A Cry For Justice

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

Understanding abuse: one pastor’s journey

A true autobiographical story. Names (including the author’s) places and dates are fictional.

My name is Michael Lehman. I’ve served in pastoral ministry since my ordination in 1986. I’d describe my theological convictions as reformed evangelical. For the past few years I’ve been on an extended sabbatical, devoted to further study and writing. During this phase my wife and I have been pleased to worship in a small local congregation of our denomination. We’ve been valuing the ministry of Rick, the pastor there, and have been pleased to be able to support him. Here is one small part of my story …

Until 2 years ago …

I understood, like most people — pastors included, that ‘domestic abuse’ (or ‘domestic violence’) meant simply what’s commonly called ‘wife battering’. Along with that, based on some direct pastoral experiences, I understood that Family Court processes were generally biased in favour of the woman, meaning that separated fathers got a raw deal in child access.

I had heard the odd reference to domestic violence in church contexts. But I was sure it was all but absent from evangelical churches. If it did happen, I was confident that any capable pastor would get to the truth and protect the innocent and vulnerable.

2011: the year it all changed

The change came about in a very short space, through a combination of a series of circumstances in people close to me, and the impact of two jaw-dropping, mind-changing books. Here is the timetable:

late 2010

In a phone conversation with my dad, I learned that my sister’s marriage was under strain. She had reported that her husband had been increasingly unkind and unpleasant to her in the past few years, and she was unsure how much longer she could stay with him. They had been in counseling for about a year, with almost zero progress.

I was shocked. Theirs was a marriage of nearly 30 years, both strong Christians, the husband a church elder for many years. They had raised a delightful family together in Perth, Australia.

Over the ensuing months, more details emerged. I learned of years of controlling, belittling comments causing her to feel at fault for every problem; that she had had to regularly beg for cash to buy essential personal items, while he had kept large debts secret from her; he had expected her to do all the housework with no help from himself, whatever the circumstances; he had regularly denigrated her family (us included), causing her to keep a distance from us in every sense; and that’s just for starters.

March 2011

My sister phoned to say she and her husband had just separated, and her financial security was very uncertain.

July 2011

My wife befriended a woman named Clare, who’d recently joined the church, with her two daughters and son. I learned that Clare had recently separated from her husband Adrian, also a Christian, and a respected doctor with a practice in a nearby suburb.

In the ensuing weeks, I got to know Clare also, and she began sharing more detail about the marriage she’d left. I don’t recall the order in which the story unfolded. But the picture that took shape was an alarming one. Regular explosive tantrums over innocuous subjects, demands that she dress a certain way and not put on weight, angry outbursts if the children made mistakes, frequent use of the Bible to ‘prove’ he was right, degrading sexual expectations, messing with her mind so she doubted her own judgements on even basic things … and that’s just to name a few.

October 2011

An article about domestic violence was published in a ministry journal by a senior colleague, describing a largely hidden but widespread and well documented pattern of domestic abuse, within the church and beyond. It described abuse as not only physical or sexual violence, but also emotional, social and financial. A few paragraphs amounted to a book review of Lundy Bancroft’s Why Does He DO That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. The author strongly recommended the book to anyone in pastoral ministry.

I mentioned the title to Clare. She knew it well, owned a copy and had read it over and over.

It became clear I needed to read it. So I did. To say that scales fell from my eyes would be no overstatement. The book was simply a game changer for me. It documented a behaviour pattern I had not imagined existed, let alone so widely.

I sent my sister a copy. She emailed back the day after it arrived, saying it was the best, most enlightening thing she’d read on the subject. (And she’d been researching an awful lot!) She had read it through in a single evening. At 400 pages, it had taken me a fortnight. She then went on to say that she had clearly identified her husband with two of the ten abuser types described in the book.

[Caveat from the leaders of this ACFJ blog added April 2017:  We do not recommend the Healing Retreats which Lundy Bancroft conducts in America. If anyone is passing on Bancroft’s book to a survivor of abuse, we advise you to also pass on this caveat.]

November 2011

While still getting my head around my sister’s story, Clare’s story and the implications of Bancroft’s book, more family news came, this time from New Zealand. A close cousin, married 20 years, was also making heavy weather of it and wondering how much longer she should stay. The parallels with my sister’s situation were simply eeerie. Again a marriage of two openly dedicated Christians, again a history of leadership, again a seemingly exemplary marriage, again extraordinary emotional abuse behind the façade.

