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Have you wondered how someone so caring, thoughtful and successful could be mistreating his wife or girlfriend? Does the thought of him hitting her, bullying, name calling, finding fault with every thing she does seem like she is talking about someone else? Is she really talking about the Director of a charity dedicated to helping the vulnerable? Is she really taking about the deacon who has been serving God for 20 years or the Pastor of the local church? Is she really talking about the Coach of the local football team or that friendly guy who always helps out his neighbours?

Domestic or spousal abuse is given that name because that is exactly what it is! An abuser has beliefs and attitudes about his intimate relationship that does not hold true for his other relationships. He can be perfectally friendly, tenative, understanding towards his mother or work colleagues then come home and batter his wife for not having the dinner on the table. He can give a perfectly lovely compliment to his mate’s wife and offer to help out at the church then go home and put down and critiize his wife for being an embarrassement and a lazy cow, then pull up his chair and refuse to cook, clean or help out with the kids.

He believes he has CEO status over his wife:

He controls her – it has the right to tell her where she goes and what she does

He is entitled to certain privileages and rights the she is not allowed to have

He thinks he owns her like his possession

So next time you hear a woman say her husband or boyfriend is abusing her and you know him and can’t quite believe he is like that…think again….


Back in October 2000, when I first gave my life to God and left an abusive relationship, I was not aware that it was not an end to unhealthy relationships but rather a begining of learning how to grow into a whole woman so I could enjoy healthy relationships. 32 years of living with abuse was not going to be cured over night. As I have learned about God’s love and overcome my natural tendancies to do wrong and be healed of my wounds, I have crawled, walked and run out of mindsets and behaviours that if kept would lead me back on the path of chosing to live with abuse.

Now, 8 years later, I am glad that God took me this way. As I was not brought up in a church system, I have been able to see the church’s response to Domestic Abuse first hand. While I want to be able to shout from the rooftops that we as God’s people can protect the weak and hold the perpetrator responsible, I am sad to say that in my experience, I have seen little evidence of this.

Now, I am not saying that the church does not support the needy, homeless, prostitutes, the youth etc,. The church as a body is going some wonderful work, what I am saying is that there is still along way to go with how we deal with Domestic Violence

Only in that last decade of so has the secular world taken Domestic Violence seriously and I feel that the church response has been even slower. While the church should be at the forefront of addressing oppression and she does a good job of defending the poor, she sometimes is the last to take a stand where domestic violence is concerned. I believe this is because we have feminised the character of God – over emphaising forgiveness and turning the other cheek, while justice and setting a limit around evil is something we are too afraid to act on. I also believe our lack of education about an abuser’s character is another failure and our tendancy to blame the victim for ‘putting up with it’.

Take the woman who goes to her Pastor for help with her abusive husband. If a man is abusing a woman she should not be told to go home, be a good example, pray for her husband and forgive him. Yet because of the misuse of scripture for a woman to submit to her husband, this faulty, dangerous and unscriptual guidance has put many women at danger and sent a message to her husband that its perfectly OK for the church to send back his wife and be mistreated over and over again.

What I find more disturbing is the neutral response a church adopts when faced with abuse. I went through a situation where I started to see controlling tendancies in my boyfriend and after a season of confrontation and trying to sort the issue out, I decided that I had to leave before the behaviour escalated. I thank God that I had grown enough to see the warning signs and leave. Unfortuately, it was when I left the relationship, that my ex-date became very verbally abusive and threatening. It seems he was not too taken with my show of boundaries and responded how abusive people normally do when others say not to their control.

I took the matter to my church and told them about his behaviour, hoping to find protection and support for myself and accountablity for my ex. What I got was a neutral response, here is what I mean:

  • We won’t sides: Even though he has been threatening, we won’t take sides as there is always two sides to every story.
  • He must be in pain over the split and that is why he is mistreating you
  • He needs as much protection from you as you do from him
  • We won’t get involved because we want to maintain relationships with him
  • We won’t confess he has mistreated you, we will just keep emphasising that he is hurting
  • You must have done something to trigger his anger
  • We won’t hold him accountable as we don’t want him to feel worse or upset him even further

My bible tells me and my experience of dealing with abuse tells me, that this passive neutral response to abuse does not heal the victim or heal the perpetrator.

A leading Counsellor in this area, Lundy Bancroft, states that when a community does not tolerate abuse, the abuser loses his control. Isn’t this what our God wants us to be, a light in our communities, standing up against evil and holding perpetrators responsbile? The abuser can only find healing by firm confrontation and the abused can only find healing by support and strengthening. That is what our bible teaches but we give the perpetrator our understanding and weak hand and victimize the victim again by telling her she must have done something to be treated that way, which reinforces the abuser’s justifications for his abuse. It tells her she is alone and that there is no one really there to protect her.

I know its not easy to confront evil. We fear losing friends, being made to look the bad person and what others will do and think. Just think about your own life for a second, think about the times you gossiped because you did not want to contront your mate who offended you. Or you withdrew in angry silence and never bothered calling again. Anything but confront. Yet victims of abuse are chastised for not making a stand and then beaten down again because her community won’t stand up and confront with her and for her.

I had to stand against my abuser by myself but I was not alone because I had God with me. He brought several key people into my life that helped me through but the place I expected to help was unable to help me.

If anything, this experience taught me a lot about how our Christian values that were intended to be the moral fibre of our hearts and a firm foundation for our communities can be so distorted and weakened that we give evil power and the power of good is once again seen as the losers team.

It has also taught me how I can educate and support the church in applying wisdom to working with abused women and how to give the perpetrator the best support by taking away his perceived rights to control and own his partner.

