At the end of myself…at the feet of Jesus

Matthew 25: 40, And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Prepared to Counsel?

13 Comments

It’s a long scary road for a woman to get to the place where she can admit she is abused. It’s can be an even longer one figuring out what to do next. Should she tell her family? Confide in friends? Disclose it to the church? For many women there is no choice. They will tell no one because they are too afraid of their abuser’s reaction should he find out she’s exposed his abuse or they simply have no one to tell. Others fear the reactions of the ones they might confide in. Sadly those that get up the courage to tell the truth, they often end up having more abuse heaped on them by those they have confided in.

Typical reactions from Christians first learning of a case of domestic abuse often include the following:

“Go home and love that man. If you show him love first, he’ll love you back.”

“Go home and forgive him. Show him that you’ve forgiven him by going out of the way to show him you have. He’ll be so humbled by receiving your forgiveness, he’ll repent.”

“Go home and submit to your husband. Non-submission is the root of your problem. If you weren’t rebellious towards him, your husband wouldn’t feel like he had to show you who’s the boss.”

“Go home and give that man the best sex he’s ever had. He’ll forget about being angry.”

“Go home and pray for your husband and then submit to whatever God sees fit for you to endure.”

Or abused wives are told…

“He’s got anger issues. Pray for him and be patient with him.”

“He’s just stressed. When things get better, he’ll stop.”

“Seek couple’s counseling. Each story has two sides.”

Sorry, folks, but this kind of advice is nothing short of dangerous garbage. If a man is an abuser, he’s an abuser. He doesn’t have anger issues. He isn’t sexually starved. He isn’t wanting more love. He wants to control his wife and nothing short of that will satisfy him.

The church at large, oblivious to the ways of an abuser, is making things worse for abused wives than it already is. By jumping into the discussion without taking the time to figure out what is really going on, church officials, Christian counselors and Christians in general, are creating dangerous conditions for abused women. If a woman comes to you with a story of abuse, the first thing you need to do is believe her; the second thing you need to do for her is pray with her and provide her with safety; the third thing you need to do is brush up on domestic abuse. It’s real. It’s dangerous. And it’s sometimes deadly.

If you don’t understand abuse, get a good book on it and study up. There’s some recommended on this blog and on our other blog, A Cry For Justice @ http://cryingoutforjustice.wordpress.com/ . One day you’ll most likely come face to face with an abused woman who is crying out for someone to believe her, for someone to help her. That person just might be you.

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Author: annagracewood

Slave of Christ. Reformed Baptist. Mama of many blessings. Homemaker. Homeschooler. Author. Blogger. I write about practical Christian living, womanhood, and domestic violence awareness (with a few other topics thrown in). Passionate about Christ's glory, my children, homemaking, writing, the church, helping those in abusive situations, reading, and animals. Lover of good coffee.

13 thoughts on “Prepared to Counsel?

  1. I know what both of you are saying, Morven and Anna, about the word “confess”.

    Yes, to the victim it feels like a confession, but that’s only because we have been filled with false guilt (thinking that the trouble at home, and the trouble that might arise if I tell the church, is all my fault). I prefer the word “disclose”. I disclose the tip of the iceberg to people, to see how they respond. If they pick up the hint and don’t judge, I tell them a teeny bit more. That way I protect myself from massive hurt, hopefully. And I’ve learned that when I disclose, it’s good to kinda brace myself first, stiffen my ribcage a little, so that if they say something hurtful it glances off rather than digs into my heart.

    And Reflections, you are not nuts. you are not crazy. you are searching and finding and gaining strength. You are starting to see thru the fog.

    I suspect that you might have pulled back from your online support group because some of them started to pressure you into leaving him. “Why don’t you leave?” can be such a HURTFUL question. I have an article on my site which answers the question Why Didn’t You Leave?
    I amassed many reasons why women said they stayed, reading research papers, and accounts from survivors.