And again, I sent a copy of Bancroft. And yes, again, it made sense of a woman’s world of turmoil.

2012 a year to stand

At the end of 2011, I began to wonder why God had chosen to open my eyes to the shadow world of domestic violence in the general community and in the church. It wasn’t long before I learned one part of the answer.

2012 was to be a time of both growth in understanding domestic violence and testing in a collegial relationship. The stories of my sister and cousin continued and are ongoing. However it’s been mainly Clare and her story that have taken me further on this long unseen path.

Clare is on a long journey of recovery from more than a decade of being controlled by a man who loved control, rather than loving her. One of her struggles whilst married and still now a few years after separation and about a year post-divorce, has been finding and keeping trusted and loyal friends and supporters.

There seem to be two main reasons for this. Firstly, having been comprehensively controlled and abused for so long, Clare like many women in such a situation can easily appear ‘flakey’ in her behaviour. She makes rash decisions or commitments, then backs out or just defaults. She has good days and bad days in her mood. In short, she can be ‘hard work’ and some people step back from her because they’re uncertain of her.

Secondly, and more profoundly, her ex-husband Adrian has been a master at recruiting allies for himself, including among her friends. The result is compounding insecurity for her and isolation.

I had read about this pattern in Bancroft’s book. 2012 was the year to observe just how skilfully an abuser can win a recruit. My respected pastor and colleague, Rick, became the next one.

Clare had joined the church after receiving a warm and understanding ear from Rick. Rick accepted her story of abuse, gave time to her pastorally, and Clare was satisfied that this church would be a safe place for her and her children. Sadly it was not to remain so. Adrian made sure of that.

It had started well the previous year (2011). Rick and I compared notes regularly on Clare, and I made it clear to both Rick and Clare that he was the pastor and I was a friend only.

Meanwhile Rick met with Adrian a couple of times over coffee. This seemed entirely appropriate. Clare had expressed the wish that she and Adrian might somehow be reconciled. (A goal she later realized was inappropriate and unattainable.) Rick had done what any pastor would instinctively think right, seeking to occupy neutral ground between the two parties, with a view to facilitating mutual forgiveness and healing. Just what the counseling textbook says. Presented with a similar scenario, I’d have done the same. But as I now realize, ‘the textbook’ doesn’t understand abuse.

Early in 2012, Clare began expressing doubts about whether she could still trust Rick. She expressed the fear that Adrian had “got to him”. I assured her that Rick was a very savvy and experienced pastor who was no one’s fool.

But then Rick started expressing doubts to me about Clare, even to the point of doubting that she could be believed. The penny started to drop. I remembered Bancroft’s chapter ‘The abuser and his allies,’ about an abuser’s skill in recruiting even the savviest professionals as his allies, by sowing just the right seeds in their minds. Rick was and is a very mature pastor with wide experience with people. I had been sure he was too smart for that. Though my love for him and my appreciation and respect for his ministry are undiminished, on this assumption I was wrong.

I talked with Rick at length about what I’d learned in the past year, including the family stories. I applied it to Clare and Adrian respectively. Rick thanked me sincerely and we penciled a date for a meeting between Rick, Clare and myself to restore the pastoral relationship, so I could return to being the friend.

But three days later it was all off. In a single masterful phone call, Adrian had convinced Rick that Clare was a bad parent who was starving the children spiritually, and couldn’t be believed. The pastoral relationship was over. Rick said it would be best if Clare found a new church. I realized that without Rick’s confidence, our church would no longer be a safe place for her.

The sequel

The story will run for many years yet, at least until Clare’s children come of age. We helped Clare find a new church, where the pastor understands abuse. She’s receiving excellent support there as well as through a local secular counselor who specialises in domestic violence recovery. She’s learning to respond to many things better and with self-confidence. She still has to deal with Adrian because of shared access to the children. And Adrian is still trying to mess with her mind and working at recruiting allies.

That’s life …. And I’m now a wiser pastor, waiting to see what the Lord would do with my still very new understanding of domestic abuse and its impacts in churches. Speaking of which — the second book that has opened my mind on this incredibly important subject is the one that needs no introduction here: Jeff Crippen’s A Cry for Justice: How the Evil of Domestic Abuse Hides in Your Church

[Note from Eds: Jeff Crippen has also written Unholy Charade: Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church. It came out after this post by Michael Lehman was published.]

