A Cry For Justice

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

A Common Characteristic of an Abuser is Disrespect for Boundaries

Brooke Shields confronted her alleged stalker, John Rinaldi, 49, in court on Monday after years of fearing his obsessive behavior was being directed toward her young children. Shields alleges she was pushed to her breaking point when Rinaldi dropped off a stuffed animal for daughters Rowan, 13, and Grier, 10, at her home in West Village. Rinaldi allegedly left the stuffed animals at Shields’s home in 2013. In the following months he allegedly left a silver picture frame given out by Shields’s mother Teri, who died in 2012, at the actress’s 18th birthday party, Teri Shields and Rinaldi were friends when the actress was alive. The silver frame was addressed to 13-year-old Rowan. Finally, in May of 2015, Shields was fed up and reported Rinaldi to police. Shields is expected to return to court Tuesday. [Daily Mail Online, June 13, 2016]

People like this Rinaldi character demonstrate that they are abusers or sociopaths or well, just plain evil, in their total disregard for their victim’s boundaries. I suspect that just about every single one of our readers here at ACFJ could give many examples of this wicked behavior that so often masquerades as gift-giving or a thoughtful birthday card or showing up at a social event where the victim is.

I have experienced this personally as well. Wicked people who had targeted me and who had been sent off from the churches I have pastored, told not to return, nevertheless kept up various forms of contact. They would send me a birthday card or gift or an anniversary card or they would show up at a funeral service I officiated at. All of this, you see, done in the context of “plausible deniability.” “Oh, well, we just wanted to show you that we love you anyway.” Or, “yes, I know but surely we needed to attend this funeral out of love for the departed one’s family.” Yeah, right.

The real purpose of an abuser in violating boundaries (do not contact me again, do not come here again, etc) is an evil motivation to invade the personal life of the victim and continue to cause them trauma. These trespassing violations also evidence a desire to communicate to the victim and everyone that, “I will not be controlled by you. I am the one in control here.” All done with an ever so sweet smile and voice tone, you know. I have seen it. And I have called such people on it. “You need to leave. I am not going to have this conversation with you. There is the door. Go!” Their behavior, you see, is nothing less than harassment.

These boundary violations are often perceived by the naive as kindness. “Wasn’t that a nice thing for him/her to do.”  Ignorant people can be swayed by these evil tactics and start to accuse the victim of being too harsh and unkind. “So, they sent you a birthday card. What’s the harm in that?” The harm in that is that the card was sent to traumatize, to defy, and to hurt. That is why I never acknowledge such cards, never use any gift card sent by such a person, never say “thank you.” To do so is to be manipulated by evil.

Abusers very often do not truly love their children. Maybe none of them do. It does seem, does it not, that if a parent truly loves their children they would not abuse their other parent, right? But abusers frequently go all out to gain custody or equal visitation rights in prolonged court battles. Why? Because they demand power and control. They insist on forcing the victim to have to continue to include them in the victim’s life. They call on the phone. They sent a gift or a card. They show up at places they know the victim is at or where the children are. They trespass. They will not respect boundaries.

It is evil in action. We all must become wise to it or the wicked will dupe us and make us their ally.

*****

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Further Reading

Gifts from pursuing abusers

The Backlash of Boundary Setting

For more posts about boundaries see our TAG labeled ‘boundaries’ on the top menu bar.

28 Comments

  1. Sarah

    AND this is another reason why I don’t attend church. The harassment. He never knows where I’m going to be anymore so I don’t see him often except for visitation. And he made sure he got lots of time per week in order that we have to exchange our DD. He’s been trying his darndest to get me to go to his church so he can start his charade, including having them call me.

  2. Sally

    Every week he has visitation at the same time. He continues to ask permission each time to come over and then thank me for it. So I end up having contact with him multiple days every week.

    • Hello, Sally. Your scenario seems all too familiar. Not sure if I understand this correctly, but if the visitation time is always the same, you should not feel obligated to converse with the man, nor are you under any obligation to extend his time with the children if that is not part of the agreement and you and/or the kids are uncomfortable with it – even if he seems appreciative. It seems, he is playing a game…

    • Charis

      I agree with everything Cindy said. He is not entitled to extra visitation. You are not beholden to extend grace beyond what you (or the children) are comfortable and safe to extend. The established guidelines are there to provide a measure of safety, fairness, and peace. Use them well. Doing so does not paint you to be cold and unfeeling. It provides you a measure of safety and sanity.

      And to take it one step further – you do not have to endure him coming to your home to get the children. If it eases your mind and provides you with more peace, safety and clarity- agree to exchange the kids in a neutral spot, like a gas station or store parking lot. Somewhere open where there will be several people “doing business as usual.”

