A Cry For Justice

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

What Does it Feel Like to Not be Believed?

One of the most important things we can do to help victims of abuse is believe them when they tell us what is going on behind the scenes. If you have been following this blog for a while, you have probably seen that we have been attacked by some pretty nasty types who accuse us of believing reports of abuse “no matter what,” and most of them are tee’d off because they are still stuck in the world of “those cursed anti-God feminists run things and no one ever believes the man.” We who are in the know about the mentality and nature of abuse understand that just the opposite is true — with some exceptions. Namely, that the typical scenario is that it is the abuser (who is most typically a man) is the one who is being believed, not the victim.

But we stand by this principle. The best thing, and the wisest thing that we can do to help abuse victims is to believe them when they tell us and ask us for help. Think about it. How many women, especially Christian women, are going to be people who “just want to dump the guy and take him for all they can” and choose to do so by going to their pastor or fellow church members and accusing their spouse of abuse? Is that a tried and proven way to get support? Is that the easy way to get out of a marriage? Hardly. Just ask the many abuse victims we know if they had a pleasant experience when they went this route!

No. Typically, genuine abuse victims are not believed by their Christian friends, pastors, or families. They are often not believed by the police (that has changed somewhat for the better). And in the end it is the victim who is portrayed and punished as the culprit. Abuse victims find that very few people believe them and are willing to stand with them.

How does that feel? Have you ever KNOWN something was true and yet no one would believe you? The wicked are often quite adept at lying and deception. Victims see them lying and manipulating others, and they see people believing these lies. They see people who perhaps were even friends turn against them and embrace the evil one. And they see this happen EVEN when the victim is able to offer substantial supporting proof! Believing the abuser, you see, is to believe the one who holds the cards of power. Believing the abuser is the easy way to keep your own hide out of trouble. Believing the victim on the other hand can prove to be quite costly.

When people who claim to be our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, or who are supposed to be shepherding our souls, or who are charged with protecting the innocent from the guilty, simply will not believe us, we experience great pain and sorrow. We feel accused and demeaned and shamed. We feel betrayed  — because in fact we have been betrayed.

So take care, all you who claim to be shepherds of Christ’s church. Take care, all of you who claim to belong to Christ and insist that you are seekers and lovers of His truth. The truth is often ugly. The truth very typically entails facts about the deeds of darkness that have been hidden from sight all the while destroying victims. Take heed that you do not reject the oppressed and refuse to believe them simply because to do so would be too unpleasant for you.

 

36 Comments

  1. LearningtoLiveFree

    I have heard it said many times that the church is the only organization in the world that will “shoot its own wounded.” Shepherds beating their own flock. The weakest among them. This article is so true. I saw and experienced this myself. I wish the church would wake up!!

  2. This is spot-on, Pastor Jeff. Even though (I feel) things have come into light that show the lies and deception of my family and my ex husband, there is a certain stubbornness that says, “No. We are still going to insist that she was wrong to leave.” It is starting to seem ridiculous. I think that, if I had been thrown down the stairs and been beaten to the point of near-death, my family would sit by my bedside and say, “So, what did you do to deserve this, Megan?” And they would still blame me and support my ex-husband. AND try to convince others that I deserved it, as well. It really IS an awful feeling. I have gotten over it now because I don’t consider their opinions of me worth anything since I have seen what they are capable of. AND, their stories are crumbling . . . . the lies are beginning to be exposed. It doesn’t matter much, now, because the damage was done. But, it heals my psyche to see that my ex husband and family had to go to great lengths to cover for themselves and it is beginning to unravel in my mind. After five years now, I see that God really and truly was protecting me, as painful as it was at the time. The health of my kids and my current marriage are evidence that God rescued me from mammoth dysfunction of my ex husband, his family and my own family. At Give Her Wings, we have the same policy. We always believe. As you said, why would anyone make up abuse? There are far easier ways to get out of a marriage.

  3. Reblogged this on Speakingtruthinlove's Blog and commented:
    Those who protect rapists and molesters, often cite the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ statute as a reason to believe the offender, until they are proven guilty. But that is a statute for the courts. When we as Christians take that approach to sexual abusers then we in affect are saying to the victims that we believe they are liars until their offender is found guilty in court. Even then many so called don’t believe the victim.

    • joepote01

      Yes, “innocent until proven guilty”…in a criminal court of law. This is at it should be. Before convicting someone of a crime, the burden of proof does (and should) fall on the accuser to prove the accused guilty, before they can be punished for the alleged crime. In other words, we believe the accused to be telling the truth in declaring their own innocence, until they are proven to be lying. Why? Because innocent people should not have to endure unjust punishment for crimes they did not commit.

      And the exact same principle applies to a woman trying to leave an abusive husband. We should believe her. Why? Same reason…because innocent people should not have to endure unjust punishment.

