You may be wondering why I am publicly articulating my concerns about various abuse advocates. I have searched my heart and don’t think I’m motivated by self conceit or sour grapes or a desire to be combative. And I certainly don’t do it because I relish being reprimanded on social media!
I do it because I care very much for victims of domestic abuse. And one way I can help victims is to help the wider body of Christ think carefully and biblically about abuse advocacy and counseling.
Victims do not all have the same views. You may think a particular advocate is fantastic. Another victim may think that particular advocate is teaching some things that are confusing, unhelpful or even hurtful. If you are a victim of abuse and have not sensed anything wrong with the teaching of the advocates I critique, please have patience and respect for those victims who have a different perspective. And vica versa – I will do my best to have patience and respect for those who do not share my views. And note: I far prefer to read your thoughts at this blog, rather than on Twitter or Facebook. Those platforms don’t encourage nuanced conversation.
It is all too easy to use words in ways that hurt survivors of abuse
My brethren, be not every man a counsellor, remembering that we will receive the stricter judgement. (James 3:1 NMB)
Even if you are an esteemed advocate or counselor who works with abuse survivors, it’s all too easy to use words in ways that hurt survivors – especially if you have not suffered that kind of abuse yourself. When advocates do that, I pick up on it very quickly. I can’t help it. This awareness is just something I’ve acquired over years of hearing from hundreds (probably thousands) of victims, plus being a survivor of abuse myself in childhood and adulthood.
When I see other advocates giving teaching that can hurt or confuse victims or send them down time-consuming false paths, it really worries me because I feel for all the victims who are being confused and hurt. So I sometimes try to give my feedback to those advocates. I give feedback as constructively as I can. I hope the advocates will reconsider their words, but they often ignore me.
I know that I’m not the only survivor who is bothered by the language of certain advocates. I know this because other survivors have written to tell me so. They tell me they sensed something ‘not quite right’ about the way that advocate put things, but they might not have been able to put their finger on what was wrong. These survivors tell me that my insight about that advocate’s approach has helped disentangle their own confusion…and thus helped their recovery.
Someone suggested to me that I just let the SBC and the wider church ‘muddle along’ in raising awareness about abuse. But if high-profile advocates are putting out ideas that are somewhat unbiblical (and are therefore not all that helpful to victims) and victims have told me that I help them analyse what is being taught so they are better able to differentiate the chaff from the nourishing grain, then ought I keep silent? Is it right or wrong to let the church just muddle along?
When we are talking about abuse, the language we use is very important.¹
Obfuscating the perpetrator’s responsibility
“To obfuscate” means to obscure the understanding or judgement, darken, throw into the shade, dim the sight, bewilder, stupefy.
When advocates use language that obfuscates the perpetrator’s responsibility, it worries me. One way in which advocates can do this is by referring to abusers and their allies as “we” – thereby suggesting that all of us are abusers or allies of abusers. In my view, Diane Langberg sometimes does this.
Another way advocates can obfuscate abusers’ responsibility is by advising victims to take on the burden of prompting or provoking the abuser to change. In my view, Leslie Vernick is one of the advocates who does this.
Concealing the resistance of victims
It worries me when I hear advocates use language that conceals victims’ resistance rather than shedding light on and honouring the ways victims have judiciously resisted the abuse.
To learn what I mean by “honouring the resistance of victims”, I encourage you to read Honouring Resistance: How Women Resist Abuse in Intimate Relationships. It is a PDF booklet and it won’t take you long to read. Note: if you have been abused you might want a trigger warning because reading it may bring up memories for you to process. But I promise it will help you understand and see through the fog of all the labels that have been unfairly plastered on you.
It worries me when advocates use language that pathologises victims. To pathologise something is to represent it as a disease. By extension it can mean representing someone as wrong, as defective in some way.
One way in which advocates pathologise victims is by implying that victims who feel fear, timidity, resentment, or anger are wrong – so they need to change.
The “you are wrong” messages echo the accusations which abusers and their allies have hammered victims with. To tell a victim “you are wrong” sounds so close to “you are to blame; the problem is your fault; you should fix yourself and get your act together.”
All the ‘shoulds’ and victim-blaming messages pile up and bury the victim.
Advocates who tell to the victim to “work on herself” are inadvertently replicating the messages that abusers tell their victims.
Another way advocates can pathologise victims is by suggesting that victims are “enabling” the abuse. As I wrote years ago in my post Enabling? Sins of the victim? I do not object to a victim reflecting on her past and saying about herself, “I enabled my abuser”. But I do think it’s unhelpful when other people take the liberty of stating that victims are enabling their abusers.
When advocates say that victims enable abusers, they are not taking into account the meticulous brainwashing and mind control that perpetrators do to their victims. They are not taking into account how, with male on female domestic abuse in particular, the perp systematically disassembles the target woman.
Advocacy specialisation is inevitable and valuable – but it has its own risks
Advocates often specialise in different areas and modalities: sexual abuse, spiritual abuse, domestic abuse, system-analysis, psychology & counseling, theology, investigation, journalism, and the justice system. One thing I’ve noticed is that those who specialise or have experience in one area do not necessarily understand other areas very well.
Here are some examples.
- If someone grew up with a psychologically abusive parent they often don’t understand intimate partner abuse very well…though they may make the mistake of assuming they do.
- Someone who has specialised in sexual abuse advocacy may think they understand domestic abuse, but they may not.
- Someone who has primarily suffered or studied spiritual abuse will not necessarily have an in-depth grasp of sexual abuse, or intimate partner abuse.
- A Christian counselor who has devoted a lot of time trying to teach more conservative Christian counselors might speak to general audiences as if they are all counselors and church leaders…but general audiences include many survivors who are at various stages of awakening and recovery.
None of that is unsurprising. But it’s hard to get advocates to see their blind spots. When they have become so specialised and skilled in one area, it is easy to fall into the trap of being resistant to feedback from others who have different skills and perspectives.
The advocate comfort-zone
Furthermore, an advocate can easily fall into the comfort-zone that comes from being esteemed as an expert and getting paid for dispensing your wisdom to audiences who are less aware of abuse than you are.
If, as an advocate, you rely on income from corrupted organisations, you are less likely to boldly expose the corruption in those organisations. You might indirectly point to their obstinacy – by euphemism, by allusion, by generalities – but will you challenge and nail the corruption that you see in that organisation if you are enjoying or reliant on their payments? Will you tell yourself that it’s okay to compromise because, after all, you are influencing some people to be more aware of abuse than they were before?
The problem is, every compromise you make lets some victims of abuse down.
¹ I created the graphic about language from the work of Allan Wade and Linda Coates, especially their article Language and Violence: Analysis of Four Discursive Operations – link takes you to a pdf of that article which was originally published in the Journal of Family Violence (2007) 22:511-522.
