They Are Giving You Just Enough Payout to Make You Keep Pulling the Slot
A friend and I were corresponding about her church’s response to her as she seeks help to deal with her abuser until she can safely escape him. This church has strung her along for years, asking how she’s doing, promising interventions, having long conversations that leave her thinking, “At last! Someone gets it! They will talk to [husband]. They will help me!” But then months will go by and nothing is said. Nothing is done. Recently she had another one of these conversations, but the email the pastor sent as a follow up didn’t match up with what they had discussed and even placed blame on her and told her to work on learning to understand and respect her abuser. Do you relate?
Here’s what I wrote to her:
My concern is that the email the pastor sent, which is basically the only documentation you have that you two spoke, didn’t match what you talked about. X said such wonderful conciliatory words, beautifully framed in humility and promises to care for the children and you, and with reminders of his sacrificial giving in the past. But the documentation was all framed to protect HIM, not the children, not you, only him.
Who is being protected in your scenario? How? Why? A pastor who wants to learn to protect targets of abuse should be seeking that education himself. He shouldn’t have to be prodded along by the targets. But as it is, you are the one educating him. You are having to tell him such basic things as that fact that he shouldn’t attempt to counsel an abuser and his target in the same room!
You hope that they will eventually find a way to know what to do. But here is my concern, they are giving you just enough payout to make you keep pulling the slot. You are still investing too much energy in their broken system. Pits of despair don’t become spas. Spas are built intentionally and with a great deal of research and education. I know someone who owns several successful spas. She had to learn how to make people healthier, how to treat them so they can relax and benefit from the treatments. It didn’t fall on her and it didn’t happen because she was pestered by people with sore muscles. If after bringing abuse to their attention, your church isn’t SEEKING out knowledge on helping targets, it’s because they don’t want to know. They want to have a nice cafe where everyone looks spiffy and fun, not a spa where hurting people find healing. They hope that the problem customers who holler “ouch” too frequently go away. They will push you to conform and be quiet. If you ever have another meeting with your pastor, I beg you to ask to record it and to record it. I am curious what he will say when he is on the record.
You mentioned how your abuser’s insistence to remain unaccountable in certain financial areas throws a wrench in the whole family’s finances. What you said about hoping he puts you in the red so that others can see how harmful his actions are is very similar to what Rosie said in Don’t let your dead body prove you’re right. Another friend does the same thing. Her husband is from another country and I have worried that he’ll grab their kids and flee to his homeland. I have asked her to put the kids’ passports at her work where her abuser can’t get to them, but she won’t because she wants that proof that he’s really that bad. This is a common thing that I see with targets of abuse; this waiting for some thing to happen, a particular thing that will vindicate them and prove how right they are. But the people who are willing to believe already do. The ones who don’t, don’t want to. They are willfully ignorant. This is the same thing I went through with X and his parents. I thought they were good parents and they would finally see what he was doing and they would step in and tell him to stop. I thought X loved and respected his parents enough that if they would give him a talking to, he’d seek help. X knocked me down while his father was five feet away watching and ignoring my pleas for him to help. He refused to discuss the attack. He doesn’t want to believe what he saw. And he has found a way to make it my fault.
Even the help they (finally) encouraged X to seek wasn’t for X’s benefit, or the kids’ or mine. It was for THEM, so they could have their fairy tale life back; family dinners surrounded by all of us, Christmas mornings, etc. They put on a good show, but the people who refuse to really learn about abuse, the ones who will talk to you, and promise you things, and then put blame on you, aren’t protecting anyone but themselves, and they won’t. And no unpaid bill or even a smoking gun will convince them to. I wrote Trying to Explain… as I was processing similar emotions to what you’re describing.
You’ve made a good safety plan and you are following it. You are surviving and you will make it. You will be free. But in the meantime don’t count on a big payout of vindication from your present church.