A Cry For Justice

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

Second-Wave Locusts

One of the most difficult things that  a survivor of domestic abuse can do is learn to bloom. After being a stay at home mom in a dark and dismal home . . . living day in and day out believing I was worth little . . . it has been difficult to learn to function in this world . . . to find my niche . . . to discover who I am . . . to press forward even though I had come to believe that I was incapable of making decisions on my own. I believe that all survivors know exactly what I am talking about.

Some of us are blooming for the first time in life. Others of us are trying to re-discover the old version of ourselves — the version that was happy, bubbly and self-assured before we married. Some of us are scared . . . scared that all he/she/they said about us is true. And that we cannot “make it” in this world. That we are ineligible, inexpert, insufficient.

And then, to top it off, we discover that there is a whole new wave of people who help us for a time, or perhaps act as rescuers in our lives, and we find that even this group seems to want to shave off the new shoots of growth that are coming up into our lives. They are second-wave locusts. They may sound like this:

“I was there for you when you had no one!”

“I remember when you were just a confused abused girl . . . ” (often reminding the former victim of where she once was, which sometimes disables her from moving on . . .)

“You need me right now. You aren’t healed enough . .. well enough . . . stable enough . .. (etc.)”

I had a lot of rescuers (it took an army . . . ahem). Many of them are, by nature, trauma specialists. Some of them helped me and then moved into healthy relationships with me. Others helped me and then tried to keep me in my place — as a victim. Listen . . . they actually work to try to keep me their victim — a trophy?

“I rescued her!”

These folks forget that it is Christ who is the Great Rescuer. He is actually the One behind it all. Perhaps those gifted in rescuing could be encouraged to learn the art of mutuality. At some point, equality must reign or the former victim (now victorious) loses heart. A child has an entirely different relationship to his father when he becomes a grown man.

A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Luke 6:40

Or perhaps a rescuer could see that his or her involvement should be temporary.  A rescuer who continues to invade a former victim’s life with counsel is like the first-response paramedic who follows the trauma victim into surgery . . . recovery and then rehabilitation. There is something to the roles we play in other’s lives.

At the same time, I often forget that I am no longer a victim . . . that I do not need to have people telling me what to do with my life. I believe I was so used to being pushed down . . . that I almost encouraged co-dependent relationships. I would not make a decision without getting everyone’s input. And people recognized this and then they crossed the boundaries even more because, hey! The door is wide open!

Learning to close that door has been a challenge. One realization helped: I do not and did not need to feel beholden to my rescuers. This is a mistake. It is a more mild form of slavery. Good intentions turned bad.

I wish someone had told me that there would be a second set of people who would see my vulnerabilities and would try to hold me down. It is a whole new challenge for me. An entirely different fight to struggle to become Megan.

But, I am determined.

46 Comments

  1. Oh, so timely for me! I really needed to hear this! I have been upset today because a dear rescuer, a truly loving human being, recently began discussing setting me up with a friend of theirs. The guy is a recent widower, and I just don’t want to be a part of that. However, a week or so later I commented in an off hand manner that I do want to remarry eventually, and she said that she had always believed single parents shouldn’t leave their children to date. I responded that my 6 year old prays daily for a “new dad,” and I again got chided with, “He doesn’t seem to understand that a husband will take your time away from him.” Um, hello, I’m working and running and trying to be mom and dad and am exhausted. I have no time for him now. I was angry, as she has a loving, helpful husband and enjoys staying home with her children. It hit me this morning–when she suggested I date someone, it was a good idea. When I said that someday I’d like to remarry, it was a bad idea. It’s only a good idea when it is her idea because I’m too stupid, as a victim, obviously look at the mess I’ve made of my life, to make those decisions for myself. But, I have dropped those boundaries for people to cross because, in my need, I have allowed them to help me and control little bits of my life. Surprise, surprise when human nature takes over, and they begin to take control over bigger bits of my life. I guess it is time to put my big girl panties on and quit accepting so much help. Others wouldn’t try to come up with all the answers for my life if I weren’t standing so pathetically asking so many questions!