Posts in this series
Part 1: Churchcares.com – the SBC’s plan to equip churches to respond to abuse (focuses on Chris Moles)
Part 2: Darby Strickland is raising awareness about domestic abuse, but…
Part 3: Diane Langberg is advocating for abuse victims, but… – there is an extensive & illuminating discussion thread at that post
Part 4: Is this post.
Part 5: Leslie Vernick – various responses that domestic abuse victims have to her work. – there are well over 100 comments at this post! The commenters are sharing illuminating and helpful ideas.
47 thoughts on “Why I publish my concerns about various abuse advocates (part 4 of series on ChurchCares)”
I, for one, have breathed a sigh of relief upon finding this blog. I am in the midst of my domestic abuse nightmare.
When I turned to my pastor for help, he kept quoting Proverbs 18:17 at me:
Though I stated in a written document to the church the abuse my children and I received and that I had never had an affair, either sexual or emotional, each time he and I talked, he would ask if I had an affair. He would ask what my intimate relationship with my husband was like. I began to realize he probably was less interested in those specific things than: how am I, the wife, to blame for this?
Initially, I actually lied about the physical abuse that happened in our home in order to protect my husband and disclosed only the verbal / emotional / psychological (which is negligible apparently). When I told my pastor eventually that I had lied, he said he forgave me, but it was back to, “And….are you seeing anyone?” (At first I thought he meant am I seeing a counselor and I answered the question that way, but no, he meant am I dating anyone.)
In general, I have found the church and those in it, at least my church, to want to hear and affirm and uphold and “heal” the abuser in order to preserve the entity of marriage above all else. I have not found them in any way a resource on the evils of abuse or a protection for my children and me so I don’t attend anymore. If I didn’t have resources like this blog and others you provide, I would feel quite alone and continually gaslighted (gaslit?!) So, thank you.
Goodness, what an awful story! I am so sorry that pastor kept putting YOU in the “hot seat” and frankly pushing his own “agenda” it seems. The agenda of finding some way to find fault with you, which is sickening and saddening in so many ways.
Why would anyone WANT to find blame in a victim? And actively search for it, as if it is the “magic pearl” that will explain the abuse away? That is what that pastor seemed to be doing? That is just my sense of it; I could be wrong.
Barb brought up so many good points. The hurtful language, the not so healthy counsel, blaming and shaming the victim—and the conceit that may start to grow in advocates who may truly believe they “know it all” when it comes to every form of abuse.
There is no such thing as a victim who is 100% sinless. Who has no sin in them. Who has never sinned, and certainly never sinned in the time frame of being abused.
There is only one Person who can claim that, and even though He was sinless—-they crucified Him. So the argument of: if you had been LESS sinful (or not sinful at all?)—you would not have been abused—is false.
Oh, really? Ever heard of the One you claim is our mutual Savior? And to be clear: He said He was hated for NO reason. NO reason at all.
Now, Jesus said and did a lot of things that really pushed buttons. They rubbed people the wrong way; they were seen as divisive and very provocative. Those that reacted badly to Him could easily point the finger back at Him and claim He was to blame for being so inflammatory.
And without a doubt, no one saw Him as sinless. I do not label Jesus as a “victim,” because He knew exactly what He was doing by freely laying down His life for us. But that is no excuse for what they did to Him. Those were the choices of sinful humanity, inflicting pain and suffering on Someone who did not deserve it.
So it’s hard for others to believe that victims of abuse aren’t to blame at least SOMEHOW. Since none of us can claim that we have never lied, never uttered a bad word or had a bad thought in our minds—-those around us constantly “fish around” to unearth our past or present sins, or past or present struggles with sin—-all so that they can acquit the abuser of full responsibility. And, as you said, if BOTH persons are seen to be at fault in a marriage, then the entity of marriage might be saved.
I am going to be VERY hypothetical and say—let’s say you did have an affair. Even if you did (not at all truthful by the way; bear with me)—-that still does not and should never excuse how you and the kids were abused.
An abuser chooses to sin, out of the evil in his or her heart. That is it. That is all. It has nothing to do with being provoked or propelled in some way to abuse.
And so often, the fallen nature of the abuser is trotted out as a way to pity him or her. In the reverse tactic, the fallen nature of the abused is trotted out to condemn him or her.
By the way, I don’t believe marriage is a “mirror reflection” of the Gospel as it is often portrayed by the church. That is one reason why I personally think churches are so bent on saving or at least salvaging marriages—-they fear that the message of the Gospel will lose its purity and power.
WE as His individual children are supposed to be reflections of the Gospel. The Bible speaks beautifully about being changed from glory to glory as we behold His face. Nowhere in there is marriage mentioned.
Now, marriages SHOULD reflect the Gospel as loving and being loved as He intended it! But it only works that way if both persons are keeping their eyes fixed on their Savior.
If an abuser is to be found to be masquerading as a believer, a loving spouse and / or parent, it is maligning the Gospel to force the family to stay together, supposedly for the SAKE of the Gospel. So, destroying the people IN that marriage / family is fine and dandy as long as the APPEARANCE of a family is being maintained—-all so that people will come to Christ?
I did not grow up as a believer. When the Lord got ahold of me, I can tell you that that kind of hypocrisy is what I wanted to flee FROM, not TOWARDS. I had no interest in being buried alive in more lies, since lies were what nearly destroyed me. So I was baffled, and bemoaned to see so much of it around me. And in myself, as well, since I had a lot of sin to get rid of.
I will be praying for you and the kids as well. It really is a “nightmare” as you put it.
Helovesme, thank you for your kind and understanding words. I think your hypotheses are correct….I had it said to me multiple times by multiple people in multiple ways, trying to find my “sin” in the situation so it could be neatly slotted into a marriage-type counseling scenario, both of us at fault, situation easily fixed, marriage preserved, and presto, glory to God (aka the church). (Forgive me if I sound a little bitter.)
I heard so many times, “Don’t give up hope! God can work miracles!” A wonderful friend who herself had escaped an abusive marriage told me, “God already did work a miracle. He rescued you and your children out of that house. Let’s thank Him for that.”
Your comments here make me think and take time to absorb and for that I thank you.
April, I just had an idea. If you ever create a blog you might like call it something like “I Won’t Be Slotted Into Your Neat Slots”.
Thank you for sharing these very important points. And yes, my best advisor also told me that even if I had sinned, (well, of course, I sin, but I mean the kinds of sins the abusers throw at you), that still does NOT excuse the abuser for the abuse.
So I would like to reply to April here, but there is no reply button under her comment, so I’ll add it here.
I agree that the miracle is that you found a way of escape for you and your family. I had the same experience. I finally had to say that the Lord had worked so many things in a wondrous way for me and my children that I could believe He was helping me without a doubt, and that was amazing to me. I almost felt I could say, “Stop, Lord. You have shown me more than enough times how caring You are for me and mine.”
