, it IS indeed a scathing indictment on the church today. It means that to a large extent (perhaps even larger than we even want to think) the visible church is not the body of Christ at all. Rather, it is just what Jeremiah faced in his day. It is what Jesus faced when He was here. The prophets and priests who declare they have had a dream, a vision, a “burden from the Lord” and they insist it is the Word of God and that they are His chosen spokesmen. The Pharisees and religious leaders of the covenant community in the temple when Jesus was on earth are of the exact same genre. They are not of Christ. Their “church” is not the real church. But it parades as such. In times like those, and these today, we are going to find the true church outside “the church.” Here then is the irony. In such days, the false church will grow in numbers while the true church, seemingly, decreases in numbers. Actually, the decrease in true believers may well be only apparent because you can’t really see the true church. It is invisible. You cannot go to a specific place or building and count heads and make attendance reports. But the true church is always there. Jesus always preserves His remnant. What you were in, as most all of us here have experienced, was by all indications not the true church. At least that pastor was a false shepherd.

    2. Barb, thank you for posting our questions on Boz’s blog. 😉 Hopefully he will clarify those points.

      Still Reforming, your experience with the “pastor” of your church and court issues is horrendous. I am sorry to hear what you had to go through because of him, and I thank God for providing the woman in charge of the children’s education group to support you with sound and caring advice. Barbara stated: “Furthermore, this denunciation of discernment is a tactic frequently used by abusers who fight against their evil characters being exposed.” It sounds to me that your pastor being also abusive wanted you to fall apart so that you’d less likely be a threat to him and his modus operandi. It is revolting that you have to end up playing “all is well victim” before that pastor. It is a travesty of justice! (pun intended)

      Jeff, I wish this kind of accusatory ‘pastors’ read your books and educated themselves about abuse and then start joining God’s forces (the invisible church) on the battlefield instead of posing themselves as critics and judges about the few true captains who dare being out there for the victims’ sake.

  11. I am SO confused! Does an unwillingness to form any kind of relationship–but wanting to use the spouse–does that constitute abuse or just ignorance and dysfunction that was included in the “for better or worse”?

    1. I think an unwillingness to form any kind of relationship, but wanting to use the spouse, is most certainly abuse.

      I am saying this on the assumption that what you mean by ‘use the spouse’ is spouse A using spouse B for spouse A’s selfish gratifaction, without regard for the spouse B’s rights, dignity, personhood, opinions, preferences, etcetera. In other words, using them callously.

      This can take many shapes and forms, often several forms together: using the partner as a sex object, a servant, a slave, a piece of ‘arm candy’, bleeding them of money and assets, insisting that spouse B do all the tough stuff, for example, dealing with debt collectors, obnoxious trademen, and difficult parent-teacher interviews.

    2. I have assumed that when you wrote “unwillingness to form any kind of relationship”, you were meaning that Spouse A is unwilling to form any mutual, caring, intimate relationship with Spouse B.

      Please let me know if I jumped to the wrong conclusion there.

      It has occured to me after I wrote my reply above, that you might have meant he was unwilling to form any kind of relationship with ANYONE — not only with his spouse but with other family members, acquaintances, people at church, workmates, etc.

  12. From my own experience and from others I know, it is EXTREMELY difficult for a true victim to call the abuse what it is. Every abuse victim is in a position of vulnerability and has often spent many years being pushed down, diminished, insulted, made to feel crazy, etc. It takes much courage to Call out the abuser because she knows what kind of hell will be unleashed upon her when she does. On the other hand …. The abuser I know easily and instantly labels anyone who opposes him or stands up to him, as being abusive towards him. He is the constant victim! This is the very nature of abuse, the victim has had her “voice” taken from her. I have never for one minute believed that Ps Crippen was advocating that anyone you don’t like should be labeled abusive.

    For anyone who has actually been through the trauma of abuse, there’s far too much at stake to throw that accusation about lightly or easily.

    1. A few years ago, while writing and re-writing the story of my abuse by “friends,” I came across e-mails which I drafted to one of the “friends,” complaining of abuse. I used the actual word. But I never actually sent it. I also found e-mails to my mom describing the abuse. Reading these e-mails helped me realize that I already knew I was being abused, but was afraid to call it such to the “friends.”

      I only felt comfortable at the time confessing to my husband that they were abusing me, not to them. I had no clue that they overheard me (we lived in the same house at the time). After that, the abuse got much worse, and I had no idea why.