  2. Anna – I wanted to cry when I read your post. You hit everything right on for me. I am in a similar “stuck” situation when it comes to my family. I have been able to find a few pockets of support on-line. In fact, when I did finally confess (yes, that is exactly what it felt like) to one of my on-line groups as to the history of my marriage and the issues I was facing daily they were the ones that first called it abuse. They were the ones that encouraged me to seek counseling for myself only. Once I reached that point I actually wound up distancing myself some from the group. I felt so guilty over the fact that I am still with my husband and trying to figure out if we can make it work and overcome everything. Recently I tried to open up to my mom about how things really were early in my marriage. I only exposed a tiny tip of the iceberg to her and that I still wasn’t sure if we would be together in another 17 years. Her response still shocks me. She basically said that after 17 years you have pretty well committed yourself to things and you just learn to both go your own ways when times are rough. That interaction caused me to just clam up. To feel as though you can’t be completely exposed to family is so hard. Especially when there are no friends in the picture. It is a feeling of complete isolation and loneliness. I finally started blogging here in the hopes that I can tell my story, share my experiences, gain strength from other survivors…however…it all comes with the price of paranoia that he will find the blog. What will happen if he does. How will he react? Will it doom our marriage? Will it give him more fuel for his fire? Will he add this to my long list of ways I have deceived him? Am I nuts? Maybe my interpretation of everything is wrong and not as bad as I type here.

    I look forward to hearing from you and other survivors. You give those of us that are stuck and confused hope that one day we will figure it out. I feel so blessed to have found support and guidance here.

    • Dear Reflections,

      No, you’re not nuts. Your husband might be but you’re not. He’s an abuser and he’s probably worked really hard to convince you the abuse is your fault and has maybe even told you you are crazy. I applaud your writing. I’ve visited your site and it’s good. Keep working at it if you can but keep safe. Mask yourself as well as possible and leave no traces.

      Have you given serious thought as to what life will be like for you if you continue to stay with him? 20 years? 30? More? At least think about getting to safety. In no way do I believe on running out on a “difficult” or “unhappy” marriage–one where the couple has “grown apart” or “have no interest in common anymore” but an abusive one is a different story. God hates abuse and is on the side of the oppressed. True abusers rarely change and then it’s only by an act of God. Please give starting over some thought.

      If you need to talk to someone, you can e-mail me at thecrossisall@gmail.com and share as little or as much as you wish. I’ll be blessed to come along side of you. Or you can head over to A Cry For Justice, http://cryingoutforjustice.wordpress.com/ a blog I maintain along with Pastor Jeff Crippen. He is one pastor who “gets it” and is very open to talking with and counseling abuse victims. Leave a message there letting him know you need to talk and he’ll get back to you. Or e-mail me and I’ll forward it to him.

      Meanwhile, I’ll be praying for you.

      Anna

      • Anna – thank you so much…I do try to make every effort to be safe especially with this blog. Honestly, about the future…sometimes I do imagine what it will be like to stay with him. Sometimes I see us finally happy and moved forward. Most of the time I see us dealing with the same issues. I want so badly to believe in “us” to believe that our marriage can somehow be turned around. The first 17 years though are not a good indication of the future. More often than not I wonder what is going to happen when the kids are gone. When it is just he and I. Am I going to continue to stay then? I have been thinking recently that I need to try (again) to have my own account that I can tuck some money aside in without his knowing. Just as a safety net. I did this when I initially left, I tucked money behind a picture in a frame… this sounds so sad to me to just type it out. This to me though, is a strong indication of something I must know deep down or something I sense. I need to have that way out. I need to know I can walk away and be ok. I will keep your email address handy and probably will get in touch with you. Thank you so much. I really do not know where I would be without all those who have been willing to reach out and offer so much support.

      • Please do stay in touch. I understand your wavering as to your future with or without your husband. I’ve been there. It’s sad that your husband drove you to feel you had to hide the money; your doing so was a perfectly natural reaction. We’re in this together–you, me and so many others. More importantly, God is good even when husbands aren’t. Keeping you in prayer and hoping to hear from you. ~Anna

    • Reflections: Great to hear from you. Anna mentioned you had commented. Abuse itself is immensely confusing – that is one of the abuser’s chief tactics. Every single abuse victim experiences it. That confusion is only increased when victim’s talk to Christians who are ignorant of the mentality and nature and tactics of abuse. And the vast majority are ignorant of it. Many are even duped by the abuser himself. People automatically gravitate to the abuser by deciding to be “neutral” or “not rock the boat.” To come to the aid of the victim requires far more. It requires not just standing by, but actively standing alongside as an ally and taking some of the shots from the abuser yourself. People would rather just drift and coast and not have their world rocked. As an abuse victim, you threaten to rock their world. Of course, the real “rocking” is being done by the abuser. You wisely only exposed “a tiny tip of the iceberg” to your mother. Victims often do this. And what happens when the person they tell it to just shut them down? The victim clams up. No more sharing there, right? If your mother had really listened, if she really had “gotten it,” you would have poured out the whole sorry, tangled web your abuser has bound you in.