But to this day He continues to shower me with blessings in incomprehensible ways. One way was the death of our abuser very unexpectedly. Please don’t take that wrong — it is with great sadness that I speak of the death, but at the same time, it was a wonder to us. God moves in mysterious ways His wonders to perform. Oh to thank Him enough for all He does for us!
I pray that He will be such a strong support and guide for you and your family.
To confirm this, especially for readers who are relatively new to this blog, allow me to point to my post Blessings and Woes from the Politically and Spiritually Incorrect Lord Jesus Christ, and Naming Names.
Helovesme — this pithy remark of yours deserved a BRAVO!
Reaching Out, if we don’t have it on our Gems page already, can you please add it. Thanks!
—has been added to the Gems page.
Hi April, it is not uncommon for victims of abuse to disclose only some of the abuse when they are seeking help. I call it “testing the waters”.
I would not say that you lied. You only withheld some of the truth and you did that for good reason: you had been conditioned (and intimidated) to believe that you should protect your husband.
You might like to look at my series of three posts about the morality of ‘telling an untruth’ or ‘withholding a truth’.
Here is Part One: Is it always sinful to tell an untruth? You can find the other parts in the series from there.
TryingAgain, thank you. I’m so glad to hear your story of God’s faithfulness, and I can echo it. Though my children and I have had people pile on us about this, we’ve had as many or more who have been a true help and encouragement in practical ways, and I view all of those as God showing His care for us through the kindness and love of other people. Though I am so weary, these are the types of things that lift me up and keep me going.
Barbara, I appreciate the clarification — I felt so guilty about lying (to a pastor no less!) but it was so fear-driven. In fact, the first time I met with him, not only was I sick to my stomach to admit anything, but I kept looking over my shoulder on the road the whole way there to see if somehow my then-husband was following me. My ex was quite high profile in the church, we were a “model family,” I had never spoken to anyone for decades about the abuse; I only had started to disclose to my dearest friend a month or so before I disclosed to my pastor. I will definitely read this series of posts. It’s all a process of sorting things out in my mind — the pdf from the Calgary Women’s Shelter you posted yesterday was HUGELY beneficial (I felt like I could have almost written the woman’s story featured with the exception of a few minor details.).
April’s story gave me so much food for thought. I hesitated in writing some things down here, partially to not give this site more work to do in moderating, but to also pay more attention to new posts and topics to fuel. So I hope it’s okay to leave a comment still.
One of the best resources of this website is that they offer a clear and direct definition of “abuse.” I don’t think all believers are on the same page about something so serious. And we should be.
I started to wonder if there is a clear and direct definition out there for the word “victim.” April’s story seemed to indicate that those around her did not want to label her or her children as “victims.” Is it a dirty word, one that is repulsive to utter, and even more repulsive to apply?
It’s fair to wonder if they ever considered what is victim is and is not.
Over time, I’ve noticed the word “victim” being used carefully AND capriciously. Sometimes it is used by an abuser to garner sympathy: “I’m a victim so feel sorry for me.” Or, abusers use it to avert accountability: “you can’t blame me; I was a victim.” Or, an abuser might use it to further debilitate their victim: “you were a victim then and you always will be.”
Sometimes it can be quite freeing: “I had no idea I was a victim. Now I know I wasn’t responsible for what my abuser did to me.” Or, “I was a victim, and now I can offer help and hope to others who have been victims.” Or, “I was a victim, but Christ rescued me.”
Victim blaming and shaming is so rampant, IMO. It’s fair to wonder why, exactly. I am not trying too hard to get into their heads. The Word speaks of having an answer when difficult topics are brought to them. If true and sincere victims try to have some ready answers when they are treated with such disrespect, perhaps we will be able to dismantle their arguments.
I noticed how April was either falsely accused, or it was strongly hinted that she was somehow responsible for the abuse. In looking back at my 20 year walk with the Lord (and also bringing back to mind some of my own personal experiences)—-a few things came through.
Any sincere believer does not condone sin. The Bible says that only death is reaped when sin is committed. Even as a young believer, I got that message very clearly. Sin is serious business. Don’t trifle with it.
Using the label “victim” (when it is rightly applied) seems to indicate that the victim is not allowed to be held accountable for their own sins. They were victimized, so you can’t hold them to account. One has to feel sorry for them and “baby them”, so to speak. You can’t use any “tough talk” with them concerning their sins, because as victims, they are too fragile and too sensitive to confront them, even in the most loving and gentle way.
As Christians, that is unacceptable. So we simply don’t want to use that word “victim,” because it’s too much like giving them a free pass to either engage in sin at will, but also not be disciplined or told that they are in the wrong.
My problem with that reasoning is that it is utter nonsense. I got pretty worked up over April’s story for one reason and one reason only: her supposed sins, and even actual sins—were not relevant to the abuser’s sins. They had nothing to with one another. Yet there was constant attempt to do just that.
(Note: please read this website’s description of “sin leveling.” It will open your eyes!)
In the American court system, lawyers are only allowed to admit evidence, or facts that are relevant to the case at hand. For example, if a person is accused of robbing a bank, the fact that they had a speeding ticket from five years ago is not relevant to the case. It doesn’t mean the person is “off the hook” for speeding, it means that is has nothing to do with the case at hand.
However, our court system can be terribly rigged. If a person accuses someone of sexual assault, defense lawyers will work overtime in trying to claim that the accuser’s sexual history is relevant. It is absolutely not, but such lawyers will do anything to try to smear the accuser’s character, whether it is relevant to the case or not.
Character defamation is alive and kicking in the church system as well. Sometimes the things trotted out may be true, sometimes they are not. They are not at all relevant to being abused. But, as long as the character of the accused can be sullied in any way, it can damage the victim’s credibility—and church leadership can claim that he or she is not really a victim.
Anyone, victim or not, should be held accountable for their own personal sins. But I am getting pretty fed up with USING the victim’s sins (real or imagined) as a way to deny them real justice.
I had a mediation attempt with a young girl who smeared me and gossiped about me ruthlessly. I am sorry for such strong language, but she was nothing but a bully and a brat. She was also a professing Christian.
I had (and still have) a problem in standing up for myself. So I recall cowering and avoiding her as much as possible, rather than trying to confront and deal with her contempt openly. I talked to others around me—- looking for allies, AND looking for sympathy. And needing help. But I did not find anything substantial.
The mediator seemed to think that in order to make “peace” with one another, we BOTH had to take some form of responsibility. At the time, I gave in. I thought I had been complicit.
Believe me, I had and have plenty of sins to work through, and work out. But they were not relevant in her choosing to be so abusive, but they were treated as though they were. They should have been “inadmissible” (to use a courtroom term). So I never realized that I had been a victim for years.
The word “victim” is not always a welcoming one. It wasn’t for me—in this case, I was ashamed of myself. Victim = powerless in my mind. I thought I could have prevented it somehow, had I been stronger, tougher or more confident. Or, I could have lessened her “reign of terror” somehow, if I only had been a different person.
