Thursday Thought — Why Did So Many People Side with Him?

On some days the following thoughts may rattle around inside your head:  “Okay, I can kind of see his friends backing him up, because they only hear his side of the story.  And some of them are kind of like him anyhow — that’s why they’re friends with him.  But why have people I trusted taken his side?  My own good friends? My brother? Our pastor? People who’d been neutral before?  What happened?

Go back in your mind to the first several months of your relationship with your partner.  Remember how convincing he was, how persuasive?  Remember what a great guy he seemed to be?  Remember how he made you feel bad for him when he told you about other people who had done wrong to him (including previous partners of his)?  Abusive men tend to be skillful manipulators.  Unfortunately, the same skills he used with you he is now turning on other people.

Additional factors play a part.  In tightly knit communities, such as small towns and churches, people want to avoid anything that could tear their cozy network apart.  They’d rather decide that a woman is lying about being abused than to take the scary steps involved in addressing the problem.

Some people are working hard to not face what’s happening to their own relationships, so they don’t want to think about how your partner has treated you — it’s too close to home.

And finally, we are a society that blames women more than men for what goes wrong in relationships.

So even though I’m outraged that they’ve turned on you, I’m not surprised.  Do your best through this painful time to remember that they are the ones with a problem, not you.  They should come up with the courage and common sense to look squarely at what has actually happened.  Perhaps someday they will.

(entry from Lundy Bancroft’s book, Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That? [Affiliate link] pp232-233)

***IMPORTANT NOTE:  While we endorse Lundy’s writings about the dynamics of domestic abuse, we do not recommend anyone attend the “healing retreats” Lundy Bancroft offers or become involved in his “Peak Living Network”. See our post, ACFJ Does Not Recommend Lundy Bancroft’s Retreats or His New Peak Living Network for more about our concerns.


26 thoughts on “Thursday Thought — Why Did So Many People Side with Him?”

  1. They’d rather decide that a woman is lying about being abused than to take the scary steps involved in addressing the problem.

    This is so true that happens in abuse cases as well as other crimes. People don’t want to believe they are at risk. They want to feel safe. They don’t want to believe that their pastor would ever hurt a member of his church. They don’t want to believe a husband would hit his wife. They don’t want to believe someone was murdered for no reason which is why we ask, “Was it a crime of passion?” or “Was it drug related?” If we can find a reason to blame the victim, we feel more safe. When someone is robbed, they are asked, “Did you leave your door unlocked?” When someone is raped, they are asked, “Were you walking alone,” or “What were you wearing?” The list goes on and on. It shows the need for more awareness, to stop blaming the victims, and start working to solve the problem.

    [Eds. note: Screen name changed to protect identity.]

    1. So true and I catch myself doing it all the time. I try to consciously stop myself from asking that question. “She hit me!” “Well, what did YOU do?” I try to realize that both sides of the story will come out, and that, if there was provocation, that can be dealt with separately.

  2. I’ve been walking with a couple of friends through this. “Well that story is so outrageous and you sound so nervous when you tell it, there’s no way you can really be telling the truth. I mean, really. Just look at him. He’s struggling with anger at you, so you must have done SOMEthing. You don’t seem angry (just confused), so obviously he couldn’t have been as bad as you’re making him out to be.” Over and over and over, if not in outright words, then in intimations. The pastor….the next pastor….the next pastor….the Elders….the marriage counselor….the other marriage counselor….even her lawyer. “The stories your children come back from his house with are so outrageous, are you sure they aren’t lying because they want to please you?” And on and on and on it goes.

    1. One would think Christians would be better equipped to deal with evil. Unfortunately, in many cases, Christians are very poorly equipped to even recognize evil, much less deal with it. Although the Bible clearly warns us of wolves disguised as sheep, many Christians accept a fleece at face value…believing that anyone professing to be a Christian must be inherently good and incapable of treacherously disguised evil.

      Thank you, Rebecca, for standing with your friends…for being willing to look evil in the face and call it what it is…for walking with your friends thru this very difficult time.

      I’m praying with you, this morning, for God’s supernatural comfort and wisdom for each of your friends, as well as yourself.