      You aren’t doing anything that is going to be responsible for dooming your marriage. Abuse dooms marriages. As Anna said, be assured that you are not nuts! And your interpretation of what is happening to you not only is not an exaggeration, if anything (as is usually the case) you still haven’t seen how bad it really is. But that takes some time and you are on the right path. Stick close to Christ. Believe His Word. Keep in touch with others, even if only by blog. Christ is Truth and He will show you more and more of it.

      Blessings in Christ,
      Jeff

      • Jeff – your reply means so much to me. When I initially left my husband I received many letters from his side of the family. From his Grandfather in particular talking all about what a sin this was and how I was going to hell. None of them had any idea what I was dealing with of course and I am sure had been told that my husband hadn’t done anything wrong. At 21 years old though, that was hard to take. I have spent some time trying to understand how to “fix” all of this. I spent a lot of years feeling it was all my fault and I actually deserved the punishment he was passing out. I do wish that I had someone that I could just pour my heart out to. I think that is part of why I started the blog. I just felt there was no one who really knew my story. Even the therapist I am seeing has been helpful, but, lately has been more about what I can change to be more accomodating to my husband on some aspects of our marriage. The moment she suggests something I just pull back. I have tried to change and adapt so much over the years to make things better I cannot accept that I need to continue to change to make him happy. Though I have come so far on this journey I still fight against a great level of guilt over not just keeping my head down. Over opening about regarding all that happens. A lot of paranoia over what will happen if he finds I am sharing so much. At the same time….it is the truth. Keeping it as a dirty secret was just making it worse for me. I guess I often times get fed up with people telling me how far we have come and how much we inspire them and how impressed they are with us. These are all people that have no idea of how things are when the doors close and no company is around. Lately I have been finding more and more comfort when I do go to Church. I can feel Him wrapping His arms around me. It reminds me that He loves me. To feel loved wholly and unconditionally is such an overwhelming feeling lately.

        Thank you for your reply. Really, there are no amount of words I can string together to express how much it means to stay in contact with such wonderful people here.

      • Excellent! You are slowly but surely sorting things out. Lundy Bancroft and others I have read point out that even many therapists are ignorant of and taken in by the abuser. Just because they are a psychologist does not mean they understand the sociopathic mind. Others affirm the same thing.

  3. Anna, I couldn’t help but notice that you used the word “confess” when you mentioned talking to the church. Confession is appropriate only when you have sinned. The battered wife has not sinned. She has been sinned against.

    Some Christian ‘counselors’ have been educated using only the teachings of Jay Adams. No resources apart from Scripture. That makes as much sense as saying a surgeon, mechanic or engineer can only use what is found in Scripture for their educational resources. I doubt if any State board would certify them.

    Your three points are right on target. Believe her, pray & protect her, and then get further education on the subject. Some churches have allowed me to give workshops on sexual abuse and domestic violence, and not all the attendees have agreed with what I had to say, but it made for excellent dialogue and networking. Eyes were opened and even those who thought they knew everything about everything without having studied it or experienced it (you know folks like that, don’t you) actually admitted they learned something.

    Thanks for this.

    • Thanks Morven. I see your point on “confess”; I didn’t mean for it to come across that way. It’s true that an abused woman often feels as if she is the one at fault (she isn’t, no matter what she may or may not have done); after all, that’s what she’s been told. I chose the word “confess” because it often feels that way. At least it did to me. I felt shamed, confused, frightened and, in some ways, guilty, though the guilt was more for not figuring it out sooner. It felt like I was being ripped open and laid bare. I think a lot of women do. It feels as if we are confessing a deep, dark secret that we’re afraid to keep hidden but just as afraid to share.

      I appreciate your encouragement.

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