I did not take and still do not take any pleasure in seeing that I was victimized. It had the two-sided effect of relief (unburdened from personal responsibility) but also shame (how could I have been that powerless?).
I went through plenty of similar episodes with professing Christians before and after that, although none of them were as harsh as that one. So I kept having more and more experience in trying to discern when I was victimized, and when I was not.
Believe me, honest and true victims might have a hard time accepting the label of “victim.” It’s an admittance that we had no control over the choices of others that chose to hurt us so badly. It’s an admittance that fighting back either didn’t work, or could never work. It means we were helpless, weak and possibly contemptible in the eyes of others.
I say that last part because victims (once they admit it) can be treated with a form of disdain by a world that prizes strength and power. You are in control when you take control of your life.
Churches and / or Christians often fall into this line of thinking—-and it needs to stop. Figure how what is and isn’t a victim (start with the Word of God) and apply it correctly to real people. The Bible is clear that bad things do happen to the innocent. The Bible is full of warnings to not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the poor in purse or in spirit—-because it’s a sin. Not because those people did anything wrong to deserve it. The Bible says it’s easy to choose to hurt them because of their less than ideal stations in life. The message stands: don’t hurt them—because it’s a sin.
One of the most beautiful, and precious experiences in coming to the Lord—-was coming to the foot of His cross. I realized that it was only there that I could unload everything (and I mean everything). Then He could tell me what I was personally responsible for (and required to repent), but also what I was NOT responsible for (and had no need of repentance).
No matter what His “verdicts” were, they were not only 100% trustworthy, but the solution was always right there in front of me: His cross. There was the haven I needed—-to be forgiven for my sins, but also be healed from those that had sinned against me. Either way, I was unburdened—–and free.
I wish we could testify to the unsaved in this way. Coming to Christ is not all about realizing your sinfulness, it’s also about realizing the sinfulness of others. Now, the latter is by no means a free pass to become self-righteous! But it brought me a great deal of freedom to know that my personal, chosen sins were not “relevant” in how others had chosen to sin against me.
April, I’m going through a lot on my end, but somehow the Lord keeps reminding me to pray for you. Thank you again so much for sharing your story. That was brave.
Ohhh, Helovesme, thank you. This week and last week have been so difficult. I hesitate to share much with those around me, even those who love and care about me, because of this exact thing, I don’t want to be seen as a victim, to be seen as anything but a strong woman taking care of her children. But all of this abuse situation is so confusing to me, how it happened in the first place, sorting through all the things that are still happening real time, the church’s really weird reaction….I thought my church would be this strong form of support, but instead, I lost friends, I lost my church, I’ve felt my relationship with God stagnate due to exhaustion, stress, anger….the works. Sometimes I listen to a YouTube video that is simply Scriptures on anxiety and protection read on a loop with a background of soothing music; it’s the only thing that seems to help. But knowing others are praying for me when I feel like I can’t form the words….that is deeply meaningful. I will pray for you also–life is so hard.
Helovesme, this is another ‘out of the ballpark’ comment of yours. Thank you so much! I will be referring to it in my post about Leslie Vernick. Yes, I’m still working on my post about Vernick. I feel like I am bogged down in a swamp trying to finish it.
Thank you for the kind words, Barb and April.
April, your reply was so sad to read. I’ve been on the outside looking in from what you are going through, and hopefully without taking up too much of your time, I can try to encourage you (tomorrow; my time is tight today!). Your words really pained me because they were all too familiar.
I had forgotten one major thing about sitting down with that young girl so long ago. When I look back on it, I think I can see why it seemed “crucial” that both of us be faulted.
I think the mediator didn’t want to seem like he was “ganging up” on her by holding her solely responsible. I think he was afraid that it would cause her to become either very defensive, or very resistant to aim for any positive impact.
No one likes being told they are the one who is 100% at fault. Even when it is true. The instinctive reaction might be to get offended, or defensive. And start pointing the finger at the other person or persons—-why are we picking on me, exactly? What about how he or she has contributed to the problems we have?
Naming me as the victim, meaning I had no fault—-was just not “productive” in his eyes. It would seem unfair to her, and give me all the advantage. She would have to apologize in full, and take on the responsibility—and in all that, I would seemingly be given the upper hand. I would be given all the “power” to dangle over her, and hold it over her head.
As if that was what I wanted from all this? Power? Power to “stick it” to her? She had had power over me to hurt me, so now that I have the power—-I will gleefully give it back to her?
Now I would be allowed to make her suffer, and I get to claim the label of “victim” to justify it all? The tables are turned and darn it—-it’s time to joyfully and jubilantly give her back what she dealt out to me.
And who is going to stop me? I’m the victim, and I’ll use that label to make sure no one gets in my way as I wreak havoc. There is nothing she or anyone else can do to stop me. I’ll make her cry as much as she made me cry. She’ll not only get a taste of her own medicine, she’ll swallow the whole bottle! That way, it will ensure that she’s learned her lesson.
I went overboard in the description! But the point remains. This is another serious and major reason why I believe churches have a hard time seeing AND labeling victims—even when it applies. They are too afraid of empowering victims—-not because they care about relieving them of responsibility—–but afraid of what they might do once they are empowered.
I can’t predict how I would have acted if the whole episode had gone differently. I will have to regardless—-it’s just plain wrong to throw a victim under the bus, along with the offender—-and think that is the “fair and balanced” way to work. That that is how to neutralize a toxic situation.
It’s the one who caused the toxicity who is at fault. And she was welcomed and embraced as if nothing had happened afterwards. She tried to make a fake apology to me, but I knew it was all a game to her. She relished how much she got away with.
I felt left out in the cold—unable to be in the same room as her, so people assumed I was the problem, not her. So—regardless of proper victim labeling or not—she got to be treated as though she were the victim. She was given all the power from beginning to end.
Helovesme, I think you’re exactly right, and I’m sorry that happened to you. It sounds exactly as you said, it feels more productive to those mediating to apportion blame, get apologies exchanged, then the problem is solved.
I think formulas like that appeal to people, and I see this particularly in the church. I see it with regard to evangelism: if I can get you to agree to a,b,c, then you will concede x,y,z is true, which will then lead to your conversion.
I found it again when my pastor repeated that verse in Proverbs to me over and over again about hearing one person who sounds right until you hear the other side. [Proverbs 18:17]
Another pastor’s wife went to breakfast with me, listened for a bit, then said, “So, would you say that marriage is important to you? And would you say that you have faults and were imperfect in marriage just as he was? Then don’t you see any possibility for reconciliation?” As if this is some disagreement he and I were having: he abused me and the children, I didn’t like it, so let’s go work it out. I keep thinking, “What planet are any of you on? If this were happening to your daughter, are these the responses you would give?” I kept wondering how severe the abuse had to be for it not to be my fault or for it to be reason enough for divorce. I would guess….never.