Jesus taught us that we can learn about people by seeing what kind of fruit they bear in their lives. We can’t read what goes on in a person’s heart but we can learn about them through their actions. Just as its important for women to learn to recognise a man by his fruit and work out whether he is a safe person to be around, it’s equally important that a woman thinks carefully about what she is teaching others about who she is.

One of the areas I have struggled with the most is feeling confident about the convictions and beliefs I have in my heart. One of damages of abuse is that a woman has difficulty trusting her instincts and rather than feel confident about what is right she doubts her perceptions and abilities to make good choices. She makes excuses, waits awhile to see what happens, puts things off, denies how she feels and blames herself before holding others accountable.

God’s will is to make abused people strong, so that they are no longer downtrodden and afraid. He wants you and I to be sure of right and wrong and to stand for what is right especially when our hearts are convicting us to do so. If we don’t live out our inner heart’s convictions we will live in darkness and make wrong choices and our actions will lead others to learn things about us that are not true.

When I hide, its like taking the long route to my desired destination. I might experience lots of new things along the way but it takes far longer for me to be where I really want to be. After roadblocks, deters and unnecessary painful experiences, I come to realise that if I had spoken from my heart in the first place, I would be in a very different place.

Yet God is bigger than our denials and fears. Seeing our weaknesses, He uses the long path to teach us, change us, refine us and make us stronger. Nothing is wasted with God. So rather than mourn your failures, know that God will take all our blunderings and use them for our good. We learn obedience through our suffering and when we are faced with speaking the truth again, we find it a little more easire to say no, or express our preferences without fear, for we know that the truth is the only way to freedom and staying safely in the will of God.

As we practice living the truth, we find that we are slowly becoming a light on a mountaintop, for everyone to see, no long shackled in silence and fear and trembling, the chains that held us captive now falling from our feet and hands and we step into that wonderful place of dicovering what it is like to be who God really created us to be.

In my experience, overcoming my fear of people and letting my actions declare the truth in my heart has been the greatest challenge in overcoming the cycle of destructive and unhealthy relationships. I would be interested to hear what your greatest challenges have been.

While I was having my hair coloured at the hair dressers today, I stumbled across an article in a woman’s magazine about a lady who was nearly killed by her boyfriend. As she traced back through their early dating relationship she built a picture of his escalating changing behaviour.

They were definite early warning signs and I jotted them down to show you how Mr Right turned to out to be Mr Horribly Wrong:

He started off being handsomely charming, intoxicating her with gifts, holidays and romantic nights out

She spent more and more time with him until her family complained that they hardly ever saw her

When she tried to reconnect with her family or talk to other people at their local pub he sulked or shouted at her

When the shouting and sulking didn’t work, he then became verbally abusive calling her all sorts of derogatory names down the phone

At this point the victim saw the and ended the relationship

He became regretful and apologised saying he would never to be like that again, she took him back

But he did do it again ….and again. The scenario of obsession and apologising continued for 2 years.

After 2 years the victim fled her home hoping she could break the cycle and start over.

Her abuser found her and demanded she pay back every penny he had ever spent on gifts. Too afraid to say no she made the payments.

Then silence.

Then a text message: I am going to work aboard, please meet me for lunch, one last time.

She said yes.

They met. He carried on like everything was fine between them. They were meant to have lunch at the park but he drove to the moors.

He beat her until she lay lifeless.

He thought he killed her. But she survived. He was sent to prison for 2 years.

Now this might seem like an extreme case but everyday but 1 in 4 women in the UK suffer domestic violence and 2 women each week lose their lives.

Early Warning Signs

There are always early warning signs and there are things you can do to protect yourself.

Romance is good but stay balanced and learn about the person who is having such a mushy affect on you! Who is romancing you is more important than the romance itself!

Stay connected to your friends, family and activities. Involve your date in your life, don’t spend every night on your own with him. If he has a problem with having a life and seeing your friends and family you need to know that sooner than later and you can find out by arranging to have date nights in groups and by telling him sorry but I am washing my hair tonight. Mr Wrong does not like hearing no but Mr Right will love to you have some independence, it will attract him even more to you! Mr Wrong will dislike your freedom very much!

If he sulks and throws tantrums don’t give into his behaviour. Set some limits on it. Let him know that if he wants to date you, then he will have to get use to you seeing your friends and having some independence. He will either keep throwing tantrums and sulking, in which case, do you really want to stick around and be with someone that demands you give all your time and attention to him? Or he will realise he is being unreasonable and change his ways

If he starts running you down and name calling I would see some very serious red flags. Nip disrespect in the bud. If you are going to give him a chance to turn around then set your limits immediately. Tell him the relationship cannot go any further until he learns to respect you. Deal with the disrespect. Keep seeing your friends and have a life of your own.

Mr Wrong won’t be able to deal with you taking care of yourself and may walk away looking for someone else who he can be obsessive and controlling with. Mr Right but not right now, may have to do some growing and learning before you can have a relationship with him but Mr Right will already be happy to be your friend and allow you to blossom. He will want you to have supportive friends and family.

Learn to tackle the red flags as they appear, it is a lot easier than trying to do this two years later when your self esteem has gone because of his dominance and control!

So what does this mean for you?

  • It means you have a support network
  • It means you can say no
  • It means you feel good about yourself and that you know you deserve to be respected
  • It means you can express your feelings, opinions and ideas
  • It means you can face discomfort and conflict in a relationship

It means that you know you are loved by God and that all your needs are met in Him. It means you believe that if you have to let this one go, you have faith in that God that He has something better up the road for you.

December 2018
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