I pray that this story may encourage other pastors to consider the subject of domestic abuse (or violence). Copies of the two books by Bancroft and Crippen belong on every pastor’s shelf, in my view. The former is rightly commonly regarded as the best source for a comprehensive understanding of the anatomy of abuse. The author is not a Christian, but nothing he says in the book is anti-Christian. The latter book I’d rate as in some senses a Christian, pastoral equivalent of Bancroft, but also more than that. Pastors who want a thorough biblical approach to the subject should find themselves in very safe hands.

I’d also encourage any pastor who finds themselves dealing with a marriage where the woman reports abusive behaviour by her husband, to begin by believing her, to doubt anything her husband says or implies about her, and not to stop believing her without the counsel of a professional skilled in domestic abuse.

Ps. Michael Lehman, July 2013

49 Comments

  1. Katy

    WOW!
    God is opening pastors’ eyes!! Now we just need to add Barbara’s book on divorce and remarriage to the other two, and then the education of pastors would be complete! 🙂

    • Michael Lehman

      Katy, I’m pleased to say I’m part way through reading it :). Happily in my denomination, the hardline marriage permanency doctrine is virtually unknown and wouldn’t be believed by many. So provided my colleagues can be convinced beyond doubt that the woman’s story is true, few would stand in the way of a divorce.

      But of course I know that’s not the situation in other denominations here.

  2. fiftyandfree

    Wow! What a blessing to read this personal story. I wish I could find someone in my life who understands as well what I’ve been through and that I need time to heal and recover from 12 years of abuse. I am grateful for this blog and for all those who contribute because this is where I get the validation and support that I need.

    It’s really a shame that a woman who escapes an abusive marriage (usually with no help from the church) has to seek secular counseling to get any assistance in recovery. I am toying with that idea myself lately because no one in the church gets it and I need to heal.

    • I used a secular counselor and he was a huge benefit for me. He also had experience working with domestic abusers, so that was good background (though I didn’t know that web I chose him).

    • Michael Lehman

      I endorse Jeff’s comment here. In fact Clare received some sound advice from a Christian counsellor first (that counsellor is too far away for it to be viable for her to be Clare’s counsellor). She advised that a secular counsellor who’s skilled in dealing with domestic abuse would be a safer choice than a Christian counsellor, simply because most Christian counsellors with the very best of intentions would try to effect reconciliation. (They read ‘the textbook’ 🙂

  3. TJB

    Barbara, Thank you for posting this article. It was so much like what happened to me for 16 years, to the time line of the speaking out about it as well. I am a week away of getting my divorce papers from him, and now he is forcing me to take 10 sessions of marriage counseling or he does not sign the mediation paperwork which he agrees with, including me getting sole custody of the children. We have not spoken or seen each other in over a year. I am very concerned about this and was wondering what others would say to that.

    • Katy

      Don’t do it. That’s more manipulation to drag things out. There is zero benefit to you, because even if you agree to 10 more bullying sessions with him, he still won’t sign the papers.

      • Lisa

        Very true Katy. If he hasn’t changed yet he isn’t going to. I find it helpful to try to imagine what a safe person would do in a given situation. I think a safe person who was truly repentant would allow the mediation paperwork to go through and then try to win you back or at least tell you how sorry he was that he didn’t change sooner and this all had to happen. I wouldn’t go to 1 more bulling sessions.

      • Barnabasintraining

        Yep. After that there will be something else. Agreeing to that would only tell him he can still order you around.

      • joepote01

        Lisa – I think a truly repentant abuser would realize that he is NOT a safe person, and would not only grant the divorce, but would also advise her to stay as far away from himself as possible. A truly repentant abuser would be more concerned about the victim’s well-being than about his own hopes and dreams.

        TJB – Never give in to blackmail demands. There is no end to the misery on that path. Either he is willing to grant the divorce peacefully, or he is not. It may be best to limit communication through your attorney, if possible.

    • fiftyandfree

      Typical controlling, manipulative, intimidating behavior. These guys all seem to use the same playbook. What the heck is the marriage counseling for if you are getting divorced? IMy ex refused to sign the paperwork too, even though we were in agreement on everything regarding custody and visitation, simply to control me and terrorize me until the last bitter moment. I wish I had some advice. I just don’t. I prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed. And God protected me and my children. I give Him all the credit. I pray that the Lord protects you and your children and that the papers will be signed right away.

