A Cry For Justice

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

Thursday Thought — Testimonies

Deciding to stay in or leave an abusive relationship is a very complex and difficult decision.  One question that victims often struggle with is, “How do I know that it is God’s will for me to leave?”

On our Resource page Deciding to Stay or Leave is the Testimonies page — a compilation of 23 testimonies by ACFJ readers of how God showed them that it was His will for them to leave their abusive marriages.  While we believe that only the victim can make the decision whether or not to leave, we hope you will find encouragement in these stories.  Below we have copied Barbara’s Light Bulb Moment to get you started:

Barbara’s Light Bulb Moment — I had many lightbulb moments, and not always did the lightbulbs stay on. I can remember once, while a lightbulb had briefly flickered on, I wrote a list (maybe five or six phrases) about what was making me most unhappy in the relationship. But the lightbulb went out and I tore up the list and threw it in the bin the next day.

I suppose my most important awakening came when he threw me against the wall. He’d been emotionally and verbally abusive for the full 12 months of our reconciliation, but when it got physical I instantly knew I had to apply for another protection order and get him put out of the home, or leave myself. I’d had protection orders years before, when we were separated the first time, and I’d learned enough from that period to know “When it gets physical, it doesn’t get better, it only continues to get worse.”

Then I found Patricia Evans book, The Verbally Abusive Relationship, and all the light bulbs lit up like a Christmas tree. Why didn’t I wake up during the four years of my first separation from him? Even though I’d been in and out of shelters, even though I’d attended a support group for victims of DV, even though I’d fought and won custody in the Family Court, and written in my affidavit about him having abused me… I didn’t really wake up. Because the Family Court Orders said that I must tell the Court if I ever consulted a counsellor or a mental health professional in the first two years of the Orders. That put me right off getting counselling from anyone. So I remained in the dark and never worked through stuff, never really came to terms with the fact that I’d been abused. How bifurcated can one’s mind get?

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21 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    For me it was time to go when I fully realized I either needed to walk out or be carried out in a box. The abuse was escalating on an almost hourly basis. It was like being in a prison cell with no outside contact and the predator within the four walls was devouring me down to a near skeleton. He was literally chasing me around the house calling me wretched and filthy names, daring me to slap him so that he could call 911 and say I’m a violent woman! He would get right into my face shouting so much so that his spit was flying in my face and then he would laugh while continuing to provoke. I locked myself in the bedroom and fell to my knees crying out to the Lord. It was as though Satan himself was chasing me through that insane house. As I look back now, I realize that is exactly what it was. And I know that God does not call me to go up against and fight evil, HE calls me to flee from it. (so many more details that I am not able to give here for it would not be safe)

    • Sarah

      God calls us to flee from evil! beautifully said and why do we get put down when we do flee from evil? Why do churches believe we should worship next to an evil person rather than flee from it?

  2. Anonymous

    I also have a confession: when I finally did leave and go No Contact I started to heal and recover. I left two other times but would believe his lies and go back, only to receive more of the same and much worse. As I continue to heal and search my own heart I’ve come to realize that it is my ‘own pride’ that desperately kept me wanting to make my marriage work. I was embarrassed and ashamed at the failure of this ‘marriage’. I was going to make it work at ALL cost!! That seemed less humiliating than facing defeat. Of course wanting and working to make our marriages work is noble in and of itself and we are to work to that end BUT with an abuser and in my case a covert narcissist sociopath, the only option available to me is to confess to God and admit to myself that I must let go, step aside, and God’s plan (not mine) will carry on. When I was able to see crystal clear my own pride, I was able to really let go and trust His plan for my life and even the parts I don’t understand, especially the parts I don’t understand, I am able to lean on His understanding and trust not my own. Therein lies peace and freedom.

  3. Sunflower

    Just this morning I was reading in 1Kings 20 and there was the story of where Benhadad and the Syrians were giving Israel a lot of trouble, but Israel was getting the upper hand. So Benhadad said, “Well those Israelites have a reputation for being merciful, so why don’t we do the sack-cloth and humble ploy and see if we can’t trick them into thinking we’re all repentant and stuff.” It worked. And God was NOT happy.

    Sadly, I’ve fallen for that same ploy far too often, and thought God would be happy. Maybe not. I think most of us have been raised and even brain-washed by the church to believe everyone (love believes all things?) and presume everyone means well and has good intentions. And we feel badly if we even think otherwise. It’s just taken me so long to really see things from a totally different perspective.

    • Here is our post on Love Believes All Things.