    • Jeff S

      “she said that she had always believed single parents shouldn’t leave their children to date”

      I know this really isn’t the point of your post, but this kind of view is of the “the puzzle all works in my head so you should do what I think no matter how it makes me feel” variety. How much better would this world be if we could accept the life is messy, sometimes we have to make tradoffs in non-deal situations, and that’s OK?

      And really, let’s not go around treating single parents like they are slave labor for their children. We likely all already have enough guilt for not being able to provide our children with the family they deserve. I feel a twinge of guilt every time I leave my son with a family member or a sitter, especially when I am grateful for the break. I don’t need anyone else piling on.

      • Interestingly, my 16 year old has an opinion on this. The subject came up today since this particular friend pulled a couple of things today, one dealing with the kids. Nothing big, just a couple of little annoyances that were disruptive and inconsiderate. My 16 year old told me that he’ll be gone by the time I start dating and remarry, so it won’t personally effect him. However, he’d like to see me date for me. He said that it is obvious I’m worn out and strung out. His take on it is that if someone took me to dinner and treated me nice it would “refill” me, so I’d have more to give to the kids. He recognized that I can’t just work-take care of kids-work-take care of kids 24/7 without becoming so dry and empty that I soon have nothing left of myself to give to them. He also commented that I won’t be a parent forever and then what will I have when the last child leaves home. I’ll be one empty, lonely old woman without a life.

        I think we run the risk of burdening our children with an unspoken sense of responsibility for us when we make them our entire lives. They’ve already been erroneously made to feel responsible for the abuser’s emotions, so they are at risk of fearing leaving us alone and empty. I want to figure out healthy boundaries and healthy relationships and I want my children to experience those, too. Being slave labor, as you put it, to my children certain isn’t modeling a healthy parent/child relationship.

        Thank you, Jeff, for helping give me some perspective on this. I read your comments quickly this morning before I left for the day and have been mulling them over all day.

      • MeganC

        Anew, I think there is great wisdom in this right here:

        “I think we run the risk of burdening our children with an unspoken sense of responsibility for us when we make them our entire lives. They’ve already been erroneously made to feel responsible for the abuser’s emotions, so they are at risk of fearing leaving us alone and empty.”

        I used to think that, because my children have been hurt so badly in their short, little lives that they needed my unwavering devotion (to a fault). Someone told me “Your children are not supposed to be your entire life”. It was hard to see that. But, by my having healthy boundaries/relationships around me, they have a better example and they grow into responsibility in their own lives.

    • Jeff S

      “I guess it is time to put my big girl panties on and quit accepting so much help.”

      I think we all still need to accept help. It’s part of being in the community of Christ: giving and receiving help. But the key is to be able to accept help without feeling beholden to giving up control. “Help” isn’t a transaction where we give something up to get it. If it is Christian mercy, then it is freely given with nothing asked in return. It is not unloving to set boundaries that accepting aid does not indebt us. I know that’s hard (by default, I just do not accept help, but I’m working on being better at it- so really I’m preaching to myself here), but I think it’s important that we seek to be a body of Christ working together, giving and receiving rather than islands of our own independence. But for this to work, giving has to be giving, not trading in debt.

      • Thank you, Jeff, for reminding me that I’m not the one who should take the guilt and responsibility on this one. I’m in a season of my life of being the guy on the cot. I need my friends to carry me, sometimes physically and sometimes to Jesus. You make excellent points!

    • Bethany

      I know its off subject but, I remember the first time my counselor mentioned re-marriage. I was shocked! It was the last thing on my mind. I had just determined that I was going to be ok with divorcing my abuser, and now someone is talking about remarriage!!! Her words though we’re “Have you thought about how you are going to go about dating again? You are young so I assume that you will be getting married again some day.”
      I am YOUNG! I still have LIFE in me!!! He didn’t take it all away and now it is my turn to live!

      • 🙂 Yes, Jesus came to give us life and life abundantly. And we don’t always have to wait for the new heavens and new earth to experience all our joy.

      • MeganC

        No, Bethany! He didn’t take it all away! 🙂 Live in joy, love and freedom.

