Survivor’s story in response to Texas church shooting — a guest post
While driving about this morning, I listened to a radio interview about the shooter who killed and hurt people in a church in Texas. It turns out this man had a history of domestic abuse that the military forgot to report onto his permanent record. This error made it possible for him to continue to purchase weapons, despite the federal law prohibiting the sale of weapons to people with charges of domestic violence. The interview went on to talk about the strong link between mass murders and domestic abusers. And I sat in the car yelling at the radio,
When are people going to see domestic violence as something other than a family matter that got out of hand??? When are there going to be real and lasting consequences??? When are they going to see the darkness of the soul of a person who can do untold damage to those he claims to love??? And if he can do that and be unaffected, how much damage could he do to someone he doesn’t know???
I listened as the people on the radio talk show listed the commonalities of mass murderers — every one of which fit my husband.
Generally, it fits a pattern of easy access to firearms of individuals who have very controlling kind of relationships with their intimate partners and are greatly threatened when their control is challenged.
There are a few obvious signs that someone is considering mass murder.
Individuals who are amassing a number of weapons and a large amount of ammo, that obviously is a red flag. Individuals whose violence generally extends beyond the family would be an indicator of greater danger.
Listening to the radio this morning I was faced once again with the cold hard fact that I could at any moment be in grave danger. The man they were speaking of could be my husband. He owns 20+ weapons — several of which are AK 47 and AR 15 type assault weapons. He has hundreds, if not thousands of rounds of ammo for each gun.
We are separated (and not for the first time) over domestic abuse issues. I recently told him I am filing for divorce. He is currently ignoring the legal papers that have been served him.
All the boxes are checked. He fits the profile.
I yelled at the radio because we have a long history in the court — restraining orders, GAL* intervention with my children, years and years of counseling, charges of felony abuse. Behind our personal history, stands the courts, the police and the churches we attended during this time — all of whom colluded, without intention, to keep me in danger.
After I told a pastor I was afraid my husband was gonna kill somebody in our house, he replied, “He is only threatening you with heaven. Saved people should not ever be afraid of going to heaven.”
When counseling me that separation was wrong this same pastor offered this explanation to the abuse, “Just as Jesus was beaten and bruised for our transgressions, perhaps God is calling you to the same?“ This same pastor who offered me no hope, only guilt and condemnation from God, never confronted my husband about this behavior and never asked him to step down from his leadership position at church. He later admitted this was because he was afraid of him.
I went against church counsel (in my mind, also thumbing my nose at God) and went to the courts alone, asking for protection. I received from the courts–that the church described as a “humanistic court system” — what the church would not afford me: protection.
Based on the information I gave for the protection orders, the state stepped in and brought felony abuse charges against my husband. It was my pastor who went to the courts, on behalf of my husband, asking that the felony abuse charges be dropped and in return the church would counsel him and hold him responsible. Seems like a laughable offer over such serious charges, but the court agreed and removed the charges.
Although there were restraining orders for myself and my children, within months the church and the pastor in individual counseling was pressing me to drop the orders of protection and allow my husband to see the children and move home. I refused. I was facing being removed from the church for being a disobedient wife. In actuality, they were threatening me with removal of the only social outlet in my life. I lived under such strict control that I was not allowed to answer the telephone, get the mail, or have private conversations —amongst a huge list of other things I couldn’t do. Yet, it was me who was repeatedly chastised for “living in fear” and being “ungodly” for suffering with PTSD. I was told if I went for “secular help” I would be removed from the church. I couldn’t fathom losing more.
The pastor never chastised my husband when he repeatedly broke the law by violating the restraining orders. I was repeatedly told “his sins are no different than yours in God’s eyes”. [Note from ACFJ Eds: that pastor did sin levelling which is wicked and unbiblical. You can read about sin levelling here and here. ]
I found my husband in my home or found evidence that he had been in my home on multiple occasions. I called the sheriff to report Protection Order violations. The law went to my husband who admitted he had done it. Each time they told him, “the NEXT TIME you do that, you’ll be in trouble“.
The pastor told me I was being unfair. It was not natural for a man to go without his family. What I really needed to do was let him move home and start marriage counseling. This was my only option if I was going to please God. Divorce for any reason other than adultery was sin and God hated it. (How twisted is it to tell a woman and children that they would could have received a “get out of jail free” card had their father cheated, but if he is violent, controlling, and heartless, we just have to deal with that.)
I agreed to trying marriage counseling and him coming home. Within three weeks, my husband was violent again. I took the kids and stayed with a friend until he was removed from the house. I ended up fleeing the state with my children several months later. I felt abandoned by my church, by the courts and by God.
I found out later that because my husband had been charged with domestic abuse, he could no longer own guns. Rather than face the consequences of losing his firearms, the pastor took them to his house. When I left the state, he gave them back to my husband.
There’s so much more to the story, but my story is not so different than many others. Abusive men, time and time again, do not face the penalties of their actions. I honestly feel that had my husband had to face those felony charges, it might have woken him up to the reality of how heinous the actions of abusing his own family were.
Long story short, we were separated for somewhat less than ten years [detail airbrushed to protect victim] and we now live in another state from where the restraining orders and charges of abuse were filed. I allowed him to move back home, believing God had saved him. He seemed very different. I was wrong. My husband used a false profession of salvation to gain his way back home. My husband no longer used physical violence, but all other forms of abuse were being used daily. I didn’t believe I had the right to separate again if he wasn’t physically abusive. I stuck it out for about half a dozen years more.
When I discovered he was purchasing firearms again, I went to the sheriff’s office in this state to ask how this was possible with his history. They told me their hands are tied unless it shows up on his background check. There’s nothing they can do. Another failure to report domestic abuse on someone’s “permanent record” gave my husband the right to purchase assault rifles and tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition.
Ironically, it was over ammunition that we separated this final time. He had purchased over $1000 of ammunition on a credit card I knew nothing about. I found a receipt in the garage. Bringing it to him and asking for an explanation began a six-month angry stonewalling/silent treatment that ended our marriage.
I tell you all this because I am no different than the thousands of other women who face these issues every day. We are not the ones protected by the courts and the law. Those “mistakes” of not filing domestic abuse charges on our abusers record have real and deadly consequences for us. Those allowances of lawless actions that abusers do to intimidate and strike fear in the abused, such as “NEXT TIME you are going to jail,” only embolden them and reinforce their belief that they truly are above the law. We are not the ones who find mercy and grace within the church. Most often, we make the clergy uncomfortable and our fears are chastised, minimized and/or ignored. We do not, and often cannot, stand up for ourselves because years of abuse by a man has stripped us of any authority in our own lives and has taught us that we are nothing and worthy of being ignored. For me, the message my abuser taught me was reinforced by the courts, the police and the church when I reached my breaking point and asked for help.
We are the ones who go underground and continue living our lives as best we can. You know us as your neighbor, your friend or co-worker. I live a pretty normal existence, but this morning when riding in the car, I heard the radio story that reminds me that I and anyone who might be around me at any particular time could quite possibly be in grave danger.
The church, the police, and the courts, will be shocked and saddened when and if another tragedy happens — never realizing it actually will be BECAUSE of them that it happened.
*GAL stands for Guardian ad Litem. It is a person the court appoints to investigate what solutions would be in the best interests of a child in a divorce or parental rights and responsibilities case.
For further reading
- Posted in: Culture
- Tagged: abuser's allies, church discipline, church response to abuse, couple counseling, dangerous views on abuse, disclosing abuse, emotional abuse, guest post, physical abuse, protecting victims, reconciliation, secular justice systems, survivors' stories, systemic abuse, verbal abuse