      And sure enough, when the “friends” discovered after the friendship-breakup that I was calling them abusive, they accused me of things like being “not all there,” “accusing an innocent person,” “defamation of character,” etc. etc. Which all ended up proving my case. 😛

  13. This is a very important post first to clarify the purpose of this blog and educate the public about the confusion that abusers create. If Christians don’t deal with the injustice in the church and the ways it abets and aids abusers who will do it? Those guilty of abuse can be extremely convincing to the uninitiated about their ways of working. Barbara’s statement is clarification that victims don’t speak of being abused lightly or quickly. To quote

    Genuine victims of abuse commonly take years if not decades to realize that what they are suffering is properly called “Abuse.. If they do come to that realisation, they are often very tentative and self-doubting about it at first, so they may not assert it very firmly when initially seeking help from bystanders….. perpetrators usually feign victimhood and seek pity and ‘support’ from bystanders and authority figures.

    Imagine the shock, when it has taken years to speak of the abuse, and you are met with disbelief, indifference or worse the accusation that you asked for it because you weren’t submitted enough. If this wasn’t the typical reaction in the church this blog wouldn’t need to exist.

    There are many reasons the actual victim is hesitant to speak up at first
    1) She has been brainwashed that loyalty to her marriage means she is silent about “family matters”
    2) She may be convinced by a bullying and terrorizing husband that “no one believes you”
    3) Emotionally it is extremely painful to admit to yourself that you married an abuser
    4) The consequences of admitting the truth publicly may have very painful fall-out to the victim economically and socially.
    5) Perhaps she has seen other victim family members tarred and feathered when they admitted the reality of their lives
    6) She has minimized the possibility of her own death by abuse in her mind
    7) Her silence may be buying some time for an escape plan
    8) By the time she does speak up the PTSD or panic abuse causes, may make her reports seem hysterical.

    I’ve noticed, the pretend victim that is actually the perpetrator is often cool, calm and collected in his reports of being abused. Maybe a few fake tears and feigned sadness, but he seems coherent. The victim by contrast may seem upset, irrational, oddly detached, hysterical and present in a chaotic way. She may be violating an internal code she has been brainwashed to accept that if she were a good wife she’d keep her mouth shut. The panic, fear and courage to speak sometimes makes the hearer uncomfortable, thus she is written off.

    If we lack wisdom God is generous to supply as we ask Him to do so.

    1. Bingo this, apdr

      Imagine the shock, when it has taken years to speak of the abuse, and you are met with disbelief, indifference or worse the accusation that you asked for it because you weren’t submitted enough. If this wasn’t the typical reaction in the church this blog wouldn’t need to exist.

      It still gives me pause to wonder why this and only a smattering of other websites exist when clearly there are enough people who relate to what’s written. Enough who know by experience that this evil exists and we’ve lived or are living it. Just a few days ago my ex- revved fully the engine of his vehicle just as I walked in front of it just to say goodbye to our child whom he has for a long holiday visit. Had a brake not been on, his truck would have run me over full force. It startled me. When I got back to the house, only then I realized how he still has that effect on me. (He did it intentionally because I had walked around the vehicle to say goodbye and wish her well, and he hadn’t wanted me to do that.)

      It made me realize too that I feel like a third degree burn victim – burned from the inside out. Walking around with the appearance of normal, but inside raw and tender with a long time to heal with the shock, as you described it, of knowing that no one (or very, very few) outside of this site really would understand or care. It’s a painful place to be. What you wrote about the shock really resonates with me. I think that losing (what I thought was) my church around the same time losing (who I thought was) my spouse was just about as big a blow – perhaps equal or more even – because those were the people I thought Christ had given to me.

  14. My husband says almost the same thing about me saying he is an abuser. He says I’m accusing him of being an abuser. He denies it. He says I am an abuser. He confesses to general broad areas of sin and when pressed will name some very insignificant specifics that makes me look petty and him the wronged one.

    Fortunately our pastors aren’t fooled by him. I don’t want to say too much on specifics here.

    I’m in limbo somewhere between him doing something more overt where I feel like I can point to it as evidence to myself even that he isn’t changing. I’m not sure how to know what repentance looks like for him. He is being kept in check by knowing I’m believed by our pastors, but it wears on me anyway. He isn’t that much of a physical abuser, just a couple of hits over the length of our marriage. It’s been emotional, verbal and physical intimidation and sexual. When I list it out, it looks like something, but in my mind I keep it separated and each little thing on its own doesn’t seem like too much. But if I think about my kids in the same situation; I would be livid. The problem for me is trying to tell if he really changed or if it is again a long stretch of niceness. Inside of the nice stretch this time is this weird micro-cycle of him being extra nice, acting depressed / repentant and then angry that I didn’t accept it as real. But the bigger cycle is still in play as near as I can tell. But maybe it’s not?