  2. Bethany

    Knowing when to let go and fly on your own is a hard one. What if you do fail? Then are you only proving them right about you? Isn’t it easier to trade one prison for another?
    Also there is the life before the “dark years”. I’m not 19 anymore, I have children now, I can’t go back a pretend that the last 9 years didn’t happen…
    It is so difficult learning what you like and don’t like. What you want to do with your life. What…the list goes on and on.
    Thank you for this post Megan you have given me a lot to think about and wise advice to follow in order to avoid pitfalls. Your writing is wonderful 🙂

    • Yes, it is difficult. And there’s no guarantee you won’t make more mistakes. But if you make mistakes, you can be sure you will be able to recognise them a whole lot earlier, and most likely be able to take corrective action to extricate yourself from that path.

      Look at me. I had a second marriage and he turned out to be another abuser. 😦 But as soon as I saw it for what it was, I got out and got safe. It only lasted two years, and the first year was great.

      And as for a mistake ‘only proving they were right about you’ – that’s baloney. You didn’t get abused by your ex because of *some personality defect in yourself*, you got abused because he took advantage of whatever personality characteristics you have. And very likely, it was your nicest characteristics he took most advantage of.

      In recovery we learn and practice setting boundaries to help us manage and navigate life with whatever our personality characteristics might be. But that doesn’t mean that the sneers of your detractors were right. Your detractors don’t understand abuse. They prefer to just blame the victim because then they can stay in their comfort zones. They don’t want to understand, because if they understood they might have to get off their butts and do something about it.

      • MeganC

        SO well-said, Barb. I needed that!

      • Bethany

        I love you Barbara! Thank you so much. Your kind words brought tears to my eyes. You are such a good friend.

    • Boy, Bethany, you struck a cord with me when you asked, “Are you only proving them right about you?” I think that in the very beginning of my marriage I may have had the strength to leave had it not been for that one very nagging reality. Had I left and admitted that my husband was abusive my family of origin would have held it against me and, even though my brother encouraged the relationship and lied about what a great guy R was in order to get me to marry him, they’d have put me down for its demise. It would indeed still have been just another prison.

  3. Wisdomchaser

    I used to have this picture of the whole victim/rescuer/persector cycle. Over the years I have discovered that it is easy for rescuers to turn into persecutors. I don’t know why. It is importand to have real friends who will support you through thick and thin not just when you are meeting their need to be a rescuer.

    • MeganC

      Yes, Wisdom chaser. You brought up a very good point! Sometimes, others have a NEED to be a rescuer — for some reason or another. I don’t know what purpose it fills in his/her life, but, it is just another reason we should never feel beholden to them.

  4. Still scared

    This is a wonderful piece and two thoughts. 1. Yeppers, had a rescuer turn persecutor when I didn’t follow her advice. That was really hard to deal with. I really needed her help the first year and would have appreciated more but I knew some of the things she was saying were wrong for my kids and I. 2. Re-marriage, hmm, would love to have someone to share the burden, to at least discuss the decisions with, but also scared at the idea. Don’t know quite how, what it would look like.

  5. So I’ll go ahead and throw this out there, hopefully for a beneficial conversation.

    Megan shared this post with me before she published it and I must admit I was really scratching my head. I literally had no idea what she was talking about. After some further explanation I “got it”, but it took a few emails. The reason why I didn’t see it right away is that I cannot recall experiencing this at all. I haven’t had many “rescuers”. In fact, most of this process I’ve had to go it alone or ask for help when I really needed it, even from my family. To be sure my family did help in amazing ways, but there were also clear instances of them drawing boundaries and saying “Jeff, I would love to help, but to do so right now I would be sacrificing some things in my life that I cannot sacrifice.” I respect those boundaries, and it’s made the times they have been able to give so much sweeter (and God has proven faithful even in the spots where I thought I needed help and didn’t get it).

    At any rate, I have to wonder: is the difference in our experience here because I just happen to not know any of these rescuer types, or is it perhaps a gender thing? That is, there is a natural tendency to see women as needing to be rescued (and controlled), but men should just be able to handle it?