It’s mostly to the point where I don’t speak about it except to my closest friends or without many details in an anonymous setting such as this for this very reason: my ex tells his to others and I, like you, find myself out in the cold. I’ve been assumed to have had an affair, been accused of “finding marriage too hard so you just walked away,” had it wondered why I’m not going to go to marriage counseling so we can reconcile and “preserve the entity of marriage,” it’s a lot of effort for no return. Instead, I see my children thriving in an environment absent of constant rage and abuse and know I have done the right thing.
The Lord impressed a verse on my heart that gave me the courage to leave, and I continue to cling to it:
Your thoughts / replies are helping to clarify some things in my mind, and I appreciate them greatly.
It’s been so hard to read your replies, but not because you have done anything wrong! It is because of the memories that come flooding back.
I have to insert that for years, I have been fairly naive about divorce. There are three separate occasions in my life where I saw up close and personal what the couple went through, not to mention those around them—-when they divorced. So began a long and painful education. In all three of these situations, I believe the wife filed.
I also married into a family where the parents are divorced, and other members have divorced and remarried. Words truly cannot express what it’s been like to grasp and understand the dynamics I became aware of.
One divorce (a fourth occasion) within my in-law family ruined me personally, and badly compromised or ruined relationships within that family. I’m still recovering, because I had no idea how low professing Christians could sink—when divorce comes into the picture.
In the first two occasions, gossip and / or rampant speculation spread like wildfire. Assumptions flew around like confetti. I perceived divorce to be a very private matter, just as much as marriage was a private and personal matter between two persons. I understand some of the flaws in that thinking now.
Back then, I saw no reason to not be helpful if a divorce was happening, but I was not a marriage counselor, or a mediator of any kind. I honesty thought it might be dangerous to try to sway things in a certain direction without clear and precise wisdom.
I also honestly believed that taking sides was impossible. Everyone had their “opinions,” but trying to separate facts from fiction would require the Lord’s hand in a mighty way! Worse yet, the narratives floating around were as different as night and day. If one person said one thing, the other person would almost always directly contradict it. Someone is lying, but who? The best thing to do was to not “get involved” it seemed.
It was so vicious. I now cringe at all the craziness, not to mention my own confusion as to how to deal with all of this. Here is what the Lord, I think, has impressed upon me:
There is no such thing as staying “neutral.” I know that sounds horrible, and it is. But I found out that I had to seek the Lord’s face in such matters. Bring all that you have to Him, and let Him move on your heart. I am still not interested in “taking one side over the other,” but I AM interested in being on the Lord’s side, if that makes sense.
In one of the occasions, I refused to kick to the curb the one who was being trashed for the divorce. I did not make that choice because I was assigning all the blame to her then-husband. I stuck by her side because I believed the Lord told me to.
People will often vilify the one who filed for divorce, They will automatically assume the one being filed against wanted the marriage to continue, and is being rejected. That person will be the more sympathetic figure, and depending on what is going on—-that person will usually wield that pity to use against their soon to be ex. They will cry and complain that they didn’t want the divorce, and the one who filed is spiteful and mean.
People will often stick to the one who is the closer friend, or closer relation if it’s a family member. Example: if my spouse and I split, no matter what went down—-his family would likely crowd around him. There is a sense of loyalty that is hard to break, even when it’s the right thing to do. So, no matter what truths may be out there, people will feel duty bound to protect and promote “one of their own,” instead of the outsider.
This has happened even when the family member filed first for divorce. The narrative will change to benefit “one of their own” (the former spouse drove them to file) but it will quickly change back when it comes to a non-family member (the former spouse is the bad guy for filing).
Whoever is more powerful and popular—-say, in a church setting—-has the advantage as well. The funny, charismatic, likable and public person that everyone supposedly knows and loves couldn’t possibly be the bad person.
When it comes to why two people split up, and if you are trying to determine which side to take—-we tend to listen to the ones who seem more spiritual. A pastor, or pastor’s wife or anyone in church leadership will seem credible and trustworthy. This is a huge and dangerous mistake. How that pastor’s wife spoke to you angered me. She did not come across as sincere and credible, yet due to her very title—-she has a huge advantage in that others might feel safer in hearing what she has to say.
This is one thing that pained me so much. We always want to find someone to blame. Someone has to be blamed, so that we can make sense out of something so awful. And divorce, even when it’s credible and Biblical—-is a very hard thing to endure. Those around us, instead of leaning on the Lord for strength in such times—will instead take up stones and start firing them at the one who seems to be to blame, or at least is mostly to blame. Again, it is usually the one who filed who might bear the brunt of it.
In your case, we should blame the abuser, but also blame the very existence of abuse. It does nothing but destroy people and relationships in general.
In one of the occasions, I describe one of the parties as “buckling under the strain.” This person had endured so much for so long, but when this person chose to finally file for divorce (which publicized all that hidden pain for so long) that is when the claws came out. Vicious, vindictive claws. They were crucifying this person for daring to admit that they had had enough of being abused. In their minds, this person was evil for buckling, but were they of any help in the years in which this person was trying NOT to buckle? It’s fair to ask.
The other things you mentioned—-lack of marriage counseling or not wanting to deal with being married—are just a few of the ways a divorcing person might get torn down. But it’s all about what is readily available to tear someone down. And when that happens, you know that they don’t care about you or the kids, or your marriage, why a divorce is happening—-and all the talk about the “sanctity of marriage” is highly questionable.
In one of the occasions I saw, the couple WAS going to counseling. Then why in the world were people still dumping on him or her (mostly her), or spreading gossip or rumors about this? If you want them to remain married, don’t you think flapping your mouths will be of no help at all? And let the counselor try to discern their issues in their private sessions. They didn’t need armchair counseling.
Putting these many observations together helped me to gain perspective. In all that I had observed, I noticed that the desperate need for the Lord’s overarching wisdom was conveniently left out. Instinct and man-made commandments / traditions took precedence, and self-righteousness was at the center. And worst yet—-no one batted an eye at such foolishness. I can only imagine how much they (and we all) must have grieved the Holy Spirit, and quenched Him.
We can leave the conversation here; you are free to respond but I’ll try my best to choose to end things here. I’ve taken up enough of your time. Blessings to you!
From the original post:
I call this the “itchies”, though it is not a physical itch. I have encountered the “itchies” many times, in many places, from many sources.
There have been times when I have said or written something and encountered the “itchies”. Sometimes I self-edit, sometimes someone else explains where my words are not clear or may be misunderstood.
Sometimes I have no words and someone else’s words explain what I mean FAR better than I can at the time.
I appreciate those who take the time to correct me, to explain how others may perceive my words.
I can learn. I can grow. I can heal. My gratitude to the people who have challenged me is profound.
Thank you for this, Barb! I’m sad at the amount of backlash you seem to be facing from social media. People are getting way too careless and contentious online—-and professing Christians can be just as guilty—-they need to curb their tongues before lashing out in self-righteous furor.
I think you expressed yourself beautifully, and put a lot of thought into your words and what you wanted to convey.
