A Cry For Justice

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

Leslie Vernick – various responses that domestic abuse victims have to her work. (5th & final in series on SBC’s ChurchCares program)

Some victims of domestic abuse find Leslie Vernick’s work helpful; others find it confusing and even dangerous. To illustrate the range of responses that victims have to Leslie’s work, I will be quoting from their comments. Most of my quotes will be excerpts from victims’ comments and I will give links to their original comments so you can check to see whether or not I’m unfairly extracting their words. I cannot, of course, give links to comments that people made to me by email.

I will talk about the positives first, then the concerns which some survivors have about Leslie’s work.

Note: Leslie uses the female gender for the victim in her book The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. In this post I will be often be calling the victim ‘she‘. Reverse the genders if need be for your situation.

The positives

Many abused wives have not yet identified that they are being abused, so they might not feel comfortable with the ‘A’ word (abuse). Leslie talks about the differences between a ‘difficult marriage’ and a ‘destructive marriage’. In the early stages of coming to grips with what is being done to them, victims often find it easier to identify with the term ‘destructive marriage’ than the more scary word ‘abuse’.

Leslie is fairly well known in conservative Christian circles, so her work is often recommended to victims of domestic abuse. Leslie’s work can serve as a bridge from the conservative hidebound world into the advocacy & recovery community that I and many other readers of this blog inhabit.

[Leslie] is expert on affirmation and encouraging people to be the best they can be. She is aiming for a more general audience. – Mary Reid

Leslie provides affordable personal support to victims.

Leslie provided for me what no other resource provided for me at the time – affordable and ongoing personal support, not only through her video teachings and regular group phone calls, but also through an online support group. – Reconciled

In a guest post at Leslie’s blog, a woman called S recounted how, with the help of her counselor plus Leslie’s Conquer Program and individual coaching from Leslie, she:

learned to grieve my losses more quickly, and give up knee-jerk expressions of frustration such as whining, complaining and making excuses. God gradually transplanted my heart of fear and shame with a heart of courage. I became more patient and forgiving: first with God, myself, then others. I accepted being the mom of very confused kids and let go. I learned I’d unconsciously been a volunteer for abuse. I made choices to stop enabling it. Through grief work, I let go of resentment and grew more compassionate. I gained adaptive tools, unexpected resources and new strategies to overcome fear without reacting. I had to stop allowing other people and circumstances to define my values, identity and character. This involved assessing what I could and couldn’t change. I began to take time to listen to God, listen to my own heart, and walk in obedience to that ongoing heart ‘conversation.’ As I did, I came to believe that, in any situation I face, I will have a path in which I can walk in victory and peace. Most importantly, I understood that my identity depends on what God thinks of me, not what others think. – condensed from S’s story

CORE

CORE is an acronym Leslie has created. She coaches abused wives in how to develop their CORE strength. For those who don’t know, CORE stands for:

  • Committed to truth and reality
  • Open to growth, instruction and feedback
  • Responsible for yourself, and Respecting others without dishonouring yourself
  • Empathetic and compassionate toward others without Enabling destructive behaviour

Leslie’s CORE teaching has helped some victims clear the fog and start thinking their own thoughts, rather than the implanted thoughts that the abuser has brainwashed them with.

I believe Leslie teaches CORE for the purpose of helping women refocus their priorities back to living biblically … The abuser twists so much up resulting in one’s priorities getting lost in the mess and the brain gets muddied. CORE helps combat that. It helps empower the woman from the inside … building blocks. It’s a healthy responsible practice for living in general and also happens to focus on areas where those who’ve been caught up in an abusive relationship tend to be lacking or have been worn down.
Wendy C

Do the four principles of CORE have some biblical basis? I believe they do; let me explain this in my own words:

C: I am called to believe the truth and face reality. Sometimes I want to flee from the truth. But Jesus says that the truth sets us free. If I’m being abused by someone, I may not want to recognise that I’m being abused because if I accept that reality it cascades into me having to face many tough decisions. What shall I do, now that I know I’m being abused?  Truth and reality can be tough to face, but facing truth and reality does me good in the long run because it can set me on the path to freedom.

O: I need to be open to growth, instruction and feedback, so long as the instruction and feedback is wise counsel that balances the whole counsel of God’s Word.

R: I want to be responsible for myself and respectful towards others, without dishonouring myself.

E: I am called to be empathetic and compassionate towards others; but I’m not called to enable destructive behaviour.

Concerns that some victims have about Leslie Vernick’s work

If you have been helped by Leslie’s work, please be tolerant and try to understand the  perspectives of other women who do not have glowing praise for Leslie’s work.

Leslie’s picture of the abuser, and her elasticity in terminology

Leslie tells the abused woman that her abuser is a broken man, a sinner, just like her. She says he is blind and overcome by darkness.
–  email from a woman who is doing Leslie’s Conquer program

To say the abuser is a sinner just like the victim is what I call ‘sin levelling’.  Sin levelling is dangerous and unbiblical.

And to say the abuser is blind, evacuates the intentionality of the abuse from the picture.

Let me share with you some wise words from William Tyndale:

It is therefore a sure and undoubted conclusion, whether we be holy or unholy, we are all sinners. But the difference is, that God’s sinners consent not to their sin. They consent unto the law that it is both holy and righteous and mourn to have their sins taken away. But the devil’s sinners consent unto their sin and would have the law and hell taken away and are enemies unto the righteousness of God.
– “The Obedience of a Christian Man,” William Tyndale, 1528. (p 163 in the Penguin edition published in 2000)

Leslie is unclear about what abusers are

Sometimes she calls them evil, yet most often she calls them fools (or destructive). She has a handout that explains George Simon’s material, but she says that abusers are hurting and deformed and need compassion, so she contradicts Simon’s material.
– email from a survivor who now helps women get free. (Look at footnote ¹ below if you want to explore George Simon’s material.) 

I have been pondering this and I think it is crucial. Leslie’s elastic terminology makes her material palatable to readers from all sides of the spectrum. But her elasticity in terminology gives rise to much confusion.

In March 2018 Leslie emailed me expressing concern about what I’d said here about her CORE teaching. We exchanged several emails as a result. As part of that exchange I gave her feedback about what I thought were shortfalls in her approach, hoping she would take what I said on board to improve the way she writes about abusive/destructive marriages. In one of her replies to me, she said:

My book was not just about abusive marriages but also about destructive ones and I stand by what I wrote.

I had always had the impression Leslie equated ‘destructive marriages’ with ‘abusive marriages’.  So when she indicated that she sees some kind of distinction between destructive marriages and abusive marriages, I was floored.

She also told me that she didn’t think there was much point in discussing our differences. So I am left wondering how and why Leslie differentiates between a ‘destructive marriage’ and an ‘abusive marriage’.

Women who identify as victims of abuse are forking out $27 a month for her Conquer Program and even more if they participate in her intensive programs and individual coaching. Surely they need to know that Leslie makes this distinction, so they can decide whether or not Leslie’s programs are for them?

Leslie’s advice to the victim

She tells women to be respectful so they will not become destructive and deformed like their spouses – this is fear mongering and encourages women to be afraid of themselves.

On the one hand she says that you can leave a ‘destructive marriage’ yet on the other hand she encourages women to stay well. She tells women to work on themselves to change the marriage but also says some abusers won’t change (and we know that it’s more like NO abusers will change) but she gives them false hope that the marriage can change if the woman changes.

For women already living with cognitive dissonance, I think Leslie’s teaching is an absolute landmine of gray areas, false hopes and confusion. Women need clarity and truth, like your blog gives. The Word is a sword and should bring clarity, like your writing does, and Leslie’s writing brings utter confusion.
– email from a survivor who now helps women get free.

Leslie urges the victim to work on herself to develop her character and become more godly by developing the attitudes and skills of CORE. I believe that in giving that advice, Leslie is insufficiently taking into account the context and dynamics of intimate partner abuse. The abuser is already systematically disassembling the victim by saying/covertly implying that she ought to work on herself to change her attitudes and behaviours.

Leslie’s exhortations to victims to ‘work on themselves’ all too easily come over as echoes and replications of the denigrating, mind-controlling injunctions that abusers and churches have given to victims. The emphasis Leslie puts on the victim to get her own act together by developing her CORE can all too easily counteract the non-blaming messages which Leslie gives to the victim.

I understand that Leslie Vernick is trained as a Biblical Counselor. Biblical Counseling has at least some of its roots in Nouthetic Counseling which was developed by Jay Adams. Nouthetic Counseling tended to focus on the sins of the client: the defects and shortfalls of the person seeking counseling. In my view, Leslie has unfortunately brought rather too much of this ‘defect’ focus into to her work with victims of domestic abuse.

Let me again give the graphic² I have been using in this series of posts:

The abuser has been dishonouring the victim countless times. The victim has had to mentally fight to resist those dishonouring messages. Leslie’s CORE advice all too easily dishonours the victim by pointing out the victim’s shortfalls.

As the graphic suggests, one way we can help the victim is to elucidate (shed light on) her responses to the abuse, and honour all the ways she has determinedly and prudently resisted the abuse. When we do that, the victim is encouraged. Her dignity, self-respect and personhood – which she has been valiantly trying to uphold against the abuser’s demeaning – are seen, acknowledged and honoured.

Each individual victim experiences a unique combination of opportunities and dangers. When her responses and resistance to the abuse are elucidated and honoured, she feels affirmed and respected. With that kind of affirmation, it is far easier for the victim to disentangle the many false teachings she had heard from the church, and replace them with true biblical principles/ doctrines. With that kind of affirmation, she can much more easily begin to think through what she might want to do and say (or not say) to enhance her and her children’s safety and future well-being in her particular circumstances.

But Leslie does not give enough of that kind of affirmation and support. She gives crumbs of affirmation to victims; but right on the heels of those affirmations she says things that make the victim feel there is something wrong with her.

Don Hennessy is a relationships counselor who has met with at least 1500 men who have abused their female partners and worked closely with at least 1000 of those men (link). He says:

The main reason why any woman becomes trapped in an abusive relationship is because a skilled offender decided to target her. When we look for any explanation for the continuing abuse by analysing the character or the behaviour of the sufferer we not only further abuse the woman but also begin the process of colluding with the abuser.

This collusion is the lifeblood of the skilled offender. He has drawn us over to his worldview. In a very subtle, covert and powerful way he has targeted us all. We have all be targeted without even knowing it. We are all subjected to the same tactics as the target woman and sadly we are all capable of colluding with the abuser.

We must stop the practice of examining the target woman’s behaviour. Instead we might try to examine and reveal the accurate, effective and intentional processes used by the skilled offender. These tactics when used in the context of an intimate relationship can clearly be described as a kind of brainwashing.

All the psychephiles that I have met have the skill to surreptitiously carry out this brainwashing while pretending to be in love.
click here for the page numbers where Don Hennessy said these things.
click here for more info about Don Hennessy.

Leslie repeatedly warns victims to not take vengeance into their own hands. To not be angry, selfish, or bitter. She urges them to doubt their own thinking and second guess their own instincts. Leslie implies that the victim’s fear, terror, worry, anxiety, self-doubt and feelings of hopelessness are wrong. She tells them that it’s wrong to feel hate for their abusers. She tells victims that they need to learn how to stop feeling those things by changing their thinking.

It is obvious to me that a lot of Leslie’s teaching is simplistic cognitive behaviour therapy made to sound like Christian wisdom.

She sprinkles in a few cherry-picked scriptures, but quite often she applies them in an unbalanced way. For examples of how to balance scriptures that are often used on victims, go to footnote ³ at the bottom of this post.

She makes her teaching easy-to-digest by giving a few anecdotal stories, but her anecdotal examples are often totally irrelevant and inapplicable to the nefarious covert mind-control strategies used by men who abuse their female intimate partners.

Leslie’s personal experience is with a ‘destructive’ mom, not an abusive husband, and it’s pretty obvious that her knowledge about intimate partner abuse is second hand and theory based. She has never lived with the utter confusion, brainwashing and CPTSD that being abused by a husband (and betrayed by your church) brings. She makes it sound so easy to just not be abused by working on yourself and live your own happy fulfilling life while having empathy for how broken your husband is and setting boundaries against his overtly abusive behaviours. That may work with a ‘destructive mom’ when you are an adult with your own life and great husband, but good luck with that while you are married to an evil man!
– email from a survivor who now helps women get free.

Leslie tells the abused woman that she needs to figure out how to stop letting her abuser erode her self-confidence. But at the same time, she tells the abused woman to stop trying to figure out what her abuser is doing. That’s a double-bind if ever there was one! It is like telling a building owner he MUST figure out how to stop letting graffiti vandals spray graffiti on the walls of his building, while simultaneously telling him that he must NOT try to figure out when and how the vandals are getting at the walls of the building to spray their foul messages.

IMO, every abuser has the same goal, but they don’t work in the exact same ways. Abusers work hard to get into our heads in order to abuse us. Victims, in turn, might try to get into the heads of the abusers in order to know how to resist them!

I wanted to keep as much separation as possible from my abuser, but in order to stay alive I had to get into his head, while still trying to prevent him from getting into mine.
Helovesme

Leslie urges an abused woman to figure out what SHE has been doing that allows this angry and controlling man to make her feel so afraid and small. That is another double bind. It’s like telling an altar boy that he needs to figure out what he has been doing that allows the priests to molest him.

Leslie even blames the victim for blaming the abuser! Yes, you heard me right. I know this for a fact because a woman who has done Leslie’s CONQUER program reported to me that Leslie tells the women: “It’s tempting to make him into the bad guy and feel like the victim instead of taking responsibility for your own safety, your own health, your own sanity and your own growth.”

Let me offer you, dear reader, a reality check—

  • The abuser IS the bad guy.
    • If you are a victim it is okay to say that your abuser IS the bad guy.
    • If you are a victim, it is okay to tell the world that you are not to blame for what your abuser did to you.
  • The victim can face and voice the fact that she is a victim, while at the same time making choices for her own health, safety, sanity and growth.
  • If the victim doesn’t want to call herself a victim, she can call herself a survivor because she is a survivor, even if her perpetrators are still abusing her.
  • I will reverse the genders to help male victims of abuse who read this blog:— If the victim doesn’t want to call himself a victim, he can call himself a survivor because he is a survivor, even if his perpetrators are still abusing him.

Emphasis on the victim calling the abuser to repentance

Another thing that some victims find off-putting about Leslie’s work is that she urges the victim to call the abuser to repentance. She advises the abused woman to speak to her husband telling him what specific things in his conduct and attitude are wrong. She encourages and coaches the abused woman to speak to her husband in a way which will give him the best chance of becoming aware of the destructive things he is doing, so that he might repent and change his ways.

This is problematic for several reasons. Firstly, it assumes that abuser is not conscious or intentional about his wrongdoing. That is not true. See Don Hennessy’s material.

Secondly, it puts a burden on the victim which is not the victim’s burden to bear –  a burden that Christendom has been laying on victims for literally centuries.

She urges the woman to have compassion for the abuser’s blindness and the fact that he is overcome by darkness. She says that if the woman maintains compassion for the abuser, without enabling him, that not only protects her from staying a victim, but it protects her from becoming an abuser herself. She tells women the way to do this is to set good boundaries. Be strong and firm with you ‘No’ while being kind and caring as well. Step back from the abuser when you have to. Deliver consequences where needed, and stick to them. But make sure you do this clearly, firmly, and lovingly; don’t be angry, mean, hateful or bitter!

She suggests phrases for speaking to your abuser: “I love you, but I will not continue to allow myself to be treated this way.” Or “I care about you, but it’s not okay with me that you treat me this way even if you’re upset.”

Am I wrong to think these phrases are unrealistic? If I said things like that to my abuser he would probably mock me sarcastically. I could say, “It’s not okay for you to treat me this way.” But to say “I love you” at the beginning seems lame. What would be more honest is if I said, “I hate the way you are treating me, and God hates it too.” But to do that would be very risky.
– email from a woman who is doing the Conquer program

Being angry at abusers and hating abuse are pretty much the same as being outraged about what abusers do.

If I didn’t leave and don’t continue to stay away at all costs – committed to reality and truth of what’s going on – I’ll die in more ways than one, and my children will continue to become like him. I’m angry at the evil done by him and angry that it’s covered up and justified by this church. If I don’t stay angry at abuse I’ll do just what they do. And I’m committed to never going back to the lie – meaning I’ll always be outraged by abuse wherever it is.
Lost

Leslie’s suggestions about how the abused woman is to speak to her abuser remind me a little of John Piper’s ludicrous suggestion when he answered the question “What should a wife’s submission look like if he’s an abuser?”

Thirdly, it pushes victims onto the mouse-wheel of self-scrutiny about whether they have personally done enough to call the abuser to repentance:

I see CORE as a call to arms, a call to truth, and personally I used it to make sure I had done everything in my power to salvage a long time marriage to an unrepentant man…..in as far as I was able. I took responsibility for my responses and took the high ground while not engaging in sinful aggressive behavior toward my husband. It went from bad to worse as he used my honesty to further his abuses and pick at my shortcomings and failures.

It was ten years after the divorce when I first saw any Vernick posts/videos but I was still, after a decade, struggling with whether I had done enough (!!!) to salvage the relationship. So I revisited all of the questions again, reviewed all of the responses, made clear my no contact rules, and continued the search for truth and meaning in all that happened during thirty years. Clearly I took more responsibility and tried harder!
Mary Reid

Dangers inherent in Leslie’s approach

The best application of Leslie’s book is helping us recognize and name the abuse… After that her clarity falls apart a good bit into a mishmash of spiritual steps, many of which are dependent on the recognition and support of those outside the abusive system.  Leslie has women engaging waaaaaay too long in the unending counseling/ communication loop and not separating for quite a while into process; thereby giving the abuser access to her head and thoughts etc.
Alaine Nicole E

When the victim tells the abuser how his specific evil behaviours are affecting her, this just gives him more information about what his victim is thinking and feeling. The abuser will typically utilise this information to refine his strategies even further in order to continue re-offending, re-grooming and re-offending. He use all the information she gives him to become more crafty, more manipulative, more duplicitous.

Leslie always advises the target of abuse that before leaving the abuser or doing anything “radical”, the target should make a list of grievances and approach the abuser with it when he was calm and happy. Then, if/when he gets all upset for confronting him, the target was supposed to just calmly repeat that this discussion was not going to veer off topic and she was to keep on repeating the items on the list. The target was supposed to have built up so much inner strength and vision of who she was in Christ that she could let his insults during this confrontation roll off her “armor”. That whole process just seemed bizarre to me for several reasons.

1) Confronting an abuser when he’s calm and happy is not only counter-intuitive, it can also be dangerous. The target has learned to walk on eggshells for a reason. He can turn on her at any moment. Self-preservation has taught her never to poke the sleeping bear. The book tells her she just has to build up enough intestinal fortitude so what he does to her won’t bother her. It’s like telling her to poke the bear, but not to let what happens next bother her because she’s toned her abs. It’s dangerous. And weird.

2) If he feels confronted, and it feels different to him than other fights, he may realize that he’s losing power over her, making him even more dangerous. Many of us have heard the statistics, heard the stories, that DV murders occur most frequently when the victim is planning to leave or right after she leaves. Demonstrating to him that he’s losing power over her, startling him that she seems different all of a sudden, showing that he can’t hurt her or rile her or cripple her emotionally like he used to – all of that is just asking for trouble. I don’t care how “grounded in Christ” she may have worked herself up to be. He is not grounded in Christ. And now, his domain has been threatened.

3) Leslie’s ideas that the target needs to get herself “grounded in Christ” is completely unrealistic. Christ is a spiritual being whose words she hears off a page in a book that she may not be allowed to read or may not have time to read. Her abuser is a looming physically-present being who tears her down in some way everyday. When it’s wave after wave, she will not have the time or energy to “center her worth and value in what Christ says about her.” I’m out of my situation for a few years now, and I still don’t know how to do that. The best thing I’ve found is to finally hear big waves of truth. I know I had not heard anything previously like what I’m hearing now from Ps Jeff’s Wise as Serpents series, Barb’s talk on the concubine in Judges, and Liam Goligher’s sermons.

All I had ever heard before was about the sin of the week, shame on you for doing it, and the four Q’s or the five P’s to overcome it. I’d hear about breaking one part of the law means you’ve broken the whole thing. I’d hear how we need to “love” the “difficult” people who are hurting so much that now they’re hurting you. So, how does an abuse victim “center herself” in that?
Moody Mom

When the abused woman shows her husband that she is determined to hold him accountable, he will do whatever he can to try to tighten the thumbscrews. He may escalate the abuse in more scary abusive outbursts and verbal shredding, to terrify her into submission. Or he may fake repentance and reformation in order to suck her back in. Or he may deviously and covertly manipulate her to wear down her clear-headed determination to hold him accountable. He can and will be a chameleon of many colours: he will do whatever works to help him continue abusing ‘his’ target woman.

I do love and support Leslie and her book was very useful in my journey. She just needs the critical truths that Don Hennessy teaches to add to her understanding of the dynamics of abuse.
Alaine Nicole E

Don Hennessy calls men who abuse their intimate female partners “male intimate abusers”. He says these men will go out of their way to find a woman they can take advantage of.

He says these men select, groom and brainwash their victims in order to offend against them long term. He describes how the male intimate abuser selects, targets, grooms, brainwashes, offends, re-grooms and re-offends against his target:

If he meets somebody who has more self-interest than concern for him, or who doesn’t respond the way he wants, he tends to move on. Abusers look for kindness, and they abuse that kindness.

They are probably the biggest Con Men I have come across in my life. They are very capable of presenting themselves in whatever way is attractive to the woman. If she tries to leave, he will pull her back. He will convince her that if she changes or improves, everything will be okay.

She is constantly being re-groomed. The process is exactly the same as with a paedophile. And as with the paedophile, the primary sense of entitlement is sexual.
link, with sources for where Don Hennessy said these things.

 Shall we apply some of the principles of CORE to Leslie?

The C in CORE stands for Committed to truth and reality. Maybe Leslie could do with a reality check herself!

Leslie urges the abused woman to be open to the possibility that the stories she is telling herself in her own head are not true. I wish Leslie would be more open to that possibility herself.
– email from a woman who is doing the Conquer program.

An abusive man leaves no room for any of the work that Leslie recommends the victim do. I believe living with an abusive, controlling destructive, hateful man will make it impossible to build a CORE. To stay with an abuser is the opposite of the C in CORE, because the abuser NEEDS you to believe and live under his lie. I can’t even do a simple house chore or enjoy anything without my husband sabotaging it. I mean, I like sunny days like anyone else, and because I enjoy that he’d make sure I was convinced to stay inside somehow. Not just for the day either. If I didn’t go along with his plan or belief, then I would certainly pay later on. He was teaching me ever so subtly to eventually not enjoy anything and to not be responsible because there was always a consequence if I did. Always.
Lost

The O in CORE stands for Open to growth, instruction and feedback.

Leslie urges the abused woman to invite wise others to talk over her internal stories, so that she is “not overreacting or under reacting” because she is not telling herself the truth.
– email from a woman who is doing the Conquer program.

I invite Leslie to listen to feedback from abused women who think that Leslie is not telling herself the truth.

In Leslie’s acronym CORE, the O stands for “Open to growth, instruction and feedback”. This sends the message that others know something you don’t and that you must be open to learning it. Learning from ACFJ and the ACFJ commenters – those who are outraged by abuse and don’t empathize with abusers – is the only support so far that has helped me see the truth. To be open (safely) is having other abuse-educated non-abusers and non-allies who support those who are abused, and who do not support those who abuse. Otherwise you may be hearing good information from a twisted source which equals twisted information.
Lost

The E in CORE stands for Empathetic and compassionate toward others without Enabling destructive behaviour.

In my opinion, the only “enablers” are the ones who abuse or agree with the abuser. I’m over believing “it’s crucial that you not lose your empathy and compassion even in a destructive marriage.” I CAN’T have empathy or compassion for my abuser. If I do, I’m in trouble: I’m walking into a set-up somehow eventually.
Lost

As Don Hennessy points out, abusers select and target women who are empathic and kind. So victims of domestic abuse are usually high in empathy already!

Don’t get me started on her CORE strength model where the E stands for empathy for the abuser. Aaarrrgh. It was empathy for my husband that KEPT me in the marriage for so long and increased the damage he did to me.
– email from a survivor who now helps  women get free

Leslie says that having empathy or compassion for your abuser doesn’t mean you enable him or trust him or allow him to continue to hurt you. But the problem is, in urging victims not to enable the destructive behaviour Leslie subtly but effectively does two things:

  1. She conceals the abuse (row one in the graphic) by not recognising how sophisticated abusers are at invading and brainwashing the minds of their targets.
  2. She obfuscates some of the abusers’ responsibility (row two in the graphic) by making it sound like victims are to some degree responsible for “enabling” their abusers.

Leslie talks about facing reality. Well, here is reality:

  • The abuser carries out the abuse.
  • Institutions and attitudes in society and the church enable him to get away with it.
  • The victim does not enable the abuse: she determinedly and prudently resists the abuse.
  • The abuser is 100% responsible for the abuse.
  • Society and the church are responsible for the degree to which they passively or actively enable the abuser to get away with it.
  • The victim is not responsible for the abuse.
  • The victim is not responsible for the continuation of the abuse.
  • It is wrong for counselors and advocates to tell victims they need to stop enabling the abuse.

The devaluing of victims is endemic because, as Don Hennessy says, “the skilled offender has drawn us over to his worldview. He has targeted us all. We have all be targeted without even knowing it.”

I don’t think that women who are abused lack respect, empathy, or a willingness to learn. I think they have those things already. They’ve been duped and forced to believe twisted lies in order to merely survive each day. Perhaps Leslie’s book would be better applied if there weren’t so much deception and wickedness running rampant in this world. Because it isn’t just the abuser lying – it’s otheirr women and men and churches and police who have this ugly and twisted idea that victims are worthless and not to be believed or respected.
Lost

No wonder many victims find Leslie’s work confusing! She says that the abuser is 100% responsible for his wrongdoing, but out of the other side of her mouth she urges the victim to take responsibility for calling him to repentance and no longer “enabling” him. And she does all this without sufficient regard for the danger this creates for many victims.

Pathologising victims

To pathologise means “to regard or treat as psychologically abnormal” (Oxford Dictionary).

The R in CORE stands for Responsible for yourself and Respecting others without dishonouring yourself.

Leslie urges victims to respect to respect others…but she disrespects victims by pathologising them. She is not alone in this. Many helping professionals do it, e.g., Chris Moles who is another member of the SBC’s ChurchCares teaching team.

Counselors, when you depict victims’ responses to abuse as defective, you convey that the victims are WRONG – which is what the abusers have been saying.

Leslie goes into details about how to not be “in sin” when she’s actually describing healthy responses that victims have like anger, normal coping mechanisms, and resistance.

She uses the term “reactive abuse” and calls it sin. But what she calls “reactive abuse” are totally understandable responses women have to being abused. Leslie should tell women that, so they won’t feel guilty. I think that if women are retaliating with, for example, physical violence, it’s a sign to get out.

She promotes being a “sweet gentle Christian woman” while also encouraging women to be strong and not tolerate abuse. She puts ALL the pressure on the women to do better, be better, react better. If I had done her program while I was still struggling with my overactive conscience, I would have gone stark raving mad with self condemnation. Whenever I read her material I feel like I need to walk on eggshells, afraid that I’m always on the verge of falling into sin.