  4. Amy

    This was a wonderful post! Brought back a lot of memories of similar struggles for me in the church I used to attend with my ex. I was amazed at how even the pastor there was drawn in to anything my ex said and how I became the “bad” person because I refused to even consider reconciliation to my ex who was clearly not changing.

  5. Reblogged this on Speakingtruthinlove's Blog.

  6. Healinginprocess

    Thank you for sharing your story. I pray that the blinders would be removed and more pastors eyes opened to the truth about abuse. I can relate to Clare. Although some details are different, to many are the same. My then husband and I left our church (which was also my church before I married him.) He wanted to find a different church. Reluctantly I followed as a dutiful wife. Our marriage was in turmoil. I had already gotten a restraining order against him. I was hoping that was enough to open his eyes to what was happening in our marriage. I was not pursing divorce yet but a hopeful reconciliation. I was fell for the honeymoon period hook line and sinker. I also did not really understand the abuse I had been suffering except for when it had gotten physical. Within short order despite counseling we were back into the emotional, psychological, verbal and financial abuse. I got out for the safety of my children and myself. I returned to my former church. The pastor had left and they were looking for a new pastor. I had already been speaking and shared with one of the elders and his wife who also spoke to my husband. The elder and my husband began meeting in bible study. I knew that my husband was not really changing he was remorseful for me moving out but he was not repentant of what he had done to my or my children. (my children were from a previous marriage.) They believed him not me. When the new pastor was ordained he and his wife came to me to talk to me. They wanted me to counsel with them and my husband and not divorce him; By that time I had begun divorce proceedings. My now ex tried all he could to get allies from the church. He also contacted the pastor. The pastor does not understand abuse, although he thinks he does. My ex was believed and not me. I was eventually asked to leave the church because I would not counsel with them and I moved forward and divorced my husband. It is hard trusting another church and pastor. It is isolating except for a few close friends who understand abuse. All I can do is praise God that the veil had been removed from one more pastor’s eyes. I have read Lundy Bancroft and Pastor Jeff Crippen’s books. They were instrumental in helping understand what I was going through and dealing with to stay strong and with God’s help and a few close friends I was able to divorce my ex. A blessing is he and I did not have children together but that has not stopped him from almost a year later still occasionally trying to contact me. I chose not to reply. I am continuing to heal but it is a journey. It is wonderful you helped Clare find a new safe church. I am finding it difficult to do it on my own although I know when I find a safe church it will be a piece of the healing process for me.

    • Michael Lehman

      So sorry to hear of that pain, HP.
      “The pastor does not understand abuse, although he thinks he does.” That describes my colleague Rick, and many others. They don’t understand that the abuse keeps going and keeps impacting the victim long after separation / divorce. And then there’s the relationship between forgiveness and repentance.

      • fiftyandfree

        “They don’t understand that the abuse keeps going and keeps impacting the victim long after separation / divorce. And then there’s the relationship between forgiveness and repentance.”

        I find this to be so true, not only with pastors and counselors, but with Christian friends as well. I am often told that I have a “victim mentality” because I am still in emotional pain 10 months after the divorce was final. Perhaps I do have a ” victim mentality” but wasn’t I a victim? Don’t victims need time to heal? Can’t I be grateful for all the Lord has provided me, for His mercy and His grace, and for every single one of my many blessings, and STILL be in emotional pain? Does grief and despair negate faith and gratitude? Am I a “loser” as a Christian because I grieve? Because I’m sad? Because I’m lonely?

      • Michael Lehman

        Yes, exactly so. I hear you clearly. We’re talking about deep, sustained wounds requiring longterm healing. Rick seemed to expect that Clare could just move on because the abuse was in the past. What he couldn’t grasp, apart from the longterm emotional impacts, was also the fact that the abuse was continuing to occur. Adrian still abuses Clare in the way he communicates over access to the children, and that can be several times a week. And so on … All of that is just very hard to get across to many people. And you’re right, it’s not only pastors.

  7. Heather 2

    Oh how I wish my pastor had listened to me.

    I’m going back to counselling now. She’s secular. Somehow I trust her more than the “church.” What a shame….

    Thank you for posting this, Barbara.