  3. Yep, this is so true. But it hurts. It`s not just the ‘Why, that is so unfair’ part of it. It’s the damage it can do to your faith because the injustices were sustained in a place where there is supposed to be a high degree of integrity when it comes to admitting sin and pursuing truth and humility, not to mention love. Recently the pastor involved in a rotten church experience, the one who who lied about his involvement in it and put the blame on me, approached my husband in a restaurant. He mumbled that he was ‘Sorry for how that whole thing went’. For how it ‘went’? Like it happened by itself inadvertently beyond his control, and not with him pulling all the strings, telling us one thing and the other person involved another and falsifying information? Knowingly abusing people’s trust to control perception and have power? Using ministry and acts of apparent kindness and helps to cover up politicking and two-faced lying?

    I am becoming convinced that as much as I hate and am angry at how ‘this whole thing went’, I have been part of the problem. When my focus is on my needs being met, even eminently righteous seeming ones – on belonging to or joining a ‘Bible believing church’ rather than on following and belonging to Jesus first, I will then be motivated to see what I want to see and need to see, rather than see what is. I will ignore red flags and so called small breaches of integrity, forgetting what Jesus said about how a small amount of leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. That’s how many folks go about seeking a church. It’s how I have done it in the past. Correct doctrinal statement, warm congenial pastor who makes you feel welcome, things you think you could be involved in ministry-wise, good Bible messages, a place I think I could fit. I think my scope needs adjusting if I am going to hit the right target, perhaps big time. Often right in the beginning I’ve evidence of the pansy brand of grace alluded to in Jeff’s article about the worship leader who blew a cork in front of the church. In one supposedly solid Baptist church I saw a female worship leader, one with a dominating personality, humiliate a male musician in front of the church during service, by highlighting to everyone that he didn`t know the songs supposedly. No one said a word to her about it. She is an elder’s wife.

    I probably should have looked for evidence that Christ was among them. Things like integrity, humility, a what does scripture say attitude, and other things that I am not yet aware of but need to be. A pastor who is not a people pleaser but sold-out to Jesus and not afraid to shepherd the sheep. The kind of guy who might say ‘Look, I believe you are struggling with a sin problem here; I am quite willing to help you work it through if you are willing, would you consider it?’ I’m thinking also, watching for how much a leader speaks of God, but not Jesus. God can mean the God of the Bible but it can also be a safely general term that hides a lack of intimacy with Christ, a lack of kneeling at the foot of the cross beyond a one time ‘salvation experience’ that he thinks now authorizes and validates his ministry or person. So much of what church is about these days is more like country club cultural make nice churchianity, though each church I’ve been to that is like this truly thinks it is on the cutting edge of being a truly biblical church because they are nice Christian people who do token good things. They flatter themselves too much to hate and detect their phariseeism. I wonder if this is what it means in Revelations when Jesus says that a church thought it was really well off and increased with goods but did not know it was poor blind and naked.

  4. Since the Holy Spirit gives wisdom and discernment to the children of God my first thought, when I hear of those in the church who believe the abuser without making any effort to discern the truth, is that they are probably unredeemed. And of course this goes back to what Pastor Jeff has written about so often, that there are many wolves among the sheep in God’s pastures.

  5. My thoughts so often. His character seems so clear now, but I have to remind myself I was sure blind to it 2 decades ago. But I still wonder, why people are so accepting of his side of the story, and so uninterested in hearing the truth? However, I understand he is a master manipulator and liar, so they think they have the truth. It is safest for me to avoid them (which does play into his lies about me, but so be it) and move forward being the lady I am and relearning who I used to be and gaining her back. I am kept sane in the low moments by remembering there is one couple who saw through him all by themselves, comprehend his character perfectly, and pray with understanding for myself and the children.