Some of the stuff she teaches sounds really good, and there’s lots of bible verses thrown in, but I always just think “?!?!WHAT?!??!” When I read her stuff I can’t see how to implement it. It brings a similar confusion to me that my husband’s covert abuse brought – it looks so good on the surface but something is very, very off.
– email from a survivor who now helps women get free.

If counselors and bystanders elucidate and honour victims’ resistance, victims naturally gain confidence because the stigma of pathology is lifted. They feel their hope rising. They are better able to hear their own instincts – and the Holy Spirit. They are empowered to figure out and take action to enhance their future well-being and heal from the mind control of the abuser and his allies.

Another way Leslie pathologises victims is by belittling them:

Leslie’s book runs on the assumption that the target has never tried to communicate or explain the damage the abuser was doing. That’s just nonsense. She’s been living with the guy for a long time – years or even decades. And she has never thought to tell the guy that he’s hurting her? This mom never bothered to tell him that he’s hurting the kids? That he’s hurting their family? Their marriage? She may have eventually been cowed or worn down, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t tried. It doesn’t mean she hasn’t told him before. And it certainly doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know what he’s doing.
Moody Mom

In addition, Leslie pathologises victims is by giving the idea that it is wrong to be a victim:

Leslie has this really negative idea of what it means to be a victim. She puts victims down by saying that victims are helpless – a victim depends on her abuser to change, or depends on a hero to help.

She tells women to stop focusing their energy on trying to get the abuser to change – that’s good advice. But she also tells women they need to figure how to stop being repeat victims. They need to grow into “warriors” instead of “chronic worriers”. They need to become “owners” instead of “repeat victims”. And the kicker is, she says this means being a God-centered woman rather than a self-centered or husband-centered or marriage-centered person.
– email from a woman who is doing the Conquer program.

Leslie’s victim/owner antithesis is not helpful. It all too easily discredits and pathologises victims for having a ‘victim mentality’.

FACT: When someone abuses another person, that person IS a victim of abuse. By telling victims that they need to become “owners” rather than “victims”, Leslie subtly conveys the idea that they are wrong (defective) for being victims.

FACT: Abused Christian women tend to be very God-centred while they are in the abuse, as well as after they leave. They are not self-centred. They sincerely desire to obey God. They pray a great deal. They examine their consciences; they confess when they think they have sinned; they strive to do better and be more godly in the future.

The problem is, they have been MIS-taught and brainwashed to believe that most of their responses to abuse are sinful, whereas most of their responses to abuse are righteous and godly responses to being abused! And who has brainwashed them? The abusers. And the visible church that has been hoodwinked by the narratives of abusers.

Of course, a victim-survivor is free to say about herself “I was lacking in certain qualities / skills / discernment / character traits.” …or… “I was enabling my abuser.”  It’s fine if you want to speak that way about yourself; but please don’t speak that way about other victims.

The word “victim” can be used in many different ways:

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.

…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.

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.
– condensed from comment by Helovesme

Lastly, Leslie does not give clear messages about divorce for abuse

Her book The Emotionally Destructive Marriage does not state categorically that scripture condones divorce for domestic abuse.

Years ago, Leslie wrote a blog post for the Association of Biblical Counselors in which she approvingly quoted my view on the ‘God hates divorce’ slogan.  Here is what she said:

Barbara Roberts writes in her book Not Under Bondage, “God did not say ‘I hate divorce’, nor did he condemn all divorce. We should therefore stop using the slogan ‘God hates divorce’. If we still need a slogan, it would be better to say, ‘God hates treacherous divorce, but he does not hate disciplinary divorce’. ”

In other words her extensive research shows that there are biblical grounds for divorce and one of them is abuse. [source, June 2014]

That is not the only time Leslie has recommended my work.

  • She shared my presentation on The Levite’s Concubine at her blog in Nov 2013.
  • In Oct 2014 she gave away to her followers a few copies of my book Not Under Bondage and Jeff Crippen’s first book. (I have emails to prove this.)
  • In 2017 she gave a handout in which she recommended the ACFJ blog, Jeff Crippen’s first book and my book Not Under Bondage.
  • She has recommended my book Not Under Bondage many times at her blog (Aug 2013, April 2014, June 2014, July 2014, Sep 2016).

But although she has recommended my book, she either does not understand or does not agree with many of the arguments I made in it. I say this with surety because in May 2018 she published a post at her blog in which she articulated her own understanding of the Bible’s teaching on divorce for abuse. In my view, she put forward several ignorant un-scholarly arguments. It was like she had only skimmed my book.

Dear reader, I always want to encourage you to do your own thinking and evaluation. If you want to think it through for yourself, I suggest you compare Leslie’s 2018 post What Biblical Grounds Are There For Divorce In The Face Of Abuse? with these three posts of mine:

***

¹ George Simon is a clinical psychologist who has acquired a lot of wisdom about manipulative people and character disorders. George Simon’s internet writings and books.

² 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 – the link takes you to a PDF of the article which was originally published in the Journal of Family Violence (2007) 22:511-522.

³ The following items give tips for how to balance some of the scriptures that are often used on victims:

Further reading

Other posts in this 5-part series on the ChurchCares teaching team

Pt 1: Churchcares.com – the SBC’s plan to equip churches to respond to abuse (focuses on Chris Moles)

Pt 2: Darby Strickland is raising awareness about domestic abuse, but…

Pt 3: Diane Langberg is advocating for abuse victims, but…

Pt 4: Why I publish my concerns about various abuse advocates

Training for pastors and counselors

As a pastor, what are the most important things for me to know about domestic abuse?

For professionals who work in Domestic Abuse – (Don Hennessy series part 8)

Distinguishing genuine victims from pseudo-victims

Defining domestic abuse by a list of behaviors in never going to capture it

The language of abusers who portray themselves as victims — Vagueness & Contradictions

My abuser says I am the abuser!

Other people’s thoughts about Leslie Vernick’s work

Karly Owen Foisy’s review of Leslie’s book The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. Karly is a counselor or mental health professional of some kind.

Comments about Leslie Vernick’s work at this post on our Facebook page.

How victims resist abuse, and why we need to elucidate and honour victims’ resistance

Victims resist abuse in prudent, determined and creative ways

The Myth of “Stockholm Syndrome” and other labels which are used to discredit and pathologize victims of abuse – A synopsis of a video presentation by Allan Wade. The video is embedded in the post

 

172 Comments

  1. Aimee

    I listened to part of the audio version on Lesley Vernick’s book. I totally agree with Barbara. Confronting the abuser with your concerns doesn’t work!!! He just turns the (perceived) attack back on you. An abusive man will perceive ‘concerns’ as criticism and he can’t take criticism. Faced with a hostile, threatening, angry male, how many women can maintain their poise??? Given the inequality in physical and (often) emotional strength, most wives (usually the abused are wives as has been well documented) are at a disadvantage. Lesley’s advice sounds good but is totally impractical. Get real!!!

    • Annie

      Leslie does not teach sin-levelling. See her post 5 Indicators of a wicked heart.

      • Hi Annie, please accept my apologies for the delay in moderating your comment. Before publishing it, I wanted to think about how I would reply to it.

        I am well aware of Leslie’s post “5 Indicators of a wicked heart”. I read it when it first came out, and I re-read it while drafting this post of mine. I think that post of hers is better than many of her other posts. But it is not her only post, and in many of her other materials she does (IMO) teach a form of sin-levelling. It is characteristic of her that she is confusing: what she says in one place does not line up with what she says in another place.

        I also want to point out her 5 Indicators of a wicked heart is not aimed at victims of abuse. She makes it clear in the opening paragraph who she is aiming the post at: “As Christian counselors, pastors and people helpers we often have a hard time discerning between an evil heart and an ordinary sinner who messes up, who isn’t perfect, and full of weakness and sin.”

        And further down the post she says: “If you are working with someone who exhibits these characteristics it’s important that you confront them head on. You must name evil for what it is. The longer you try to reason with them or show mercy towards them, the more you, as the Christian counselor, will become a pawn in his or her game.”

        As far as I am aware, that post of hers was first published at the blog of the Association of Biblical Counselors where it was titled 5 Indicators of a Wicked and Evil Heart.

        It strikes me as odd that she thought it was important to advise counselors how to identify a wicked heart…. and only later on re-publish that info at her own blog where victims of abuse would be more likely to read it. To my mind, that shows her lack of care for victims, and her reluctance to let them call their abusers EVIL.

        Of course, many victims have found that post of hers helpful. I don’t deny that for a second.

    • Helovesme

      Aimee, thank you for bringing up those points.

      I am on the shorter side, so nearly everyone is taller than I am. Being bigger and stronger can encourage a false sense of superiority over those that are not so big, and not so strong.

      It absolutely does NOT mean that everyone who has the physical advantage will abuse! But it means a great deal if you dare to try to lock horns with an abuser.

      Add to that if the other person wholeheartedly believes you are the inferior one, and not just physically.

      Barb’s post touched on something that I have experienced for years when it comes to abuse, and the Biblical (or so called Biblical) responses to it: confusion.

      I was so blessed to read that. Feeling confused for so long made me wonder if I had low IQ or something. Was I lacking sanity and clear thinking—-thereby making me unable to make sense of much of the “mixed messages” being tossed around?

      One potential sign of deceptive teaching IS that it’s confusing. Your mind has a hard time keeping up with its twists and turns. You try frantically to keep up, trying to get a hold of one thing before the next thing throws you into even more confusion!

      Deception tends to spin around, go in lots of circles, and go in lots of directions—much like a spider weaving a web. And then you find yourself very much “caught” in that web, stuck and re-stuck in all its complicated intricacies.

      Barb did a great job in listing things out much more simply, clearly and frankly—boldly. It left very little room, if any, for confusion. It will do more to lift that “fog” that abuse puts us in, than adding to it. Which is what deception will do—it will only make the problem worse.

      I know nothing of Leslie’s work except what I’ve read here, and I mean no personal disrespect to her. I am not calling her a deceiver or calling her entire teaching deceptive.

      Just pointing out that if you or anyone else really want to help victims—-please, don’t confuse them already more than they might already be.

      Abuse is destructive and deadly, and there is nothing sensible in any of that. No one can explain it away, Abuse is founded and rooted in deception. It’s vital that in order to set victims free, we are determined to be founded and rooted in Biblical truth—from start to finish. Not even one shred of deception is allowed to be included or allowed to flourish.

      There is no such things as “sort of” being set free by Him, and only “kind” of free indeed (John 8:36). And any speck of lies included in counseling and ministering to victims will hinder that.

      And Jesus did not die for us to even keep one of our fingernails still trapped in bondage.

      • Hope

        Yes, thank you!
        Leslie’s teaching of truth plus untruth is horribly confusing!

        Her obvious ability to flip-flop on certain truths is beyond unhelpful, it is damaging. Flip-flops such as:
        — abusers can change/ abusers don’t change
        — it isn’t the victim’s fault/ the victim had a part in the abuse.

        If God is not the author or creator of confusion, but of peace (1 Cor 14:33), then confusion is against God. If it is against God, then it is sin. If confusion of this type (a mix of truth and lies) is sin, it is always wrong, it is always ugly, always dangerous, and always destructive.

        And for the record, I’ve read five of Leslie’s books, watched many of her videos, and taken her Introduction to CORE Strength counseling/class.

      • Artina

        Yes, thank you, too, Hope, and Helovesme. Both of your comments give needed clear words and explanations to think about when I feel, or when I remember, being more “stuck” and “re-stuck”. In my past when counselors or teachers would say God is a God of order I would feel self-condemnation for not being able to make sense of the hierarchy, male headship as a military authority as ordained by God and being confused about loyalty and personal responsibility. When counselors used the word confusion I felt some relief from the self-condemnation but definitely didn’t want to stay confused. Of course, I prayed and tried and hung on for so long, wanting a better relationship, hoping it would get better. Once I had more emotional and physical distance from my abusers, I was able to respectfully question elder women in para ministry/church leadership positions more and it often would seem like there were differences around certain important concepts such as authority, personal responsibility, abuse , forgiveness and reconciliation and joyful growing in faith. I felt inferior because I didn’t have the certitude in understanding that they seemed to have in their interpretation of these concepts.

        “One potential sign of deceptive teaching IS that it’s confusing. Your mind has a hard time keeping up with its twists and turns. You try frantically to keep up, trying to get a hold of one thing before the next thing throws you into even more confusion!

        Deception tends to spin around, go in lots of circles, and go in lots of directions—much like a spider weaving a web. And then you find yourself very much “caught” in that web, stuck and re-stuck in all its complicated intricacies.”- Helovesme

        This, as well as, “misguided loyalties” (from another of Helovesme’s comments), and confusing others’ responsibilities with mine, neglecting some of mine, both out of ignorance and sometimes not, seem like fitting words to describe where I’ve spent too large a portion of my life’s time. I’m grateful for my existence, though, and do have some good memories as well as lots of sorrow. I am in a better place now in terms of peace, but welcome further work in order to “take back territory” in my mind and “take every thought captive in order for it to be obedient to Christ”.

  2. Sarah

    I think people like Leslie because it allows them to still stay in the church, if you say the right things and stay in the truth only allowed by Christians these days, then you can keep your church family. Those who wake up and say no more have to throw away their church eventually. Looking back I could have done this path but it would have been shutting off complete truth and staying within the Christian box of “you can only go so far then you have to repeat this phrase”. In the end though, I would have been accepting having the abuser in my church with me because he moved here and stalked me on every church I went to because church is his playground. I would have had to be around him every week with people watching me and seeing if I was a good Christian or if I would slip up. He of course would never slip up and I would have had people contacting me saying he must have changed. I was harassed when we were separated and I would forever be harassed. This is why Leslie won’t ever get it. We don’t control our abusers and we need protection NOW, we don’t need to examine ourselves, we are not the abusers

    • Gany T.

      Sarah, There is so much truth and power in your straightforward comment…supported by your actual experience.

      And I think what you say about basically having to toe the company line in the visible church in order to keep one’s church family is spot on for ALL kinds of evil which has sneaked in but which earns truth-tellers and whistle blowers ridicule and shunning by the majority of church goers, be they truly saved or not. (Your comment comes on a day when I REALLY needed to hear it. Thank you!)

      • Finding Answers

        Gany T.,

        I would wholeheartedly echo your comment to a wider audience, eliminating the word “church” and applying it to the secular world.

        Speaking as a whistle-blower and one not given to toe the party line, I have experienced both ridicule and shunning.

      • Sarah

        Gany, HUGS…I am glad you don’t feel alone in that! yes the church is a reflection of society unfortunately so what we see in church we also see in society, I saw very little difference.

      • Gany T.

        Kind of adding on to my comment and replying to both Finding Answer’s and Sarah’s comments directly below. (Nesting comments can be a tricky little thing, eh? Lol)

        It’s been an unusual Sunday for me (here in the US, that is…but Monday for Barb and others) in that I’ve been able to leisurely read and ponder all the comments here. We often talk about the Church invisible and how cyber fellowship, such as at ACFJ, is like a church home for many of us. Today, here, has been some of THE best fellowship and “church” I’ve had in a long while. It might sound light (but it isn’t to me), but it’s also felt like the best ‘adult Sunday School’ class I’ve ever attended, but deeper, more honest, and safer than any. Thank you, everyone, and my prayers are with you today.

      • Thanks Gany T. I echo the thanks you have given to everyone. I’ve been inspired and moved by what people have said in this comments thread. This kind of discussion helps keep my spirits up so that I keep going with this blog.

    • Helovesme

      Thank you so much for that Sarah. It too confirmed the truth of one of my most terrible experiences in a Christian group setting.

      What you described in church settings is more political thinking than Biblical thinking. The world of politics is often very power and agenda driven. You have to stick to your political party of choice if you want to reap its benefits and sense of protection and power.

      And those that go against the message of your party are often blackballed and considered troublemakers. They may pay a price for daring to think independently, in a way that is inconsistent with the needs of their party. Now you’re selfish and self-centered. You’re not “one of us.” You’re not playing by the rules. You’re making us look bad. A divided party cannot stand, and you’re causing division.

      In a church setting, someone may be seen as disruptive for daring to stick to the Word instead of sticking to the “message” that the church wants to project. And it cannot project that message if even one of their members refuses to adhere to the “group unity.”

      Now the Word is very strong in talking about unity. It constantly admonishes to us stick to the pure and perfect message of the Gospel—-no deviants and no divisions. Anyone who tries to add or take away from the foundation of Christ is not to be tolerated.

      Problem is, the abused are the ones who are branded unfairly. The abusers are coddled. For some reason, it’s all backwards. It’s all political, not Biblical.

      The worst part is not only what that does to victims, but what it does to the message of salvation.

      If you encourage victims to be empowered in Christ, to let His power work through us when we are weak—-that IS the Gospel in action. You are representing the Living God as He truly is.

      I cannot state this passionately enough: if this is how the church would believe and behave, you WILL attract the unsaved. They WILL see a glimpse of His light and love, and will be drawn to Him. There is every reason to believe that they will cross over from death to life, when they see Him as He truly is: full of grace and truth—-ready to embrace the lost, not drive them away.

      If you instead encourage abusers to avert accountability, to play the blame game, to bully and berate victims (as if they have done something to deserve it, which they do not)—-you are in opposition to the message of the Gospel. You may be unified, but you are representing a false god.

      • Finding Answers

        Helovesme commented “If you instead encourage abusers to avert accountability, to play the blame game, to bully and berate victims (as if they have done something to deserve it, which they do not)—-you are in opposition to the message of the Gospel. You may be unified, but you are representing a false god.”

        ^That.

        Helovesme, I am profoundly grateful for this paragraph you wrote. In one succinct paragraph, you have summed up my abusive family of origin. And EVERY time I take down a stronghold they have programmed into my mind, I am expecting to be punished.

        Helovesme also commented “If you encourage victims to be empowered in Christ, to let His power work through us when we are weak—-that IS the Gospel in action. You are representing the Living God as He truly is.”

        ^That.

        Helovesme also commented “And those that go against the message of your party are often blackballed and considered troublemakers. They may pay a price for daring to think independently, in a way that is inconsistent with the needs of their party. Now you’re selfish and self-centered. You’re not “one of us.” You’re not playing by the rules. You’re making us look bad. A divided party cannot stand, and you’re causing division.”

        ^That.

        Helovesme, I am profoundly grateful for this paragraph you wrote. In one succinct paragraph, you have summed up my non-familial abusers. And EVERY time I didn’t toe the party line, I was punished.

        Helovesme also commented “Now the Word is very strong in talking about unity. It constantly admonishes to us stick to the pure and perfect message of the Gospel—-no deviants and no divisions. Anyone who tries to add or take away from the foundation of Christ is not to be tolerated.”

        ^That.

        Hence my reason for No Contact with ALL my abusers.

  3. UnwillingtoPretend

    well said.

  4. fostymom

    I have read Leslie widely, attended a Conquer conference and listened to her multiple webinars and youtube clips. I have also been counseled by a nouthetic counselor. There is absolutely, positively, NO likeness (only contrast) between Leslie’s counsel and a nouthetic counselor.

    I am 100% NOT to blame for marital abuse against me; however, the fact that I have allowed it to continue has many contributing factors, including poor boundaries which are likely rooted in poor character support (imitating poor responses to abuse in my family of origin, as an example).. If I don’t fix those broken character flaws, the abuse will replicate, in my current or future relationships; and, in fact, his abuse will exacerbate my own character flaws (how I respond biblically when I have righteous anger is an example).

    I don’t think it’s good to use other women’s responses as proof for taking a position against Leslie, when you will never know how widely these women have read or heard Leslie’s counsel.

    I welcome a response because I’m blown away by the opposition here to Leslie’s work.

    Thank you.

    • Helovesme

      Hi Fostymom I’m no expert and I do not know Leslie at all, except for what I read on this post. So I’m not in any position to agree or disagree with you about her work as a whole.

      I read your thoughts about “broken character flaws” and making sure abuse did not replicate.

      Here is what you might have been referring to?: “She tells women to be respectful so they will not become destructive and deformed like their spouses.”

      My abuser was my father. Even as an unbeliever, I was fairly determined to not turn out like him: abusive to the weak, yet apathetic to the pain of others. I too thought along the lines as you seem to be—-making sure that I did not continue this cycle of dysfunction and destruction in my own life. I wanted to be a separate person from him, not a product of my abuse. I’m hoping that I’m relating to your words without taking anything out of context.

      Here is what I believe:

      My broken character flaws (and I have plenty of them) have nothing to do with the abuse I suffered. My father abused me because he chose to. I received the abuse because I had no choice in the matter. My character, or lack thereof, was irrelevant.

      I used to think that if I was NOT so anti social, not so stubborn, not so rebellious, not so mouthy, better at school, improved my looks, had a sunnier personality, had a less sunny personality (the list goes on and on)—-he would not abuse me. If only I could please him more, I would be less abused, or not at all.

      My dad’s abuse absolutely left its mark on me. I need healing. I need to be made whole in Him again. I need to cry out to Him to transform me by the renewing of my mind. I need Him to change me from glory to glory. I do not want to be a bitter, broken person forever. I want to see Him take these ashes and make something beautiful out of them.

      But the choice my dad made to abuse me had nothing to do with my character, or lack thereof. It had everything to do with his character. I refuse to connect the two in any way, shape or form, because it’s imperative that I take absolutely no blame for his actions.

      Lord, fix my broken character flaws, yes, but not because they will ensure that the abuse won’t replicate in current or future relationships. If someone ever DOES try to abuse me again, it is not because my character needs more fixing, or because I wasn’t fixed enough. It is because they chose to be abusive towards me, and chose to break me.

      Here is a sample: “The main reason why any woman becomes trapped in an abusive relationship is because a skilled offender decided to target her. When we look for any explanation for the continuing abuse by analysing the character or the behaviour of the sufferer we not only further abuse the woman but also begin the process of colluding with the abuser.”

      I’m of the belief that abuse is NOT “inevitable.” Just because someone targets you does not mean you that it is all said and done. What this post indicates is that abusers are good at what they do, and it has nothing to do with the character of the abuser’s target.

      I’m sure others have much more to contribute than I have.

      • GladI’mout

        Perfect explanation! Thank you so much.

    • Hi Fostymom, thanks for participating in this conversation and taking the time to comment here. I want to apologise for not responding to your comment sooner. I upgraded the operating system on my computer earlier this week and my main email address stopped working on my laptop’s mail program. So I’ve been spending many hours on the phone to Apple since then, trying to help them resolve the issue. Their technicians are now working on a fix…but it’s been a real time soak for me and many others who got caught by the same problem.

      Firstly, let me say that I have read Leslie’s book The Emotionally Destructive Marriage and many of her blog posts. I have also watched many of her webinars and YouTube videos. Maybe I have not read and watched quite as much as you have, but I am certainly not forming my opinion of Leslie’s work on the basis of little information.

      I can easily believe you that the nouthetic counseling you received was vastly different from the counsel you received from Leslie. In my post I did not say Leslie is giving stuff identical to nouthetic counseling; I only said that some of the basic presuppositions of nouthetic counseling seem be influencing Leslie’s approach. That is not the same as saying she is behaving in all respects like the typical nouthetic counselor.

      Secondly, I would like to gently call into question your assumption that if you don’t fix your “broken character flaws” (as you call them) the abuse will replicate in your current or future relationships.

      There are many people who, because of the way they were brought up and what they had to endure as children, have grown into adulthood with character flaws/ emotional immaturity/ lack of interpersonal skills/ or whatever you want to call it. But many of those people happened to have NOT been selected & targetted for marriage by an intimate partner abuser. For example, I’ve heard of many women who were sexually abused in their childhood (and/or abused by their parents in childhood) and these women ended up marrying lovely men who did not abuse them. In the cases that come to mind, the husbands of these women loving and patiently are helping the women work through their trauma and pain. Jacob Denhollander is doing this very thing with his wife Rachael Denhollander; they spoke about this at the recent “Valued” conference, and when the video of their talk comes back online I will be sharing it at this blog.

      Thirdly, you mentioned in relation to your “broken character flaws” how your husband’s abuse might exacerbate your own character flaws, and you gave the way you respond biblically when you have righteous anger as an example. I know that phenomenon from my own experience. I saw it happening to me at times in my first marriage. I also know that for me, separation and eventually divorcing that husband was an essential part of me gaining the space to work on moderating and mitigating my character flaws with the help of the Holy Spirit. My efforts to improve my character while I was living with him went pretty much nowhere. I think that my efforts mostly resulted in me using prayer to go into denial and thereby become a pushover for him to re-abuse me.

      Lastly, you said:

      I don’t think it’s good to use other women’s responses as proof for taking a position against Leslie, when you will never know how widely these women have read or heard Leslie’s counsel.

      Whether or not the women I have quoted in this post have read and heard Leslie’s material widely or less widely, they are each entitled to express their own opinions. Is it reasonable to expect that a victim must have read and listened to a great deal of an advocate’s work before they are allowed to express their opinion about that advocate’s work? Especially if these victims have felt hurt and confused by what Leslie says.

      Remember, these people who are expressing negative views of Leslie’s work are victims of intimate partner abuse, whereas Leslie is a well-known Christian counselor/teacher in this field. She has a duty of care for her readers, especially those of her readers who have suffered intimate partner abuse. And when her readers are feeling confused or hurt or made more guilty by her advice, that’s pretty serious.

      Some may point out that I too have been accused of saying hurtful things to victims. But the victims who say they felt hurt or shamed by me are saying that about much more minor actions of mine. For example, when to save me time as a moderator of this blog I asked readers to put double-line paragraph breaks in their long comments, or asked them to not use ALL CAPS in their comments, some readers felt I was being schoolmarmish and was picking on or shaming victims rather like the abuser picks on his target. But the people who have criticised my manner have not said I’ve given bad advice that would mislead victims about how to respond to the abuse they are suffering. So the critiques of me are not of the same order as the critiques of Leslie Vernick.

      People have sometimes expressed on Twitter or Facebook negative opinions about my work. I suspect that some of those who express negative opinions about my work have not read my work in much depth… and yes, it disappoints me when people (especially other advocates) say negative things about me without having read my work in much depth. But I have to allow them the right to form their own views and express their own opinions, even if they choose not to read my work in much depth. I encourage you to do the same with the opinions of the folks who I’ve quoted in this post, whether or not those folks have read Leslie widely. Also, please bear in mind that I have also shared some positive views of Leslie in this post.

      • Gany T.

        I appreciate Fostymom taking the time to share her honest comment here, and Helovesme’s respectful, insightful reply (again, very helpful!), as well as Barb’s.

        I also value this blog being a rational, fair, and respectfully moderated venue (i.e., SAFE), even more so in recent days after seeing the free for all’s so common on Facebook and Twitter. One blog even described Barb’s (blog) work as “stupid” and “unethical.” Hmm.

        Leslie Vernick was one of the first Christian counselors whom I found a few years ago who even BROACHED the concept of a “destructive marriage.” I found her through a popular Christian radio call-in show with a panel of counselors. I was parched for ANY water of truth on the subject of “difficult marriages” (and evil invading the church and home, in general) and recommended her work to a loved one who is married to a malignant narcissist, knowing he (yes, the victim is male) would NEVER read anything from a secular source. But as others here have shared their serious concerns about some of Leslie’s work, I too moved on from her work after finding ACFJ and some of the other resources recommended here. (I also moved on from that call-in show with the panel of counselors after finding other resources much more knowledgeable in the realities of spiritual abuse and spiritual warfare.)