The factors that I personally think are driving these behaviors are varied. But one of them for sure is the insistence that if any advocate has good intentions, they should be lauded and applauded—because good intentions are better than no intentions at all (aka the norm of absolute neglect and a refusal to acknowledge the depth of abuse within the church).
And it is certainly better than those with evil intentions—-the abusers themselves and those that enable or endorse their evil. Again, that too is up for debate, right? Whether abusers and the allies are simply slaves to something bigger than them, or if they really are bent on inflicting or enabling evil.
Whatever the thoughts are in that area, no one wants to see anything that is seen as positive to be squelched in any way, shape or form. The fact that there are persons who actually WANT to help, want to listen and want to believe the victims is like water to a parched soul.
For so long, it seemed like NO ONE wanted to get involved in the very sticky issue of abuse. It’s complicated, confusing and often contentious. It will stir people up and as many former or current victims will attest to—-rocking the boat usually comes with grave consequences.
Now (for example) the SBC might be taking abuse seriously! This is a rock that has just started to roll—-and we cannot stop any momentum. The good intentions will inevitably lead to good results—-as long as no one throws anything in their way.
So when Barb puts out constructive comments, or criticism meant to educate or illuminate or simply inject something useful into the conversation—-she is unfairly labeled because these advocates with “good intentions; their heart is in the right place” might get discouraged or scared away.
That “rock” will be stalled, or slow down, or simply stopped in its tracks. Now we are all back at square one. Why couldn’t others leave well enough alone?
Now, I WISH “good intentions” mean nothing will go wrong, or nothing CAN go wrong because when someone’s heart is in the right place—-God will work with that. If your heart is right before Him, that is all that matters. So when Barb questions certain aspects or areas, those that attack or accuse interpret that she is implying that their heart is not right before Him. And I don’t believe that is her motive or intention at all.
The parable of the four soils is absolutely one of my favorites. It answers a lot of what I just wrote. Because in that parable, the Lord made it clear that only ONE form of soil would bear good fruit.
The other three soils were not necessarily evil, or bad, or even outright sinful. But the Lord made it clear that they were problematic.
The Word says it best when Jesus explains the meaning behind that parable:
Nowhere in there are intentions brought up. It is all about hearing the Word of God and understanding it. That soil is soft enough to receive the Word, but not so soft that it will allow anything that sounds spiritual, or sounds Biblical to remain. The soil has to exist in a way that is receptive to receive what is right, but able to reject what is wrong.
If we should talk about intentions (because I DO think that matters)—-if the heart and intention is to ultimately glorify the Lord (and not ourselves)—-then those that are willing to advocate for the abused better darn well learn what is right, and what is wrong.
I think Barb touched on so many good points. For some of the abused, a certain advocate is great. For others, not so much so. It’s not good to start forming “factions” (as Paul warned us in 1 Corinthians)—and start saying that we are the party of THIS advocate, and others are in the party of THAT advocate. Now the community of the abused, which should try to remain as united as possible—-is all split up and separated from one another.
What matters is if the advocacy is Biblical, and sticking to the Word. Not wandering off into man-made commandments that the Bible very much warns us about.
And hopefully ANYONE who says they care about the abused will want to do it right, not just intend to do right and then the rest will take care of itself. It doesn’t work that way.
Even professing Christians can fall into this trap. Galatians 4:18 speaks of being zealous about a lie, which is dangerous! It means that you are sincere, but you are sincere about a falsehood. There is nothing good in that.
So anyone who refuses a correction, or at least a constructive comment—-can be a sign that they are zealous, but not 100% for His righteousness. Learning about abuse and how to handle it is a learning process. No one, no advocate, can claim that they have it all figured out and don’t need any feedback.
And since abuse is such a sensitive topic (no one should be unaware of that), it’s crucial to step carefully. If you want to do it well, then do it right.
I remember reading a very good insight about the Bible verse claiming how “faith that can move mountains.” [Paraphrase of Matthew 17:20] Galatians 5:6 says that faith expresses itself through love.
The comment warned us that you may have the faith to move that mountain, but without love, you might end up dropping it on someone—crushing them.
That “rock” I mentioned above may have all the good intentions in the world, but it darn well better not be crushing anyone along the way—especially those that it claims to want to help.
I think your conjectures about why some people are pushing back at me are probably pretty accurate, Helovesme.
1) The insistence that if any advocate has good intentions, they should be lauded and applauded — because good intentions are better than no intentions at all (aka the norm of absolute neglect and a refusal to acknowledge the depth of abuse within the church) and good intentions are way better than evil intentions.
2) The belief that because the enormity of abuse in the church is pandemic, the community of the abused and abuse-advocates should try to remain as united as possible, and boat-rockers (or persistent widows) should be shunned.
3) The fact that there are persons who actually WANT to help, want to listen and want to believe the victims is like water to a parched soul. Parched for truth — dehydrated — victims appreciate ANY water
4) Point three can lead to people, especially victims / survivors, having factional feelings towards certain advocates: forming stereotyped views of certain advocates, then seeing things through only that lens. And sometimes even becoming zealous about a lie.
I could add another point here.
5) This is one I myself have struggled with. If one is an advocate, one generally likes to have one’s work acknowledged and shared in the advocacy community. Advocates are typically very busy, so they have limited time to follow what other advocates are saying. These two things can combine to advocates forming factional / stereotyped views of other advocates, with some advocates feeling like they are not being given enough attention, and perhaps then trying to schmooze up with other advocates to increase their ‘reach’.
I know that I have to battle against falling into temptation regarding this. I am not tempted to schmooze with other advocates to increase my reach: I have, for example, declined requests to write commendations for other advocates’ books – the kind of commendation that many publishers and authors put on the first few pages of their books these days. But I am tempted to dwell on resentment that my work is not given as much attention by other advocates as I might wish it was given. I don’t want attention for attention’s sake. I want my work to get attention because I think I have some valuable biblical insights to offer the abuse community. And if my insights are NOT biblical, I want people who have better biblical insight to show me where I am wrong and where I am falling short.
There: confession over.
(Strikethrough done by me.)
My apologies for hijacking your comment, Barb, but the words I quoted are so apt.
Before my walls crumbled over one year ago and learning I was a victim of a lifetime of abuse, I advocated in many other areas. I talked about the misuse of power, the misuse of information, the misuse of advocacy.
The fields of endeavour may be different, but the experiences are often similar.
I enjoyed that last part, Barbara:
For me, positive attention and approval were denied me for so long—-so understandably I craved what I wanted and needed from nearly anywhere I could find it. This led me down paths that I am now ashamed of. It’s hard to believe what kind of person you will become when you an “attention junkie!”
The thing that helped me (and probably saved me from a lot of future hurt) was to keep in mind that the praises of man are fickle at best, and phony at worst.
I started to learn and am still learning to let people prove if they are sincere or not. If they are, that will lead them to respecting you. And if they don’t—they weren’t sincere when they made those “uplifting” comments.