  6. A few more reasons I’ve observed include when a person has the intention of “loving them both” it may come across to the victim as favoring the perpetrator. I’m not talking about passive neutrality, but someone who intends to please God by listening to both sides and spending time with both. That person may eventually understand why that approach feels unequal to the victim, but the immediate effect is stress to the victim. A worse response is when someone tells the victim to try harder, but that could have more than one motive. Immediately the motive doesn’t change the hurt and pain caused, but it may affect how the harsh person changes in the future. If the harsh person just doesn’t care and wants the victim to go away they probably won’t change. However, if the harsh person honestly and sincerely believes that the victim’s godliness will “make God bless the marriage” and change the perpetrator that person may change their mind when confronted with sufficient evidence. I’m not expecting victims to wait around for that change of heart, but I’m aware that it can happen. Although my church isn’t as victim-friendly as this blog, I learned that it’s a lot better than it used to be. Apparently there were people speaking about this issue before I became concerned about it and at least some of the leaders listened. Not everyone gives the same answer to the victim, but at least some of them give a compassionate answer. It was a relief to know that I’m not the only one in the congregation who is aware.

    1. The “loving them both” thing is hard. It seems very close to the “two sides to every story” approach, which I think is messed up. I think it is wise for the church leaders who are in a position of trust without any inside knowledge of the situation to take a step back and search out the truth. However, other people have come to me with their stories and I believed them immediately. Why? Because I knew the character and tactics of the people who had offended them.

      I tend to believe the victim because I was generally the victim and not believed. That means that a wolf could probably get me on the wrong side by playing the victim against someone seemingly more powerful.

  7. I don’t necessarily agree that “we are a society that blames women more than men for what goes wrong in relationships.” Based on my personal experience and that of other people in similar situations, I would say we are a society that tends to blame the victim, regardless of gender.

    I think part of that tendency is simply an inclination to not believe people are truly evil.

    During my divorce, my teenage daughters went thru a period of blaming me for everything. That was very hard! Not only was I dealing with leaving an abusive relationship, going thru divorce, fighting for custody, and trying to make good decisions for my children…on top of that I also had my two youngest children angry at me and blaming me for the divorce…as well as everything else they perceived as wrong with their lives.

    We have a very good relationship now, but it was very difficult at the time.

    I think there are a variety of reasons they blamed me, including loyalty to their mother and her influence in their lives. However, I also think a big part of it was simply limitations on what they were psychologically prepared to deal with. It was much easier to accept a version of ‘reality’ that portrayed their father as being insensitive and hard to live with than to accept the reality that their mother was a very manipulative abuser who intentionally deeply wounded me at every opportunity.

    I think the same is often true of our broader circle of friends and acquaintances. When presented with two versions of reality, there is a natural tendency to accept the version that portrays the most people in the best light. It is easier to believe one party is a bit ‘high strung’ and ‘hard to live with’ than to believe the other party is an evil individual who is completely driven by a thirst for power and control who finds delights in torturing those he has sworn to love.

    Realizing this tendency doesn’t make the path any easier…but I have found it helps me have a measure of grace toward those who have passively sided with the abuser…

    1. If the children blame the victim, she / he will continue to love and relate to them; if they blame the perpetrator, he / she will make life hell for them or even cut them off. Subconsciously they know that, and like my daughter says, “I really want a relationship with both of you.” And so she lives in la-la land and I get treated as though I’m tetched.

      As far as women being blamed more than men, well, you haven’t been there. My cousin is a doctor and he said, “In medical school we are taught that if a woman walks into your office, there’s a 60% chance it’s all in her head.” I’ve very very rarely been treated with respect by a doctor. Or a male teacher. Or a pastor. Especially when they realize that I think for myself and don’t just bow at their feet. Even women blame each other. The ‘home-breaker’ is almost always the other woman, right? When I left my 1st h, I was called before the church board. I said no. Pastor was shocked, “Why not?” “Five reasons: I’m middle-aged, female, blonde, just got out of the psych ward, and you’re all men. I don’t stand a chance.” To his credit, he said I was right. Don’t think that was respect, though, as shortly after he kept track of when the x had the kids, and then came over and hit on me.

      1. In medical school we are taught that if a woman walks into your office, there’s a 60% chance it’s all in her head.

        Thank goodness for your writing that. I’ve found doctors, most especially male doctors to be horrible. Male pastors. Male anything. HORRIBLE. How many times have they flat out disregarded, dismissed, and discredited whatever you said as though they are but all-knowing gods themselves? I think most men know just how horribly women are treated by men but will flatly deny it, no matter what, as it is in their abusive self-interest to do so.