      • standsfortruth

        Thankyou for sharing that exellent post Barbara,
        “Love believes all things”
        I fell victim to the many erroneous myths regarding that verse, as the c’hurch encouraged it.
        No wonder I stayed bound so long.

      • My abuser said, “you always think the worst of me.”
        No, my problem was I always thought the best of him. I always gave him the benefit of the doubt.

        Thank you Barbara for your post. Love Believes All Things. So much of what you said resonated with me.
        My dawning came over time. I realized this man who says he loves me has so much contempt for me. He hates me! I realized he had no empathy and he could really harm me. Grieving a marriage of over 25 years is a process. One of the things that helped me the most was knowing he never was the man he pretended to be. He was never capable of loving anyone but himself.

        I was in a fog for so long, believing there was something wrong with me.
        I have had no support since we left over 6 months ago,from the church we attended for my children’s whole lives.

        I try to focus on what is working instead of the lack of compassion from our xchurch where the abuser is still allowed to attend. My therapist says the best thing for my health was to walk away.

        I want to put on the prayer chain,
        “Does anyone care about us? ”

        I am having weekly migraines and sickness and injuries. In the past, I would have reached out to them. I think we have found a new church, but it is hard.

        I stood there trembling as I talked to the pastor and his wife. I think he gets abuse. He seems safe, but I am so afraid of being hurt again.

  4. Survivor

    My light bulb moment came six months after the new minister (who loved God more than people playing politics) became visibly angry as I told him what had been going on for the past decade and what the responses of the “establishment” ministers had been throughout my ordeal.

    A teacher at my kids’ school had been noticing me every morning as I brought my daughter to her kindergarten class. She actually left her class in the care of her assistant so she could come to my home. She rang the doorbell and, when I came to the door, asked that I forgive her if she was minding my business but she was very, very concerned about me.

    I was completely surprised; I wasn’t able to recognize in myself what was obvious to someone else (not having received validation in my family of origin after a circle of boys sexually assaulted me when I was around 7 yrs old. The invalidation and abuse continued in my dating relationships, then in my marriage and in the church. It doesn’t end until you can see it for what it is and name it and end its presence in and interference with your life.)

    She asked if she could arrange for a social worker to come and visit me. I said OK. I could tell she cared for me, so I trusted her, even though I was oblivious to the politics and dangers in the world. (I learned years later that our church was classified by some as a cult.)

    The social worker came within the hour, sat down at my kitchen table and asked me a lot of questions and wrote things down on her forms and notepad. She then told me I needed to go to an office with the city right away and speak with a social worker named __________.

    I did – and this woman was so gentle and kind. She asked me a number of questions as we talked briefly in her office, then she said, straightforward but very gently, adding that she wanted to make sure I understood what she was going to say: she did not believe I would survive if I stayed in this relationship.

    It was like her words had somehow made these heavy steel clockwork parts grind open (that I didn’t even realize were locked around my mind/awareness) just enough that I could sense the truth and gravity of my situation for the first time. I was in very deep water and would soon drown. My vision was like that of the blind man after Jesus touched his eyes and asked him what he saw and he said men walking around like trees – though it wasn’t yet clear, it was nevertheless a degree of sight.

    I left that night for the women’s shelter with our three children and one garbage bag with whatever they thought was precious and with what I thought we would need.

    The director actually took me under her wing, made sure I went to court the next morning (they had a fully staffed day care at the shelter, thank God) to apply for full custody (which I was awarded by the judge on our court date), then applied for subsidized housing. Three weeks later, I moved into “the projects” of our city: the largest housing complex, replete with drug and gang activity everywhere. It was scary. But inside our walls, it was safe: it was a home. I slept on a mattress on the floor. My kids had beds. I don’t remember how we got any of our furniture. My parents would come for a little visit every now and then, then we’d wave goodbye as they drove away. My siblings came once.

    There was no way I would have been able to do any of that had there not been a women’s shelter.

    Thus, my education in reality began.

    I realized I would never have left my daughter and grandchildren (!!!) in such a situation had I the resources to get them out. I began to see I was much healthier than my entire family, including my extended family.

    Within two years, I was back at university as a full time student, determined to complete what I had started out of high school fifteen years earlier.

    However, a loss of financial and social supports over the next four years, coupled with a big push from my aspiring grad advisor, resulted in me suffering a bad fall – almost all the way to the bottom of the pit again: a Maserati spun out in the ditch, eventually pulled out and parked on the side of the highway.

    The body is a bit worse for wear, but the engine is still amazing, though it’s all for nought: she has no fuel and no money to buy what she needs. Cars spizz by; no one stops to help. She eventually gave up hoping; who can endure such ongoing relentless agony?