  8. Lisa

    I sure wish there was a tactful way of getting this article and those books to the pastors of the last two churches my family and I were “shunned” from because I refused to go back to our abuser (he wasn’t even asking us back, just telling others he was).

    The first church, I asked for help and council, chalked it up as needing marriage councilling. When that didn’t work, it was because I didn’t submit enough… I should shut up and win him back without a word… You must not be a Christian because this is the will of God for your life!

    The second church, I didn’t tell more than 2-3 people in confidence anything. I went to church with 5 of my 8 kids, every service, Sunday morn Bible study, Sunday service, Wend. Awana, Thursday, youth group, I was involved in the homeschool co-op. I never spoke up or asked for any prayer requests, my abuser wasn’t even in the picture in our lives and was “done with all that God stuff”, he hadn’t seen the kids for over 18 months… But at this church, the pastor thinks he controls everyone’s personal life (he is an abuser also), so he had a church member (not even an elder) contact my abuser “to verify the rumors that I was abandoned” (he never came to me), when the member reported that during the 15 minute phone call my abuser told him that I wouldn’t “let” him see the kids, he loved us, he is trying very hard to get the family back. (I was the one that held my 5 year old all night because daddy never returned her calls, I soothed the nightmares, took the kids to councilling to heal from the abuse, took the kids to every church function). All it took was 15 min.

    After almost 2 years of absence from the community and the next youth group the “church member” stood up in front of all the kids after worship (in which my daughter just helped lead), and accused me of not letting this poor man see his kids, accused my daughter of making a mockery of his pastors church by leading worship and being in rebellion against her dad, told all the youth how we were lying and keeping this family separated. One of my daughters stood up and yelled at this man all the truth she could about our situation, while crying and shocked, my other daughter sat there crying shocked, the kids were shocked some were crying, the pastor sat in the front row audibly praying to some god to expel the demons from my daughter as she spoke, one of the elders sat shocked (only the pastor and this random church member were aware they were going to do this tonight), I implored him to stop, he wouldn’t even address me too afraid of what they might do to him. We left mid meeting of course.

    The very next Sunday, the entire service was about my family and another family (who was also separating from their abuser who sexually molested the children for years), details, shame, names bible verses used against us, I was the daughter of a foreign god out of Malachi trying to draw away his (the pastors) church members. At the very end of his speech, he announced that he will not allow sinners in his church and turned his back on the congregation so the sinners could leave quietly. No one moved out of shock. I was not there but was forwarded his personal sermon notes. My daughters who were at youth group will never go back to church again they claim. The youngest 3 are still in church (a new one), but the older ones may never trust a pastor again. My ex is a sociopath, but to everyone from our past he is the victim. To this day he still doesn’t want anything to do with the kids, he is onto his next great adventure, leaving his family to clean up his mess.

    • Still Scared( but getting angry)

      Oh, Lisa, how very very hard!! So sorry for you and all your kids!

    • Barnabasintraining

      Oh…man…. 😦

    • Barnabasintraining

      Why doesn’t somebody notice there is something seriously wrong with this? Is the whole of American Christendom really that sick? This isn’t even decent or civil by unbelieving standards. As Paul says, this is something even the world doesn’t do. 😦

      • Jeff Crippen

        BIT- I think it is because the “church,” isn’t. I think “christianity” in this country at least is apostate to a very large extent. There really is no other explanation. Genuine Christians have the Spirit of Christ who is the Spirit of Truth. They have been taught by Jesus. They are His sheep to HEAR His voice and a stranger they will not follow. But to admit this? Ah, the implications! Bye, bye church buildings, salaries, books written that millions scarf up, kiss it all good-bye if we fess up to the reality.

        I say, good riddance.

      • joepote01

        Jeff C – apostate “churches/pastors” are certainly a part of it…men who exalt themselves rather than God…who are more concerned with their own power than in ministering to the needs of others.

        However, ignorance and naiveness also factor in, as illustrated by the above story. Even a very sincere believer who has pastored for many years can lack understanding and be misled by an abuser.

        Thankfully, God does remove the blinders if we remain open to the Holy Spirit, and God is using ministries such as this blog to do exactly that.

      • fiftyandfree

        Lisa, that pastor sounds as sociopathic as the husband. No compassion whatsoever! Those poor kids. It’s bad enough they get treated like dirt by their own father, but then to be treated like that from a pastor. Disgraceful!

    • joepote01

      Lisa – How awful! To escape an abusive spouse to be so horribly abused by your church!