      • Facebook and Twitter can indeed be volatile places. Readers may like to review the posts I’ve published before about this:

        Be safe! — blog safety vv Facebook safety, and other tips for keeping safe in cyberspace

        Resist the tide: don’t assume that facebook is the best way to follow issues that interest you

        And btw, each of those posts contain links that we need to update now we have a new domain. We are working on updating all the broken links, but because it’s a massive job it taking a lot of time.

      • Reaching Out

        The domain name links in the two Facebook posts Barb references in her comment have been updated.

    • Hello Sunshine

      When you said that if you don’t fix your character flaws that abuse will replicate in future relationships, I thought of a passage from Lundy Bancroft and Jac Patrissi’s book “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”. Lundy Bancroft’s work has been uniquely helpful to many women and is spoken of often here. I hope it’s OK to quote from that passage (p.362):

      “What does it say about me that I ended up with someone like him?

      Nothing. It says nothing at all about you. His issues are his issues. Most or all of his issues were probably hidden early in your relationship, so unless you were taught the kinds of guidelines we’ve been offering in this chapter– and it’s highly unlikely you ever were– you wouldn’t have known what to watch out for…

      Occasionally we talk to women who have had a number of destructive partners in a row. If you are leaving a relationship with your third consecutive alcoholic, or your third consecutive abuser, then maybe— just maybe– there are issues you might want to explore about:

      -deeply believing you don’t deserve any better
      -feeling hooked on the drama and excitement, despite all the pain that comes with it
      -feeling such a powerful need to have a partner that you refuse to see signs of trouble ahead
      -suffering abuse in your childhood that you’ve never gotten a chance to heal from

      However, our experience is that these factors are far from being the prevailing reasons why women end up with destructive partners.”

      The authors go on to give what they believe are the more common causes (none of which are character flaws on a target’s part) and a list of qualities to steer clear of in a new partner. They keep the emphasis on healing and educating the target so that she can avoid deception, and they avoid ever blaming the victim for the evil actions that have been directed towards her. That seems fair and wise and kind to me. Best wishes.

      • Thanks Hello Sunshine, that quote from Bancroft and Patrissi is very appropriate. 🙂

      • Helovesme

        Hello Sunshine oh thank you for that quote! That was wonderful!

        “They keep the emphasis on healing and educating the target so that she can avoid deception, and they avoid ever blaming the victim for the evil actions that have been directed towards her.”

        Truly—I don’t think it could have been said better. I was struggling to find the right words to articulate just that—-and again, that really summed it up perfectly.

        You CAN grow and learn from being abused. You CAN look back and ask the Lord for clarity and perception, all without one bit of self-condemnation thrown in. As if that will help? No, it won’t. It will only hurt you more than you already are.

        Self-condemnation could be a very long chapter in my life story! And I still struggle with it—-and I have to watch myself carefully since it comes so naturally to me!

        There is no condemnation for those that are in Christ. Never, ever believe His wrath is aimed at you for being abused. His wrath is directed entirely at the abuser who dared to hurt one of His precious sheep.

        I understand why many people keep their stories about abuse to themselves. It’s very private and very personal. Without a doubt, you never have to talk about it unless you are 100% able and willing to.

        If they ever do come to that point and are ready to break their silence—-remind them that they have nothing to be ashamed of. They did nothing wrong, so they have nothing to be sorry about.

        Even Christians need to be reminded of this. Apart from my abuse, my own personal sins are nothing that I am proud of. However, if the door opens to speak about them, I try to remind myself that when I was forgiven by Him, He also took all that shame as well.

        I am certainly not proud of my sins, nor do I go around bragging about them! But if there is a chance to relate to someone, or encourage them—I try to step out of my comfort zone. Again, I am not proud—but I am not defined by those sins anymore.

        I tried to kill myself because I had been abused for so long, and I couldn’t take it anymore. The Lord used it to get a hold of me, but attempted suicide can be a touchy subject. Even in Christian circles, there can be a great deal of ignorance about it.

        It’s not the coward’s way out, nor is it the easy way out. Seriously—-there is nothing easy or cowardly about contemplating, and then trying to take your own life.

        There can also be a stigma attached to it, just like a stigma may be attached to admitting your were abused. People may look at you differently, and the difference may not be complimentary!

        Again—you have nothing to be ashamed of. If Christ holds nothing against you, neither should you.

      • James

        I’d like to offer a couple of thoughts, if I may, on what Hello Sunshine and Helovesme have said. One on so-called “character flaws” that the ‘knowing’ like to talk about and the other is on suicide.

        A friend of mine once said to me after we had been discussing the long line of psychopaths that we both have seemingly attracted in our lives, “Do I have a neon sign over my head saying ‘exploit me’?” There was something pointedly accurate about that question, I thought.

        After giving it a lot of thought, I have come to the conclusion that we do have a sign of sorts. It says, “I’m empathic and you can use that to exploit me”. I am now convinced that psychopaths (and all abusers and paedophiles are psychopaths till proven otherwise, imho) indeed are constantly scanning for people with empathy and the more empathy the better (it is also how they recognise other abusers – the lack of real empathy – to network with them).

        It is a character virtue that the abusers are attracted to and not a character flaw. You know, a virtue that Christian churches are supposed to advance and not condemn. No wonder it feels like everything is backwards – because it is.

        The second thought concerns a time may years ago when I picked up a young hitch hiker, maybe 18yo. He was going on about a family friend who had committed suicide and saying how they were weak, cowardly and selfish etc.. I asked a few questions and quickly realised that this boy was merely repeating statements he had heard the adults around him saying and now thought of as his own wisdom.

        It was a bit of a sore point with me because I had spent many years contemplating suicide myself. So I asked him, “Do you think this person was in pain?” “Yes”, came the answer. So I then asked, “How much pain would you have to be in to take your own life?”

        It was a quiet trip after that.

        Most problems are exacerbated, it seems to me, by the ‘knowing’ who cannot really put themselves in the shoes of those they think they are going to help. It is almost like you need to be educated about the ‘helpers’ before you dare to seek help.

        Well, it is not ‘almost’ like you need to be educated, it is! And Barbara is doing just that and admirably so from all that I’ve read.

      • Reaching Out

        James,

        If you haven’t yet read this post in the Don Hennessy series, you might be interested to note what Don Hennessy writes about those who are targeted by abusers. You will need to reverse the genders when reading the post.

      • “I am now convinced that psychopaths (and all abusers and paedophiles are psychopaths till proven otherwise, imho) indeed are constantly scanning for people with empathy and the more empathy the better (it is also how they recognise other abusers – the lack of real empathy – to network with them).”

        ^That

        And if we think about this from the perspective of neuro-biology, empathy seems to be related to mirror neurons. I’m speculating here: those who have a lot of empathy might have more mirror neurons. A neuron is a nerve cell. All nerve cells are linked to other nerve cells – that’s their main function. And the heart and the gut (intestines) also have cells similar to brain cells, from what I have read.

        It is chilling to think about psychopaths scanning for people with empathy and the more empathy the better. But I’m sure that is what they do. Jimmy Hinton says that his father John (a convicted pedophile), told him that when he (John) was in a room of people he could always tell who the other pedophiles were by watching their eyes and seeing where and how they looked at other people.

        You can read more about Jimmy Hinton here.

      • Helovesme

        I often think about the Hinton family and what they endured. And what they have shared, trying to encourage and educate others. Thank you for bringing them up.

        Their story is truly remarkable. I’ve learned so much from them, although I have yet to follow them as closely as I’d like! I’ll try to hang onto that link you provided!

      • James

        Thank you for the link, Reaching Out. Excellent article! Spot-on.

        Men who abuse women ‘use the same tactics as pedophiles and I’ve never met one who wanted to change’, says author of How He Gets in her Head –

        Psychopathy is the common link. The fact is, they can’t change and the damage they cause just keeps radiating out from them.

        Let all genuine Christians take note:
        The very qualities Christian women are encouraged to cultivate are the very qualities that are most attractive to abusive men.

        Bingo! And then the Churchians betray not only the victim, who is following Christ, but their own Christianity when they support the evil in their midst. It’s kinda mind-boggling.

        Matt 7:22-28 comes to mind.

      • Thanks James. Your comment prompted me to look at Matthew 7:22-28. Here it is, from New Matthew Bible (William Tyndale’s translation gently updated for modern readers).

        Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, and in your name have cast out devils, and in your name done many miracles? And then I will declare to them that I never knew them. Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity!

        Whosoever hears these sayings of mine and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on a rock. And much rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that same house; and it did not fall, because it was grounded on the rock. And whosoever hears these sayings of mine and does them not shall be likened to a foolish man who built his house upon the sand. And much rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell. And great was the fall of it.

        And it came to pass that when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his instruction.

    • HisBeloved

      I’m one of the women that Barbara quoted in her post and I have read Leslie’s book, watched her videos and read the transcripts of her Conquer videos. I am very familiar with her work.

      I also have talked to other survivors about their experiences and found that being part of Conquer kept them in the false hope of their husband changing and that it was possible to “stay well.” After several years of Conquer, they finally came to realize that their abuser was never going to change NO MATTER WHAT THEY DID, and that trying to “stay well” simply prolonged the abuse. They regret that they didn’t leave a lot sooner, rather than trying ALL the things Leslie teaches.

      Leslie’s premise is that the woman needs to work on herself and the marriage will change. This entire assumption is wrong. In an abusive a marriage, the woman needs validation and clarity, not more self-reflection and trying to be a better Christian.

      Any changes a survivor needs to make (and of course we all need to grow) will be much easier after she’s free from abuse when she will see herself more clearly. My experience was that when I got free, my entire perception of myself changed- had I tried to fix my “faults” while being abused, I would have been working on many “faults” that were only the result of abuse not who I was.

      The whole assumption that a victim can change the marriage is dangerous and false. Because Leslie starts with this faulty assumption, her advice gets convoluted and confusing when she talks about putting it into practice –because it is impossible. Victims need clarity and truth and Leslie brings false hope and confusion.

      Leslie would do well to expand her education about abuse by reading the experts this blog promotes. She has read George Simon and provides a summary of his book, yet she teaches that abusers are damaged and need empathy (and a contradiction to Simon’s research). More confusion.

      As others have said, she quotes the Bible a lot but leaves out references that will bring clarity- such as the hundreds of scriptures on how we are to relate to wickedness. The confusion, error and incompleteness of her teaching just goes on and on.

      • Reaching Out

        My apologies for the lengthy delay in moderating your comment, HisBeloved. WordPress randomly – and has occasionally happened to other commenters’ comments – sent it to the Spam folder, and your comment is definitely not spam!

      • Artina

        Yes, HisBeloved, your comment is certainly not spam, as stated by Reaching Out in moderating. I have wanted to reply to many comments to this post, but I couldn’t formulate my thoughts clearly and concisely. But I’ve been reading and rereading.

        I have not read or consumed any of Leslie’s work. But I’ve consumed other works that seem, to me, to send mixed messages. I am very appreciative of the comments here that bring clarity to dilemma situations. Teachings like “Love and Respect”, “Peacemakers”, “His needs, Her needs” have been a waste of my time and assaults to my mind. I want the money and time back that I spent on these. I guess it is good to be aware of these types of works so that I can give others my reviews of them and offer better resources if needed.

        When I clicked on a link Barb gave to read here’s what I noticed: Much of the phrasing does sound hopeful and supportive of abused women (or men) in dilemma marriages, but when Ephesians 5:21 is separated from Ephesians 5:22+, that is a big red flag for me. Also, when Proverbs is viewed with a perspective that it only applies to women (her husband trusting her to do good to him, etc) and that is put all on the woman and doesn’t have balance of a true husband desiring to do good to his wife, that is another red flag.

        I think any teaching should be viewed cautiously and challenged for clarification if needed. What is difficult about that process is that many authors/teachers/pastors/people facilitating some popular materials already have positions of power and do not engage with questions/conversation. They may offer patronizing meetings and those, too, ought to be approached with good self-care. That is so unlike Jesus, it seems to me, to not invite questions and conversation. This site, refreshingly, refers to the danger and damage of mixed messaging and unbalanced teaching.

        My mind keeps thinking of a Christian counselor who referred to how many people it took to help bring one lost sheep closer to God…..and I do love that concept and I don’t regret reading this author’s books (I’m not categorizing this author in the camp of patriarchy, my guess is that this particular author is not in that camp). But in a marriage situation it is unconscionable, to me, that many church leaders use their power directly or indirectly to manipulate women trapped in dilemma marriages to be personally and significantly committed to an abusive spouse’s growth process. And at the same time not use their influence and power to help with support needs abused spouses may have when they choose to divorce or separate. It makes me sick. I don’t want to be, won’t be, a part of these types of leaders audience anymore. I won’t buy their books, or refer others to their books and I will examine the ties of any nonprofits to see whether they are attached to the bad ideas behind patriarchy if I am considering giving.

      • Thank you HisBeloved. Your comment was great.

        I really identify with what you said here, you put it so well:

        “…had I tried to fix my ‘faults’ while being abused, I would have been working on many ‘faults’ that were only the result of abuse not who I was.”

      • Helovesme

        HisBeloved thank you for your incredibly thoughtful reply and comment. Same to Artina.

        I too haven’t read much of Leslie’s work so I’m careful to not assume anything beyond what I’ve read here and reading what others have experienced. So what I’m replying to is just to add to the conversation, not directly (or indirectly) attack Leslie.

        I keep noticing over and over again how victims of abuse tend to hold on for as long as possible—-as long as there is even a faint glimmer of hope for their marriage. I wouldn’t be surprised if they also spent countless hours in prayer, crying and pleading with the Lord that things will get better—or at least not become worse.

        I am in agreement with HisBeloved: “NO MATTER WHAT THEY DID, and that trying to “stay well” simply prolonged the abuse.”

        I’m compelled to offer comfort and compassion, however, for those that finally understood this very truthful, but very painful conclusion.

        In general, we don’t get married with this scenario in mind. That it will not only end, but end in this manner—realizing that the one you thought you’d share the rest of your life with—is the one who is taking away your life. Abuse is murder—it does not add to your life. It takes it away.

        The one you thought you’d grow old with, is the one you need to grow away from. I truly do understand why it might take so long for victims to leave, if they are able and willing to do that. It is simply crushing to come to such a drastic, but necessary conclusion.

        “My experience was that when I got free, my entire perception of myself changed- had I tried to fix my “faults” while being abused, I would have been working on many “faults” that were only the result of abuse not who I was.”

        I’d like to add to that narrative—because I think it’s another point of confusion. HisBeloved articulated it so well, and it might help untangle the lie of “the woman needs to work on herself and the marriage will change.”

        My abuser was my father. When I tried to clear up the enormous “fog” from the abuse, I had a hard time understanding the influence of abuse on me (how it shaped me as a person), versus the faults that I had apart from the abuse.

        So I never knew where my personal faults were at work, and where I was simply reacting to the abuse. For example, I might instinctively (but incorrectly) lash out at someone if they said or did something that reminded me of my abuse. But did the abuse exacerbate an anger issue I already had, or did the abuse simply add to it—or was I angry solely because of the abuse? Had I been a passive, peaceful-type person, would the abuse have been less intense, or less severe?

        I have often wondered what kind of a person I would have been had I not been abused. When you are abused, it takes over you in a pretty heavy way. I resented that it seemed to define me, rather than the other way around.

        Bottom line is this: everyone emerges from abuse with issues to deal with. This sounds sort of lame and simplistic—-but let the Lord guide you as this is all worked out. Don’t speculate (the what ifs will drive you crazy), don’t condemn or blame yourself. The truth still stands—someone chose to abuse you, and it is 100% not your fault. No matter what—you did not choose to be abused, your abuser chose to abuse you.

        I used to think that I could grow in Christ while enduring my dad’s abuse. I wondered if it was like a “refiners fire” that the Word talks about—-using his abuse to test me and “burn off” my own impurities. Testing my faith so that it would become as pure gold. If I could stand what he gave me, would that not strengthen me and give me stamina for future trials? Would I be more trusting of Him, seeing how He kept giving me the endurance I needed to survive? I am not sure, but I wonder if this is the sort of narrative that Leslie might have in mind?

        I know how “spiritual” that sounds. You keep emerging as the victor (you tried to knock me over but God kept me standing), and your abuser is either “won over” by your faith, or is put to shame—seeing how he or she could not steal your joy, or sap your strength.

        I am BEGGING anyone who reads this—it is simply not true. This is not how the Lord is, how He works, and what He wills for us. And while I believe the Lord can certainly hold you together while you live with an abuser, that is not His plan for your entire life.

        I’m not here to judge anyone who is still living with their abuser, by the way. If you are still there, that is your choice. But I stick to my words—-that is not what Christ wants for His beloved children.

        “The whole assumption that a victim can change the marriage is dangerous and false.”

        Barb and Reaching Out can decide if this portion is okay to publish. I’m going to speak about salvation, but apply it to this dialogue. I don’t mean to go off topic!

        The message of salvation is glorious for so many reasons—-but one of the strongest and most simple parts of it (and often hardest to grasp)—is realizing that we cannot save ourselves apart from Him. We cannot change ourselves apart from Him—-and all the desires and even good intentions cannot do what He alone can do.

        I remember so badly wanting to change—to be a better person and a good girl so that others would love and accept me. I tried to change my outward behaviors (or at least give off an outward appearance of good behavior!). But none of it stood the test of time, and none of it was real.

        I cannot stress how much I wanted to be a different person, but I kept trying and trying to do so by my own efforts. I was (and still am) VERY proud and stubborn, and the last Person I wanted help from—was the Lord—-the Person I needed the most.

        If you can, bring to mind what the Lord did in you to realize that you needed to be born again in Him in order to truly live, and be free from your sins. And then, He tells you that being born again is a work of HIM inside of you, by accepting His Son and all that He did for you. So, really, you are 100% dependent on Him! You can’t even press the “start over” button apart from Him!

        Since that time, any change within me has been a work of Him. He taught everything I know. Any fruit He has borne, any good deed He planned and executed through me is all because of who He is, not who I am.

        Yes, I had believers around me before and after I was saved. But none of them, not one of them—-did anything else but set a good example for me, and encouraged me to seek Him. They did not do any of the work within me that only He could do, to actually change and grow me in Him.

        I say all of this to back up HisBeloved’s words with the very Word of God: there has never been any human being that can claim (or should try to) that they “changed” another human being. That they were able to control them. ESPECIALLY in a so-called Biblical marriage.

        As I see it, that is blasphemous. How dare anyone try to insinuate or flat out state such an impossibility? You cannot “make” someone grow closer to God, or convert them. You cannot “stop” someone from abusing you (apart from putting them in prison).

        And by the way—abusers are the King Kong of control freaks. They live to control and dominate and intimidate and gain all the power over their victims. This is evil. And abusers DO change their victims—but for the worse—causing fear and pain and misery. Victims might allow themselves to be controlled by their abusers in order to survive, but this is not how the Lord planned or designed relationships to be like!

        And I must point this out—abusers may believe they are very powerful and in control (and they can be. I’m amazed at how much damage even one abuser can cause). But no abuser compares to Christ—-who is always in control, all powerful and all knowing—and no one can ever move Him off of His throne.

        Why are victims told to imitate such behaviors, for the “good” of the abuser? You cannot control your abuser “for the better,” any more than those that witnessed to me about Christ could force me into conversion—-for “my own good” no less.

        And by the way, I was a train wreck. I can see how those believers would feel pressure to get me to Christ, before the devil took me down for good. No way. They knew that all they were called to do is set an example for me, but my choices were my own and they were not going to try to control them.

        So that is my rambling reply! To God be the praise, honor and glory—here and now and forevermore. He works in marvelous, mysterious, unsearchable ways. To this day I have no idea how He got a hold of me, but He had His work cut out for Him. And He is the anti-abuser. He has never laid one abusive hand or spoken an abusive word to me. He saved me from my abuser, and saved my life and soul.

        If my abuser wants to become born again in Him, I would welcome that. But it’s out of my hands, and I am in His hands now.

      • Reaching Out

        There was no need for me to edit out your words. 🙂

      • What a wonderful comment! So much truth and wisdom.

      • Helovesme

        Thank you Barb and Reaching Out for those kind words!

  5. Ruth Magnusson Davis

    Good analysis Barb, and reminders to keep us on track.

    It is difficult to define and refute error, because error in its very nature is slippery, confused, and defies clarification. That is part of its power. It mixes truth with deception, and that makes it all the more misleading. But I think you’ve done a great job of separating the wheat from the chaff and explaining the issues. I liked the quote from Tyndale.

    I’m sure this post took a lot of careful thought and time. Thank you!

    Ruth Magnusson (Davis) Author of the Story of the Matthew Bible New Matthew Bible Project baruchhousepublishing.com

    • Finding Answers

      Ruth Magnusson Davis commented “It is difficult to define and refute error, because error in its very nature is slippery, confused, and defies clarification. That is part of its power. It mixes truth with deception, and that makes it all the more misleading…..”

      ^That.

      I have encountered this elusiveness in both the Christian and non-Christian arenas. And I use the word arena deliberately, as both the Christian AND non-Christian arenas involve spiritual warfare (battle) in taking down strongholds.

      (Omitting details for my protection.)

      Untwisting the knots and the snarls in a skein of wool takes patience, an attribute the Holy Spirit constantly and consistently displays. I am learning patience from the Holy Spirit, but my struggle with constantly and consistently displaying patience is ongoing as I discern truth from error.

      Discerning truth from error requires even MORE patience when one includes the effects and / or damage of complex PTSD. (Omitting details for my protection.)

      Oddly enough, I gain relief during the untwisting process from realizing I am not totally self-focused, I DO feel empathy (through the gift of healing) for those for whom I pray daily. (Omitting details for my protection.)

      I am profoundly grateful to God, my Father, a FAR better Father than is my earthly “dad”.

      I am profoundly grateful to Jesus Christ, a FAR better co-heir than are my earthly siblings.

      I am profoundly grateful to the Holy Spirit, a FAR better Companion than were my earthly “friends”.

      Thank you to all the ACFJ blog posters and commenters for writing the words I hijack to express the pictures in my mind, as this allows me to participate in the discussion to a greater extent than my sometime practice of writing [….Insert net-speak for…..]. All of you have helped me find my voice as I Find Answers.

      • Helovesme

        I am profoundly grateful to God, my Father, a FAR better Father than is my earthly “dad”.

        I am profoundly grateful to Jesus Christ, a FAR better co-heir than are my earthly siblings.

        I am profoundly grateful to the Holy Spirit, a FAR better Companion than were my earthly “friends”.

        Amen!

        And amen to Ruth Magnusson Davis’s words as well.

  6. Believer

    Thank you for your thoughtful analysis Barbara. I really appreciate the work that you do. I, too, have found much of Leslie Vernick’s writing helpful and edifying, but there have been times I was shocked/amazed by what she said because it struck me as so wrong. Two come right to mind.

    One was in her blog, when she said that a woman who chose to stay with a habitually cheating husband because she enjoyed the frequent extended family get-togethers that they hosted and didn’t want to give them up was “staying well.” Having come to understand that to fear the Lord means to depart from evil, I was baffled that she classified that choice as “staying well.” It seemed sin to me; not loving to the unrepentant spouse in the slightest, very harmful to everyone in the family (if knowing she tolerated such behavior for such a purpose) and disobedient to Christ.

    The other that came to mind was an article I read on Cindy Burrell’s blog. She discussed some troubling teachings in Vernick’s book “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage” and cited Vernick’s shaming of those who “scoot to safety” when abused. Burrell found this offensive and thoroughly disagreed, and I felt that way too, and amazed. Jesus moved Himself to safety when facing those trying to hurt Him.

    I don’t understand her perspective in these instances, in addition to the ones you discuss in this article, given so much of her other teaching. Thank you again Barbara.

  7. Anonymous

    There’s not much money in truth-telling when compared to the alternative. In short, abuse is murder. Abusers are evil.

    Victims are not to blame. Women are abused by abusers because it is who they are and what they do. Snakes bite. Leopards cannot change their spots. A child of the devil is who an abuser is. I’m tired of the ‘poor boundaries’ lies, same with the ‘co-dependent’ lies, as well as the ‘just need to stand up for yourself/stand up to him’ lies. It’s not true. Case in point…..

    The snake is going to bite you if it has the chance. The snake will look for you in order to find you and bite you again. The snake enjoys sinking its fangs into your flesh. You can tell the snake ‘no biting!’ all you want but the snake is looking to strike.

    It’s silly to blame the woman for being bitten by a snake as that is what they do. It’s silly for others to advise and direct the woman to stand up for herself, tell the snake her ‘no biting’ rule and whatever else these nonsense books spout.

    But books need to be more than a few paragraphs and the publishing world is male dominated. Plus, society only wants to hear what doesn’t truly challenge the status quo.

    • Sarah

      Beautifully said and agree, agree, agree!!!, I did the whole boundaries, stand up for myself thing and he did whatever he wanted

    • Helovesme

      Anonymous I think that is a well thought out statement for sure.

      I wonder if I could inject something into your thoughts. One of the biggest obstacles (IMO) in not only defining an abuser, but admitting that this person is an abuser.

      Most victims know their abuser quite well. He or she is their spouse, their parent, family member, family friend, pastor or teacher, coach or neighbor.

      Most victims might go so far as to say that they loved their abuser, and worse yet—truly believed they were loved in return. Or, they convinced themselves that their abuser would love them, and worked hard to change their behaviors in order to win their affections.

      All of us want to love and be loved in return. There is nothing more precious than choosing to love someone, and rejoicing when that person claims to love you in return.

      To inject “abuse” into such a scenario is like injecting a death sentence into something that is so profound and precious. The one who is the abuser is the one injecting that poison. The one being abused will do anything to stop that poison from destroying the entire relationship.

      The victim is trying to preserve their love, which he or she believes is the real deal. As time goes on though, the victim realizes that there is no relationship to save, because there was no mutual love to begin with. The abuser may have claimed to love them, but all the evidence indicates that it was a lie.

      Even in typing that, I felt sorrow and a deep sadness for anyone and everyone who has had to endure such heartache.

      Abuse is indeed murder. But it is more than that. It is betrayal on the deepest level.

      Someone that you loved, who you thought loved you back (and may have put on a pretty good show of it) was only manipulating you in order to destroy you from the inside out. And why, exactly? What did you do to incur such hatred? All you ever wanted was to love that person—-but all they wanted to do is hurt you.

      It’s imperative to tell victims that they are not to blame, and to go even further—it’s not your fault that you trusted someone who chose to hurt you.

      I know that is not the popular sentiment out there (you trusted him or her so you have only yourself to blame). NO. The abuser took your trust and abused it. The blame is entirely on their shoulders.

      Matthew 10:28: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

      Humans can indeed kill the body, but abusers (due to their delusions that they are gods) will try to kill your soul as well. Thankfully, and to the Lord’s great praise—-our souls are in His hands, and no one can take that away from us.

      • Trying Again

        “Someone that you loved, who you thought loved you back (and may have put on a pretty good show of it) was only manipulating you in order to destroy you from the inside out. And why, exactly? What did you do to incur such hatred? All you ever wanted was to love that person—-but all they wanted to do is hurt you.”

        Yes, this. I can only think about this for very brief moments, or it overwhelms me. It is way too devastating to consider for long, but I do think this is the truth, as hard as it is to consider/believe.

      • ((((hugs))) if you want them, Trying Again. I hear your grief.

      • Anonymous

        Wow, HeLovesMe, how well spoken your comment is. And it is the truth. I believe abuse is soul murder. I think about the women who suicide to escape their abusers’ torment, abuse, torture and what abusers do is pure evil. And it doesn’t leave the abused victim, either. Depends on the severity, I guess.