    • Still scared

      I’m curious too, Jeff S. I had one that turned controller and all the others I have had to ask and re-ask when I needed help again. Struggling with it’s been two and a half years and because he’s not paying child support I still need help. Some that I thought would be in it for the long haul have slipped far away.

    • Jeff S, it is interesting to hear your story and perspective here. I am thinking that maybe it is a gender thing: rescuing the maiden in distress is very much part of our collective psyche, but rescuing the man in distress? I can’t think of many archetypes of that, except perhaps Dick Whittington.

      However, as I’ve written that I’ve just thought of all the male abusers who pose as victims who’ve been *unjustly abandoned by hard-hearted wives*, and get sent casseroles by all the women in the church! Maybe you just didn’t fit the mould for of their idea of ‘man in distress’? If so, that is pretty sad.

    • Bethany

      I know that in my case I didn’t really have “rescuers” turn on me but instead had a lot of support fade away on me. I had an overwhelming amount of support at the outset but after about a month I was “old news” and all my support lost interest in me. It is at that point that I sunk into a VERY deep depression and almost killed myself. I was not ready to fly but I was kick out of the nest anyway. Since then I have had some long term support come in and I am stable now. Anyway that is my experience.

      • MeganC

        Oh, Bethany. That must have been so hard. I know that, when a person suffers any sort of trauma or loss, there is a burst of support for just what you said — about a month. It is VERY hard for the survivor when he/she becomes old news. 😦 You feel forgotten . . . like everyone has gone on with their lives while your entire world is shattered and it is hard just to put one foot in front of the other.

      • Bethany

        Thank you Megan. Yes it was very hard I ended up in the Emergency room because I tried to kill myself. But God had other plans for me 🙂

      • Oh Bethany, I’m so glad you didn’t take your own life. You must have been in such pain to get to that place.
        I have been suicidal at times too, over bulimia, not abuse. But I know how scary it can be. Like the silver cord its breaking.
        I am so grateful to God and to you that you have come though that and are my cyber friend now!

      • If we keep going with the locusts image, the rescuers who abandon us after their first flush of zeal – what are they? I think they may be like people who come in after the first wave of locusts have gone, see that the plants are all eaten to the ground, get out their hoses and water the ground like mad to help the plants start growing again, and then go away.
        The soil has been watered and soaked nicely, but the sun starts baking again and no rain comes, and the watering team have gone off and forgotten all about it. They are thinking, “We gave that patch a good soaking, I’m sure it’ll be right now”.
        But they don’t factor in the degree of trauma that the plants have been through. And they don’t bother to check the recent rainfall records in that district. They are too busy watering elsewhere, or just doing whatever else they do.

        And I think I have probably been one such waterer, at times. 😦

      • Bethany, I’m so glad that you are still here with us! You are such a precious person and of such great value!

        I’m a year and a half out now with court again a week from today and a horrifying break in night before last when my 12 year old and 16 year old were home alone. It is far from over for me. But, there are those who won’t even respond to simple prayer requests anymore. I can tell they are just sick of hearing it. I kind of felt the pastor’s sermon comment a couple of weeks ago was directed at me when he said about “those people you avoid because all they ever want to talk about is their problems.” I feel like I’m supposed to put on a fake smile and act like everything is okay instead of asking for the prayer support that I so desperately need.

      • A pastor who says that from the pulpit is showing disparagement for some of his flock. It was unkind, insensitive, lacking in empathy, and just plain offensive.
        Yes, there are certain people in life who seem to use their problems just to attract sympathy and attention from others, and leech off them, but victims of domestic abuse are not like that.
        Making disparaging remarks like that, without carefully qualifying and delimiting them by making it clear that he WASN’T referring to all kinds of people who have problems, is really bad practice on the part of pastors. I have heard many pastors do it, and many seem to do it to get the chuckle from the audience. It’s shabby. I would like to send such pastors back to remedial Empathy School!