      • Anonymous

        I agree with all that to establish guidelines does NOT make the survivor cold or unfeeling even though the abuser, in his warped egoistic worldview, makes out it is. But I can understand why these boundaries are sometime impossible to establish. Even if it is recommended by a court-ordered family consultant or mediator that exchanges be made in a public place, the abuser often will not agree, forcing it to go to trial, or he won’t honor the court order and keep changing it, and to keep him accountable requires spending tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

  3. MarkQ

    Outsiders often don’t understand the context. I church I left decided to have a membership vow renewal service. When I told my new pastor how manipulative and evil that was, he told me that it didn’t seem like a problem, but he didn’t understand the big picture. The big picture was that the church was abusing members and then when they complained, the leaders reminded them that they vowed to submit to the leaders. So, the vow renewal service was somewhat of a public reminder who was in charge.

    My somewhat narcissistic brother prides himself in giving the best gifts at Christmas. We set a “boundary” of how much we can spend, and he often spends twice to three times that. I finally had to stop participating so that I wouldn’t have to feel guilty for holding to my boundaries. Again, the greater context is that he must be superior, so he has to give the best gifts and have the nicest house and the nicest cars. But… he also has to win every argument, and he has to tear down everyone to maintain his superiority.

    • Ng

      Your church sounds like my ex church in regards to the vow renewal.. it was a way to control and manipulate not just members, but anyone visiting. ‘Let’s all repeat the words of this sacred vow!’ (i. e., come under the pastor’s authority and let him control out thoughts, actions and decisions)

      Also spot on re: narcissistic sibling. I no longer allow myself to listen to my sister’s boasting and how perfect her life is, how great the house, the ministry, the charity she’s running…
      It may seem very unloving to the outsiders, but placing boundaries is exactly what she seeks to minimize. By refusing to meet her, I refuse to submit to her tactics.

  4. IamMyBeloved's

    Exactly.

    The abuser will even befriend your friends or Church once it is all over, just to continue to try to prove he was not THAT bad.

    The thing about abusers is that they are unteachable and their arrogance and sense of entitlement continually leads them. They always seem to make an appearance, one way or another.

    • Charis

      Yes. ^This^ And to friends I would add; family.

      My ex successfully created allies at my former church (no surprise).

      He then isolated me from a mentor – someone who was like a surrogate set of parents. I knew them for 20yrs. (Eds. removed identifying details) My ex (who previously had NO relationship with this couple) has successfully created an ally with them, too. I have had to go no contact with this couple – SUCH a heartbreak.

      My ex tried multiple times to reach out to my parents – especially my mom. “Let’s do this together.” “How about a trip to (detail removed)” “Can we meet up sometime when you are in town?” They repeatedly told him no and have cut off contact with him (sigh of relief).

      Now…just last night…I get a text from a relative who lives hours away saying that my ex is coming over to dinner. He and my son are camping up nearby. He contacted them – “Would they like to have dinner, since he and my son are in the area?” They said yes…and there you have it. He’s in like Flynn.

      So, he has now (after 2yrs of trying) successfully worked his way in to my family through a branch further down the tree. I have no idea, yet how this will play out. But I have no doubt the sorry, sad tale he told and pale light in which he cast me. He’s a VERY skilled manipulator. He plays his fiddle extremely well – hear that sad, despondent song? It’s all about him being the victim and how he’s changed but I gave him no chance to prove it.

      It’s just a matter of time before the cousins, aunts/uncles – even my parents – will hear about it…from the the relative’s point of view. And just like that *poof* my circle of safety has been whittled away once more.

      • Concerned Mom

        This is the reason why my daughter will not leave her destructive marriage …she fears he will, in time, make the children blame her and hate her for leaving him…..there is NO justice….

      • KayE

        Unfortunately abusers can and do turn children against the other parent whether the innocent person leaves or not. They don’t care about the children, only themselves.

      • Anonymous

        Thank you for this reminder Charis. Isn’t it “funny” how he must milk YOUR side of the family? Why doesn’t he go to HIS side? Has he worn out his welcome or is his family hoodwinked so there’s no more challenge for him or does this give him no access to one such as yourself? One who can love others and therefore be hurt by others as well? Your situation is what we SHOULD be taught when the church and society talk about manipulators. How they wiggle their way in and since most of us didn’t even think that some people could choose to be 100% evil and will never want to change, we are completely unaware and therefore unprepared to even keep our eyes open for this kind of abuse. I believe you and I’m so sorry.

  5. rrprewett

    From my own personal experience as a sexual trauma survivor, I’ve learned that I am not alone in having difficulty with setting and maintaining healthy boundaries for myself. I was often unable to recognize boundary-pushers and violators until their behavior became extreme.