        I comfort myself in knowing abusers are eventually going to die and then they’ll be in a lake of fire — never able to harm again as we’ll be eternally separated from them, in God’s glorious presence!

      • Helovesme

        Sorry I’m replying to myself but that was the only button I could click!

        Trying Again I had a hard time typing out those words. I’m glad they resonated with you but am so sorry that they resonated with you—-if that makes sense! Please also accept a hug from me as well, and prayers for sure.

        My abuser was my father—-so you don’t “choose” your parent, but no doubt the love of your earthly father is a huge, driving desire. Whether you are a child OR an adult, but especially as a child—-you long for that love. And there is such an empty void when you do not receive it.

        Someway, somehow you have to find a way to live with that, but to this day I have no clear idea how to accomplish that! You just keep running to your Heavenly Father to give you all the love you so desperately need, and pray that it will “cushion” that awful emptiness.

        Anonymous I hesitated in saying that abusers cannot kill your soul, try as they might. Because even if you are blessed to escape, and yes—depending on the severity—your soul is never quite the same.

        I do believe abusers can damage us beyond words, but they can never, ever own our souls. No matter what condition our souls are in because of their abuse (broken, damaged)—-our souls belong to Him and Him alone.

      • Anonymous

        I was thinking along the lines of spiritual abuse and how it maims a person, along with the mangled condition of victims of severe, prolonged abuse. The destination of our souls is in God’s Hands. I think those who are induced into suiciding by their abusers ultimately are considered murder victims by God and they are not cast off, away from His Presence. There is the Bible verse about those who are in Christ, who are His children cannot be snatched away from Him. So, that’s a comfort.

        You’re right. God’s inerrant Word counters my thinking of abuse as being soul murder. It certainly feels that way and comes very, very close. But as God’s Word states, our abusers can only kill our body, not our souls.

      • Thank you Anonymous. 🙂 🙂

        “I think those who are induced into suiciding by their abusers ultimately are considered murder victims by God and they are not cast off, away from His Presence.” – I agree. The suicide of the victim in such cases could be said to be caused by the abuser. It’s murder. Murder by proxy.

        This is analogous to the principle of ‘constructive desertion’ which I refer to in my book.

        Before no-fault divorce came into vogue, there was a ground for divorce under English law called “constructive desertion.” Constructive desertion was deemed to have occurred if one spouse so ill-treated the other that the victim was justified in leaving the abusing spouse, having been driven to do so. The act of desertion was understood as having been caused by the abuser. The concept of constructive desertion was recognized by Puritan theologians who saw it in 1 Corinthians 7:15. My interpretation of that verse is not new, it’s just been lost (buried under male-privilege?) for several hundred years. (I copied that paragraph from this post of mine)

        “But as God’s Word states, our abusers can only kill our body, not our souls.”
        Amen!

      • Trying Again

        Thank you, Barbara and HeLovesMe (and yes, you made perfect sense there), for the prayers and hugs. They are appreciated much.

        I think the hardest question, to which I will never have an answer, is Why? But isn’t that just part of the evil of the abuse? If there was a reason, it might seem rational, but since there is no good reason, it’s irrational and much more scary.

        Thanks again for all the truth shared here, even the very hard truths.

      • Anonymous

        I’ve been thinking about your comments throughout this post, Helovesme.

        And I’ve been mulling over why I loathe these marriage books and all. It comes down to the reality that abuse is prevalent and for books to talk about destructive marriages versus abusive predation is to collude with the abusers to a certain extent.

        Let’s take a different example. Porn. Christians know porn is bad and that it’s sin and evil. It’s adulterous for husbands to be using it. Okay.

        But the larger ‘debate’ (eye roll from me in even having to call it a debate) centers around whether or not it harms anyone, as though it’s not harmful. So the dance obscures the reality.

        The porn lobby and army of attorneys made porn into free speech, instead of hate speech, recorded rape, violence against women, and misogyny. But porn harms women — all women, not just the victimized women who are featured in such, but every other woman alive. It’s misogyny and rape ideology in its purest form and its existence — especially the internet making it readily available, for free, to anyone — devalues and degrades and denigrates all women.

        So, there’s been all sorts of pimp-funded lobbying and clever word changes and suddenly instead of prostituted out women, we have ‘sex workers’ as though it’s a job like any other, instead of paid rape. And then comes the rounds of attacks on anyone who opposes such as being ‘prudes’ or better yet, ‘anti-sex’ and so forth. But there’s an activist and author, Andrea Dworkin, who kept reminding everyone what porn and prostitution actually is — the core violence, perversion, and reduction of a woman, a real, live human being, turned into 3 holes and what violent, depraved, sadistic things can men do to those 3 orifices.

        Same dance goes on with abuse, wifebeating, marital rape, and overall predation. Two genuine Christians don’t need a lot of help in figuring out how to make a life together. Marriage is not hard work. It just isn’t — when it’s an actual marriage, that is to say, a partnership of love, mutuality, respect, kindness, commitment, and care. Whatever the issue, if the two people in the marriage actually both truly love each other, it’ll be figured out with relative ease. Sure, there are some adjustments, but nothing that difficult when both people are valued and loved.

        I think most men do not love their wives. I think there is abuse in most marriages. And where there is abuse, there isn’t a marriage. I just don’t see it. And when there’s a proliferation of ‘destructive’ versus ‘abusive’ ‘marriage is work’ books out there, victims are being harmed all the more.

        The more the bottom line reality is obscured, the messier things become, and the more we fall into the abuser’s trap. Women need to be protected. They need to be told how to escape and helped in doing such and be supported in leaving the abuser and attempting to escape. Women need not hear another version or variation of these other victim-blaming, or obscuring ‘destructive’ ‘marriage is hard work’ ‘men are different’ ‘different love languages’ books because they keep women trapped and further subjected to greater harm.

        Victims already don’t want to know the hard reality — that they were duped into marrying an abuser and that he is not about to change, there never was a marriage, he never loved you, it’s been a calculated effort on his part all along, the inflicted damage is probably permanent, there’s nothing they can do to help/inspire/motivate/encourage their abusers to stop being abusers as it’s who the abusers are and it’s in the Bible somewhere that a leopard cannot change its spots.

        The reality is that he isn’t sorry. He enjoys hurting you. He’ll do it again. And you didn’t cause him to become a monster.

        It’s very plain, very basic stuff. Very hard truths. But it’s what is needed to be told, and nothing else. Any intellectualizing it will only harm victims and help abusers.

      • Hi Anonymous, thanks for your comment. The porn analogy is good. I really liked what you said about the dance obscuring the reality:

        But the larger ‘debate’ (eye roll from me in even having to call it a debate) centers around whether or not it harms anyone, as though it’s not harmful. So the dance obscures the reality.

        As Allan Wade says, misrepresentation is integral to most forms of violence and there are no impartial accounts.

        I’d like to gently question or at least add a caveat to your idea that “the inflicted damage [to the victim] is probably permanent.” I think that God can heal the damage if the person comes to saving faith and allows him or herself to be led by the Holy Spirit. Finding Answers’ journey is a case in point. She has sprinkled her story all over this blog in the comments threads on posts. The healing she has been experiencing is amazing. I think she would be the first to say that it is not over yet—but it is in process, most definitely.

      • Anonymous

        The damage is permanent in the ways I was thinking — you’ll never be who you once were, you’ll never be not raped, you’ll never be not beaten, you’ll never be not abused. The health effects, the inflicted damage (brain damage, scars, etc.) and overall marring of your psyche, the PTSD….. those things are there.

        Just like cigarettes come with surgeon general warnings affixed to each pack of cigarettes, abused women should be made very, very aware of the effects. And in some country, perhaps New Zealand, I think they went beyond simply affixing printed warnings on cigarettes but plastered pictures of diseased, blackened lungs on the packs of cigs so as to drive the reality home.

        Abused women should be provided with graphic pictures like that in case their denial is allowing them to escape the reality of their situation. And denial has its functions. Denial is survival. But it also can be wielded by abusers to continue with their predation, keeping their victim their longer, believing it’s their fault, they made him into an abuser, etc.

        My thing was the Bible verse, ‘let no man separate what God has put together’ and having stood in God’s house and vowed to God to be with my abuser ’til death due us part. (maybe I didn’t vow that specifically, I’m not sure, I don’t remember what the vows were exactly) and of course, the oft-repeated, ‘God hates divorce’ plus fear for my family and fear of things being worse if I tried to escape.

      • Hi Anonymous, maybe they have those graphic warnings on cigarette packets in New Zealand, but we certainly have them in Australia – it is required by law.

        We also have some good media programs about domestic abuse that are educating the whole community about it. I will try to give a link to one soon.

      • Hello Sunshine

        Hope this nests properly; it is meant to pick up on Anonymous’ comment from April 8 about vows.

        For many years, the idea of having vowed to God to stay married no matter what loomed in my thoughts. I eventually arrived at a different understanding, though:

        Wedding vows are promises made to each other. The marriage is a contract between two humans. The vows are made with God as a witness, not as a party to the contract. We vow before God to signal our honest intention, but wedding promises are a human contract that either party might breach. When an abuser abuses, they break the contract. The target is no longer bound.

  8. Finding Jesus

    What I find so interesting in all this talk about Abuse is the amount of MONEY that is made off others suffering and the sin that is in our household. Please understand I am saying this with a newbie perspective, I could be way off base here.

    Oh if I would be allowed to have all the money that my husband has spent on reforming himself that he has in the past, I would have my means of escape. But here I am, broke, little retirement and a body that will always be broken. Pray tell how I am to flee my cage when I have no skills, no education and wings that can not fly. I am sure that God sees, but is what he is seeing that yet another “expect” getting rich at $30.00 a pop off desperate people (it takes me about 4 hours to make $30.00 standing on aching feet). Where in the world do they think we get the green for yet another book, another phone consultation and weekly/monthly sessions for the husband. After many years it is plain that he will not get “well” it is all a ruse to keep him there with his meager insurance and his $80.00 a shot payment.

    Well no more – I have demanded that he pay for his appointments with his own money (not household funds), I bet you they stop once he has to comb the dirty bins at Goodwill like I do for re-sale items.

    I think a certain layer of society PROFITS off of our suffering, and “Christians “are getting their piece off the pie just like everyone else.!!! Oh come ye Lord Jesus!

    • Well said, Finding Jesus!

      My heart goes out to you. I’m glad you have put your foot down.

    • Sarah

      yep! I have to pay half the insurance for the child, pay for an online program so everything is recorded, pay to take him to court for the abuse of our daughter, pay for lawyers, pay for payments to go through the state so he will pay. All of these expenses are from HIS sin, not mine. And yes I make nothing and he makes 6 figures and we are divorced.

      • Sarah

        and I was court ordered to attend co parenting counseling with AN ABUSER.. HIS SIN not mine

      • Oh wow! That’s massive financial abuse he is doing.

        In Australia, if the victim chooses to have the State garner the income of the ex to make him pay child support, she is not charged a fee for that by the State. The only times she might have to pay out for that is if her ex runs his own business and is cooking the books to make it look like he earns very little – if that is the case, her only recourse might be to take him to court, and that IS expensive and often unsuccessful. The Child Support Service run by Australia can do little with such cases: they try, but if the abuser is very crafty they often run into dead ends.

        And those online programs which record all emails and interactions between the two parties (the victim and the abuser in the process or after the divorce) — I was aghast when I heard they were starting up in the USA and courts were sometimes ordering the parties to use them! It’s just another part of the money-making system for all the people who are making their living off domestic abuse. The lawyers, the judges, the ‘high conflict divorce’ experts.

        I know those online programs can help some victims to some extent. The recording of all interactions may restrain some abusers some of the time. But it is so unfair that the victim has to pay to use that kind of program.

  9. Karen

    Spot On Anonymous. So true in that the victim cannot stop a striking rattlesnake. I purchased Leslie Vernick’s book and threw it in the trash after reading Don Hennessy’s research. His material is far more truthful, helpful, soulful, and healing than Leslie’s assumptions.

    I never refer abused women to Vernick’s work for it is far more destructive than helpful.

    • Hope

      Please delete or edit as appropriate, it took me 2 days to write and edit this myself and it may still be too strongly worded.

      I fully agree with everything Barbara has written here, thank you!

      I have read five of Leslie’s books, one twice thinking I was missing something. I have watched many of her videos. I read her blog. The most useful part of her books are their titles, which actually grab one’s attention and start a person thinking, and more importantly – questioning.

      Take a look at Lundy Bancroft’s two books and those by Dr. George Simon along with Not Under Bondage by Barbara Roberts if you really want to know what you’re dealing with and particularly what God really says about it. (Thank you again, Barbara!) Don Hennessy’s work is another good source for info., thank you Karen.

      I recently took Leslie’s 3-phone call group counseling, Introduction to CORE Strength. It was expensive, far too short, far too light on useful info, and there were far too many people on a conference call asking important questions and getting few-to-no answers. About half the time was Q&A, not actual counseling. Leslie’s answers were trite and light, often bordering on the accusatory, and entirely unhelpful for dying women. There was no compassion in evidence, nor was there any pertinent, in-depth help. I was stunned, since I paid what to me was a lot of money for help and info, and had to deal with the stress of hiding out in my room with the door shut, on high alert since I still live with my abuser, in order to do this at all. I kept waiting to hear answers to questions that Leslie herself claimed would be answered, but which were not. I finished the final class, the third group conference call, confused about the lack of in depth, Biblical advice, and angry that I had paid for it.

      For comparison, I had a secular therapist several years ago who was not an abuse counselor in particular but who was knowledgeable, kind, compassionate, and gave me some of the best advice I ever got. He was totally worth the money I paid, and then some.

      What I really learned from everything I did and read was that Leslie may be a well-meaning person, but she believes more of her college teaching – and therefore more of worldly lies – than she understands of Scripture. She has internalized more from her education than from God’s Word. She has no experience of spouse abuse, and no understanding of it. She is inconsistent, she seems to agree with contradictory opinions, beliefs, and advice. I do not know her personally, so she may be completely unaware that she says one thing one time, and its opposite another time. This is, however, no excuse for what appears to be flexible ethics/beliefs and shallow, incorrect, and damaging teaching. Even my secular therapist knew better than to side with an abusive husband in any way, and he knew better than to accuse me of having any part of that abuse. In fact, it was he who first taught me that I did NOT have any responsibility for it! I expected a Christian abuse counselor to know more than a secular general counselor, not less.

      Lundy Bancroft’s two books and one by Dr. George Simon along with Not Under Bondage and the entire ACFJ site have helped me more than anything else. The first article I ever read on ACFJ helped me more than all of Leslie’s books, videos, blog articles and the Intro to CORE Strength group put together.

      I find that Leslie is more harmful than helpful simply because she believes the worldly lies she was obviously taught in college; the main lie being that abusers can change. Because she believes this lie, she believes other lies – all of which are damaging to the survivor-victim.

      • Thank you Hope! I changed not one word in your comment. It was superb. 🙂

        Your testimony adds to the weight of all the other women’s testimonies who are concerned about Leslie’s work.

        It is such a crying shame that the SBC is giving Leslie even greater prominence with their Church Cares program. The SBC have a lot to learn. (understatement of the century)

        Another that bothers me about the Church Cares program is that the teaching team members are teaching each other in the process of putting the videos together. I know this because of things I’ve read from some of the team members on Twitter. Members of the team who may understand sexual abuse quite well, but don’t understand spousal abuse nearly as well are learning false ideas about spousal abuse from the ‘DV’ experts on the team (Chris Moles and Leslie Vernick). I even heard one team member praise Chris Moles to the skies.

      • Helovesme

        Wow Hope thank you for sharing all of that!

        Defining an abuser as “broken” implies that he or she can be fixed. A broken chair, a broken arm, a broken appliance—just apply the right repair methods and all will be well.

        The other alternative to a “broken” item is to throw it away, and that must seem like a terrible, harsh statement to conclude about abusers. One that I don’t think anyone wants to believe, or take to heart. So thinking of abusers as “broken” but “fixable” is far more heartening.

        Actually, abusers are not broken. They are the ones doing the breaking. They are the ones who smash and trash and treat people as if they are mere objects.

        If abusers are supposedly so broken (which implies frailty), how are they able to be so destructive? A broken person implies a lack of strength, a lack of ability, a lack of movement.

        If abusers are supposedly blind and overcome by darkness, how are they able to see so clearly in knowing just how to hurt their victims the most? It seems like they can see quite well, because they have deadly accuracy in how they inflict pain.

        I got the sense that victims are asked to treat their abusers like children trapped in adult bodies. Speak softly but firmly. don’t back down but don’t incite them, be gentle and kind but bold and brave, too. Work on yourself, but don’t forget that the abuser needs to be worked on, too. That’s a lot to put on a person’s plate!

        A victim should be allowed to disentangle themselves from their abuser and not feel responsible for them—-as if they are children that just need more love, more patience and more wisdom.

        Abusers see love as something to exploit, not something to cherish. Sadly, the more they feel that their victims love them or feel sorry for them, the more they will manipulate them. The more ammunition they have to use against you: you say you love me but you’re asking me to change. You don’t love me as I am. You don’t accept me as I am.

        Abusers won’t repent because they don’t care about repenting. And they don’t care about repenting because they don’t care about how much hurt they are inflicting. In fact, that is their goal—to inflict pain! The more pain they inflict, the more powerful they feel, and repentance is not even on their radar. They don’t even feel they have anything to repent of, because they feel 100% entitled to do what they do.

        They don’t care about repenting because they have no fear of the Lord. And no one can instill fear of the Lord into anyone against their will—–and no one should even try to. It is not the victim’s responsibility—-one, because it’s futile and two, it’s not her fault that her abuser has no fear of the Lord. Why is that burden on her shoulders at all?

        It should be strange to us if a victim isn’t upset or outraged at what was done to her. Something is not right if a victim tries to claim that he or she did not take the abuse personally, or that the abuse was a catalyst into becoming more Christ-like.

        By the way—you know what is the real catalyst to being more Christ-like? Christ Himself. He will certainly turn your ashes into beauty, but in no way does He CONDONE that you experienced the ashes of abuse.

        “She promotes being a “sweet gentle Christian woman” while also encouraging women to be strong and not tolerate abuse. She puts ALL the pressure on the women to do better, be better, react better.”

        No amount of “better” will make the abuser “better.” If that were true, then abuse would cease to exist, because victims will often do anything, become anything—-in order to make the abuser stop abusing. And they never do.

      • You said all this brilliantly, Helovesme. Thanks once again for your in-depth replies to other commenters. 🙂

    • Hope

      I agree, I don’t refer anyone, either. When I was just starting to realize what I lived with and under, I grabbed Leslie’s books searching for answers and help that I couldn’t find. I knew that some of the things she said were wrong, but what about someone that doesn’t yet know? How harmful might that be? How much longer might Leslie’s incorrect teaching keep yet another sister in bondage?

      • Anonymous

        And desperation makes a victim willing to try whatever, with pain and the harmful situation making the victim all the less able to evaluate the advice being given to her by various books. Kind of like the picture painted somewhere on this website [here – eds] about a woman dying of thirst in the desert and finds liquid and drinks it down and it turns out to be camel piss. Given that abused woman are further kept in bad situations trying out things like Leslie suggests instead of plotting their escape makes me rethink her book as to being more in the diluted camel piss category. Other books, like the gosh awful, horrendous ‘c’hristian women/marriage advice (giving him enough sex? staying silent? looking pretty? submit, submit, submit!) are straight camel piss with excrement mixed in.

        I’d not heard of Don Hennessy until stumbling on this website, and the one book I have of his is really good. Too bad his books don’t come up high on search results in comparison to Leslie’s book.

        Abusers do whatever they want. It doesn’t matter what the abused woman does or does not do. It’s a lie the abuser (and others) tell to make the woman think she can somehow stop the abuse by altering her behavior, changing her personality, being a better slave, etc. The abuser is going to abuse because that works for him, is fun for him, and is what he wants to do. Doesn’t matter — AT ALL — what the abused woman does or does not do. Same thing with snakes — they’ll bite and it doesn’t matter if you are a good person or a bad person or if you tell the snake of your ‘no biting’ boundary….. those fangs are going to sink into you and the snake doesn’t feel the least bit bad and won’t stop until it’s dead.

      • Thanks Anonymous, I added a link in your comment to that post of mine. It’s called
        Parched for truth — dehydrated — victims appreciate ANY water, but it’s better to give them pure rather than muddy water.

      • Gany T.

        Responding to Helovesme’s comment on 3/30, 9:06 pm (commenting on Hope’s 3/26, 2:14 pm powerful testimony) –

        Excellent analysis of the oh so wrong but popular idea of the abuser as “broken,” frail, blind or overcome by darkness, who can repent and change. Very helpful and enlightening. Thank you, Helovesme!

        Yep, it only leads to further abuse while diverting precious time, money, attention, and sympathy AWAY from the victim and TO the abuser, which… the skilled abuser so well knows and counts on. And as Hope poignantly shared, it is very disappointing (and dangerous) when a Christian counselor who specializes in abuse knows less about it than a secular general counselor.

  10. MoodyMom

    Thanks for this article! I did so appreciate Leslie’s survey at the beginning of her book to see if my relationships were abusive or not. Especially since that was the ONLY author that my nouthetic counselors would listen to, survey-wise. Apparently, she used the right publisher. I also appreciated her “5 Indicators of a Wicked and Evil Heart.” It was clear. And again, the counselors and pastors would listen to that article. However, beyond that, some of the stuff she advised just sounded dangerous. I’m so glad to find that other people also discovered the same confusion, the same problems. I’m so glad I wasn’t alone in this.

    • Thanks MoodyMom. Let’s hope Leslie reads this post and the comments thread!

  11. Finding Answers

    MoodyMom commented “…….I’m so glad to find that other people also discovered the same confusion, the same problems…….”

    ^That.

    Hope commented “Please delete or edit as appropriate, it took me 2 days to write and edit this myself and it may still be too strongly worded.”

    I truly your comment, Hope, and I did not find it too strongly worded. I have encountered too many times where some people tiptoed around issues at a great expense to others, and not always financially.

    Finding Jesus commented “I think a certain layer of society PROFITS off of our suffering, and “Christians “are getting their piece off the pie just like everyone else.!!!…..”

    ^That.

    Sarah commented “…..All of these expenses are from HIS THEIR sin, not mine……”

    ^That.

    [Strikethrough added by me.]

    Anonymous commented “And desperation makes a victim willing to try whatever, with pain and the harmful situation making the victim all the less able to evaluate the advice being given to her ……”

    ^That.

    Ruth Magnusson Davis commented “It is difficult to define and refute error, because error in its very nature is slippery, confused, and defies clarification. That is part of its power. It mixes truth with deception, and that makes it all the more misleading…..”

    ^That.

    Aimee commented “…..Confronting the abuser with your concerns doesn’t work!!! He just turns the (perceived) attack back on you. An abusive man will perceive ‘concerns’ as criticism and he can’t take criticism. Faced with a hostile, threatening, angry male, how many women can maintain their poise??? …..”

    ^That.

    From the original post “Each individual victim experiences a unique combination of opportunities and dangers. When her responses and resistance to the abuse are elucidated and honoured, she feels affirmed and respected. With that kind of affirmation, it is far easier for the victim to disentangle the many false teachings she had heard from the church, and replace them with true biblical principles/ doctrines. With that kind of affirmation, she can much more easily begin to think through what she might want to do and say (or not say) to enhance her and her children’s safety and future well-being in her particular circumstances.”

    [Strikethrough added by me, as we did not have children.]

    ^That.

    • Joy

      Although Leslie Vernick has some good encouragement for victims of abuse, I’m furious at her misinformation, because I’ve tried all of her advice both in the past and present, and I can say with certainty from personal experience that they don’t work permanently, in fact, they can very quickly make things worse for the victim of abuse.

      Thank you so much Barbara, for calling this author out on her falsehoods.

      • Thanks for your support, Joy. It’s no fun calling out other advocates. So feedback like yours means a great deal to me.

      • Helovesme

        I am late in reading the post (got to it yesterday). It was longer than others so I had to carve out more time to put into it.

        Extremely worth the time and effort. Barb did a fantastic job. I do not know Leslie’s work at all so I can’t speak for any personal experiences. But much of the feedback emails she provided in the post were very familiar to me.

        I especially appreciate that she did (and does) reach out to abuse advocates personally. That takes courage.

  12. Helovesme

    I became a believer AFTER my dad abused me throughout my childhood. It made things much worse between us (as if that was possible), because my family practices another religion.

    Almost immediately after being born again, I felt the pressure to change and be more godly and be able to “handle” my father much better now. And of course to be a good witness to him. He would be blown away (or at least sufficiently impressed) by the changes in my heart, and subsequently my behaviors. And things would only get better from there, especially if I prayed and prayed and didn’t give up.

    Even back then I think I understood that I could not change him, but I could change myself—-how I reacted to him, how I chose to process our interactions, and most importantly—-build up that spiritual armor so that his abuse (past or present) would not own me or destroy me.

    So Leslie’s words about becoming more godly, having hope for the abuser (and the relationship with that abuser), dealing with your abuser in “Christ-like” ways, trying to bring him or her to repentance rang a lot of bells with me.

    And very much so—the admonishing to not be angry, hateful, bitter or selfish were terribly familiar to me as well. Don’t judge your abuser. Don’t feel sorry for yourself.

    Her words about not letting your abuser erode your self-confidence jabbed a very sore spot in me. I felt the need to go “numb” in order to fulfill that. Shut down inside in order to repel and resist the arrows of abuse.

    That was like going backwards to me. Christ had made me alive in Him where I had once been dead inside. Why was I now supposed to “sear” my emotions? I finally felt free to actually experience real feelings—-now I’m being asked to put them all aside—supposedly for the “greater cause” of repairing my relationship with my dad? To win his soul over to Christ?

    When the Lord got a hold of me, it was for my own personal salvation, not for my dad’s. I needed a Savior for my own broken life, and there was plenty of work to be done there! I was not saved in order to become responsible for the salvation of others, even my own family.

    It’s not that my family meant nothing to me, but they had nothing to do with my choice to become a Christian. Feeling as though I was supposed to heavily incorporate my dad’s need for salvation into my very personal and private bond with the Lord was offensive to me. And still is. From the start, it was just Him and I—growing in Him, being loved by Him, learning how to love in general.

    I became a Christian to escape the idea that I had to follow a bunch of laws and rules in order to be loved, and in order to be approved of. Why was I now being handed a bunch of dos and don’ts so suddenly?

    It’s not that the Lord doesn’t care about obedience, of course. But the Bible is clear that His commandments are not burdensome, and walking with Him is NOT a “religion” of outward practices and adhering to a bunch of spiritually empty rituals.

    I had just been freed from that burdensome, perpetual treadmill of performance living—-and now I felt like I was being handed a whole new set of burdens to follow. A whole new treadmill, except now I was supposedly “strong” in Him in order to keep running, keep going, and keep up with whatever my dad threw at me.

    If you are born again, throw out any and all “performance treadmills” you might be harboring. They are not useful, and they are not Biblical. One might say: but they keep you on the straight and narrow! They keep you spiritually fit and healthy. Your sinfulness will “melt” away (like excess weight). And your overall life will feel and look better. As an added bonus, you will inspire your abuser, who will see the “evidence” of this great lifestyle.