    I just wish it wasn’t so subtle. I’m so used to it that I over exaggerate nice things he does or says and ignore the angry and passive aggressive stuff. I just want him to be flat out mean so I can know I’m not crazy.

    1. I can tell you right now that you are not crazy. What you have said here is so so similar to what other victims say at this ‘stage’ — if I can put it like that. Your abuser now realises that he is being watched and scrutinized by the church leaders, so he is being ultra careful to not go obviously over the line. He is fine-tuning his abuse tactics so as to keep you just that little bit doubting and unsure…. this is all just more abuse, a shrewder form of it, because he knows that you and the church leaders are onto him.

      His goal is to keep you second guessing, doubting, unsure, sure but not sure enough … any of those will do, it doesn’t matter to him how thin the thread gets, so long as the thread doesn’t break. The thread of his control. Like a poisonous spider’s thread, holding you in his web.

      Spiders can go a long time between feeds. They don’t need to venomize their targets (the insects they eat) all the time. They can wait very patiently, for a long long time. And they can wrap up the insects they have caught in the web, binding them round with their silken thread, and injecting them with just enough venom to make the insect stupified but not dead. Being alive and bound, the insect can be kept there on that web for ages, until the spider happens to feel like a feed, happens to want a meal by sucking the juices of the insect, maybe just sucking enough to weaken it a bit more, or maybe sucking it dry till it dies (if the spider is confident it will catch other insects and so won’t need to feed on that particular insect any more).

      And the spider sits in the middle of its web, watching. If it sees the bound insect start to wriggle, start to wake up out of its soporific state, and trying to break the threads which bind it so it can get free, the spider, if it doesn’t feel hungry just then, can move up to the bound insect and inject just enough poison into it to make it go into a sleepy state again. It’s like keeping food in the cupboard for a rainy day.

      Does any of that apply to you, do you think?

      And have you read my Checklist for Repentance?

      1. I have read the checklist. He doesn’t pass on that, except he says things like how he isn’t perfect and he’s trying…blah blah. The excuses he makes are blaming of me. I point it out and he will backtrack eventually, or will deny that he is blaming me in what he just said.

        I don’t know how to tell what is control and what isn’t. The whole package is confusing. He says he is repentant, but I don’t see the fruit. My church is patient with him. I feel trapped. I feel obligated to “keep trying” because he is still “trying”.

        I think his tactics have changed, because he makes it seem like I’m the one holding things up in our marriage and keeping us from having a good marriage. I know that’s not right, but I almost believe it myself.

        If I think of my husband as the spider then things make better sense in how the last several months have been going. But I’ve been trying so hard to make everything work all the while he is sabotaging it, but still putting on a good act that extends the patience and grace he is given.

      2. e.g.

        he says things like how he isn’t perfect and he’s trying…blah blah. The excuses he makes are blaming of me. I point it out and he will backtrack eventually, or will deny that he is blaming me in what he just said.

        He SAYS he isn’t perfect. He SAYS he’s trying.
        But what does he DO? He makes excuses. He blames you. He then denies that he blamed you.

      3. Thank you, Barbara, for the illustration. I’ve been married 20+ years and am in the web — somedays struggling against where I know I am and somedays lulled to sleep and oblivious to the threads around me.

        So many phrases in Forgot’s comment feel familiar, especially the limbo. The “niceness” Forgot describes is so mind twisting. “I just wish it wasn’t so subtle” & I wish he were just “flat out mean so I know I’m not crazy” — YES!

        I think what we are experiencing is compliance and not change. Cindy Burrell describes it like this:
        Real Change is Voluntary; Compliance is Obligatory
        Real Change is Sincere; Compliance is Half-Hearted
        Real Change is Lasting; Compliance is Temporary

        I so appreciate this site as I journey out of the fog – thank you ACFJ for all do!

  15. A truly repentant person will acknowledge and understand that the person they’ve hurt is going to need to see a consistent pattern of change before they can believe it’s real. I’m hesitant to suggest what they should say for fear of giving them a script, but I think it should look something like, “I know I’ve hurt you, and I know it’s going to take time to earn back your trust, but I’m willing to go through that process and show you that I’m changing.”

    1. He hasn’t said anything like that. The closest to that was said in anger, but it was almost the right words 😉

      I think I know what I should do. I just don’t know how it will work out. I’m scared of how things will be for me and our kids without his money. I can do without him as my husband, but I don’t know how to do without him as financial provider. That sounds really callous, but what keeps me at this point is needing his money.

      1. Hi Forgot, it doesn’t sound callous to me at all! It sounds like you are sensibly, wisely, and prudently weighing up the risks of staying versus the risks of leaving.


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