    I can remember ending a relationship with a man and telling him not to contact me ever again — and being shocked when he listened to me. Later, when I described this situation to my therapist, he pointed out that obviously this man was not abusive or a crazed stalker — that normal, healthy men leave when you tell them to leave, no matter how heartbroken or disappointed they might be. They do not force unwanted attention on you.

    Wow. That was like an epiphany for me. Normal people respect boundaries. Who knew?

    • Stronger Now

      My mother had zero respect for boundaries. When, as an adult, I began to enforce boundaries with her, she would go ballistic. It was tough, but eventually we built a better relationship. I’m so glad I stood up to her, even though she resisted with all she had.

      My husband also has no respect for boundaries, although through counseling he has learned the right things to say to give the appearance of respecting them. In reality he just uses ever more covert and apparently innocuous ways to violate boundaries, rather than being blatant about it. It makes me look “mean,” “crazy,” and “unforgiving” when I resist and hold to the boundary. Sometimes I don’t realize what he’s doing until after the fact, and he’s been successful.

      As a survivor, it is triggering – I feel violated when he does this. I look forward to the day when all of our children are grown and I can go NC. Unfortunately, he has most of them fooled, so it will likely impair my relationships with some of my children.

      My dilemma is whether to tell them about what went on behind closed doors, things they never knew about, to explain myself. I’m afraid they won’t believe me, or they’ll insist that he’s changed. He’s a very good actor.

    • bright sunshinin' day

      Rrprewett, you summed it up well with this:

      “Normal people respect boundaries.”

  6. Ann

    Extremely helpful article, I have found the persistent “showing up” at whatever church I attend and social events for my school to be the most difficult aspect of dealing with a manipulative narcissist in my extended family. It is so destructive because I feel I can’t even worship God without his distractive presence.

  7. Not really Scared anymore!!

    The timing of this post, well, it just has me close to tears. My dad died last Wednesday. It was very unexpected, two weeks notice, but we all got to get out there and he was lucid until the last few hours so that’s good. Very hard stuff but the best we could have hope for. That being said, my ex found out yesterday and “had” to send me a condolence email. When I explained that he was violating boundaries and it is considered “harassment” because it was not about the one minor child or the back payment of child support he owes he then played the victim, how dare I not accept his condolences for a man he has known for 35 years. Praying he does not try to email my mom. Thankfully he does not know her snail mail address nor phone number. Today I am so worn out with what happened with my dad, juggling family tensions, still no child support( though supposedly two checks have been garnished but the enforcement agency has not received them), I have to start back to work on Wednesday night ( I am a hospice nurse so that is going to be HARD), and one of my cats is dying. Thanks for letting me comment and just vomit out my pain today. Love all of you!!

    • Hi Not really Scared anymore,
      I published your comment, but if you have second thoughts about it (safety reasons) email TWBTC and she can un-publish it. twbtc.acfj@gmail.com

      I’m so glad you got to see your dad and he was lucid till very near the end. I understand your exhaustion! It’s really tough having a parent die and all the associated tensions and stresses that happen in the lead up and aftermath of that.

      At least most of the other workers at your workplace will understand your grief. I hope you can take moments out to vent or release whatever you find comes up.

      (((((hugs))))

      • bright sunshinin' day

        May God comfort you, Not Really Scared Anymore. (((hugs)))

  8. A couple of years ago, after a brief conversation with my mother, she told our entire family that I verbally attacked her, and when I confronted her, she lied. So I separated myself from her, as I have had to do several times over the course of my life.

    Then she sent me a Christmas present… I felt obligated to return it, and now I am a terrible person to many in my family, because she presented herself as someone who was just trying to be nice and repair the disconnect.

    You referenced “plausible deniability…” I had never been able to identify the dynamic before, but what you shared validated my crazy, hurtful experiences with my own mom.

    Thank you.

  9. Gothard Survivor

    Sarah, I have experienced that!

    People would come to the house and say they wanted to pray with us and they would tell me how important it is that we stay together — never asking me anything at all. If i did say anything I would be told that the church believes in forgiveness. When I realized that my husband was recruiting people to talk to me, I felt so embarrassed…again.

  10. My abusive narcissistic psychopath ex h found me and my new family one vacation. He showed up crying about how he HAD to see our son, wanting to do things with him (details removed to protect identity) etc. He was actually thinking about vacationing near us. He had just had our son for visitation a day or so before. The weeks leading up to this left me exhausted. My new h had pulled his own stuff and there were so many mind games going I just let them go (for the afternoon) etc. He talked to me like I was his best friend, smiling and just the happiest guy ever. He successfully interrupted and helped ruin my only vacation that year. He knew exactly what he was doing. Playing it off as just such a great dad. Ugh…sickening.