      Some atrocious things are sometimes done by those invoking the name of Christ. Thankfully, Christ, Himself, is full of Grace and Truth (John 1:14)!

    • Michael Lehman

      Oh how awful.

    • oh Lisa! Hugs, more hugs, and more hugs to you and your kids! What horrendous iniquity you were subjected to! 😦

    • Heather 2

      Lisa, my heart is so heavy at what you and your children were forced in endure. The “church” is not of God. Stay close to Jesus, Lisa. The others are poison and more abuse!

      Hugs.

  9. Barnabasintraining

    This article shows me how this really is a stronghold in the Christian community, especially among church leaders, and how slippery it is. I praise God for every pastor and other influential leader who takes the time and makes the effort to truly humbly seek Him on this issue, and is willing to challenge the traditions of men they have been taught. I am not a church leader but I had to do this myself and see for myself what teaching was from God, as is the responsibility of every Christian. Leaders are only that much more accountable to do it.

    Thank God for men like Jeff who put their conclusions out in the arena of ideas to be examined, and thank God his book is having a positive effect, especially on other pastors.

    • Katy

      the reason it has to start with the leadership is because the leadership are men.
      Just being a victim of this, I could not effect any real change because I was still so beaten down by what I believed were God’s words on the subject. I couldn’t discern the full truth for myself, I needed help. Thankfully Ps. Crippen has been that help – but the changes needed in the church on this issue must come from the men.

  10. joepote01

    Excellent post! God does have a way of “removing the scales from our eyes,” doesn’t He?

  11. MeganC

    Wow! This is amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your journey. It really gives me hope that the scales will fall from other’s eyes, as well. Especially those I thought were “unlikely”. I harbor a secret desire that all our “haters” will come around . . .

  12. Michael Lehman

    Friends, I’m humbled that my story – still really in its beginnings – has been an encouragement and source of hope for a few of you, and that the story has been reposted elsewhere. Hearing a few of your stories, I really am just struck by the blindness that does afflict so many Christian leaders whose hearts are otherwise very much the Lord’s. I pray for and with you that the great Deceiver’s tactics will gradually be exposed to plain view.

    One of the posts above prompts me to add an extra bit of the story, which I think does illustrate just how much spiritual deception is at work here. One of the things that swayed Rick was a letter Adrian wrote to Clare, quoting a sermon of Rick’s, saying he (Adrian) forgave her for her actions that had destroyed their marriage. Rick’s response was “That’s good news. He’s forgiven you. So you can move on.” So in other words, Adrian has not only drawn the spotlight away from his sin but in fact presented himself as the godly one (because he’s exercising ‘forgiveness’). And I think that blinds Rick to the fact that Adrian’s sin hasn’t been mentioned.

    … which leads me to suggest to Jeff and Barbara that some careful exposition on the relationship between forgiveness and repentance might be a good way to help dispel the darkness for some pastors.

    • Michael Lehman

      Ah, good to know. I had rather suspected I might be suggesting something that’s already been done.

  13. And thanks so much Michael Lehman for writing this post and interacting with our readers so compassionately. 🙂

    • Michael Lehman

      My privilege and pleasure, Barbara :). This is a great ministry!
      (Further responses welcome, of course.)