    The reason why we are DONE with any sort of “spiritual” treadmill living, is because God threw it out when He instituted the New Covenant. Now His Son lives in us, and that is all we need in order to be righteous.

    If that sort of living is done to Him, it should be done to us, too. If it’s gone and dead and no longer valid to Him, make sure it’s gone and dead and no longer valid to yourself as well.

    My life in Christ became more of an “act” rather than the real deal, because whenever I was around my father, I felt extreme pressure to act as “holy” as possible. It was as if I was on stage, and the curtain was lifted whenever I was around my family. And there was extreme pressure to not get angry or start trading insults with him or take any offense to him. Often I failed, and I felt like a failure—-just like my previous life before Christ. I simply could not measure up. I could not do anything right.

    I was a loser as my father’s child, and now I’m a loser as my Heavenly Father’s child.

    Of everyone that I hated the most—it was myself, not my father. I hated how he could still get to me. I hated how much power he still had over me. I hated how I could never fully escape him (felt bad for even wanting to escape him. I was supposed to love my enemy, but I wanted nothing to do with him). I hated how much I hated him (so NOT Christ-like) and then I would hate myself even more.

    Assessing your godliness in comparison to your abuser is 100% wrong. Because who you are, and who your abuser is—are in two separate arenas. One has nothing to do with the other. This post makes it so clear—-who you are is NOT connected to being abused.

    My mom once said that if God Himself came down to talk to my dad, he would not listen. It was one of the few honest things I heard her say.

    So imagine the Lord Himself tried to confront your abuser—-say, in a dream or vision of some kind. Ask yourself if you think he or she would listen to Him—the Living God. The One who is above and beyond us—the One who has the power to kill the body and soul.

    Everything in me suggests that my dad would not bow down or heed the Lord, even in such a direct confrontation. If that is the case for others, then how are the victims going to have any better or more success?

    No matter what I did or said, or HOW I acted or spoke—-my dad would find something (or invent something) in order to pick me apart or start a fight.

    Yes become more Christ-like. Let Him change you from glory to glory. Bear fruit in Him, and let Him bear your burdens. But NOT because you are trying to “save” your abuser from him or herself (or anyone else for that matter).

    Let Him work in you, and through you—because He loves you. Because He drew you close and heard your cries. Because He hears your pain, knows your sorrows, and listens to your tears. Because He died for you, so that you would not have to die in your sins.

    Because there is nothing (and I mean nothing) better than knowing your Savior more and more. Going deeper in Him, fully embracing every bit of His goodness, feeding on His faithfulness, knowing you are safe in Him, and being nurtured by His grace and mercy—-that is what matters the most for those who are born again.

    Abusers treat us harshly, but He embraces us gently. Abusers love to hurt, but He lives to heal. Abusers care about power, but He cares about your needs. Abusers drive in the nails, but He pulls them out. Abusers spread the fragrance of death, but He spreads the perfume of life. Abusers spin webs of deception, but He tears them down. Abusers tear us down with their hate, but He builds us up in His love.

    Abusers are heading for destruction (Proverbs 28:17), but we are heading for Heaven. These are two completely opposite destinations, and one has nothing to do with one another. Let’s keep our eyes on where WE are going, and leave behind the ones who choose otherwise.

    • I’ve been working my way through this post and the many comments, and was struck by this one, because I love words that contrast New Covenant living with Old Covenant living, and that’s what you did here. Thank you–it’s really beautiful.

      This part is my comment in general, not specifically to Helovesme:

      I read “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage” and found it helpful as a learning tool, especially as Leslie drew the distinction between a difficult and a destructive marriage. I heard her speak in person and found that helpful too, as she was teaching church leaders how to recognize abuse. I’ve also listened to several of her online videos for survivors and thought they were good. I know that many survivors of abuse count her as having been a tremendous help, even a lifesaver, to them.

      But I also know that I’m a learner here, observing what those who have been in the trenches have found helpful and unhelpful and in some cases perhaps even harmful. Though I’m dismayed, still I appreciate the accumulated experience I’m reading and am learning from it. I also appreciate the respectfulness of the conversation. Thank you.

      • Thanks so much, Rebecca!

      • Helovesme

        Thank you as well, Rebecca; that was a really well balanced and well thought comment.

        I struggle between knowing what to take away from a resource and what to discard. That’s why I too am trying to do what you described so well.

    • Princesa

      Helovesme, that’s a beautiful testimony. I will treasure your insights.

      • Hi Princessa, welcome to the blog! 🙂

        If you haven’t already done so, may I encourage you to read our New Users’ Info page as it gives helpful tips for new commenters. Bless you — and thanks for joining the discussion.

      • Helovesme

        Thank you for the kind words Princessa! Hope to hear more from you.

  13. Finding Answers

    Gany T. commented 31ST MARCH 2019 – 2:56 PM “…..We often talk about the Church invisible and how cyber fellowship, such as at ACFJ, is like a church home for many of us. Today, here, has been some of THE best fellowship and “church” I’ve had in a long while. It might sound light (but it isn’t to me), but it’s also felt like the best ‘adult Sunday School’ class I’ve ever attended, but deeper, more honest, and safer than any……”

    Amen.

    • Hope

      I also agree, “deeper, more honest, safer…” and more genuine. Thank you.

  14. Anonymous

    Leslie Vernick’s books and articles are so much, much better than the other self-help ‘c’hristian marriage books that a person finds in their local Christian bookstore. The ‘men are from mars, women are from venus’, ‘woman, submit, man as head of household’ and ‘it’s all about communication’ vomitous advice books are dangerous, harmful, and such scams. But again, desperate people who are living painful, damaging, harmed, abused lives end up buying all sorts of books, advice, coaching, consultations, counseling sessions, marriage conference materials and whatnot — in desperate hopes of stopping the abuse (which they don’t even know to classify as abuse — or crimes, for that matter).

    That said, I wish Vernick and so many other speakers, counselors, authors would cease with the illusion that there is abuse and then there is mere destructiveness or poor boundaries or poor relational habits. No. It’s really quite black and white. Either there is respect and mutuality and genuine love, kindness, consideration and sincerity OR there’s abuse, deception, exploitation, harms, violence, coercion, and predation.

    I don’t believe for one minute that two genuine Christians cannot have a wonderful marriage on their own, without reading up on how to communicate, or anything else being sold to people under the lie of ‘marriage is hard work.’ Being abused is hard work. Abusing is fun for the wicked, evil, abusers. And really, it’s the abused person who bends themselves into all sorts of contortions in hopes of having less abuse in their lives, less pain, less harm, less damage.

    Even Lundy Bancroft ran abuser classes for a number of years, something like 1,000 abusers. No. It doesn’t take that many. Abused women should write the books from now on. There should be no abuser reform programs, batterer intervention programs. No. I don’t care about the supposed outlier that somehow beat all odds to become a non-abusive man. No. Stop promoting the lie that there is hope with these abusers.

    Same with the lies that there are somehow merely destructive marriages. If one person is being harmed, on a consistent basis, if a woman is desperately seeking out her 20th marriage or self-help book in hopes of figuring out how to be a better pretzel/slave/target, there is not mere dysfunction and destructiveness at play.

    It’s like physical abuse. If he hits you once, he’ll do it again. But even strangled women are attending these marriage conferences and reading books like Vernick’s books and it just needs to stop because women’s lives are being destroyed. Abuse may only change forms when a victim dares to escape her abuser and go on the run, but at least with that there is hope of a better outcome. I get it, staying is practical and women are murdered for attempting to leave their batterers but these ‘experts’ like Vernick and Moles are being co-opted into the scene and it’s blurring everything again.

    Either he abuses you or he loves you. If he can function in life and hold a job and whatnot, he doesn’t have childhood dysfunction issues or communication skills deficits…. he either loves you or he abuses you. I don’t see it as a continuum. It’s very black and white. And it needs to be kept as black and white, otherwise the slick abuser is going to come in and insert all sorts of blurs and deception and confusion.

    I’m glad I found my way to ACFJ. Wish it had been my first place, instead of going through so many others’ blogs, books, radio programs, etc.

    • Hi Anonymous, speaking for myself, I would not go so far as to say that only abused women should write books about intimate partner abuse. I wouldn’t want to exclude or forbid others from writing about this topic. But I do think that for those who are going to write on this topic, it’s important for them to do several things:

      – prioritise the voices and viewpoints of victims
      – be mindful of using language in ways that can either help or hinder (the table I have given in this post)
      — not spread misinformation
      — not encourage hope for abuser change when it is so very rare for abusers to become non-abusers.

      In addition, when authors are professing Christians I believe it is very important for them to expound and apply biblical precepts in a balanced way, rather than a rose-coloured-glasses way which emphasises some precepts while underplaying or ignoring other precepts.

      My beef with many of the big name advocates who profess to be Christians is that they are underplaying or ignoring what the Bible says about how believers ought to respond to abusers (1 Corinthians 5, etc.).

      This brings to mind a post I wrote ages ago: The perspicuity of Scripture, and how some put a grille on the view.

      I want to add one more thing. I know that it’s less common for men to be victims of intimate partner abuse and that it’s more common for women to be abused by men in intimate relationship. But I don’t want to ever let this blog become a place where genuine male victims of intimate partner are ignored or where they feel excluded. This blog is not a “hate men” blog. This blog is a place where I try to convey what the Bible teaches about domestic abuse. I try to validate and encourage all victims of abuse. I hope you will bear that in mind.

      I know Anonymous that you have been incredibly hurt by a man…or more probably by several men. And I want to honour you for the very fact that you have survived and are still alive despite all that abuse.

      I cannot know your pain in full. But I do have a sense that the men who abused you have almost killed you many times…and that you are still fearing for your life because of their machinations.

      Thank you for being part of this blog. Your voice is important.

      • Anonymous

        Your moderating comment is good, Barbara and the linked post is also good.

        Things are raw. We’ll have to agree to disagree about whether any abuser ever changes into being a non-abuser.

        Your intuition is good.

        I don’t hate men, only abusers, and in my experience most men are woman abusers and predators. But this is your blog and I’ll be mindful of my comments.

      • Thanks Anonymous. 🙂 And if you ever feel like emailing me using an email address I can reply to, I can send you a couple of links that show (IMO) two men who used to be intimate partner abusers but are not abusers any more. Both those men are Australians. And neither of them are professing Christians. But I believe that change like theirs is VERY rare.

      • Anonymous

        And there are women predators, too, so I’m sure there must be a few men who are victims of abuser wives. I don’t discount that.

    • Helovesme

      Thank you Anonymous for these words:

      “Being abused is hard work.”
      “Either he abuses you or he loves you.” (or switch the gender words if the opposite is applicable)
      “That said, I wish Vernick and so many other speakers, counselors, authors would cease with the illusion that there is abuse and then there is mere destructiveness or poor boundaries or poor relational habits. No. It’s really quite black and white.”

      Any sincere, born again believer will never, ever forget that they have their own sin issues and struggles. No one who is truly born again in Christ ever abandons that driving desire to be more like their Savior. Abused or otherwise—-we long to bear fruit through Him.

      But I personally disdain that some counselors are trying to work in the “aim to be godly” narrative, while simultaneously encouraging victims to deal with being abused. They are two entirely separate issues, and one has nothing to do with the other. No matter where you are in your walk with the Lord, whether you have been with Him for twenty days or twenty years—being more or less mature in Him has nothing to do with being abused.

      The illusions that some counselors push (that you spoke of) would very much have trapped me not so long ago, even. Here is why:

      When you’ve been traumatized in one or multiple ways—-you can feel like nothing more than an object that others have exploited. In my case, I felt like a sofa chair that others would sit on or shove around or leave stains on or whatnot. You don’t feel like a human being who has rights and needs and real worth. The instinctive reaction is: hey, you can’t do that to me!

      Well, they apparently can—-because they did. Sofa chairs can’t cry out or prevent people from doing what they want to it. Because it’s just an object, a piece of furniture to them. But you feel robbed of that power to protest, and that just dehumanizes you even more.

      I’ve gotten very angry at myself because now I feel like I am someone to whom things have been done to. I am not doing much of anything but reacting to what has been done to me.

      When I pray, I understandably talk about these things over and over again. But wait—-what about my own personal growth—–dealing with my sins and sin struggles? None of those things cease to exist when you are victimized. How do I become more like my Savior when I am seemingly not beholding His face in the mirror to be changed from glory to glory—-I am mostly beholding all the damage that has been done to me?

      So—-bear with me here. I can see how the so-called encouragement of “be more godly” can communicate to victims that they are NOT objects that just sit there or sit around—-they are reminded they can change and grow: you have poor boundaries, you have poor judgement. Don’t forget that you are a person who has been sinned against, but be empowered in that you can aim to be more godly.

      Well, you spelled out very nicely how deceptive these arguments are, right? And Barb’s post was also very informative: “We must stop the practice of examining the target woman’s behaviour.”

      The Lord knows how to convict us to sin, or signal to us when we are being tempted to sin. Never forget that. We can trust Him to get through to us, when needed and at His discretion and timing. In the meantime, we just need to keep seeking His face, and trust Him with everything that we are now, and everything we will become.

      And thank you to Barbara for her responses and the very precious reminder that abused males are thoroughly welcome to comment as well. I would welcome them with open arms.

      The few male testimonies I’ve read impacted me deeply. I would love it if more and more males feel free and safe to speak out. They can truly add to the conversation, and hopefully be encouraged as well.

    • Anonymous

      I’m Anonymous of the prior comment and I was in my super severe PTSD, too many flashbacks, way too triggered, too many nightmares, and having a mini-meltdown. Too much violation, harm, abuse, victimization, and depravity. And this is what may become of you, if too severely victimized, violated, abused, and harmed. Just to let you know. PTSD and rage. It changes who you are, leaves you bed-riddden, a haunted, horrified, mess of a human being.

      I don’t know why I said the above. I like Lundy Bancroft’s books. I like Pastor Crippen’s blogs. I like Jimmy Hinton’s stuff. Don Hennessey’s 2nd book is great. It’s really great whenever men truly care what is done to women.

      Men’s violence, abuse, violation, perversions, and misogyny are the problem, but not men in and of themselves. Jesus is male (Son of God and Son of man).

      And I thought safety was with sticking to women, but nope. Women can be absolutely evil, vicious predators, relentless victimizers, and abusers. I’ve met many. I see women target other women. I’ve yet to see women target men, but it’s wrong of me to dismiss and deny male victimization. I just think it’s rare. And what really bothers me to no end are the male abusers who endlessly (lie) and claim victimization by their targets (reversing victim and offender). That makes me suspect each and every man who claims a woman abused him. Plus, the power differences. But, with that said, it really is SIN and EVIL which is the problem and women are some horrible offenders, who usually target other women.

      I was in man-hating mode. It’s like a person replays incident after incident of men’s victimization, violation, abuse, violence, and predation of oneself, and sees how women are mistreated all over the world by men and it becomes so overwhelming, so life-endangering. It’s tempting to think by swearing off men, shipping all men away to another place, that women will be free to live happy, peaceful, safe lives; but women prey on other women all the time.

      Sorry for my prior comments. I was kind of temporarily losing my mind from the replaying of trauma, abuse, violation, humiliation, depravity, sadism, and so forth.

      Thanks to Barbara for correcting me. I was indeed in temporary man-hating land. There are some men who don’t abuse. Jesus is male. God the Father. Male, Male, Male. And compared to other’s, Vernick’s books aren’t that bad but they still give some bad advice, which can be so dangerous and harmful.

      Men are free to write books. Bancroft’s books are good. And true male victims of actual female abusers should be freely welcomed. It’s the misogynist abusers, with their endless claims of false victimization by women that really ruin things for me. But I’ve got to work on that and not dismiss or deny actual male victims. Being disbelieved is so painful, so harmful, and isolates a person all over again. Sorry, genuine male victims. My wrong and sinful lashing out.

      Thanks for your comment, HeLovesMe.

      • Dear Anonymous, thanks for your comment. I think some other readers will relate to what you said. And bless you for your honesty and transparency.

        And I agree with you: it is horrible having PTSD and flashbacks. Feeling like the abuse is being inflicted right now …all over again…

      • Helovesme

        Replying to Anonymous’s comment:

        Oh goodness I’m so sorry for your severe PTSD and what it does to a person. I felt so horrible and helpless reading about what it puts your through.

        You made such great (but unpleasant!) observations:

        “And I thought safety was with sticking to women, but nope. Women can be absolutely evil, vicious predators, relentless victimizers, and abusers. I’ve met many. I see women target other women.”

        This too has been my experience. As a non Christian and as a child—-I was bullied by both girls and boys at school. It’s absolutely not the case that it’s a guy thing.

        And as a believer and a younger woman, and now as a woman in my 40’s, the same truth applies among professing Christians.

        In America, we had a very difficult season when electing a new president in 2016—-issues about how we treat women came up and obviously it caused a lot of discussion.

        Well, women (in and out of the public eye) had some of the worst things to say about their own gender, and towards the women who claimed they were treated badly. Believe me, men weren’t too much better—-but it backs up what you were speaking about.

        And I’ve listened to women who claimed to have been abused or attacked or sexually harassed—-and they had little to no sympathy for others who claimed to have had the same or similar experiences, but dared to call it out and express real outrage and offense.

        I was truly horrified. I honestly believed for a long time that even if you weren’t abused or attacked, women could understand their “shared vulnerability” in that we are more at risk to be preyed upon. So, they would lean a bit more sympathetic to those that chose to speak up, or speak out. At least, they would not be so actively hostile towards them.

        But I’ve read professing female Christians dole out some of the most oppressive, dehumanizing narratives towards their own gender. Elevating the males, but joining them in their “sanctioned” sexism. Sickening and cruel. Do they do that because “if you can’t beat them, join them?” Or do they really believe they are representing the Living God? I’m not in their heads, so I’m not going to speculate!

        Your entire paragraph about “man-hating mode” resonated with me, too! Please don’t think you are alone in that. I do know where you are coming from, and I understand the battle within to maintain sober-minded thinking and judgement. If you’ve been hurt more than helped by the male gender, it’s easy to fall into that mode, but not impossible to get back up and remember that there ARE God-fearing brothers in Christ out there. Not to mention those in the secular realm as well.

        I’ve interacted with many males, most of whom I am truly unsure of their spiritual state—-and they have never gotten fresh with me. And it’s been very rare that they acted disrespectful towards me. So I am able to answer myself when I fear that “all men are evil and out to get us!”

        I remember Elijah crying out in 1 Kings 19: “I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

        And the Lord replied: “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel–all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

        I felt Elijah’s pain for sure. When you truly believe you are the only one left, you likely conclude that your life (whatever time you have left) is going to be very miserable indeed. In Elijah’s case, he was sure his life was going to end very soon, because no one would stand up for him, defend his life, or be compelled to protect him.

        The Lord never said if they were male or female—that is immaterial. All that mattered is that Elijah knew he wasn’t the only one left who feared Him. And then He brought Elisha into his life in order to back up His words! You can’t claim to be all alone when the Lord has provided someone to come alongside you!

        The reason I read Barb’s posts is not because she too has been abused (although that shared experience is certainly helpful to other victims)—-but because she would never use her experiences to demean other victims (example: I was abused too and I got out of it and so should you. Take charge of your life; stop letting others run it for you)

        Instead, she uses her experiences to relate to us AND works hard to bring the Word into the discussion, using it and interpreting it to bless us, not burden us.

        By the way—about genuine male victims. This story was in the newspapers, so I feel all right in sharing it. Because of the bravery of the women who were victimized by Larry Nassar, a bunch of male wrestlers took their cue from them and came forward that they had been sexually abused by their male sports doctor—-from their college days.

        Now, imagine wrestlers. Big, strong, tough guys engaging in a pretty intense sport. One of the men said that he was either asked or it was inferred to him: why didn’t you fight back? You were at least twice the man as this much older, weaker doctor. Why didn’t you just throw him down as if he was your opponent?

        Rightly so, he was shocked at such statements. Being a wrestler was something he did, not who he is—-and he wasn’t aggressive like that, outside of the sport.

        So there’s an example of some of the unique things that male victims might come up against: you couldn’t possibly be abused because you’re so capable of fighting back.

        What’s not understood is that sheer physical, brute force and strength is NOT necessarily a factor in being abused. Being abused is about being exploited, especially in a vulnerable state. These young men were in need of medical treatment, and their doctor took full advantage of that.

        The stats for male victims of sexual assault in the American military blew me away, as another example. I had no idea it was that high—-and for the women it was higher—-but I was mortified at how many men were being preyed upon as well. And these are just the stats from those that dared to come forward.

        Not at all telling these things to make you feel bad—-just adding to the conversation. The more I learn, the more I am able to understand that abuse is an issue for all of humanity, not just for a handful of demographics.

      • Anonymous

        Helovesme:

        “-but because she would never use her experiences to demean other victims (example: I was abused too and I got out of it and so should you. Take charge of your life; stop letting others run it for you)”

        The example you gave, those words are so dead on. As though there are not different degrees of abuse and some abusers are psychopathic monsters and hardcore criminals. As though hearing another directive and order will make things better. As though such never dawned on the person – to take charge of their life……puke, puke.

        Oh how I hate those ones. Those women. They blame and shame and give flippant directives that demean.

        I wonder if they don’t think that the slaves of Egypt, before God brought out His people, parting of the Red Sea and all, just needed to “take charge of your life; stop letting others run it for you!” As though it’s merely individualistic efforts and individualistic factors that determine results and conditions. As though whoever is victimized, basically had it coming and deserved it because they didn’t get out, didn’t take charge of their life, and let others run it for them…… nonsense.

        Somewhere I read that women are the 21st century slaves. I think that’s true when one looks at the prevalence of DV/DA/SA/exploitation/subjugation/oppression in the world. Every woman has a target on her back. Maybe she is rich and powerful, so her target is smaller than most other women, but to deny the targets on women’s backs is to lie and deceive others and ourselves.

      • I would like to add that children are targets too: targets of pedophiles.

  15. Anonymous

    I know you have your workload cut out for you, and it’s your blog, but perhaps you might want to do a blog posting on “Why You Shouldn’t Suicide” for the really mangled, severely abused women out there. It’s something I continually deal with and I know I’ve read it in so many other abused women’s accounts, where suicide is very much on the minds of abused women.

    Just an idea for a new blog post. Then, other readers can comment on what they do to get through the day, how they stopped themselves from suiciding and people can support one another.

  16. Anonymous

    What you wrote on April 3 is fantastic, Helovesme! Abusers are the king kongs of control freaks. They absolutely refuse to be influenced in the slightest bit by their victims.

    It’s actually a great predictor if the marriage will work (a secular book talked about this and a research lab tested this theory out for years) is whether the man allows himself to be influenced by his wife (fiance). Whether the man is open to changing himself for his fiance. Abusers will not, unless it is temporarily done to deceive the woman into thinking he is influenced by her…. much like the false changes an abuser will make later on when he has really cranked up the abuse, to be nice again and through the pretense of being nice, he dupes her back into his complete control.

    It does NOT matter what a victim does or does not do. It does not matter how she says things, what wording she uses, the timing of her communications, how pretty she is, how accommodating she is, how stubborn she is, how many boundaries she sets, or anything else. An abuser is going to abuse, because it’s what he likes doing and it’s who he is and what gets him what he wants. He enjoys destroying his victim.

    • Helovesme

      Anonymous oh my goodness that was so well said. Especially the last paragraph.

      It may sound counter-productive (why are you trying so hard to change yourself if he is the one who is in the wrong?)—–but victims are trying to save the relationship at nearly any cost. Including becoming a sort of “chameleon,” adjusting and adapting to fit whatever environment the abuser insists on.

      What is horrible is that the more we try to change, the more the abuser will change the rules of the game. No one with a greed for power is satisfied by reaching a certain goal.

      We often talk about lust in the sexual sense, but that is not the only arena it can be expressed in.

      Lust is a consuming evil—-it is never satisfied and is always looking for more to consume. It is purely selfish, purely hateful and lives to destroy and defile. The more it is fed, the greedier and more intent on consumption it becomes. It’s a bottomless pit that only gets darker and deeper as you go further down.

      • Anonymous

        Your last paragraph is great. And that’s what is boils down to with abusers.

        Victims become pretzels because they want the pain to stop. They are made to believe they can somehow stop the abuse if they only do x, y, or z. They believe they are the cause (or shared cause) of the abuse. They don’t realize they are being abused. They don’t realize they are with an abuser intent on destroying them. They don’t want to be entrapped. They are desperate. There’s a whole assortment of reasons why and such are very understandable and to be expected — natural reactions to being abused.

        But again, your last paragraph is really great, Helovesme.

        I think victims need to have it said over and over again that not only are they not to blame, but there’s nothing they can do to stop the abuse, as the abuser is the cause of such and isn’t going to stop. It’ll hopefully save them some agony and wasted pretzel-twisting efforts.

      • Helovesme

        Anonymous thank you for that, and for that “pretzel” analogy. Very fitting. It’s interesting how we try to twist and turn and bend over backwards in order to create some sort of “normality” (as well as avoid the pain of abuse) but it is just creating a lot of knots—which is not normal and very painful.

        I thought about what you said. As a rule of thumb, marriage is a big change, requiring lots of adjusting—-you have to “make room” for this person you are now sharing your life with. And vice versa.

        Some might say that their (non abusive) marriage was a lot harder than they thought it would be. It required more work and more patience and perseverance than they realized. They cried out to God and He was faithful and trustworthy.

        Women who marry an abuser might try to keep reminding themselves of this as they desperately try to create some sort of structure and stability with someone who is obviously not easy to live with. And hey, if it’s harder than I thought it would be—I’m going to meet the challenges head on, and God will answer me.

        Note: this is what they might be thinking; not how it really is. Abusers are impossible to live with; but so far she just might be thinking that he’s hard to please, hard to communicate with, etc. I must need to do a lot more adjusting to deal with him. Be more patient, be more loving, be more available to meet his needs.

        A fair amount of false teachings regarding abusive marriages seem to insinuate that you need to keep adjusting, keep praying, keep growing and maturing in Christ (hey, you’re no picnic to live with, either. A marriage is about both of you.)

        I think this is where a lot of confusion can step in. If you don’t know what is “going too far” in terms of how much you’re asked to adjust, or demanded to change—–it’s very hard to come to the realization that you may have married an abuser.

        Where no amount of change is enough, and where you say: I can’t keep up; I can’t keep changing—-this perpetual treadmill is exhausting me. All the burdens are on me, and there is no way that I have not been trying hard enough, but nothing works. And nothing changes.

        Something is not right, but those around me (trained and knowledgeable persons) are telling me that I just need more stamina and strength—-don’t give up just because it’s really hard. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and patience is a highly prized virtue in the Word. If you give up now, you might never see God’s work come to full fruition.

        I was once told that if you have any hidden darkness in you, marriage will bring them out. Now, he meant that you don’t really know yourself until you bond with someone in such a close and personal way—but you can easily see how this can get twisted up to deceive a victim even more.

        This is where others have been allowed to exploit me, and I had a hard time pulling out. I kept thinking along those lines. I was so confused and there were so many complicated factors at work. I couldn’t see the abusiveness. There really is a fog that surrounds you, and you cannot see clearly, much less think clearly.

        God was able to enlighten me when I admitted I needed it, and I admitted that I was ready to face whatever He would show me.

  17. Helovesme

    Apologies, I’m trying to respond to James, but there was no button to click “reply” to!

    ““Do I have a neon sign over my head saying ‘exploit me’?”