    The days I picked up our son from visitation with my ex h if I had an appointment I’d call and say I had to leave right away. When I showed up our son nobody would answer the door. (Details removed to protect identity. The details showed the abuser’s stalling tactics i.e. getting clothes ready etc.) I got smarter. I still called to communicate the need to leave but I showed up with towels and clothes, shoes etc. I put him into the car and didn’t worry that we needed to change in the car. The ex MIL acted like I was doing the worst thing taking him and leaving that way. They had used every trick in the book to try and take our son away from me and then they wanted me to stick around??listening to their fake happy times and super sick smiles and laughter. Or better yet…let our son play and stay another night I can just come back later.

  11. Brenda R

    I tire of hearing “he’s just lonely”. Who’s fault is that? He still makes himself known a couple of times a month. We had no children together and he has no contact information for mine and they could care less. So he leaves a bag of coke caps on the door of my apartment or on my car at work. Just enough to be a pain in the posterior and carry out his threat…..”You have years of me getting under your skin”. He doesn’t anymore. I take the bag off the door and move on. I do not contact him, ever.

    I am cautiously dating. I scrutinize everything that is said and done. I am not sure that I will ever be able to trust again. More times than not they say something that has extreme control freak and manipulator written all over it. After 2 or 3 visits, I’m done. I don’t give out my home address to anyone, I meet somewhere public.

  12. StandsWithAFist

    “The harm is that the card was sent to traumatize, to defy and to hurt”.

    “Abusers very often do not truly love their children”.

    Nor do abusers truly love their grandchildren, either.

    The goal is ALWAYS power & control, not respect or reciprocity or dignity.
    Power & control is achieved by force: forcing victims to submit to their demand[s]. That is never loving or kind. NEVER.

    Recently my MIL sent yet another card, defying a boundary not to contact my son in ANY way (mail, phone, gifts, etc).

    I am happy to report that my child got the mail out of the box that day, & immediately brought the card to me & said “Mom? What should I do with this?”

    Yea! Victory! My child recognized the violated boundary, did not open the card but handed it to me & never asked about it again. My child had learned to defend themselves against being re-victimized by her evil.
    Just seeing her handwriting on an envelope makes me feel violated, & my child has observed me trash or shred many cards unopened, and has learned that boundaries are not to be violated.

    Boundaries exist for our protection, and it is a powerful thing to uphold them.

    Thanks Ps. Jeff.

  13. My “dad” has mostly moved on from direct boundary violations to financial blackmail; he refuses to pay for things we kids need (like school fees and clothes) unless we communicate with him directly. We three have told him, more than once and to his face, that we will not have contact with him. No phone calls, no email, etc., but that doesn’t stop him. We have been forced to cross our own boundaries more than once just to get things we need. “What’s that you say? Adolescent brother has outgrown all his clothes? Well! I’ll just have to make a sacrifice and use my credit card to take him shopping!”

  14. KayE

    Some members of my ex’s family used to send me birthday cards every year without fail and it always filled me with dread.They didn’t care about me. They never listened to me or treated me as a person in my own right. They used to visit without warning and expect me to drop everything and sit there silently while they talked to their son and brother, but never to me. After my ex walked out, they kept telling me how much they missed me, even though at the same time they were spreading malicious gossip behind my back. One of them would end their visits by walking right up to my face and abusing me in front of the children.
    But I kept getting the birthday cards and Christmas cards, always with sentimental words or pious bible verses in them. That is, until my ex found himself a new victim, then his family cut off all contact with me. Which might sound good, but they also cut off contact with my children and guess who gets the blame for that.

    • Anonymous

      It is amazingly cruel what these people are capable of and how in all the horror, and in the end we (those who belong to Jesus) get blamed for it. There really needs to be classes on the many tactics of the devil–but let’s face it–we’d think we had a clue and therefore we might believe we could more easily spot an evil one, and then the game would change.

      I had to let go of everyone in my family in order to heal. It’s so heartbreaking on one hand but then as time went by I could more plainly see that I had only “lost” chaff. All those who supposedly cared about me never really did and I (like all the people in evil ones lives) was simply something they used to create the appearance of being normal or good. So really, I lost nothing but waste and ended up with Jesus. His word is so precious and true and as Jeff points out over and over, how amazing it is that we were taught the OPPOSITE of what the bible actually said, and we used to believe it.

      John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Amen. Free from people who add nothing to your life and who when we listened to them in the past, it actually just created confusion and heartache. Free from lies that kept us working like crazy for children who belong to their father the devil. Free from pretending that all humans were the same when we know this is the opposite of truth. Free from including ourselves in the guilt of evil ones and able to let them go on in sin without feeling false guilt or shame. Yep, in the end we win and we have the chance for peace and happiness-something evil ones hate.

  15. Healing

    I’m experiencing this right now from my ex-husband. It’s validating and encouraging to read this article and know I’m not alone.

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