        Gaslighting. It is not all in your head. Crazy-making. All of it is so ridiculously abusive. So evil because it really starts to add up after awhile, which is sad, not to mention, flat out wrong. It’s like the guys who intentionally harass you, insult you, and do all sorts of mean things to you, and then, when you are affected by such, you’re criticized as being “too sensitive” “lacking a sense of humor” “needing to lighten up” “can’t take a joke” and yet when do you see women grouping up and going and relentlessly needling, insulting, and harassing some guy to the point that he is visibly bothered by such and thus the game has been won by the women, and they criticize him for “taking it the wrong way” “needing to relax, chill out” “being paranoid” as he calls them out on such harassment, verbal abuse, insults, intimidation and so forth??? You don’t. It’s a power play. An exercise of male dominance.

        Thanks for sharing that reality about medical school.

      2. That’s an excellent point, Lily! Yes, if the children blame the victim they can still have a relationship with both parents.

        I’m so glad you stood up to your pastor in regard to being called before the church board. Good for you!

  8. I agree with what Joe says —except that I don’t feel any need to extend grace to those who continue to take the abuser’s side and vilify me, years after the abuser left. I thought they might have opened their eyes by now, or at least got bored with it all. But not one of these “Christians” have lessened in their bitterness towards me.
    The best thing for me is just to recognise that they are all evil people and have nothing to do with them. They are indeed the ones with the problem.

    1. When it comes to giving grace I do see a difference between those who actively despise the victim (KayE’s post) and those who are passive (Joe’s post) plus we might not all have the same definition of grace. To one person I give the grace of maintaining a friendship when we disagree and to a different person I stay far away but give the grace of not having a vengeful attitude.

  9. All week I have been engrossed in reading a “testimony” of a man who was charged and sentenced of anal rape with an unconscious woman and put on the sex registry. He got off with a pardon 10 yrs post. Now he is engaged to some fundie royalty virgin. I could see holes right through his testimony. Blame the victim (stripper), blame the boyfriend who walked in. Blame Adam’s original sin. And then with a sanctimonious voice tell of God’s wonderful mercy and grace that he got pardoned. How he’s a changed man. And all his friends are gobbling it up praising him like he just rose out of the grave.

    All I could see was deflect, deflect, deflect, blame, blame, blame. And not one real explanation of what happened. “He was caught in a situation, he ran out of the room and hid”. Now he is marrying some virginal fundie queen like a prize. I am livid. I am livid that they believe his tale of redemption. Not once did he mention remorse, repentance, restitution, sadness or shame towards his victim. Not once. Just ‘I’m free.’

    ….People are just not that interested in finding wolves among them. They just don’t care. Even when facts are pointed out, they don’t care. They just don’t care. I feel sorry for this woman. She has waited all her life, and she is stuck with some guy who does not take responsibility for his actions. And to boot his best friend doesn’t either. I mentioned I was a survivor and would always defend the abused. His CLASSIC response to me? Did you forgive your abusers? I said yes I did but not ones that heap coals on the abused heads. He deleted the conversation. Anyhow, I am just beyond frustrated.

    1. There is so much wickedness and naivety out there on the web. To interact with abusers and liars and their fans on the web is not safe. They will only use the opportunity to dig in their talons. For your mental and emotional wellbeing, I encourage you to stop submitting comments on sites like that one you got engrossed in.

  10. But in my case, if the abuser’s best friend knew how badly the abuser talked about his best friend, his best friend’s wife and how really bad abuser talked about his best friend’s “real losers” children, they may have never spoken to him again or been his friend. I just wrote it off to them being his victims and living in the dark about who the abuser really is.

    I was friend’s with the wife, but when she told me not to talk to her about any of it because they were abuser’s friend too, I did not ever contact her again.

    There are just people that will be that way and all I can do is say, “hmm, he’s got you duped too” and add them to the abuser’s victim list.

    1. Exactly! Remembering how we were once duped by the abuser too helps in understanding how others are…especially those who take a passive role. It doesn’t excuse it…it doesn’t mean we have to trust them or be in relationship with them…we don’t. But it does help us understand the blindness and have a measure of grace in our attitude toward them.