I’ve wanted to share this with you for awhile. This post may be an open door for that.
Barb can absolutely handle a respectful rebuke, or anyone challenging her as long as there is an opportunity for actual discussion. But once in awhile I’ve sensed that people are simply being negative for no good reason towards her.
And by the way, I haven’t been reading this site for as long as others. So this comment isn’t about long term loyalty or (as Barb indicated) being factional.
First of all, as an abuse survivor, I absolutely raise my hand in that I struggle with being a negative person. When a lot of bad things have happened to you, it’s hard to be an upbeat, positive person. But it’s not right to be or become jaded and cynical, and this is a personal battle for many survivors, I can imagine.
I believe it was on this site’s Facebook page maybe a year ago. A video1 was posted of Meghan Markle telling the story of how when she was eleven, she saw an ad for dishwashing liquid: women are fighting grease. Long story short, she thought that was sexist, and in a series of events—the company changed their ad to say “people” are fighting grease, because she took some action about it.
I was truly and honestly surprised by the negative backlash. I thought it was a great post! I couldn’t figure out why they were being so hard on Barb and her choice to post it. Sometimes it seems like people are just looking for ways to put others down.
Plus I thought it was a great topic. I personally have not heard a lot of discussion about the possibility of abuse being fueled by sexist attitudes and advertising, in and out of the church. We as Christians are supposed to be in the world, but not of the world. But how much are we influenced by the world around us, whether we realize it or not?
What kind of information are we feeding young boys who will one day become young men? Are we telling them that only women are supposed to wash dishes, or do we make it clear to them that that is not Biblical?
To this day, I am STILL encouraged by that post. But it really took off when I read a post about his wife getting him a pair of socks because his feet were cold.
Jesus set the ultimate example for us when He washed our feet before He died. Apart from securing our salvation, that was truly the greatest act of love for us. Foot washing was often given to the servant seen as the most inferior or the lowest on the totem pole, because it was a job that no one really wanted. It’s grimy, dirty, messy and probably smelly work. It’s humbling (getting on your knees to do it), and it may feel humiliating as well (again, no one wanted to be stuck with that task).
It really paralleled the dish washing story that was shared. Doing the dishes is not the most attractive of tasks. It’s hard work and involves a lot of scrubbing. It may be given to the person who is seen as the most “inferior,” because no one likely wants to do it.
But anyone can do it, just as anyone can wash feet. So talent is not required. Both tasks have to be done. If you want to eat, more than likely dishes will be involved. If you want a clean house, the feet needed to be cleaned.
What I think we forget is that Jesus was NOT portraying Himself as inferior in any way, by doing something that was delegated to the seemingly most inferior person. He was setting an example for us—an example that is not at all easy to emulate.
I read a commentary that reminded me that none of the disciples volunteered to wash the feet. In fact, they had entered the room arguing about who was the greatest. I also read that in the way the table was set up back then, their dirty feet would be in the faces of others. Not a very appetizing way to enjoy their meal.
So washing feet and washing dishes started to run parallel in my mind—-the similarities and how we tend to look down on others who engage in such tasks.
This isn’t about who is washing the dishes, by the way—-the objection from that video is that women are delegated to such a task because of their gender. So the ads were meant to target that audience. It also sent the message that men are excluded from such a task, because it’s “woman’s work.” Not only that, but since dish washing IS an unwelcome chore, that opens the door to look down on women, who are saddled with such an inferior task.
I don’t say that means that this will inevitably lead to men choosing to abuse—-but it is always wrong and unhealthy to demean one gender in order to elevate the other. And it’s fair to wonder if things like this might feed an already existing abuser, or encourage an potential abuser if he is fed the lie that women are not equal to men.
I was also blown away that an eleven year old girl picked up on the unfairness of that ad. I am well beyond eleven years old, but I can tell you that that takes a bunch of courage for a child to step out so boldly.
So thank you for sharing that video, despite the lack of discussion it could have generated. It stuck with me and stayed with me.
P.S. I am the main dish washer in my home. 🙂
1[May 16, 2022: We added a link to a video (How Meghan Markle Became An Advocate For Women At 11 Years Old) we found on YouTube that, as Helovesme wrote:
If our words let victims down, and we are reluctant to learn how to change that because we consider ourselves the experts, what does it say about us?
It makes sense that the language we use is paramount, as much of the help offered by advocates is given through the vehicle of the written or spoken language. The abuse that a victim suffers also comes through language, so any help offered must be different for it to be useful. If it mirrors the language used by the abuser, not in content, but in form or function, then how is it of any lasting help?
The church refused to listen to child sex abuse victims when they aired their grievances. It took an advocacy movement from the world to get acknowledgement and justice for these survivors. I hope that it doesn’t take the world again to shine the light on the enabling of spousal abuse in the church.
So many good points! Thank you.
That was wonderful, APurposefulLife.
One of the hardest things that has come out of such awareness being raised—is how much ignorance and / or arrogance that is also being exposed.
It’s far, far better to admit that you are ignorant, rather than assume you have all the answers.
For example, parents of children who have been abused take the risk of being thrown under the bus when their stories come out. As if it is their fault for “letting” their child be harmed.
In America, an Olympic doctor named Larry Nassar was finally exposed as a serial sexual abuser. It seemed easy for people outside of the situation to throw blame at the parents, as if all they cared about was money and medals, so they weren’t being very cautious.
I got a chance to read an article where one of the parents detailed how she was groomed and trusted this odious man. In reading it, I got so shook up. There is no doubt that any parent, even those who claim to be so wise and watchful, could have fallen for his schemes.
I realize you were likely speaking of domestic abuse, within a marriage or of parents towards the kids. It’s just that for parents that did not engage in the abuse, they are unfairly treated as if they share the blame with the abusers. Or, that they were complicit and are actually worse than the abuser, because they supposedly failed in their duty to protect their kids.
It would be great if we softened the language towards such parents, and save the harshest words for the abusers. I hope that is something that comes out of all of this.
I think the issue is that you do seem combative when you call them out for not responding to you. If your advice is truly submitted with humility, send it and let them do with it what they will.
Thanks for that feedback, Rachel.
In some cases I have not publicly called out an advocate for declining to respond to my feedback.
In at least one case I have waited silently for many months after sending feedback to an advocate privately. That was what I did in regards to Diane Langberg. I was mindful that she is a busy person! And I knew that she was not obliged to respond to me.
However, when a significant new step is being taken to ‘raise abuse awareness in the church’ — as in this ChurchCares program by the SBC — and I know this program will be disseminating an advocate’s work to an even wider audience, my concern for the well-being of the victims rises above my wish to defer to the advocate’s right to not respond to my feedback. I feel I have to let the victims know, so that they can watch and assess that advocate’s material for themselves from a wider base of information and from a perhaps more biblical perspective. The more information we have, and the more we can weigh a person’s teaching in the light of Biblical principles, the more discerning we can be.