    Oh, goodness you read my mind! I wish I could have been a fly on the wall during that conversation! It’s very hard to know how to reply to such a question, but what you and Reaching Out shared was a wonderful but painful reminder:

    “It is a character virtue that the abusers are attracted to and not a character flaw.”

    “The very qualities Christian women are encouraged to cultivate are the very qualities that are most attractive to abusive men.” [bold added by Eds, because it seemed appropriate]

    I’m quite wary in concluding that this is why and how it played out in my own life—-because only if the Lord holds me guiltless, am I truly guiltless.

    But without a doubt, I know I’ve been exploited. And I have gone back and forth between hating myself for being “exploitable,” or not realizing I was being exploited—–and hating the fact that those that DID exploit me seemed to get off scot-free.

    The latter is a lie. There is no such thing as anyone “getting away” with anything—because God sees all and knows all. And the former is not fair to yourself. Never apologize for being a warm, generous, loving person—-ready to give and more than willing to be a blessing. You did nothing wrong and everything right, and they did everything wrong and nothing right.

    And bless you (and a big hug as well) for what you said about contemplating and/or attempting suicide—and I’m so sorry you’ve been down that road (contemplating it).

    It’s actually quite scary to admit that your pain is that real and that raw and that intense.

    I’ll speak for myself: I had tried so hard to repress my pain—-pain that no human being is supposed to be inflicted with. When I came to that point of wanting to die, it was not out of what most might define as “weakness.”

    I had tried to be strong for so long and I was buckling under the strain. My pain would not stay stuffed and silenced and secondary. It was screaming to be heard, and my soul was so tired of trying to be strong when I was clearly not.

    Those that do not contemplate or attempt suicide are not be seen as superior. As if they “handled” their trials or abuse so much better than those that did.

    Now—I’m more than joyful if they did not go down those paths, but that does not mean that those that did are inferior. Please, no need to punish them any more than they are (more than likely) punishing themselves.

  18. Finding Answers

    In reading ALL the comments generated by the original post, I continue to be amazed at the similarities between the “c”hristian community and some non-Christian communities.

    Both communities twist their teaching to blame the victim for the abuse.

  19. Curious

    Some 5,000 or so people unsubscribed? Are people that die-hard of fans of Leslie Vernick? What happened?

    Aside from the Almighty Triune God, nobody is perfect and their works aren’t above any criticism.

    • Reaching Out

      The change in the number of followers is purely a technical issue, and thank you for bringing it to our attention. This is not the first time it has happened.

      I am publishing your comment, Curious, as I am sure there are others with the same question. 🙂

  20. Helovesme

    Responding to Anonymous from 5TH APRIL 2019 – 6:09 PM:

    “So the dance obscures the reality.”

    Wow, what a profound way to express it. I’m constantly blown away by the real writing talent I see on this website. The ability to communicate and phrase their experiences in a way that connects with others.

    This may seem simple—if you’ve been abused, don’t you know how to talk about your own personal experiences? Goodness, not necessarily! Trying to find the right words to describe the unthinkable? Sometimes it takes years, and even then there may still be a lot more ground to cover.

    I see what you mean about marriage not being hard work when both persons truly love each other. I would only push back very, very slightly to include that loving someone is a work and a fruit of the Spirit—-which requires allowing the Lord to work within both persons. And when the Lord is at work (in both persons; that is very crucial to mention), it will “flow” naturally as you indicated. But it is truly a work of Him, and not of ourselves.

    I had little to no experience or real understanding about love (as the Lord defines it), so that made my personal journey a real upward climb. I truly do agree with you, however—-just adding a very, very small tidbit in there without taking away from your original premise.

    “And where there is abuse, there isn’t a marriage.” Adding to your previous statement, where there is no love, there is abuse.

    Coming to that conclusion is painful, but necessary. I don’t envy anyone who is in that boat. But being in bondage, or remaining in bondage “for the sake of love” is simply not Biblical.

    Porn can easily be twisted up to make it seem legitimate: women need to work, the industry pays well, there are usually protections in place, and everything is supposedly consensual, the —-so there is need to cry foul. The women might try to claim that they don’t feel damaged or dehumanized.

    Something is seriously wrong with all of that. If a victim of abuse tries to “spin” the narrative in similar ways—-as if their abuser loves them or that it’s not really abuse or whatnot—same as a woman in the porn industry tries to claim such things in another vein—-it goes back to that “dance” analogy. You’re moving around and manipulating the dance floor—-but all you’re doing is covering up the reality that is right in front of you—-and no amount of fancy moves can take that away.

    • Anonymous

      I’m wanting to clarify your comment, Helovesme, assuming you don’t mind. The porn industry does NOT pay well. It’s as exploitative as it gets. It’s NOT consensual, but the pimps (which is what porn pervs are — pimps, not businessmen) are sure to require on-camera, forced, ‘end-of-shoot interviews’ where if the woman doesn’t say she liked it, would do it again, it was voluntary, she isn’t hurt, she had fun, … she doesn’t get paid. The pimps still get that recorded footage of her violation, abuse, subjugation, but she doesn’t get any money. And if she doesn’t say all those repeat-after-me ‘I consented, I liked it, it was fun, can’t wait to do it again’ lies, she won’t get further shoots (so-called “work”) as the pimps communicate as to who dared to not go-along-to-get-along with the pimp’s agenda.

      There are no protections in place. None. The medical group that used to exist for those in porn, was disbanded, because it hurt the pimps’ and perverts’ business (exploitation, violation, violence) and money-making interests since they used to keep records of what kind of medical conditions they saw in the prostituted women — prolapsed anuses, for one, STDs in women’s eyes from those revolting ‘money shots’ and they were handing out warning lists to prospective pimped out women.

      The prostituted women are controlled and made to say they are not dehumanized, nor do they feel damaged. It’s forced words. Don’t believe them, they don’t have any real choices as to what they say. It’s lies they are forced to state.

      Last thing, when porn and prostitution is made into ‘sex work’ then pimps become legitimate businessmen, instead of violent criminals.

      Truth is, women used up and violated by the porn industry and pimps and paid rapists will likely be dead very soon — overdose, pimp or john violence, suicide, etc.

      • Helovesme

        Hi Anonymous no I don’t mind at all and thank your for your reply!

        My comments were not clear or clarified enough. The only insight I have of the porn industry are trickled down—-and as you pointed out, what is truth and what is not are two very different things.

        I honestly thought protections were now in place, by law, because the outcry about the need for medical protections got very loud, so if they were lifted I’m so sorry I didn’t catch that.

        The “paying well” comment was referring to licensed brothels in certain areas in Nevada, USA. I watched a brief segment about it on TV (then turned it off when it made me too sick to my stomach). But I meant it as a “line” that is fed to them (or they try to feed to themselves in order to go on), and that they feed to the world around them—-as if that makes everything all right (which it doesn’t).

        For the life of me, I couldn’t understand how and why it was allowed to legally exploit these women—and trying to cover it up with the term of “consensual,” as if that made everything all right.

        The woman being interviewed was so casual about her “work” that I thought I was in a parallel universe. I couldn’t understand how dehumanized she must have been in order to state that this was all done by her free will, and since she was over 18, she was legally allowed to earn a living this way.

        They were also trying to make is so “business-like,” like a transaction that is all legit and worked out and non-exploitable—-but I was horrified. The show I had been watching was NOT about legalized brothels, it was about a man driving across America, exploring it—-and how we got into THIS arena baffled me to no end.

        In the entertainment and music world—-sexual content, pseudo porn and full on porn are becoming terribly normalized. It’s very rare to try to watch nearly anything these days that is not seriously crossing certain lines.

        That is where my mind was also resting when I spoke of paying well and protections being in place—-and of course, claims of NOT being exploited. It’s not just in the porn industry. Media and so-called entertainment are pushing limits in the worst way. Asking girls and women to push the boundaries in ways they should never be asked to, all in the name of getting high ratings, making money or making a name for themselves.

        IMO, it’s like “selling oneself” like you are a piece of merchandise, hired out to the public and told to give them what they want—-but how far is going too far? How sexually explicit or unclothed do you have to be in order to gather armloads of fans? How much of your dignity and self-worth have to be sacrificed in order to be successful?

        In many ways I don’t see a lot of differences between these industries—-even though they are not exactly the same of course. But I still see exploitation and dehumanization all over the map, and so I find it to be incredibly disturbing—-and as you said:

        “women used up and violated by the porn industry and pimps and paid rapists will likely be dead very soon” (insert by me: not just in the porn industry).

        If they don’t die physically from how badly they are treated, they will die inside, because being used and abused like that cannot do them any good, only harm.

        And thank you for being so kind and respectful in your comment. You could have taken me to task in a much harsher way, but the way you approached me was much appreciated, and definitely got your points across in a very uplifting way!

      • Anonymous

        Ah yes, the Nevada brothels. I was thinking of the porn shoots — and due to technology readily and cheaply available these days pretty much anyone can become their very own pimp/porn producer, assuming they locate some prey.

        You’re right, Helovesme, as far as I know, there is mandatory STD testing in the Nevada brothels, which the prostituted have to pay for, not the brothel owner as the prostituted are considered ‘independent contractors’. But think about who that protects and really serves — not the woman being paid to be raped, but rather it further serves the rapist johns and ensures them their prey is ‘clean’ so as to not endanger their health. And yet, these mandatory, required by law, STD testing requirements were supposedly for the women’s protection. Not so.

        And the porn industry does spread a ton of misinformation. And just as you said, Helovesme, there is the grooming of society — the idea of women as objects doesn’t come about merely when a female hits 18 and somehow runs into a pimp or a rapist john. And porn being freely available to all online has pornified our culture — Gail Dines has a book that talks about this. I’m assuming it’s pretty good, based on the lectures she gives.

        Or look at the merchandising that playboy does. Pink bunny ears slapped on underwear, t-shirts, key rings, anything and everything. And girls and women don’t seem to really think about what that means (especially girls, who see these supposedly cool, pink bunny ears and have been deceived into thinking they are ’empowered’ by such, owning their sexuality and all).

        Music, tv shows, the whole spiel — it’s pornified. And it’s even grooming little girls into pedo-culture. I read something (or maybe watched something) about the sexualization and objectification of young girls via pagentry and these dance competition routines — one of these 10 year old girls (or so, not sure exact ages) being instructed by this dance coach as to how to do burlesque properly. I saw Shirley Temple stuff as a very young child and liked her curly hair but I saw a thing dissecting it and saw the outfits and positioning they did with her — in their print media and whatnot — and it was pinup girl like, pedo-culture like.

        You’re right, too, Helovesme, as the girls and women who are lured into the prostitution (porn) industry are thinking they’ll make good money. But they don’t and even if they do, it costs them more than they know, which, of course, neither the pimps or the rapist johns will ever admit or acknowledge, let alone readily disclose.

        I worry about the preteens and teens of today. Online porn access — especially free porn, so no credit card or anything needed — has really exposed many boys and men to such and suddenly instead of pining away for perhaps a first kiss, it’s much more than that and the depravity of porn is considered by the boys (and girls) to be sex (not violence, rape, and violation) and that’s their sex education.

        I really enjoy reading your comments, Helovesme! Thoughtful, engaging, and informative.

      • Helovesme

        Hi Anonymous what a great reply and thank you for the kind words! Everyone who comments adds something to me, so I’m immensely grateful.

        Very much in agreement with you about the misinformation out there. This is why I have no problem being corrected or context added to my very limited understanding of this horrible industry. So I thank you for adding perspective.

        And what I am told or hear about doesn’t “sit” right with me—-as I described from trying to understand how a legalized brothel works. My mind kept saying: “does not compute” to what I was hearing! I was trying to gather facts (how does legalized prostitution work, legally?) and then being appalled by the fact that anyone would think that legalized prostitution would “work” at all!

        Whitewashing something so awful does not make it right, and then trying to slap the word “legal” on it does not make it legitimate. And even if protections are claimed to be in place, everything in me says that no matter what, these sorts of industries are anything but safe.

        When the metoo movement really took off, I was horrified that the stories from the so-called “conservative” religious sector very much resembled the stories from the so-called “liberal” secular sector (aka Hollywood or secular work places).

        The rhetoric was different of course: religious persons claimed that women had to cover up with as much clothing as possible (or be held to other impossible standards and demands), or they would not be acceptable to the Lord (aka the church, who claimed to have the power and authority to dictate all of this)

        If you were victimized, you were shamed and blamed for it, because supposedly no “modest, God-fearing woman” could ever be preyed upon. This would also apply to being abused by your spouse or a trusted person.

        Secular persons claimed that women had to uncover as much as possible (or be held to other impossible standards and demands), or they would not be acceptable to the persons in power (those who had the control and authority to give or take away jobs from you).

        If you were victimized, you were shamed and blamed for it, because this is an industry in which “sex sells” and “money talks” so it’s probable that these women aren’t credible. And why do we even care? They objectify themselves as a career, so how dare anyone take them seriously if they make such accusations?

        Both sectors are shamefully (and often, shamelessly) guilty of objectifying and dehumanizing the entire female gender, persons made and formed by the Lord’s hands—-just as precious and valuable as the male gender.

        One of my greatest concerns is how early the dehumanizing process for women starts. Girls can start developing as early as nine years old. They are often sent the message that they are no longer cute and cuddly as little girls. Now that they are growing up, they are portrayed as nothing but seductive, sexual beings and therefore, shameful and sinful. Can you imagine how that warps and twists such young minds, at such early ages, when they are still very impressionable and easily influenced?

        So the message fed to them is that that is where their true worth is centralized: in their bodies. Never mind that they have minds of their own, and real worth within.

  21. Helovesme

    Responding to Artina from April 5th 12:33 PM:

    “In my past when counselors or teachers would say God is a God of order I would feel self-condemnation for not being able to make sense of the hierarchy, male headship as a military authority as ordained by God and being confused about loyalty and personal responsibility. ”

    Just wanted to say how much I identified with that. Down to the very detail. Slapping a phrase like “thus says the Lord” onto such narratives tends to put real fear into you.

    ” I felt inferior because I didn’t have the certitude in understanding that they seemed to have in their interpretation of these concepts.”

    Absolutely. I kept wondering if there was something deficient in me, because those around me seemed to think it perfectly normal and natural to adhere to what was confusing to me. It made sense to them, but I kept feeling alarm bells go off. What was wrong with me?

    Add to that—-the kingdom of God is not like the kingdom of darkness. They are as separate as you can imagine. So I would constantly wonder if I was still “stuck” in the system I had been saved from, versus becoming a part of the new system I now belonged to.

    What I didn’t realize at the time is this: In His kingdom, He is in charge, He is on the throne and He is the One that you ultimately take your cue from. This is His house, not anyone else’s.

    So when people came along trying to give me their man-made, man-originating, man-inspired rules, and telling me that this is what His kingdom is like—-and if I wanted to be part of it, I should listen to them—-I listened and tried to obey.

    I didn’t consult Him, didn’t fact check what I was being told, I didn’t stop to think that they might be wrong or misguided or had insincere motives or a hidden agenda in mind.

    I didn’t think that those that claimed to love Him might not truly love Him. Their word that they loved Him was enough for me, and I took their word for it.

    Add to that, if they threw in that they cared about ME, that just sweetened the deal. It meant a great deal to me that someone cared for me and that they were trying to help me. I had come out of abuse for years—-where my own parents obviously didn’t love me. Now I was being told that they welcomed me into their lives, into “their” kingdom.

    I had in mind that those that had belonged to His kingdom longer than myself had more ownership and understanding of what it was like. Imagine moving to a foreign country where everything is brand new to you, and different than where you’d come from. Now this country is your new, permanent residence—-but it’s all so new to you.

    Understandably, you might rely on the ones who had been long term residents of that country—-to be your guides, help you learn and speak the language, and inform you on how things are handled. What are the rules, the customs, the norms—-how do we treat others and how do we make our lives here? How do we settle down and become a part of this country?

    That tripped me up for years. You can learn from other believers for sure, but they are not the ones in charge of His kingdom. There is only one Person in charge, and you have 100% direct access to Him to get all the knowledge and wisdom you need.

    • Artina

      “Just wanted to say how much I identified with that. Down to the very detail. Slapping a phrase like “thus says the Lord” onto such narratives tends to put real fear into you.”

      “Absolutely. I kept wondering if there was something deficient in me, because those around me seemed to think it perfectly normal and natural to adhere to what was confusing to me. It made sense to them, but I kept feeling alarm bells go off. What was wrong with me?”

      “Add to that, if they threw in that they cared about ME, that just sweetened the deal. It meant a great deal to me that someone cared for me and that they were trying to help me. I had come out of abuse for years—-where my own parents obviously didn’t love me. Now I was being told that they welcomed me into their lives, into “their” kingdom.” This, for sure! Love Bomb.

      “That tripped me up for years. You can learn from other believers for sure, but they are not the ones in charge of His kingdom. There is only one Person in charge, and you have 100% direct access to Him to get all the knowledge and wisdom you need.” This is refreshing as always!

      Thank you, Helovesme.

      • James

        Hi Artina, Helovesme, and all,

        Artina wrote (and Helovesme quoted), ” I felt inferior because I didn’t have the certitude in understanding that they seemed to have in their interpretation of these concepts.”

        This is so familiar to me and, no doubt, to many others here. There are two terms that I think would prove valuable to some to research – “Cognitive Bias” and “Dunning-Kruger Effect” that will explain quite a lot about pastors and others and their “certitude”. (Aplogies if this has already been written about here).

        I’ll make brief comments on them both but first there is the issue of “understanding”. It actually means different things to different people and the difference is profound.

        Most people learn by hearing, memorising and repeating. Most people can navigate school, employment and even university with this strategy. It is a valid and efficient way of learning and of being useful. These people, however, think they understand the processes or social/theological principles they have remembered. They do not; and they do not understand that they do not understand. They cannot explain why something works or doesn’t work.

        Everything is fine with this system until these people (and they can include doctors, lawyers and, of course, pastors and ministers) are taught something that doesn’t work – something that has an inherent contradiction. (Ever get that feeling that you are banging your head against a brick wall with some people?)

        Then there are people who learn by actually understanding how something works. If they don’t understand the ‘why’ of it, the logic, they rightly know they don’t understand it. Usually, there is a contradiction in the teaching.

        There are no contradictions in reality. All contradictions are the result of missing information or wrong information or both.

        Of course, those that seek true understanding can follow the instructions as everyone else does, but they are uncomfortable doing something they don’t really understand – especially if it has contradictory results (from contradictory instructions).

        These people who must understand the ‘how and why’ often think they are less intelligent that those around them who have remembered everything and think they understand. These ‘rememberers/repeaters’ have “certitude” and it is easy for truly intelligent or people experienced at ‘the sharp end of life’ in their confusion to be influenced by those around them who are convinced of their ‘certitude’. But they are only convinced because they are unaware of what they don’t know!

        And this leads into the Dunning-Kruger Effect. It is named after two research psychologists who have done a lot of work into why, regularly and repeatedly, 80% of people think they are above average no matter the subject or task!

        Most people think they know way more than they do and, worse, they think they know all there is to know or all they need to know to make a wise decision or judgement!

        The other component that bedevils making yourself understood to people is Cognitive Bias. People, especially those comfortable in their power or authority, see only those things that accord with their picture of the world and literally do not see the things (such as their children being molested in front or them) that do not.

        The problem, most often, is in those that would heal others rather than those that need healing. And so the abused come away from ‘healing’ feeling as if they have been abused again.

      • Thank you James. We have not talked about the Dunning-Kruger Effect at this blog before, but I have read a little bit about it. The article I read talked about how Facebook is a place where the Dunning-Kruger Effect is much in evidence — people commenting ‘authoritatively’ on topics that they know little about but have strong opinions about. Facebook is geared to stroking people’s egos and building up their self-esteem because Facebook makes its money by attracting LOTS of users and making each user feel like they are the centre of the universe. So Facebook’s a place where those kinds of comments happen a great deal.

        Cognitive Bias is something we have talked about a bit on this blog, and also Cognitive Dissonance. But I think we can all benefit from hearing more about it, and hearing examples of how it takes place in real life.

      • Anonymous

        So funny that James talks about the Dunning-Kruger Effect having just read their actual paper. Their academic paper is online for free. A pdf available to all and you don’t have to sign up for the academic journal or anything to access it.

        If you google “Dunning-Kruger Effect” and look at the images, it’ll show the effect graphically. Wisdom (knowledge plus experience) increases, from Know-Nothing to Guru. And the other axis is confidence, or as James put it, “certitude” from very little confidence to very high confidence. Everyone should check it out.

        There are some things where the Dunning-Kruger Effect isn’t there, such as brain surgery, where people with no medical training or experience don’t estimate themselves to know what they’re doing and skilled. But for life matters, it seems everyone weighs in with their opinions of ‘certitude’ regardless of experience or inexperience.

        My own horror is recalling when I was a teenager I didn’t understand what happens in DV relationships and I thought for sure I’d never be in one since I said, in my teenager assurance, that I’d never let a man beat me…

        Oh, what a horror it was when I recalled my teenage self!

        Also, one DV field person, a researcher, an advocate, someone who spent their life working with victims, said they heard from women, over and over, they all thought it would never happen to them. Isn’t that something? Every victim, at some point or another, would say (in some variation) that they never thought it would happen to them, that they’d become a battered woman.

        That, to me, speaks to how good the predators are at what they do, instead of somehow women being ‘stupid’ (which is what is usually said of battered women). And even actual low IQ women, severely DD women, don’t deserve to be abused, battered, or raped. So, I really hate it when people denigrate others as being “stupid” and thus being second-class citizens. If anything, predators should be further hated for preying on the severely disabled, those who stand no chance at all.

      • Helovesme

        That was an incredibly thoughtful comment, James!

        You’re definitely onto something there.

        One of the reasons why I think it was hard for people to believe me when I claimed abuse from my father—-is quite simple.

        Parents are supposed to love their kids—-to protect them from harm, to do what is best for them, to meet their needs, etc. Abuse doesn’t “fit” into that scenario. It’s the puzzle piece that doesn’t belong (and there is no room for it) in that idealistic narrative.

        So what do you do with that puzzle piece? More than likely you throw it away, or hide it so that you don’t have to deal with it, or see it. If you keep it in your line of vision, it will understandably cause confusion, dismay, or frustration. How do you handle this puzzle piece that should never exist in the first place, but won’t go away, but has no place in your ideal picture of parenthood?

        If an abused wife tries to get help, she is told to keep submitting and keep praying, and everything will be fine. They are not really told why or how this supposedly works—-just that “this is how it is” and don’t overthink it—-just do as you are told.

        Never mind the many contradictions in such teachings! It only made sense to them because they were told it made sense, but in reality it was nonsense.

        These wives may eventually realize that they were given faulty information.: “contradictory results (from contradictory instructions).” I would venture to suggest that this realization might only add to the confusion, not necessarily take it away.

        People that you trusted are letting you down. Those in leadership and authority were not treating you right. They claimed to know and love the Lord, but their words and actions weren’t backing that statement up.

        “But they are only convinced because they are unaware of what they don’t know!”

        “There are no contradictions in reality. All contradictions are the result of missing information or wrong information or both.”

        I thought about both those statements. I believe this is where the Word of God steps in. It tells us what we don’t know (or don’t want to know?). It tells us what we don’t want to hear, but desperately need to know. And it fills in and corrects where we are misinformed or misled or completely clueless.

        People that appear godly might only be putting on an act. Bad things happen to the innocent. The ones that are supposed to love and protect may be the ones who need protection from instead. Evil exists, and all the denials and attempting to live in a fantasy world are of no help to the hurting. Keeping a bunch of rules will not ensure that nothing bad happens to you.

        “And so the abused come away from ‘healing’ feeling as if they have been abused again.”

        If an abused wife is told to keep submitting or is blamed for the abuse—there may be a false sense of comfort there: It wasn’t pleasant to hear that, but at least I know how to fix this broken or difficult marriage (note: she doesn’t realize it’s an abusive marriage, NOT a difficult one!) I’m the problem, so I’m the solution.

        This is what I’ve heard described as “secondary abuse,” where you are the victim, but are re-victimized over again by being told it was your fault or that you are at least partially to blame. And it truly does feel like you’ve been abused all over again.

        The whole truth (and nothing but the truth) may not always make sense to us, and it may feel contradictory (again, what kind of husband or father ruthlessly hates the very ones who he should fervently love and cherish?)—-but it does set us free.

        All the “hearing, memorising and repeating” what we were told to believe or adhere to won’t set us free the way He does, and can.

  22. Helovesme

    Responding to Finding Answers
    5TH APRIL 2019 – 11:03 AM:

    Just wanted to identify with your pain at separating or breaking away from others, but also paying a huge price for those choices. It would take too long to explain my own personal experiences—-but truly, words don’t suffice at what that is like.

    I did not want things to come to what they came to. If there had been a way to dodge what I felt like I had to do, I would have done it—or at least tried to in order to see if that would avoid the (what I later realized) was inevitable.

    But when you make those choices, those around you act like you wanted to cause pain, and that is simply not true. Not true at all, but you have no way to make your case. And also, it’s not understood how much pain it has caused you, personally. I did not delight or take any pleasure in these choices. In fact, it was killing me inside.

    Once you have been branded, it’s nearly impossible to undo that damage. Nearly impossible to explain or defend yourself. They gossip, speculations and/or assumptions have taken off, and it only takes one small spark for an entire forest to be set on fire. Destroying everything in its path, and you are unable to quench it or slow it down or make it stop.

    And assumptions (real or not) turn into accusations. So the branding continues. It never stops, and it never ends—-and anything you try to do or say is usually vamped and re-vamped in order to make your life even more miserable and alone.

    There’s a huge void there. It is almost like a death in the family, although they have not passed away. But now you don’t exist to them anymore, and now you are trying to live your life as if they are not a part of it anymore. You are trying to find a “new normal” (whatever that means) and trying to cope and find some structure and stability apart from them.

    I go to Christ and make sure my conscience is clean before Him. It was He who I believe led me to make these beyond painful decisions—-and if I have done right in His eyes, I will hold onto that as hard as I can. That means everything to me, so I will cling to that and cling to Him as I try to “ride” this storm out!

    And thank you for sharing your words. Will be praying for you.

    • Finding Answers

      Helovesme commented “But when you make those choices, those around you act like you wanted to cause pain, and that is simply not true. Not true at all, but you have no way to make your case. And also, it’s not understood how much pain it has caused you, personally. I did not delight or take any pleasure in these choices. In fact, it was killing me inside.”

      (Bold added within the comment by me.)

      ^That.

      Helovesme commented “I go to Christ and make sure my conscience is clean before Him. It was He who I believe led me to make these beyond painful decisions—-and if I have done right in His eyes, I will hold onto that as hard as I can. That means everything to me, so I will cling to that and cling to Him as I try to “ride” this storm out!”

      (Bold added within the comment by me.)

      ^That. (Omitting a lovely analogy for my protection.)

      Thank you for your prayers, Helovesme. 🙂

      • Helovesme

        Any and all victims of whatever pain that was inflicted on them are in my prayers. I’m just so glad God knows each and every one of them by name, and knows every detail of their stories. There’s nothing more comforting than keeping that in mind as we live out our lives as best we can.

      • Finding Answers

        Helovesme commented “…..I’m just so glad God knows each and every one of them by name, and knows every detail of their stories…….”

        ^That.

        And so often, God is the ONLY one to hear their stories.

    • “I go to Christ and make sure my conscience is clean before Him. It was He who I believe led me to make these beyond painful decisions—-–and if I have done right in His eyes, I will hold onto that as hard as I can. That means everything to me, so I will cling to that and cling to Him as I try to ‘ride’ this storm out!”