  11. When I encounter those who side with my ex, though not so many, I am able to be cordial and yet, I no longer spend time trying to understand why. There are many reasons why some do side with the abuser, just as all of you have commented.

    One thing that does come to mind quickly when I think about having been a victim of abuse, is just how lonely and isolated life becomes. It is the reason I began to journal…I could not believe what was happening to me in the grip of an evildoer. I remember thinking to myself, “Who will possibly believe me? I can hardly believe it, and I am living it?”

    And when I did begin to seek help and actually hear myself telling my story out loud, I would shock myself. I think this can be added to the list of why some are not able to believe us, it’s just so CRAZY.

    I am blessed with many dear friends and family who support me, and believe me, but in truth, they will never fully know my world as a victim of abuse. Those whom have never been a victim to the sheer horror of evil, cannot possibly know what we know.

  12. Yes, the betrayal of the bystanders.

    It is this very real betrayal that adds insult to injury. It leaves you wondering who you can trust and who your real friends are. But thus the beginning of the fog lifting…..

    Another writer says: “….those people who have known you for years, decades, and yet suddenly un-know everything they ever knew about you to believe the complete opposite of what you are. It is a particularly cruel act.”

    I have learned to recognize this red flag in real-time, as it unfolds in the wind, and view it as a type of gift that warns me to keep strong boundaries with such “friends”, to recognize a snake the first time. Not always, but I am guarded and learning to discern.

    It’s often lonely.

    Romans 16:17,18:
    Now I urge you brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who create dissensions and obstacles contrary to the teaching that you learned. AVOID THEM!
    For these are the kind who do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By their smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of the naive.

    The naive inherit folly but the wise are crowned with wisdom –Proverbs 14:18


  13. Quoting Lily:

    As far as women being blamed more than men, well, you haven’t been there. My cousin is a doctor and he said, “In medical school we are taught that if a woman walks into your office, there’s a 60% chance it’s all in her head.” I’ve very very rarely been treated with respect by a doctor. Or a male teacher. Or a pastor. Especially when they realize that I think for myself and don’t just bow at their feet.

    I’ve felt this too all my life Lily.

    The devil and his cohorts dont like it when women finally think for themselves.

    They prefer that women to look to them as Almighty for our leading,- rather than the Spirit of Truth that the Lord gave us…

    This Holy Spirit following is a “necessary step to free us” from the “bondage makers”.
    (The Wolves, Enablers, and Abusers.)
    These types would have us continue to doubt and dismiss “all that we know is true” from God’s Spirit which gives us the power to “set us free.”

    We are only useful to them- if we continue to blindly follow their advise and counsil- rather than the leading of God’s Holy Spirit.

  14. This post is a blessing. It is so unspeakably gutting to be betrayed by people to whom you’ve done no wrong. People you trusted. People with whom you raised your children from birth. Out of all the terrifying horrors, it was one of the most excruciating aspects. In my case I think there’s an additional reason why. God ordained their stunning, illogical disbelief of me, to deliver me from evil. Their belief in his lies was instrumental in facilitating, even unto causing, the divorce. He himself I think was somewhat shocked at their support of him and betrayal of me. Their support of him catapulted him into what appears to me a final zone of insanity. He now says that to tell the truth would “violate his conscience.” He is now fully perverted 180 degrees from reality, and even his outward appearance is quite changed. It is beyond frightening.

    Anyhow, after the fire consumed the lie that was our life together, I feel like God impressed this upon me: “I did this, and it is a huge work. Accept it, and be grateful.” A year later, I notice I have gained some acceptance. No longer feeling minute after minute that I long for death. I love Jesus. But I am quite stricken. I think I “married” a man with an unclean spirit. I have seen and known too much evil. I’d love one of those memory zappers from the movie Men In Black. That they use on people that have seen and experienced the aliens. I sometimes wonder if my “h” was a demon in a man suit.

  15. My anti-x hijacked people from the moment they entered our “relationship”, including the few I knew before we “married”. I learned not to introduce him to anyone I met – or at least, not if I could help it.

    By the time he filed for divorce, I had been isolated for a very long time.

    My anti-x can hijack any relationship, driving a wedge between any two people – spouses, siblings, parent and child, business associates….I’ve watched them all.

    I think he does it for sport.

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