  14. StillLookingUp

    My heart and prayers go out to the women in this story. While I very much appreciate the author’s views, experience and desire to be of service to those who suffer from abuse, I would say this is a wonderfully insightful article except for the advice given at the end. To advise pastors to believe whatever a woman says about her husband and to doubt the husband is simply wrong. I only say this because I am a man who has suffered from years of emotional abuse from my wife. We are both “professing” Christians, yet her frequent and unpredictable outbursts of explosive rage and anger, (toward our children and myself) verbal assaults, unacceptable sexual demands and secretive spending and debt finally climaxed in violence against me when I was forced to protect our young child from her screaming rage.
    She was skillful at recruiting others (mostly women) to believe that she was the victim of emotional abuse. It was our pastor who she tried to “recruit” that saw through her twisted and false “version” of reality. After much counseling from my pastor, I filed a restraining order to protect my children and myself and with the hope that it would force her to seek the help that she absolutely refused to believe she needed. Unfortunately, she only became more malicious & vengeful and made up lies in court and tried desperately to turn anyone who would listen against me. Fortunately, the judge saw through her lies and granted me and my kids a 1 year protective order.
    Many wonderful, kind and caring people at our church gave her support, a place to live, money, a car etc. It wasn’t long before they began to realize her role as the victim was not “reality”. Not to mention all her many contradictions and eventually my evidence that proved her accusations to be false. They are still supporting and helping her.
    I wasted no time in taking my children to a counselor only to find out that they revealed to the counselor an ongoing pattern of physical and emotional abuse from their mother while I was at work. She had threatened that they would be taken away and never see me again if they ever said anything about her abuse. That’s when I decided that divorce was necessary. My pastor didn’t agree that I had grounds for divorce, but said “that is between you and the Lord” and has never stopped supporting me. My wife’s court ordered psychological evaluation returned a diagnosis of Bipolar 2, Personality Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, rigid dichotomous thinking, as well as many other disturbing behavioral characteristics and mostly invalid testing due to positive impression management.
    I’m now in the process of divorce and suing for full custody to give these kids a safe and emotionally stable home. (not to mention myself)
    Had my pastor taken the advice at the end of this article, things may have turned out much differently.

    • StillLookingUp, your account sounds genuine to me. I am sorry for what you have undergone. I can’t speak for Michael Lehman but I suspect he might well hear you favorably too.
      It is a tricky thing, this question of whether to believe the alleged victim automatically, at first blush. I am not a professional and please don’t take my thoughts as the last word on this, but here’s my two cents.

      (1) While many people think that the majority of domestic abuse victims are female and the majority of perpetrators male, the professionals all agree that there are some male victims and some female perpetrators.

      (2) We have some male victims on this blog, sharing their stories and commenting regularly. Our policy on this blog is to support all victims, no matter what their gender. In the light of that, I would like to ask your forgiveness if the post did not seem to support you.

      (3) We know that perpetrators usually portray themselves as victims. It’s part of their manipulative image-management tactics, designed to win themselves allies and isolate their victim.

      (4) We know that many bystanders are naive to the dynamics of domestic abuse and the tactics used by abusers, so they can easily be taken in by the lies of perpetrators.

      (5) The skill of discerning who is the genuine victim is something than can be taught and learned, but it does not come overnight. I think it’s rather like training bank tellers to detect counterfeit notes: they are given many many real notes to feel, look at, touch with their eyes shut, scrutinize from every angle…. and that helps them detect counterfeit notes if they come across them. So the more people read and listen to genuine victims’ stories, the more likely they are to detect the red flags of a phoney victim’s story.

      (6) We have one post on this called The language of abusers who portray themselves as victims — Pt 1: Vagueness & Contraditions I still need to write further posts to follow up this first post. (: never enough time!

    • Here is another of our posts that relates to this issue:
      Is it Wrong to “Just Believe” Abuse Victims?

    • joepote01

      Yes, very good point, SLU. I too was in a very abusive marriage for many years. While it is very important to believe the victim, it requires some perceptive discernment to determine who the real victim is, as most abusers portray themselves as being victims. As Barbara has pointed out, this has also been a topic of discussion on this blog.

      Blessings to you!

    • Michael Lehman

      SLU – Thank you so much for having the courage to share your story, which brings another side. I can certainly see how my last paragraph could read as the very opposite of the good news intended, in a situation such as yours. Beyond that, I don’t think I’ll say more – simply because I am myself still very much a learner in matters of abuse, with its innumerable complexities. I do hope and pray that you’ve found Barbara’s thoughts (and the earlier pieces she’s linked) to be helpful in discerning where truth and justice lie. I’ve learnt more myself. I’ll leave any further reflection on this aspect to Jeff, Barbara and others here.

      May the Lord bless you.

  15. Janet

    Christians who are healed and free have and possess “fruits of the Spirit”!! I am saying if there is no fruit is there really a salvation?? Just wondering!!

    • I think you are right to ask that question, Janet. you might like to search our tag “false Christians” for the posts we’ve got on that topic. You can find the complete list of tags in the Tags tab in the top menu.

      And welcome to the blog! 🙂

  16. I’m impressed. Well done for being so honest and open. It’s encouraging.

    • Hi hiddenwholeness, welcome to the blog! 🙂

    • Michael Lehman

      I’m glad you’re encouraged, and thank you for encouraging me.

Trackbacks

  1. Understanding Abuse: One Pastor’s Journey – Stumbling Upward

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