      This brought tears to my eyes. As many of you know, I’ve had to ride out some storms in the last several months. Thank you, Helovesme.

      • Helovesme

        Am so glad (as are many others I’m sure) that this site is still up and running. Thank you for sticking by the Lord’s leading, and being such a blessing to all of us.

        Speaking for myself, if continuing the work here would be harming you in any way, shape or form—I would never want you to pay such a price. I would insist that we all let you go and allow the Lord to lead you in however He chose to. Your safety and sanity is far more important.

        Keeping you in prayer for sure. Each storm is unique, and each storm has its own duration and intensity. And each one affects us differently, I think. Some of us might have thicker skin than others, so the rain water slides off their backs more easily.

        Others are not as thick skinned. We feel the rain water pelting into our skin, and hard!

        Whenever I would hear sermons or readings about the Lord and the disciples in the storm, it almost always revolved around having faith, trusting Him to get you to the other side no matter what.

        But I recall the Lord assuring me one day that it was perfectly fine to admit that the wind and the waves were doing quite a number on me. I’m not a boating fan, but I can imagine how being in such a storm might leave bruises on your body, and your hair might be striking your face like a whip. You’re desperately trying to remain steady and stable while the boat is rocking back and forth. And please, don’t let me fall overboard.

        Too many times we’re told, or we tell ourselves that faith is more like a numbing agent—making you impervious to pain. Just trust Him and nothing will hurt you, or can hurt you.

        That doesn’t really make sense. Yes, faith has a calming effect to it (Isaiah 26:3, Philippians 4:7) but faith is not about reaching “nirvana,” where you are in the world but on some separate plane of existence!

        (Here is the definition of nirvana just in case anyone needs it: Nirvana is a place of perfect peace and happiness, like heaven. In Hinduism and Buddhism, nirvana is the highest state that someone can attain, a state of enlightenment, meaning a person’s individual desires and suffering go away)

        I actually get pretty worked up with the Lord during my quiet times. Depending on what is going on, there are often lots of tears, lots of desperate pleas and many repeated requests for help, healing, hope—whatever I need and more. I constantly cry out that the wind and the waves are knocking me around, and it hurts. And I wish the boat would stop rocking. Are there calmer waters ahead? When are we going to get to the other side? Soon, I hope!

        It’s a good reminder and a constant blessing to know I’m not alone in that boat. He is there with me. And He won’t let me sink. And no matter how unstable and unsteady things are, He is rock solid, and rock secure and rock steady.

        Bruised, battered and beaten down—-but safe in His arms.

  23. Finding Answers

    I am led by the Holy Spirit to add a secular world experience of the Church Cares slightly-off teaching. My apologies if my words lack clarity, for the picture in my mind is so clear, as is my current experience. And it is VERY difficult to find words to elucidate the slightly-off teaching without compromising my safety.

    Two decades ago, I encountered some non-Christian “counsellors” who had suggestions for the “difficulties” I was then experiencing. Unfortunately, the long-terms effects on me of their misinformation only added to the already-existent long-term effects of a lifetime of abusive relationships.

    Discerning the truth of the memories means unravelling the strands of the spider’s web that have kept me bound to the slightly-off teaching.

    Recently, some light bulbs started flickering to life in my mind.

    (Omitting most details for my protection.)

    The “difficulties” these “counsellors” alluded to were actually a combination of unidentified factors. One factor was complex PTSD, an effect of a lifetime of abuse, the abuse starting when my “dad” sexually violated me the day I was born. Some other factors were purely biological, significantly affecting the way I experience life.

    My “counsellors” were abusive. I chose these particular “counsellors” when “c”hristians and the “c”hurch failed me, as did some secular “professionals” who are often considered the “best” options for help with some of these issues.

    I chose these “counsellors” out of ignorance, not willful disobedience to God. And due to the long-term effects of a lifetime of abuse, I sometimes missed the exact details of the leading of the Holy Spirit. I grasped the bigger picture, but had no words to describe it, a result of the combination of factors I wrote about earlier in my comment.

    While my experience stems from the secular world, the similarities to other commenters “c”hristian experiences resound eerily in my mind.

    I can’t imagine the effects on abuse victims who have encountered the slightly-off “teaching” of BOTH arenas, the secular and the “c”hristian combined.

    • Sarah

      You are right both secular and the church get it wrong. We have a long history in this country and it makes women second class citizens. I was hurt by both the world and the saved so it didn’t matter. We have a long way to go. The only difference I think is that the church should “know better” and are supposed to listen to the Spirit to teach them to stop abusing people and being tricked by frauds but … don’t

    • Finding Answers

      Adding on to my own comment…..

      “The “difficulties” these “counsellors” alluded to were actually a combination of unidentified factors. One factor was complex PTSD, an effect of a lifetime of abuse, the abuse starting when my “dad” sexually violated me the day I was born. Some other factors were purely biological, significantly affecting the way I experience life.”

      and

      “While my experience stems from the secular world……..”

      One point I would add to my comment as I work through yet ANOTHER round of a memory that literally leaves me physically reeling, a day when I use the walls of my current residence to navigate from room to room. It may “only” be part of a memory, but that does NOT mean I won’t fall over if I am not careful. This is only ONE of the reasons I stopped driving my car or riding a bicycle.

      During EVERY session with ANY of the “counsellors” I mentioned, I (literally) clung to the cross on the chain around my neck. And I (literally) clung to the cross on the chain around my neck when faced with ANY difficulty.

      Clinging to the cross can be represented in many analogous ways.

      • Helovesme

        Praying for you, Finding Answers. I can only imagine what it’s like to either relive or uncover repressed memories—-things we do not want to deal with or bring to mind, but must be dealt with in order to aim for a healthier mind!

        Truth can be rather ugly to deal with—-but face it we must. The opposite is unacceptable, because remaining in deception is tantamount to remaining in death.

        I sorely wish you’d had far better professional help as you navigate through the unthinkable.

        And Sarah is spot on, too. Without at all disagreeing with the premise that both arenas are sorely lacking—-shockingly, sometimes the secular world has blessed me far more than I thought possible.

        It is a reminder that the Lord knows how to meet our needs, and if the body of Christ fails us—-He is not deterred. He can use resources from the secular world, non Christians, and of course—He steps into the gap Himself to make sure we are thoroughly covered.

        The “clinging to the cross” analogy is a wonderful one. I can’t imagine trying to deal with the trauma of abuse without the Lord holding us close, holding us near, and holding us together—-without Him I daresay I would have disintegrated and fallen apart.

        I’m sure most of us have been told that women are the “weaker sex.” It’s horribly offensive, not to mention completely false.

        I’m going to expand a bit here to include all of the abused, regardless of gender.

        Whether we are considered weak because of our gender or because we were abused, the Lord says He uses the weak to shame the strong. Paul even went so far as to claim that when he was weak, the Lord’s strength was given more and more opportunity to shine through him—-and he celebrated that.

        “God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” (1 Corinthians 1:28).

        No doubt, in my mind, that when we see Him face to face, we will have much to glorify Him for. We boasted in no one but Him, because without Him we would not have gotten through this life.

  24. Finding Answers

    Replying to Helovesme 8TH APRIL 2019 – 10:52 AM,

    Helovesme commented “It is a reminder that the Lord knows how to meet our needs, and if the body of Christ fails us—-He is not deterred. He can use resources from the secular world, non Christians, and of course—He steps into the gap Himself to make sure we are thoroughly covered.”

    ^That.

    God did, indeed, ensure I was / am covered when He stepped / steps into the gap for me. (Omitting details for my protection.)

    Helovesme also commented “Whether we are considered weak because of our gender or because we were abused, the Lord says He uses the weak to shame the strong. Paul even went so far as to claim that when he was weak, the Lord’s strength was given more and more opportunity to shine through him—-and he celebrated that.”

    ^That.

  25. Finding Answers

    James commented 7TH APRIL 2019 – 6:51 AM on the topics of “Cognitive Bias” and the “Dunning-Kruger Effect”, and other commenters replied to James’ comment.

    I have been mulling over his entire comment since it was first posted, but have come to no solid conclusion. My first response was of something not-quite-right, too black-and-white in the way someone is labelled.

    I did SOME research into the “Dunning-Kruger Effect”, and it’s very possible I missed the salient points / was unable to sufficiently focus due to an ongoing eruption of the effects of past memories / was overwhelmed by learning a slew of new information in a totally unrelated area.

    Some of my abusers seemed to evince both qualities – incredibly bright in one area and braggarts in areas for which they knew next to nothing. (Omitting details for my protection.)

    Yet in their supposed areas of expertise, I was usually able to demonstrate where they were in error. I am NOT saying this from pride, as I’m sure many others could have demonstrated the same error.

    Maybe I’m just having a REALLY bad day, but – without realizing it – have I somehow just demonstrated PART of James’ comment? And please, I am not being facetious. I’m thinking this MAY answer some questions for me.

    • James

      Hi Finding Answers,
      ” My first response was of something not-quite-right, too black-and-white in the way someone is labelled.”
      Perhaps, but most people talk nonsense most of the time which is sort of ok with ordinary folks but professionals, like counsellors, ministers, lawyers, doctors etc., also often talk nonsense and then it is not ok. When you have dealt with enough of them over many years, they have a terrible sameness to them. So I tend to lump them all together and sum them up quickly.

      “Some of my abusers seemed to evince both qualities – incredibly bright in one area and braggarts in areas for which they knew next to nothing.”
      This is an extension of my previous comment. You often get professionals and particularly academics, opining on subjects outside their professional expertise. Biologists pontificating on theology is a common one. Medical doctors holding forth on psychology is another. They get carried away with their own self-importance. It is very very common.

      “Yet in their supposed areas of expertise, I was usually able to demonstrate where they were in error.”
      That won’t win you many friends but it will definitely help you retain your sanity – and that is crucial, of course!

      “Maybe I’m just having a REALLY bad day, but – without realizing it – have I somehow just demonstrated PART of James’ comment? And please, I am not being facetious. I’m thinking this MAY answer some questions for me.”
      If you study it, I assure you it will answer many questions for you. You are, in fact, exemplifying an aspect of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. It is the part that applies to the top 20% of the population that can use logic, are able to handle multiple variables at once i.e. think about complex problems and because you can do that, you are aware that there is a lot of information that you do not have. But that is always the case no matter how learned you are. So, according to Messrs Dunning and Kruger, you tend to underestimate your abilities.

      Therefore, the conclusions that you hold you treat as tentative and, again, because those around you are so certain, you automatically wonder if you are missing something. You may be but you will definitely know more than those around you who think they know all they need to know!

      May I give you some tips that I have learned over many years? You may already be doing this but this may be useful to others.
      Always ask questions –
      “How does that work?”
      “Can you explain that to me?”
      “How did you come across this information?”
      “Where can I go to get more information about this?” etc.

      If you get that ‘deer in the headlights’ look in return, you are most probably being told nonsense. You need to get the ‘knowing’ to lay out the logic for you and few people can do it!

      You need to exercise a little discernment, of course, because being questioned can prompt some people to throw tantrums (and chairs etc) which may or may not be dangerous. When it is not dangerous, it can be fun, though!

      Speaking of tantrums or physical reactions, something you can do is to focus your eyes on the bridge of the nose of whomever you are talking to. This comes from martial arts. The person cannot tell you are not looking into their eyes but you avoid getting mesmerised and/or ‘stared down’. And if you let your eyes go out of focus just a little, you can see their whole body or much more of it, at least, if you are close. It takes a little practice but you can do it any time you are talking to someone. It opens up a whole world of information for you.

      So you can monitor a person’s body reactions to what you are saying and to what they are saying. It is a great tool for discerning the truth. Being able to see a person’s body is a great self defence tool as well. Hence, the martial application.

      Another thing you can do is to be meticulous about the truth of what you tell yourself and then what you tell others in your day-to-day conversations. In those awkward social situations, you can just say nothing, or say you would rather not express an opinion or tell the truth, which can also be fun sometimes.

      After a while, when you get used to this, you will hear instantly when someone is lying to you or fudging the truth because now you are very familiar with it. The lies, little and large, really stand out now and it becomes a great help in assessing people. I have also found it a valuable healing tool for myself.

      There is the Kingdom of God and then there is the Kingdom of Lies. We may think we can stand in between them, but we can’t.

      I hope this is helpful and that I haven’t been too presumptuous. Take care.

      • Finding Answers

        Thank you SO much for your reply, James. You ticked off a LOT of boxes for me. (Omitting MANY details for my protection.)

        I’ve spent my life asking “Why?”. Sometimes I paid a price, sometimes I had a great deal of fun, and sometimes both experiences combined.

        Many of my discoveries are found in the breadcrumbs of my story, documented in bits and pieces throughout the ACFJ blog.

        You commented “Therefore, the conclusions that you hold you treat as tentative and, again, because those around you are so certain, you automatically wonder if you are missing something……”

        ^That. (Documented in my ACFJ breadcrumbs.)

        You commented “Speaking of tantrums or physical reactions, something you can do is to focus your eyes on the bridge of the nose of whomever you are talking to…..”

        You also commented “Another thing you can do is to be meticulous about the truth of what you tell yourself and then what you tell others in your day-to-day conversations…..”

        I am unable to stay constantly focused on someone’s face during a conversation, nor am I able to tell a lie. (Documented in my ACFJ breadcrumbs.)

        You commented “There is the Kingdom of God and then there is the Kingdom of Lies…..”

        ^That. (Documented by posters and commenters throughout the ACFJ blog)

        You commented “I hope this is helpful and that I haven’t been too presumptuous…..”

        You have been incredibly helpful and not in the least bit presumptuous. I’m sorry I cannot include the details I omitted for my protection, as the details would have validated a great deal of your reply to me.

        With reference to the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Lies, you commented “…..We may think we can stand in between them, but we can’t.”

        Amen.

      • Helovesme

        Really nicely written, James. You’ve been a real blessing and an encouragement.

        I picked up on things from your reply to Finding Answers as well. And the part about not being able to keep one foot in His kingdom, and another foot in the kingdom of lies has been on my heart for a long time.

        Asking questions is quite Biblical. If you read through the Word, you’ll see how many times the Lord asked questions.

        Genesis 3:9
        1 Kings 9:10
        2 Samuel 12
        Isaiah 3:15
        Acts 9

        In His case, it is not because He was trying to avert deception, nor was it about trying to gather information! It wasn’t about the answers per say, it was about starting a conversation. About wanting to communicate. About wanting to connect with a person or to people in general.

        You can usually tell when people are simply carried away by their own “self-importance” because they have no interest in a back and forth dialogue. They also think they don’t have to explain themselves, or back up their statements in any way. If you ask questions, that just makes them mad—outraged that you dare to even ask anything at all. It has to do with control and power, not with communication and dialogue.

        Asking questions can be a great way to cut through all that “nonsense” you brought up. There are so many things that are carelessly and casually thrown around like confetti, and we either don’t pick up on it, or it’s so “normalized” that it doesn’t bother us, or we have no idea how to confront or answer such things.

        For example, someone casually says “you know women; they love to get together and gossip.”

        Why do you assume that only females can be guilty of gossip? And why do you assume that the sole or major reason females get together is to gossip? Where does it say in the Word that it’s mainly females that can’t control their tongues?

        This can apply to people from different countries—-where we stereotype them without a second thought, but never stop to think how dangerous and destructive that is. And never stop to think that that is not only not Biblical, it is sinful.

        So it becomes: why do you assume that you know what this person is like, simply based on their skin color, country of origin, or ethnicity? Have you ever talked to him or her personally? If not, why not?

        When one starts asking questions, I think that is a major sign of growth and maturity. For example, I don’t think that the best students are the ones with a high IQ—-it is the ones who are curious. They desire to learn. They freely admit they are ignorant (or don’t have all the answers) and want to do something about it!

        Take that attitude as far as you can go, without jeopardizing your safety, as you wisely said! Abusers hate conversation, IMO. They don’t want anyone to question them, because that is indicative of challenging their sense of entitlement. They want (and believe they deserve) power, as much as they can get, and they don’t want anyone to make waves as they recklessly pursue it.

      • Artina

        Hi, James and Finding Answers,

        “May I give you some tips that I have learned over many years? You may already be doing this but this may be useful to others.
        Always ask questions –
        “How does that work?”
        “Can you explain that to me?”
        “How did you come across this information?”
        “Where can I go to get more information about this?” etc.

        If you get that ‘deer in the headlights’ look in return, you are most probably being told nonsense. You need to get the ‘knowing’ to lay out the logic for you and few people can do it!”

        I love the scene in the movie “Freedom Writers” where the teacher’s superiors ask her about whether she expected to make a big difference in the students’ lives or something like that, with the new initiative she wanted to take. The teacher answers, “I don’t know”, not confident in what the outcome would be but confident in her desire to try. Humility. (and not at all saying apply the trying in an abusive marriage relationship, but just noting that the teacher was not in people pleasing mode, nor in fear of her students mode, nor in fear of her employment superiors mode. I’m familiar with all these modes but noticing more of “Jesus with me” all the time)

        Listening well and asking good questions is extremely helpful and something that I’ve grown more aware of and have a desire to become more skilled at. I’ve practiced a bit (Where do you want to go from here? is one I’ve used. an honest person will give an honest answer like “I don’t know” but then respond with how they feel.) In the past I feared what my intuition was telling me regarding an abuser (feared the truth, but knew I needed it). I also projected, or assumed, either false hope fantasies of good relationships or my own desire to be kind onto abusers, something like that. With this pattern of assumption I was so shocked by statements they made that I couldn’t think of good questions to ask. I had to get distance first.

        In listening to some of Dr. George Simon’s videos, just recently, it is enlightening how he speaks of those who just want what they want and stubbornly refuse authentic connection/opportunities and how sly this type of person is. It is not, according to Dr. Simon, that they are hurting, it is that they are in fight mode. I remember one counselor kept saying “there’s a hurt there somewhere”. This idea reinforced the abuser’s manipulation to influence me to stay and help. I think I do believe there is hurt there (in a bully or pervasively selfish person), but there is a difference in people’s responses to hurt. Not everyone who was hurt becomes a pervasive longterm bully, unwilling to learn to consider another person’s perspective. Some who were hurt want to help others who were hurt, rather than cause hurt. I do not believe that victims always want vengeance (something I read somewhere). I think victims can, with the Lord’s help, desire justice. I think Dr. Simon’s work will be helpful in learning to identify and clarify some troubling spots for me in processing what I’ve experienced.

        What do I really believe about these types of people who exploit the good will of others? I’m still not firm on that or whether I can distinguish them rightly. I don’t believe I can know the heart of another person completely, only God can know that. But I am coming to believe it’s extremely important to test and listen to people and practice good self care. So if they seem this type they are unsafe, for me, to entangle much with because they don’t/(won’t yet) come clean. I can leave them in their corner with their “ball” and move on with my life without being as entangled with their “game” as I use to be. I also believe, for myself, that I can’t help them from the role of being their spouse. And if they are a sibling I probably shouldn’t entangle much in that role either in terms of collaborative work together. But I can be present, sometimes, and maintain healthy boundaries and be kind and listen for a bit. I hope and pray for them to get the help they need from somewhere so that they stop abusive manipulative behaviors and can start living for real with hope and an ability to truly enjoy mutual consideration and work.

      • James

        Finding Answers,
        I’m very pleased some of my words were helpful and thank you for the feedback.
        You said, “I am unable to stay constantly focused on someone’s face during a conversation, nor am I able to tell a lie.”

        I know it can be very difficult to spend more than a few moments looking at someone’s face, never mind looking them in the eye. It can be like your whole body starts twisting up inside and you have to look away. But you can overcome this feeling and this reluctance with practice.

        Start with a trusted friend and tell them what you want to do – i.e. that you want to watch the bridge of their nose while you are in conversation to see what it feels like. Do it till you get ‘that feeling’ and then hold your gaze for three more seconds – count them off – 1 2 3. Then discuss it with your friend. Repeat and extend the time you are able to do this.

        Next start doing it with people you trust without telling them beforehand and see how you feel and how long you can do it for and what see you gain from it. You can tell this friend afterwards if you think you might be taking advantage of them in any way.

        In this manner, you build up a skill that you can then use when you need it.

        It is commendable that you cannot tell a lie but how many times is that taken advantage of by others? I know I often got myself into trouble I didn’t need by compulsively giving (truthful) answers and information to exploiters who used it against me. The other options are to –
        learn to not say anything (literally keep your mouth shut) or-
        tell the person to mind their own business or –
        ask questions such as, “Why do you want to know that?” Or, “How does this concern you”?

        Of the three options, I found the easiest to learn was to keep my mouth shut and say nothing. It is still really confronting though, both for yourself and (happily) for the nosey parker, too. Again, you can practice this with a trusted friend with their active participation. Ask your friend to try and get you to talk while you try and stay impassive with your mouth firmly shut. It can be fun.

        Next practice with someone you trust without telling them what you are doing. After experiencing the uncomfortableness, you might tell your friend that you are practising keeping your mouth shut.

        I ended up practising this with cops. That’s confronting! But now I can just look impassively at anyone and not say a word. You would not believe just how intimidating that can be for the other person. You are not doing anything ‘wrong’ and you can get there with practice, bit by bit starting with friends 🙂

        Once you get comfortable with doing this, you are no longer on the defensive and then have command of yourself and the presence of mind to ask the probing questions as to why this presumptuous person in your face is sticking their long nose into your business. It’s scary but a lot of fun.

      • James, thanks for your amazing comments. I am learning a lot from you.

        I tried looking at the bridge of my nose in the mirror. It felt weird, but I will keep practising. I think this technique will help me immensely. Quite often, when I am listening to a person talk to me, I turn my head away from their face so I can concentrate on what I’m hearing. I possibly have a little hearing loss, so in large groups where lots of different conversations are going on concurrently, I sometimes find it hard to hear what some people are saying to me even if they are standing close to me and talking only to me. I find it easier to turn my ear to their face, so I hear what they are saying. And I know that by just focusing on listening rather than looking, I am better able to think about what they are saying and think about how I might reply to them. But this looking at the bridge of their nose technique may help me look at their face and still concentrate on the words they are saying.

        I’m aware that some people may not like me looking at them while they talk to me, so I try to look at their face every now and again, just to reassure them. I do this with people I want to show respect to; I don’t do it with bullies. If I sense someone is a bully, I often look at their face and eyeball them sternly. I have no problem doing that, but it took me years to learn that skill, to develop the resilience and gumption to do it. I think for me the resilience and gumption has grown as I have come more and more out of the fog and become better able to see through the lies and manipulative tactics of bullies.

      • James

        Hi Helovesme,
        Thanks for the kind words.
        You wrote, “You can usually tell when people are simply carried away by their own “self-importance” because they have no interest in a back and forth dialogue. They also think they don’t have to explain themselves, or back up their statements in any way. If you ask questions, that just makes them mad—outraged that you dare to even ask anything at all. It has to do with control and power, not with communication and dialogue.

        Bingo! Absolutely.

        This can apply to people from different countries—-where we stereotype them without a second thought, but never stop to think how dangerous and destructive that is. And never stop to think that that is not only not Biblical, it is sinful.

        Stereotyping can have its uses if it is accurate for a particular group. It may be the use of judgement as discernment. Where it goes wrong is when it is used as judgement as in condemnation and is now being applied to an individual. What might be (statistically) true for a whole group of people tells you nothing about an individual from that group. In that sense, I think, it is judge not lest ye be judged.

        It is like if I was told that the average height of the 100 people in a hall was 5’10” and then I announced that the next person that came out of that hall would be 5’10”. Or insisting that the next person who walks out is 5’10” when they are clearly over 6 foot. That would be stupid but that is what so many people do and it is wrong, as you rightly say.

        “When one starts asking questions, I think that is a major sign of growth and maturity. For example, I don’t think that the best students are the ones with a high IQ—-it is the ones who are curious. They desire to learn. They freely admit they are ignorant (or don’t have all the answers) and want to do something about it!”

        Yes, this is so true. I think abuse shuts down our curiosity and we have to work at reviving it and to enjoy the world and its wonder.

      • James

        Hi Artina,
        You wrote, “I love the scene in the movie “Freedom Writers” where the teacher’s superiors ask her about whether she expected to make a big difference in the students’ lives or something like that, with the new initiative she wanted to take. The teacher answers, “I don’t know”, not confident in what the outcome would be but confident in her desire to try. Humility.”

        Sounds like an intriguing movie. Her response was also truthful and non-defensive in that she didn’t attempt to justify her actions. She yielded with grace.

        This reminds me of a group of Chinese martial arts that are known as ‘soft’ or ‘internal’ arts. Their first move is always to yield which creates a harmless void for the opponent. This allows the opponent to retreat if they wish. However, if the opponent continues to advance, they find themselves being spun off in another direction.

        This echoes Jesus’ advice to not resist aggression. I cannot give you chapter and verse unfortunately. But I do remember that “resist” in that instance meant standing ‘toe-to-toe’. So don’t resist or defend by slugging it out with fists or words, in other words.

        ”(and not at all saying apply the trying in an abusive marriage relationship, but just noting that the teacher was not in people pleasing mode, nor in fear of her students mode, nor in fear of her employment superiors mode. I’m familiar with all these modes but noticing more of “Jesus with me” all the time)”

        Amen to that!

        I think I do believe there is hurt there (in a bully or pervasively selfish person), but there is a difference in people’s responses to hurt”

        Abusers (psychopaths/narcissists) don’t feel hurt the way we do. To feel hurt, you need to be able to have a relationship with another person. That relationship is part of the hurt. Abusers cannot form relationships with other people, therefore, they cannot feel hurt as we understand it.

        What abusers feel is ‘offended entitlement’. It is a purely self-centred thing.

        ”What do I really believe about these types of people who exploit the good will of others? I’m still not firm on that or whether I can distinguish them rightly. I don’t believe I can know the heart of another person completely, only God can know that.”

        God (Jesus) did tell us how to distinguish them rightly. He said, “By their fruits, ye shall know them”. Their actions can’t lie. They are what they are. Their words, however, do lie and their purpose is to get you to discount what you are seeing with your own eyes. So assess them as if you are watching television with the sound turn down.

        If an offender is using all the right ‘repentant words’, ask them to make atonement i.e. restore the damage they have done; make good the harm they have caused. A truly penitent person (a non-psychopath) will be willing to do that and follow through. An abuser will not. Again, by their fruits ye shall know them.

        ”So if they seem this type they are unsafe, for me, to entangle much with because they don’t/(won’t yet) come clean. I can leave them in their corner with their “ball” and move on with my life without being as entangled with their “game” as I use to be.”

        So very true, Artina. A teacher of mine many years ago said, “The greatest gift God gave us is our legs because we can walk away”. And to paraphrase you (and I hope I understand you right), we need to walk away for the sake of everybody involved.

      • “Abusers (psychopaths/narcissists) don’t feel hurt the way we do. To feel hurt, you need to be able to have a relationship with another person. That relationship is part of the hurt. Abusers cannot form relationships with other people, therefore, they cannot feel hurt as we understand it.

        What abusers feel is ‘offended entitlement’. It is a purely self-centred thing.”

        ^ Bingo. You nailed it James. 🙂

        Reaching out, can you please put this saying of James’s on our Gems page?

      • Reaching Out

        James’ comment has been added to the GEMS page.

      • Thanks!