      • Bethany

        ANFL that is Exactly how I feel. I am so temped to put on the fake smile that I wore for my whole marriage and continue to pretend that everything is ok. But its not! Its not ok at all and it won’t be ok for a LONG time. I haven’t even started the whole divorce fight yet so this is FAR from over for me. Why don’t people get that? Why don’t they understand that it doesn’t fit into their neat little time table? I am temped to give in and just fake a smile but I know that if I do that then my wound won’t heal properly and I will just fall for the same trap over and over again. So I am going to take the time to heal and if that makes people uncomfortable then that’s their problem not mine. Thanks for the encouraging words ANFL

      • Yep Bethany, it sure is their problem, not yours. If they can’t handle the look on your face or the tears in your eyes, then that’s their problem and they can deal with it. Many many times I’ve been in church weeping, either quietly sobbing or with the tears just streaming down my face. Many times I’ve lain on the pews or the chairs rather than sit upright. I know it’s hard doing it while imagining the thought bubbles of disapproval coming from others in the church, but it’s my church just as much as it is theirs, and if I need to cry and God is doing things in me while I’m crying, well they can like it or lump it.

        That’s the way I’ve tried to think about it. If it helps you to think of me crying in church years ago, while you’re doing whatever you need to do in church, then use that image if you like. There’s no copyright on it! 🙂

        Jeff S’s image of sitting in the stream of God is a nice one. I like to think of it as being under a shower, letting the water pour over me. Not doing anything, just being there and letting myself *be* without exerting any effort.

      • Jeff S

        One thing I have struggled with is that the pastors at my new church, who have both been very empathetic to my situation, have encouraged me to “move on” and not let my divorce be “something I wear like a cloak”. I think they were not implying they didn’t want to hear about it, but that they didn’t want me to feel like I had to go around wearing a scarlet letter of divorce. It’s sometimes hard to know when people are encouraging you to heal and when they are encouraging you to just be quiet. I believe they are doing the former, but there’s a part of me that felt like “what if I need to wear this scarlet letter for a while?”

        But you know, on the flip side it’s felt very freeing to be around pastors who are interested in talking about my future, not dwelling in my past. I have no fear that they are going to suddenly demand I reconcile with my ex or force me off the music team because I am divorced.

      • Still scared

        Just adding how glad I am too that you are here Bethany!

      • MeganC

        Jeff S . . . I am troubled that the pastors said that to you. It has not been that long! And this was a LOSS. When I experienced loss of my parents 15 years ago, it took a few years just to get over the intensity of thought . . . that is normal for grief! I just don’t think you can rush these things. But that is just me.

        My ex loved to be rescued by people. He plays the pity card VERY well and I am sure he will live the rest of his life as a martyr. I do wonder about the gender differences here, as well. It is interesting that the male manipulators seem to be experts at extracting pity while GENUINE men often struggle to ask for help. I don’t know. It is just something to think about.

    • Now, I realize this is very different because my brother and my husband are both manipulative, psychopathic abusers and you aren’t, but, they are still men, and they are constantly enabled and rescued. I have always felt that all it would take is for some “do-gooder” to let one of those two idiots face the consequences of their actions just once in their lives and perhaps they could change. There always seems to be a male friend or a lonely woman who wants nothing more in life than to protect them and coddle them.

      • The difference is: those men in your life are manipulators. Jeff S is not a manipulator.
        The do-gooders are usually naive and sentimental; they fall for the manipulator’s ploys.

      • Jeff S

        Yes, I think a big difference is that I am very reluctant to ask for help. I’m trying to get better about this, but I just feel like it’s not my place to impose on others, especially when I can’t turn around and give back. That’s actually not an OK attitude because it robs the body from being able to function the way it should, but it’s markedly different from the kind of person who is seeking to get all they can from others.

        This is where I suspect the gender stuff comes in. People are more likely to insert themselves unasked into rescuing women than men, but once men start whining, they are given full attention.

      • Still scared

        My ex had a sense of entitlement, rather than gratitude and so would demand help and I think Jeff S. is not like that.

      • Yes, Jeff, that is exactly where I was trying to go. I see the problem being with the “helpers” not seeking genuine needs, as yours are, but allowing themselves to enable wicked men. I just don’t get that at all. Why people would seek to rescue women but not men with real problems but conversely will rescue men who make up victim scenarios for themselves. It just baffles me because it isn’t like they won’t help men at all. They just won’t help real men with real problems. It leaves me just scratching my head.