    Twenty years of living out of your car (figuratively speaking) is a long time. To all appearances, it looks like I’m a loser: technically homeless, never a success in any career, alone (even my kids rarely call, such a horror my life has become), avoided. I own nothing that would signal this is a person one would want to associate with: trendy hair, clothes, glasses, shoes, car, confidence, posture, demeanour. I remember Lazarus outside the rich man’s gate [Luke 16].

    The enemy would have me think my life is over. I struggle to not believe the lies.

    Until I remember, however, that my Father who sparked me into existence did so because He wanted me here. He loves me and has plans for me. He keeps telling me that He has given me a future and a hope. He sent His one and only beloved Son to save me – the Kinsman-Redeemer is His name. He will restore what I have lost. He promises me His Word is good: truer than pure gold.

    I keep getting up each day. I keep looking up.

    Ah – just noticed an hour has gone by and this post is way too long – sorry for going on and on. I hope it helps someone, somewhere, somehow.

    The enemy can’t keep the light from dawning: the truth (FULL of grace!) will keep going forth. We hear it every time someone speaks it – and if no one spoke it, the stones would sing it out. Nothing can keep a good Man down! Praise God: the Word that has gone our from His heart shows His heart is so completely FULL of love for us. We are so richly blessed! Thank you, Jesus.

    xo

    • standsfortruth

      Thank you for sharing Survivor.
      I can relate to so much of what you have shared.
      Believe in yourself as you are a gem in the Lord’s eyes.
      Our Kinsman Redeemer is with us as we journey in faith towards a better place.

      • Survivor

        SFT, thank you.

    • Scared momma

      Survivor

      Thank you for sharing. Sorry, your abusive ex took so much from you, but I can see what you gained. In your words I hear your strong faith, love of the Lord, and peace.

      For me, the fog has just recently lifted. For a year I’ve been trying to leave. In leaving I lose financial security, will be starting over in 50s. Will likely leave with just clothes on my back, kids and huge legal bill. The future is unknown. But, I will have the Lord on my side, my children ( I hope, don’t trust the legal system), and freedom. I am accused of FALSELY accusing him of abuse. Why would anyone bother falsely accuse. No one believes, called bitter, told to get over it, it can’t be true because I stayed so long, if happened I must be stupid to let it go on so long. Accused of doing it for all the legal advantages. But, there is no legal advantage. They don’t recognize verbal/emotional/sexual abuse of a wife. He likely will get at least standard custody and maybe more even though kids have mental health problem due to his abuse of them. But, with all the struggles and u know I can’t wait to leave. I dream of peace.

      • Survivor

        SM, thank you for your words. Affirming.

        Yes, the Lord, your children and freedom. Yes, false accusations are devastating. May our Lord uphold you so you can stand – but I hear you when you say you dream of peace. I certainly couldn’t go through it all again. I pray God will never let me go through another ordeal – and that yours resolves surprisingly and supernaturally easily.

        Nothing is too hard for God – and He says we don’t have because we don’t ask – so I’m ASKING!!! … AND expecting!!! God is a good Father, a good Shepherd.

  5. Bitter But Getting Better

    Dear Survivor, thanks for sharing. What a horrific journey you have been on. Won’t heaven be wondrous, no pain, suffering or sadness? No disease and we will live w/ Jesus right there with us for eternity. I look forward to that day, to going home! To meet Him face to face.
    God bless you dear sister!!!!

    • Survivor

      Oh, sweet sister, thank you for reminding me, focusing my sights. I’m so tired. What precious hope! God bless you, too!

  6. surviving freedom

    I truly did not have a full-out ‘light bulb’ moment, I had flickering moments of truth that would be quickly extinguished whenever I would confront the behaviors or seek “help.” After reading “In Sheep’s Clothing” by George Simon Jr. the light bulb stayed on, but only dimly lit – fading in and out but I was still confused … and he sought help. After 3 1/2 years of him becoming a very educated and convincing “reformed” (liar, porn addict, workaholic, etc, etc) abuser (as long as we didn’t use the word) who had successfully turned himself into a victim with his support system, it just hit me one night … no real big reason. It just occurred to me that nothing was changing, actually only getting worse. And suddenly my guilt for staying overpowered my guilt for wanting to leave … I told him it was time to separate and he acted shocked and blamed me for destroying the family. And that solidified that I was doing the right thing. That was several months ago. And since, his blame and lies about me have grown, and after 2+ decades together … I still know that being apart is the right thing. I may doubt myself at times over certain issues, but being apart is the one thing I do not doubt.

    • what a great testimony, SF!