      • James

        Thanks for the kind words, Barb.
        You know, I never thought to look at the bridge of my own nose in the mirror. And you are right; it is a little weird 🙂

        Still, I think looking at yourself would be good to practice to start letting your eyes go out of focus a little so you can see the body better with your peripheral vision.

        It’s funny but I have hearing loss, too, and I angle my ‘good ear’ towards the speaker though I still look at them no matter who it is because I lip-read to an extent. Though in a comfortable social situation, it is good manners to break eye contact regularly.

        As for bullies, I never take my eyes off them. I simply can’t look away, anyway. I think it is a self preservation thing.

        Anyway, I am very pleased what I am saying is helpful.

      • James

        Thank you Barb and Reaching Out for nominating and adding my comment to the Gems page. You’ve made my day, nay, my week! 🙂

      • Artina

        Hello, James, Finding Answers, Barb and others,

        Thank you, James, for such a detailed response to my comment.

        In an earlier comment I had referred to a movie, based on a true story. “I love the scene in the movie “Freedom Writers” where the teacher’s superiors ask her about whether she expected to make a big difference in the students’ lives or something like that, with the new initiative she wanted to take. The teacher answers, “I don’t know”, not confident in what the outcome would be but confident in her desire to try. Humility.”

        and you said

        “This reminds me of a group of Chinese martial arts that are known as ‘soft’ or ‘internal’ arts. Their first move is always to yield which creates a harmless void for the opponent. This allows the opponent to retreat if they wish. However, if the opponent continues to advance, they find themselves being spun off in another direction.

        This echoes Jesus’ advice to not resist aggression. I cannot give you chapter and verse unfortunately. But I do remember that “resist” in that instance meant standing ‘toe-to-toe’. So don’t resist or defend by slugging it out with fists or words, in other words.”

        What comes to my mind here is Matthew 5:39 “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”`

        I read, in a Christian forum years ago, an interpretation that was remarkably different from what I had been taught (and struggled with) and I welcomed consideration of this interpretation. Here’s what I remember being presented: in first century culture, people typically used their left hand for unsanitary purposes. When someone was struck on the right cheek (usually ruling class slapping lower class), the aggressor would be purposely using their left hand to further demean the person slapped. To offer the left cheek would be to present an opportunity for another slap, but the aggressor would have to use their right hand (the hand of power in that culture) to strike again, demonstrating the humanity and dignity of the non-aggressor. So, it may have been a form of non-aggressive “honorable resistance”.

        I continue to give thought to how to think of abusers and I appreciate your thoughts, James. Thank you for the reminders of how scripture says to measure people by their fruits and warns us. I do believe abusers have a more difficult problem with empathy than non-abusers and that entitlement is the problem.

        “God (Jesus) did tell us how to distinguish them rightly. He said, “By their fruits, ye shall know them”. Their actions can’t lie. They are what they are. Their words, however, do lie and their purpose is to get you to discount what you are seeing with your own eyes. So assess them as if you are watching television with the sound turn down.

        If an offender is using all the right ‘repentant words’, ask them to make atonement i.e. restore the damage they have done; make good the harm they have caused. A truly penitent person (a non-psychopath) will be willing to do that and follow through. An abuser will not. Again, by their fruits ye shall know them.”

        Many of us have tried to treat others, including abusers (when we didn’t realize we were being abused), as we would want to be treated and we left the TV sound on, with the volume turned up. But I agree with you. And I did finally learn/am learning, once I was open to the truth and not so fixated on my assumptions, to measure by actions and not words, that the words from some are lies. Sometimes there is nothing in actions either. Intention matters but that is hard to get at too if someone is operating with the intention of image management. Some abusers seem to be able to have success in several areas and convince many that they are genuine and have good intentions that are not all about them.

        I agree with you that a truly penitent person would demonstrate willingness to make amends, words along those lines and follow through. They would not demand trust but would rather want to demonstrate trustworthiness.

        Finding Answers, I smiled when I first read your comment when you said you hijacked words. I can so relate to that. If I find that I really connect to a phrase someone else has used that I want to return to read again, it is something that helps me focus on the idea being conveyed, an idea that I’ve had trouble hanging onto. And if I “hear” the idea in several different “languages”/”phrases” it becomes a more familiar friend, more of a constant companion.

        With this past year and the news about abuse, a well know pastor wrote on his blog of how a healthy functional family ought to operate that “every voice should be heard” and respected. His words were a great way to express a wonderful vision. And with all of the discussion of the topics of abuse this past year or two it has been helpful to read those discussions, or blogs, and think about what the forgiveness and reconciliation process ought to look like. It is refreshing that some Christians are using their influence to speak out to support the victims of abuse. I’m grateful for your work here, Barb, and how you help to create space for more voices to be heard. Thank you.

  26. Gany T.

    James – Thank you for your comments on the Dunning-Kruger Effect and Cognitive Bias and the conversations it is generating. Lots for me to mull over. I think it’s turning on a number of ‘lightbulbs.’

    • Finding Answers

      Gany T.,

      I, too, like the conversations being generated on the Dunning-Kruger Effect and Cognitive Bias. It’s not necessarily the actual label of the discussion that matters to me, so much as the content / information the discussion contains.

      Take, for example, the offshoots to the discussion on Leslie Vernick’s slightly-off teaching. Many of the offshoots contain examples of slightly-off teaching, though not necessarily taught in a “c”hurch or school, but through TV, advertising, printed media, music videos, etc. And many “c”hurches use these same avenues of promoting themselves or their view of the Bible.

      • Helovesme

        Artina wonderfully said:

        ” I also projected, or assumed, either false hope fantasies of good relationships or my own desire to be kind onto abusers, something like that. With this pattern of assumption I was so shocked by statements they made that I couldn’t think of good questions to ask. I had to get distance first”

        Really great perspective! This has been the case for myself as well.

        At the time, I had the “deer in headlights” sort of response! Hard to put it into words, because I’m not a deer, and there were no headlights involved.

        But I was shocked, felt numb, and had no idea what to say, much less ask something like: “what did you just say?” (to confirm I’d really heard what was quite shocking to hear) or “why did you say that?” (give them a chance to explain why the heck they would ever say something like that)

        Yes, distance, real soul searching with and through the Lord, and the moving of the Holy Spirit is indispensable. The amazing ways He lifts the veils away, clears the fog and speaks the truth in love is also beyond words—but beyond freeing.

    • James

      Thanks you Gany T. You are very welcome 🙂

      Barb linked a blog post of Jimmy Hinton’s the other day on her twitter a/c which is, not only excellent reading, but an excellent description of Cognitive Bias in action.
      https://jimmyhinton.org/why-sexual-abuse-goes-unnoticed/

      • Helovesme

        Really great comments and feedback, James and everyone else as well.

        James I think you are right about the stereotyping. There is some usefulness to it, but it’s limited. The manner in which I was speaking of was general but very unwise assumptions about an entire group of persons based on extremely shallow and superficial, and mostly negative perceptions. Indicating a lack of discernment and sober, careful judgment based on far more than narrow minded thinking.

        This was perhaps one of my favorite parts:

        “It is commendable that you cannot tell a lie but how many times is that taken advantage of by others? I know I often got myself into trouble I didn’t need by compulsively giving (truthful) answers and information to exploiters who used it against me. The other options are to –
        learn to not say anything (literally keep your mouth shut) or-
        tell the person to mind their own business or –
        ask questions such as, “Why do you want to know that?” Or, “How does this concern you”?”

        As true, sincere born again believers—-honesty is something we prize and aim for. For those of us who have been abused, we know the power of being lied to, or being lied about to others. I’m constantly amazed at how casually and cruelly lies are thrown around or spun around with little to no consideration—-or conscience.

        I used to try to live with the rule of thumb: ask me a direct question, and I will try to give you a direct answer. Meaning—you’ve shown me respect by speaking to me in a direct, honest way—-indicating sincerity and a true desire to hear what I have to say. So I feel like I owe you a direct answer, because to lie or manipulate you in return is no way to meet you halfway.

        Well, thanks to some of your words and the words of others, I now understand that that simply isn’t always the wisest course of action, right? Although I still stand by the wisdom of what I just wrote, I now understand that great caution is required.

        David spoke of this:

        “They visit me as if they were my friends, but all the while they gather gossip, and when they leave, they spread it everywhere.” Psalm 41:6

        “It is not an enemy who taunts me — I could bear that. It is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me — I could have hidden from them. Instead, it is you — my equal, my companion and close friend. with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers.” Psalm 55:12

        The options you gave are incredibly thoughtful and very useful. One of the biggest issues I’ve discussed with other believers is not only how to spot and identify gossip (you wouldn’t believe how many different schools of thought there are about that!), but how to handle it (and again, there are lots of thoughts and opinions out there).

        Seasoned, mature Christians have no excuse to not be aware of the power of words. They can bring a blessing or a curse, good or evil, love or hate.

        However, in order to protect and guard oneself, there is no way I would insist that a believer forget that the Word also says to guard your heart with everything in you (Proverbs 4:23).

        And Christ Himself was careful in who He trusted (never putting His trust in men; John 2:24), simply put—-because He knew all men.

        I think your counsel is one of the best I’ve ever read. Pastors will talk about how divisive and dangerous gossip is—-to the point where it can ruin someone’s life—-but how to combat and confront it is usually not tackled as strongly!

        Please keep commenting and contributing as much as you see fit. You’re really adding a lot of depth to whatever the topic is.

      • James

        Helovesme,
        We are stereotyping abusers here and it is useful, but, I know what you mean. Looking back, I was being pedantic and that particular comment didn’t add to the conversation. So, my apologies to you.

        You make a lot of good points (as usual!) about gossip. Many people gossip and I hate it because I have been hurt by it over the years as I’m sure most, if not all, here have been.

        Peter lumped gossipers in with murderers and thieves! “But you deserve to suffer if you are a murderer, a thief, a crook, or a busybody” 1 Peter 4:15(CEV)
        They can certainly cause major harm

        The gossipers are often just stupid but it is the people who listen and don’t challenge them that are the ones that get me.

        I will tell a story against myself regarding this. Years ago I was gossiping and running down a bloke to a group and one of them interjected and said, “Gee, he speaks highly of you! Well, if I could have sunk into my shoes, I would have. As you can see, it is a lesson that has stuck with me!

        We develop our own character and embed ourselves further into the Kingdom of God through telling the truth but rarely do we owe anyone an answer. I believe we also develop character by not answering every question.

        Jesus said in Matt 7:6 “Don’t give to dogs what belongs to God. They will only turn and attack you. Don’t throw pearls down in front of pigs. They will trample all over them.”(CEV)

  27. Finding Answers

    In reply to James 9TH APRIL 2019 – 11:14 PM

    Trigger Warning

    Perhaps the simplest reply and written without intending ANY negative reflection on you, James, or, for that matter, anyone on the ACFJ blog, is to summarize my convoluted and complex process of discovery through the ACFJ blog.

    I summarize my story to simplify for those who have not read the myriad of comments I wrote – and added on to – throughout the tangled web of my discoveries. For anyone reading only one or two of the many posts I commented on, my comments on past posts may seem inexplicable. It’s simpler to summarize than list every comment I made, the order in which my comments were written, and light bulbs lit.

    I opted to title the comment, as the title summarizes my heart.

    Grief

    I am high-functioning Asperger’s, but with a gift of healing that allows me to feel empathy and assist others in a myriad of ways.

    Genetically, I have a highly sensitive nervous system, over and above the sensitivities that are associated with Asperger’s.

    Sometimes I cannot find words, I only have a picture in my mind, so I write […Insert net-speak for…..] or hijack the words of ACFJ blog posters or commenters.

    I have complex PTSD to such an extent I am unable to work and earn a living, drive a car, or ride a bicycle.

    I spend day and night experiencing triggers, sometimes relatively small, sometimes massive and overwhelming.

    I am VERY functional in most areas of life, though the effects of complex PTSD can be unpredictable.

    I spent over five decades in abusive relationships, in both my personal and professional life.

    My “dad” started sexually violating me the day I was born, and continued with extreme sexual abuse for the early years of my life.

    The early extreme sexual abuse by my “dad” completely destroyed my ability to feel emotions, though I could feel emotions and empathize through the gift of healing.

    Around this last Christmas, my ability to feel emotions was miraculously healed. The glory goes to God.

    As of this morning, the emotional boundary blank spots are no longer blank. The glory goes to God.

    Though I now feel my own emotions, the gift of healing still comes into play in providing me with the ability to feel empathy and assist others in a myriad of ways.

    I had a nearly-fatal illness when I was less than one year old.

    I was baptised in the hospital, as I was not expected to survive the illness.

    I was sexually violated on the way home from the hospital, causing dissociative amnesia and the fragmenting of specific memories.

    My entire family of origin are abusers, though little of the abuse was physical.

    I was sexually abused by more than one sibling.

    I was in an abusive “marriage” for almost two decades, though none of the abuse was physical.

    I was in a short-term relationship to a truly evil “c”hristian abuser, though only once did he firmly grab my wrists.

    I re-integrated all the memory fragments almost four years ago, though I had no understanding of them at the time.

    I was freed from ALL abusive relationships less than two years ago.

    Once freed from ALL abusive relationships, my final walls crumbled.

    I did not know I was a victim of abuse until some time after my final walls crumbled.

    I continue to search for answers, hence my screen name Finding Answers.

    I may have missed some points in my summary, though the pictures are in vivid colour in my mind. God is the only One with the words to describe my picture.

    • Thank you for this summary, Finding Answers. 🙂 🙂 🙂

      And I’m so glad to hear that your emotional boundary blank spots are no longer blank. I am guessing it will take a bit of time getting used the the ‘new normal’. 🙂

      And by the way, I like the way you highjack other’s comments. I often find those comments of yours poignant, and they give emphasis to many good things that others have said.

      • Finding Answers

        Barb

        […Insert net-speak for not yet having the words to reply….]

      • Finding Answers

        Barb commented “I am guessing it will take a bit of time getting used to the ‘new normal’.”

        ^That !!

        With the emotional boundary blank spots no longer blank, the intensity with which I feel emotions has skyrocketed. And with the change in intensity comes increased sensitivities, though I am just beginning to grasp the implications. One example comes to mind:

        There are many discussions in various parts of the world regarding elections. I cannot face polling stations, so I won’t be able to vote unless they develop a secure online system for voting.

        Voter turnout is a big topic, and I know voter accessibility is often discussed, though usually only in the purely physical sense. Perhaps the basis for the discussions needs to be re-evaluated.

      • In Australia you can apply for a postal vote. This means that before the election they will send you the ballot papers in the mail and you return them by mail.

      • When I gave up cigarettes it took me a while to get used to the intensity of my emotions. It’s nothing like what you are going through, but when I gave up smoking I realised that cigarettes had been cutting off the highs and lows of my emotions. Without cigarettes, my emotional curves were much higher and lower than they had been when I was able to partly numb them by cigs.

      • Finding Answers

        Barb commented In Australia Where I reside you can apply for a postal vote….”

        (Comment modified by me after researching Barb’s suggestion.)

        ^That.

        Barb commented “…….my emotional curves were much higher and lower…..”

        I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity to experience life with bright colours, rather than the unending flatness of grey and / or black.

        Thank you, Barb, for suggesting my life will be a kaleidoscope of colourful chips, rather than a kaleidoscope of chips of obsidian.

      • “…my life will be a kaleidoscope of colourful chips, rather than a kaleidoscope of chips of obsidian.”

        This brought me to tears!

        I don’t think I need to say they were tears of pain/grief for what you’ve been through, and at the same time tears of joy for your healing.

        I know it’s a cliche, but Praise the Lord!

    • James

      Finding Answers,

      What can I say? That is the question I have been considering for some hours now. I decided to take your lead and keep my words spare.

      Your words, though bare and understated, are powerful. You speak of more than fifty years of abuse that would most certainly crush most people beyond recovery. Then, when you are physically free, you delve back into it all to find answers which can only hurt further. Now that you can see and now with emotions restored, you re-experience events with feelings that must now be electric and raw. What courage!

      I have been thinking about Agape love lately and it has been largely abstract but you have made it concrete for me. Many Christians talk about Agape love like it is a trip through fields of flowers; but it is not. It is a hard slog through the grit and grime of this world.

      It requires consistent, unrelenting Courage. It requires the determined pursuit of Truth. And it requires an ability to do it all with Compassion for others and yourself. That is your journey, Finding Answers. That is you. And I am humbled.

      Thank you for responding to me and writing what you have.

      • Finding Answers

        James

        [….Insert net-speak for not yet having the words to reply….]

      • Finding Answers

        Modifying James’ reply to me “Thank you, James, for responding to me and writing what you have.”

        ^That.

      • James

        It is the least I could do, Finding Answers. Take care

  28. Anonymous

    I’ve been thinking about the Dunning-Kruger effect and how people who don’t know, don’t know they don’t know.

    And I wonder how many people consider themselves qualified to speak, write, be experts, etc. and yet have never themselves been abused, raped, beaten, and so forth.

    And even personal firsthand experience doesn’t guarantee wisdom. Take, for example, this one woman whose dad cheated on her mom. She grew up and then put together a book advising women to be extra hot/sexy, so as to keep their men satisfied and prevent them from straying — as though that’s the real reason men cheat.

    Same thing goes for abuse, men’s violence against women, sexual violence. One has to be very choosy as to who they listen to for counsel, which is something abused women don’t have the ability to do, assuming their abuse is super severe. Thankfully, there is the Hall of Blind Guides. And some who do know are writing, speaking, and counseling. Too bad it’s far and few who are wise and will give abused women some real advice as to what has become of them, why their lives are so bad, that they didn’t cause it, their abuser chooses to be an abuser and likes being one…..

    • James

      Anonymous,
      thanks you for suggesting of doing an image search on “Dunning-Kruger Effect”. The graphs do indeed summarise a lot of information very well. I recommend others to take up Anonymous’ suggestion.

      Churches tend to trim theology down till it becomes an ideology with few variables. This then provides a simplified framework for many people and is a comforting foundation on which to build their lives. People adopt the ‘group think’ because of this and they do not want to consider adding to their understanding because this will inevitably change the foundation they are standing on psychologically. The temptation to tell oneself, in these circumstances, that they know all they need to know is very strong.

      ‘Group Think’ is the desire of people to belong to and identify with a group. It is much harder to do this if the group and its thinking keep changing. So the desire to reject new knowledge (which means change) is very strong.

      The abuser does not want to change anyone’s understanding of church doctrine (the limited ideology). He/she wants everything to go along as before. So the temptation to side with him/her is naturally very strong.

      The victim of abuse necessarily needs the church group to expand their understanding to incorporate this evil in their midst – to learn from and grow. But this new knowledge is very uncomfortable not only because it is new but because it is about evil in their midst. So the temptation to blame and reject the victim is also very strong.

      “Don’t mess with my comfort. Don’t mess with my certitude which protects me from the chaos. Don’t mess with my psychological foundation. I know all I need to know and what I don’t know is not important. You are not important” – is the unspoken cry from the group.

      Eventually, with enough people giving voice to abuse, the ‘anomalies’ have to be acknowledged officially; the contradictions are becoming too obvious. Then along comes the writers, the counsellors, the ‘wise ones’ whose sympathies (because often times they haven’t been abused themselves) lie with the status quo and are given “air time” because of this.

      They will be rewarded if they manage this incorporation in such a way as to cause the least change or disruption (if any) possible. Hence, we have the contradictions from one paragraph to the next in the writings and between words and actions in the behaviours.

      This is a rather cynical view, I admit, but I believe it speaks to the subject of Barbara’s post above and also to the Dunning-Kruger Effect so often on display and the subject of your thoughtful comments, Anonymous.

      My 2 cents worth, in any case! 🙂

      • Well said, James – I think you’ve made many good observations and thoughts here!

        “Eventually, with enough people giving voice to abuse, the ‘anomalies’ have to be acknowledged officially; the contradictions are becoming too obvious. Then along comes the writers, the counsellors, the ‘wise ones’ whose sympathies (because often times they haven’t been abused themselves) lie with the status quo and are given “air time” because of this.”

        This is what I’ve seen happening especially in the last year or so since the #MeToo movement went mainstream and #ChurchToo got traction as well.

        Many victims had been calling for years/decades for the church to wake up to abuse issues in its midst. The numbers of people giving voice escalated exponentially in the last year or so, which seems to have put enough pressure for the powers-that-be to make more ‘official acknowledgement’.

        As most regular readers of this blog, there are many ‘official acknowledgements’ that are fake: they’re just carefully crafted tactics to re-abuse and silence the victims while protecting the funds and images of the institutional churches and parachurch groups.

        To go back to the subject of this series of posts: I think the SBC’s (Southern Baptist Convention’s) attempt to FINALLY respond to the abuse issue may be a good example of a denomination having to acknowledge officially because the contradictions have become too obvious. And several of the teaching team they have picked for ChurchCares.com seem to be writers, counsellors, ‘wise ones’ whose sympathies (because often times they haven’t been abused themselves) lie with the status quo and are being given “air time” because of this. ———I’m cribbing some of James’s words 🙂

        I am looking forward to seeing what the SBC present in their ChurchCares video series.

        Having said all that, I am well aware that the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements have not talked about some kinds/forms of abuse. So there are victims who are still feeling very much left out and ‘invisible,’ because the type(s) of abuse they suffered are not being talked about in public or mainstream discourse, or even in the ‘abuse advocacy’ discourse. I wanted to say that, to acknowledge those people, those survivors whose voices and experiences are not being heard and acknowledged yet.

      • Artina

        I agree with Barb that your comment, James, is a well written description of “the times”.

        And we all would like an “official acknowledgement of the anomalies”. “Eventually, with enough people giving voice to abuse, the ‘anomalies’ have to be acknowledged officially;”

        Just like in our difficult relationships we would (or would have liked) acknowledgement of particulars in the conflict or dilemma so we can/could have/had good hope, rather than false, going forward. And we would have liked more than that acknowledgement. We wanted meaningful movement in a “new creation” direction sooner rather than later.

        I think I’ve come to accept that the official acknowledgement, with meaningful movement, is not going to come from certain groups that may be significant people or groups in my life, or institutions where I’ve hoped there would be more meaningful conversation, and action, on some topics. What is sad to me is it seems that not only is there not mutual consideration and appreciation in these situations it is also not the environment where particular kinds of recovery/restoration joy can be shared or even the shared joy of marveling at God’s works in the world. The celebratory joys have to fit a certain kind of form that affirms the hierarchy and traditional/cultural norms. I don’t think they really care about the “anomalies”, much less do they think they have anything to learn from “anomalies” or learn from God through “anomalies.”

        I’ve reached a point where instead of trying to find more meaningful connection by navigating the status quo norms of church or parachurch programs I just try to look for where, it seems to me, God is already working in people on areas of common interest, like this website, for one example. And I have found a few people for a “book club” , here locally, where the book is by a female author not published by a place that has ties to some who have a particular patriarchal agenda.

      • To anyone who is wondering who James is, I know who he is and I can assure you he is a genuine survivor of abuse and a genuine Christian.

        I don’t know how he earns his living, but I don’t believe he is in academia or anything like that. His knowledge of abuse and the ways people behave comes from his own personal experience along with (I’m guessing) lots of self–motivated study. And I’m pretty sure he did all that study for the same reason that many of our readers have done it. We study abusers and systems and groups: we study because we want to get free from the abusers. We want to survive! We want to come out of the fog, discern the lies, and stand strong against the abusers and their enablers.

      • Helovesme

        Thank you for that, Barbara! I’ve been enjoying what James has been offering and sharing.

        I connected that “James” is a male screen name, but that is all. It’s wonderful that he is the real deal.

        And Finding Answers broke down a lot of comments that I may have missed, or didn’t get to read. So I got some great “highlights” from what was picked out and re-quoted!

        And when James said: “Group Think’ is the desire of people to belong to and identify with a group. It is much harder to do this if the group and its thinking keep changing. So the desire to reject new knowledge (which means change) is very strong.

        The abuser does not want to change anyone’s understanding of church doctrine (the limited ideology). He/she wants everything to go along as before. So the temptation to side with him/her is naturally very strong.

        “But this new knowledge is very uncomfortable not only because it is new but because it is about evil in their midst. So the temptation to blame and reject the victim is also very strong.”

        Sometimes I wish I’d taken a class on sociology. From the time I was very young, group dynamics fascinated me. Since I was almost always an outsider, I had the unenviable honor of being more observer rather than a participant.

        I’ve also been a participant; don’t get me wrong! Even then, I’ve tried to be objective and observe and store up what I’d picked up on from others, or personally participated in.

        Before I read the Word or became a believer, the “mob rule” mentality at Christ’s crucifixion was brought up in a secular English class. The teacher was explaining (from his perspective) that a group of people can hold a lot of power, hold a lot of sway—and get very carried away.

        One or more people can start calling out: Crucify Him! And suddenly the whole crowd is chanting away. It spread like a fire. But how, exactly?

        Bear in mind, this was the teacher talking. But it piqued my interest. I was targeted and bullied for most of my school years. A few of those times (the worst times), several people would start humiliating me, and soon a whole group of people joined in, chanting names and publicly adding to my torment, as they got louder and louder. How did that happen, exactly?

        And how does one remain an individual, freely thinking for themselves, and yet part of a group (say, the body of Christ)—while still maintaining that ability to think for oneself, and not adopt a “group mentality” which may or may not be in line with Christ?

        The closer I would get to my fellow believers (or anyone in general), the more practice and poise it took to make sure my mind was still my own, and did not belong to them. Yes, I am a part of this family, or this church body—-but lines are drawn, and healthy boundaries are necessary.

        There are certain things that are right and wrong, with no shades of gray. No amount of people trying to claim otherwise is going to change that. And if the “group mentality” still wants to go down those roads, I’m not going down with them!

        This is hard, and I’ve stumbled and bumbled plenty of times. Many times I’ve looked back and repented wanting to belong so badly, or be accepted so ardently—-that I didn’t realize I was sacrificing my own way of thinking. I was letting a fog take over, which clouded my judgment and fogged up my inner eyes—-so that I didn’t see what became very obvious to me later on.

    • I put a link in Anonymous’s comment to our Hall of Blind Guides.

      Readers, if you ever want to find our Hall of Blind Guides, you can go to our top menu and dig into the About tab or the Resources tab. 🙂

  29. Finding Answers

    Barb commented “……So there are victims who are still feeling very much left out and ‘invisible,’ because the type(s) of abuse they suffered are not being talked about in public or mainstream discourse, or even in the ‘abuse advocacy’ discourse…..”

    ^That.

    I could apply Barb’s words to other areas of academic thinking. (Omitting details for my protection.)

    Anonymous commented “And I wonder how many people consider themselves qualified to speak, write, be experts, etc. and yet have never themselves been abused, raped, beaten, and so forth.”

    Anonymous also commented “And even personal firsthand experience doesn’t guarantee wisdom……”

    ^That and ^That.

    I could apply Anonymous’ words to other areas of academic thinking. (Omitting details for my protection.)

    Helovesme commented “…….The manner in which I was speaking of was general but very unwise assumptions about an entire group of persons based on extremely shallow and superficial, and mostly negative perceptions……”

    ^That.

    I could apply Helovesme’s words to other areas of academic thinking. (Omitting details for my protection.)

    Barb commented “……..I wanted to say that, to acknowledge those people, those survivors whose voices and experiences are not being heard and acknowledged yet.”

    ^That.

    I could apply Barb’s words to other areas of academic thinking. (Omitting details for my protection.)

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  1. Logic and Authority in the Church | A Cry For Justice

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