      • Oops! I missed Barb’s comment……they are “usually naive and sentimental; they fall for the manipulator’s ploys.” Okay, my hand is coming down from my forehead now! It’s making sense.

  6. This idea makes a whole lot of sense, and explains some dynamics in my relationships I never quite understood. I was surrounded by a lot of very supportive people when I was a single mom, yet people were also often telling me what to do all the time, about everything. i wondered, what is it about me that gives off such signals of incompetence? Why do I attract controlling behavior??? This explains a lot.

    For those still fresh in the process, it does get better. But you definitely have to find your own voice and push back when your boundaries get all crowded.

    Love, love love this blog, you guys!!! I read every post, every comment.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Becky- Bancroft spends a fair amount of time at the beginning section of his Why Does He do That? warning the reader that we must not tell abuse victims what to do. “Shoulding on them” as a friend of mine puts it. Bancroft says that if we think about it, victims have been robbed of their personhood, convinced they cannot trust their own perceptions and decisions, and told what to do for so long — that the last thing they need is some “rescuer” to start doing the same thing to them in the guise of trying to help. He makes a very good point I think.

      Thank you.

  7. Still scared

    I think Joel 2:25-26 needs to just be shared here” I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten-the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts, and the locust swarm-my great army that I sent among you. YOU WILL HAVE PLENTY TO EAT, UNTIL YOU ARE FULL, AND YOU WILL PRAISE THE NAME OF THE LORD YOUR GOD, WHO HAS WORKED WONDERS FOR YOU; NEVER AGAIN WILL MY PEOPLE BE SHAMED.”

  8. Reaching for the prize

    I just read this blog and have some thoughts. I have not really had a support system coming out of this. And yet am not male. My anti-husband would isolate me from friends and family. So when I came out, family has to be convinced that I was more capable than he led them to believe, church shunned me when I was there alone and when I told people what was happening who are really concerned and want me to let them know if I need anything and then people did…nothing. (Church has since surrounded him with love and support and suggestions on what he can do to further abuse me in the name of the Fathers Movement). I have gone to therapists who, when finding out he is a well known personality, tell me I am not right for their support group, therapy, etc. I can’t even get government assistance due to a government screw up 4 years ago that won’t go away.

    But I know God told me to separate and I and my kids are not homeless and he has led me here. I do drink in all the blogs and try to learn what I can to go forward.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Reaching – Good job!! You are not alone. Your story could be re-told by hundreds who have told us their experiences. Keep with us here. It’s great to have you with us.

  9. Finding Answers

    I keep running into the dependence / independence / rescuer issue right now…..with God.

    I have been divorced for over a decade, and there definitely have been areas of struggle. The hardest time, however, has been since my walls crumbled less than one year ago. I want to do things I can no longer safely do, some kinds of interactions are beyond my limits.

    I have the Holy Spirit to lead me, for which I am profoundly grateful. Sometimes I feel like Oliver Twist, holding out his bowl and asking for more…..

    I’m afraid of being considered irresponsible, for not “snapping out of it”, for “not moving on”, for “playing the victim”. I can know those “voices” are not God’s, but I beat myself up with the words anyway.

    I am not used to this “new” me. Fully functional, yet not……quite.

    Every day I stretch my wings a little farther, fly a little higher, gain a little ground.

    But I can’t do it without my Papa God.

    And I don’t know if I’m asking too much…..

    • Finding Answers

      So many things have changed…..and yet, not.

      My relationship with God has shifted by leaps and bounds, yet sometimes I think – or so the “not me” voices tell me – I am being led on, tempted by carrots held just beyond my hands, carrots forever unattainable.

      I KNOW the character of God. I KNOW better than to entertain any false beliefs with which the “not me” voices berate me.

      But the fears remain.

      1 John 4:18 New Matthew Bible (NMB)

      18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear. For fear has painfulness. He who fears is not perfect in love.

      • “…For fear has painfulness.”

        What a superb way of putting it. It’s an example of how splendid a translator William Tyndale was.

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