    • Anonymous

      SF – and do not doubt in the dark what God has revealed to you in the light. You have taken a stand for not allowing yourself to be abused. God will lead and care for you!!

  7. Freedomgirl

    My lightbulb moment was when my oldest son, 10 at the time, gave his father a glowing report of where I was all day and made sure to note that I was gone longer than I “should have been”. He was becoming his controlling father. And I had to stop it, now. We were already scheduled for a counseling session in a few weeks because we just couldn’t communicate. But that night, he decided that we must. He cornered me while I was nursing our 6 month old and insisted we talk. He talked, I listened. My turn came and everything I said was met with correction and disapproval. That lasted until 11 p.m. with my baby still in my arms. I finally said I needed to get some sleep, that I couldn’t do this anymore. He cried out that it was the most important thing and he couldn’t believe I was gonna just go to sleep! I was exhausted, had to get up in a few hours to nurse again, and spend the next day caring for our 3 other kids, homeschooling them. He stormed out of the room and I cried myself to sleep.

    The next morning he came in our room and kissed me on the cheek and said what a great “talk” we’d had the night before. I thought to myself…we’re you even there?!?!

    That evening, as he and the older kids were getting ready to go to church, he said we’d talk more when he got home. I knew it would be like that every night for the next few weeks until our counseling session. I knew I couldn’t do that again, much less again and again. They left, and I knew I had to go. I grabbed some clothes for me and the baby and called a friend. I didn’t know where I was going, but just knew I HAD to go. She brought me to an abuse shelter, where I stayed for 2 weeks. That was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life. But it was the first step in my and my children’s freedom.

    Now, a year later, we are healing after the divorce. My kids stay with their dad on weekends, but they’re healthier than they were. They see his controlling ways and they see a strong Momma that will fight for them. And herself.

    • And welcome to the blog, Freedomgirl 🙂 Thank you for sharing your lightbulb moment. Well done for fighting to give your kids a chance of growing up without always being under the thumb of an abuser.

      You may already have looked at our guidance for New Users of this blog, but if not, here it is: New Users Info page. It gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

  8. standsfortruth

    Had i known what I know today my lightbulb moment would not have been squashed by the church’s willful blindness. Back then I had no one to validate my perceptions, so the abuse continued to flourish unchallenged.
    These are some of my observations in hindsight reflection- in hopes to help others that may see some similar traits in their abuser.

    The abuser was a controller of the emotional atmosphere of my home.
    No-one was allowed to be happy in the home if the abuser was not happy.
    This is why an oppressive atmosphere settled in the home.
    In my house, because of this atmosphere, none of my children wanted to wake up and come out in the mornings.
    It was indeed an eirie atmosphere.
    Spontainous laughing and playing children in the morning were not heard.
    The church condoned this under its twisted patristic views.

    My observations today are:
    Abusers are ( target focused)- busy watching and listening to what their targets are saying and doing, so that they themselves will know how to orchestrate their next calculated move to control the current outcome.
    What an unwary “target” chooses to do or say next, will determine what the abuser will say or do next.
    Once you understand this cycle, you will start to grasp the way the mind of the abuser works.
    It is a game of control.
    The one thing the abuser hates is “not knowing” what their targets are planning or doing, because this takes away their power to control, manipulate, and ultimately sabotage the outcome.
    This is often where they will enlist outside minions, or enablers (that the target also knows and trusts) to do their dirty work, and try to gleen information about their target for them.

    But the abuser himself do not like to disclose his “personal plans”, due to wanting to continue his availability to influence and control his targets.
    This is why I think so many of abusers “home projects” go on forever or unfinished.
    (However these unfinished projects serve as a “good intention cover” for their covert control target operation.)
    Because abusers prefer to spend their time monitoring and controling people, but need to “appear” as if they “care” about some maintainence of the home.
    (Don’t you know, controlling people can be a full time job.)

    • Don’t you know, controlling people can be a full time job.

      That is so true! And it reminds me of what Anna Salter says in her book The Socially Skilled Child Molester, — that social skilled child molesters (serial pedophiles) do not ever take vacations or rest breaks from their sole purpose, which is to obtain access to children to molest them.

      Every waking hour, every waking minute, they are seeking access to children, working out which venues, which professsions, which volunteer jobs are the most likely to give them good pickings, getting qualifications and respect so they can work in those fields, working out how to groom the gatekeeper-adults to trust them, working out which kids are the most vulnerable, which kids are least likely to blow the whistle, grooming the kids they have selected . . . It is a full time job. They are 100% dedicated to it. Everything they do in their lives is directed to that end.

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