Rachel, I ought to have welcomed you to the blog when I first replied to you. Please forgive me.
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I am certainly pondering your feedback. Bless you. 🙂
Long time reader, first time commenter Barbara….no offense taken. 🙂
Just want to encourage you to look at the way Jesus exhorted the people He came in to contact with. He shared His pearls, His love, His rebukes, etc, and let the listener do with it what they would. He didn’t chase after them or wait around for a response. He kept teaching and sharing truth and going on His way. It’s convicting for me because He let the listener choose how to respond. Some did. Some didn’t. But all were free.
By all means keep sharing what you see with them. But I also want to encourage you to craft those words out of the overflow of God’s love for you, send them, and then put it in God’s hands and let the Holy Spirit do His work in their hearts. 🙂
Thanks Rachael. Your words do me good.
Well said, Barbara! Teachers, counsellors, pastors and priests ignore James’ admonition at their peril. A perfect quote! The peril is summed up in Lord Acton’s saying:
The power is the influence or control sought over others. The corruption is the distortion of the thinking and perceptions (the view of reality) in the mind of the would be teacher or controller. They slip so easily into the Kingdom of Lies.
We need community precisely as you are doing to protect ourselves and each other from this corruption and its effects. Just as we cannot see the backs of our own heads (and none more so than the powerful), so we need the correction of those who are mindful of wisdom of James the Just.
1[May 15, 2022: We added the link to the quote quoted by James (the commenter). The Internet Archive link is a copy of the link. Editors.]
Hi James, thanks for your comment and welcome to the blog! 🙂
I changed your screen name to James to protect you.
Dear readers, I know who this James is and I can assure you he is a genuine survivor of abuse and a genuine Christian.
And to James: as this is your first comment at the blog, allow me to encourage you to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
After reading the New Users’ Info page, you might like to look at our FAQ page.
Our blog focuses on domestic abuse in a Christian context, but many of the principles we talk about relate to other forms of abuse as well – sexual, emotional, verbal, spiritual, financial, social, etc.
Thank you, Barbara. All strength to your arm! Or perhaps, all power to your pen. 🙂
Well done, Barbara. Thank you for the pains you take to explain things clearly, and state your motivations in pursuit of justice for the oppressed; for domestic abuse victims and survivors. I think your courage is reflective of the men and women of faith in the Bible and throughout history, whose lives point the way for those who are true believers, whole-hearted disciples of Christ.
Gaining Momentum commented:
I have been mulling over this phrase in the recesses of my mind.
I think about courage, about those desirous of rooting out twisted thinking, about those facing terrible memories.
I think about the many who describe their abusers as murderers, though the victim / survivor remains physically alive.
I think about those who have lost treasured relationships, relationships that were NOT abusive.
Healing takes different paths for different people, variable amounts of time, and varying depths that need to be plumbed.
Gaining Momentum commented:
And thank you to the victims / survivors who struggle to find the clarity of explanation.
That, too, takes courage.
Really nicely said, Finding Answers!
Yes, thank you! I am in the midst of writing my next post (about Leslie Vernick) and I’ve been benefiting from reading the thoughts and feedback of others who are struggling to find clarity of explanation.
Barbara, thank you so much for your humble attitude and for your very careful wording and checking. It is much appreciated by many.
I’m sorry that some do not see it that way, but I think just their attitude brings suspicion on their work. True humility is looking for correction in case of error. And please know that I also am willing to be corrected if I express something incorrectly here.
I pray for courage and strength for you to continue this great work.
I would add that intimate partner abuse survivors don’t really understand abusive parent survivors. And few recognize that disconnect or say anything about it. S.O. [Significant Other?] survivors tend to talk about losing who they were before they met their abuser but we were raised by the abuser. There is no love-bombing stage because we were born trapped into our situations far deeper than any significant other.
Thanks for pointing this out, Katie. And welcome to the blog! 🙂
I am not sure what you mean by S.O., but I’m guessing you meant intimate partner abuser survivors.
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I recently realised, now my eldest child is an independent adult, that unless their father does something public enough that would ‘justify’ a ‘no / limited contact’ stance with their father, my children have a lifetime ahead of them dealing with an emotionally manipulative parent and grandparents, unless they risk losing favour in their paternal extended family.
Though unpleasant to attend weddings and funerals, among those of my former husband’s family who’ve listened to his slanderous comments about me, I still have the favour of my blood relatives maternal and paternal.
I used to think once they were adults they would be free, whereas if I remained married to him, I would be suffering his abuse for the sum of my days. Rather, it is the reverse; I am free from being his wife through divorce, but he will always be their dad. He may learn to pull back to avoid hearing the truth (our children are learning to deal assertively with him), but not without a lot of blaming them, and for the extended family’s hearing too – no doubt blaming their behaviour on my influence and the divorce.
Sure, unless there is divorce the spouse’s torment continues on a daily basis whereas adult children can generally leave the daily contact without censure from relatives and the church. However, for the spouse who leaves, they are perhaps better off than their children (in a shared care scenario), who remain connected to their abusive parent by blood.
I should have added ‘for the sum of their days’ to the end of that comment. That is (with improved grammar ☺ also):
However, for the spouse who leaves, that spouse is perhaps better off than their children (in a shared care scenario), who remain connected to their abusive parent by blood ‘for the sum of their days’.
Hi Hadassah’s Legacy — ah….how well I know the second thoughts as a self-editing writer!
When I’ve made a comment at this blog, I often edit it later. But because I can edit my comments from the back of the blog, I am fortunate: I don’t have to make another comment to fix my poor grammar or spelling. 🙂
Bless you for being careful about what you have written!
When I published my book, some people asked me how many words it was. I told them how many words in the final manuscript, but I also told them that I wrote perhaps ten times those many words as I was drafting and redrafting and editing the book. 🙂
Katie, thank you for that! My abuser was my father, so that comment resonated with me for sure. You don’t choose the family you are born into.
Incredibly thought provoking in comparing and contrasting how parental abuse and intimate partner abuse work.
A lot of thoughts popped into my head for sure. Both of them have a lot of differences for sure. The main and major similarity, perhaps, is that someone that you thought loved you does not.
It can be hard for a child to accept that an abusive parent does not love them. As in an abusive intimate relationship, that too must be hard to accept.
I was in the process of checking my email when I saw the above comment by Helovesme.
I didn’t clue in about being unloved by ANY of my abusers until I read the following ACFJ post.
The Difficulty and Necessity of Accepting the Unlove
It took a LONG time to process the concept of not being loved by any human being, especially those who continually professed to love me.
Finding Answers, that was very well put.
That there are no words to describe what it’s like to be unloved—-but especially by the ones from whom you WANT that love from so badly, so desperately.
If I’m able to I’d love to read that link. I’ve been struggling with nightmares so I have to be careful about what my mind is filled with. 🙂