      Now, some may say, “but that’s not fair to the accused husband! By believing the wife, you are treating the husband as guilty without proof of guilt.” Yes…but the husband is not in criminal court, facing prosecution for criminal charges with expectation of severe punishment if found guilty. Rather, in this case, it is the wife who faces the possibility of unjust punishment if not believed. The (alleged abusive) husband, whether guilty or innocent, does not face the possibility of unjust punishment.

      What’s the worst that could happen to him? He could lose his marriage. So what? If his wife is accusing him of abuse (whether founded or not), he has already lost his marriage. He could lose his reputation…and if he is truly innocent this would be sad. However, it is no worse a plight than the many wrongfully accused in criminal court…even if not proven guilty their reputation still suffers. Such is life. It stinks…but it doesn’t stink nearly as bad as what the abused wife faces daily if, in fact, her allegations are true.

      Now, if later on he should face criminal charges related to the abuse allegations, then, yes, he would be presumed by the court to be innocent until proven guilty. That’s a completely different standard…because in that case he would be facing the possibility of unjust punishment if not actually guilty.

      Whether dealing with criminal court or dealing with domestic abuse (outside of criminal charges) the principal is the same. Always believe the person who is in danger of suffering unjust punishment, until they are proven false.

    • Yes Dale, and what most people don’t realise is that the majority of reported cases of sexual abuse do NOT actually end up with charges being laid. Here in Australia, it is up to the police to decide whether to lay charges. And if it’s just the victim’s word against the offender’s word, and there is no corroborative evidence to support the victim’s testimony such as a doctor’s report who examined the victim soon after the event and found semen and evidence of force such as bruising or lacerations, or witnesses, the police know full well that the offender is not likely to be convicted by the court.

      I have been told by the police force here that even when they had very strong reasons to believe that the offence had indeed happened, they rarely charge the offender if there is not much chance of getting a conviction. The reason they rarely charge in such circumstances is this: if they lay charges and the case goes to trial and the offender is found not guilty, guess who has to pay court costs? — the POLICE SERVICE.

      This explains why so few cases of sexual crime actually go to trial.

  4. Traddy

    It hurts soooo much. As if I’m nothing, worthless, of no use to society or my family. It proves I have no protector, that he is my enemy. He says no. that is false untrue- my abuser, and abusers rewrite reality, and refuse to listen to my voice. Every time it is another death until I have nothing to live for and they are anathema to me, but lo, I love them- this is a torment.

  5. MarkQ

    I recommended “A Cry for Justice” to my sister-in-law, whose daughter suffered greatly under this very thing. She was talking about it when my brother (not her husband, but a different brother who is an elder) overheard. His immediate response was, “there are two sides to every story”. This so clearly recognizes the failure of church leadership. If someone goes to the police and files a report that a crime happened, the police act as if it happened. If they, in their investigation, find out that that person lied, then they may charge him for filing a false report.

    But, somehow, it’s okay for the church to turn the tables on the victim. In fact, it seems to be perceived as the hallmark of wisdom in the church to revictimize the victim, by assuming the victim to be the real problem, and the abuser to be innocent. Every case where I’ve been abused by a member of the church and went to the leaders, I had it put back in my face. They didn’t want to listen, they didn’t want to understand. They wanted to do NOTHING and yet they didn’t want to appear lazy, so the nothing that they did was instead a rebuke to me for whatever “sin” they could pin on me.

  6. Stronger Now

    This is what keeps me awake at night more than anything else.

  7. Un-Tangled

    How does it feel to not be believed?

    It feels like being caught in some sort of horror story, in which I see the evil villain, the monster, behind the mask, but no one else does. And everyone is believing the monster is sweet and charming and meanwhile the monster knows that I know who he is and is trying to destroy me and others, but no one believes or helps. I think the worst sort of villain is not the who looks evil and dangerous so everyone is on guard–you know, like Darth Vader. The worst villains are the ones who appear sweet or charming and no one believes that they’d ever be abusive.

    When I am not believed, I feel a sense of panic, frustration, overwhelmed, and deep, deep sadness. I become afraid to share my story or ask questions because what if the other person doesn’t believe me? What if they accuse me of being the monster? Unloving, Unforgiving, Overly sensitive, Judgmental, UnChristlike, just as bad as the Abuser. If they don’t believe me, I begin to second-guess myself. What if they are right? What if I really am the horrible monster? And I second-guess my emotions too: If I get angry, or upset, or anything, I wonder if I’m the monster. If I share my story, I wonder if I am just trying to get people to pity me, or causing drama. So I think things through (again) and I really can’t see that I am the monster. I AM NOT. And it’s ok to set boundaries, have emotions, and to share my story. But deep inside I’m afraid and I feel guilty for not being strong enough to love them enough.

    It’s a battle to share my experiences. But if I can’t share, not only do I not help other victims and I don’t educate ignorant people about abuse, but I also don’t get support for me and it’s a very, very lonely place to be.

    I sometimes feels as if I have two sets of thoughts/emotions: One is what I am learning about abuse and abusers, about what the Bible says about them and how to respond to them, about how to set healthy boundaries. But growing up in my family I was taught not to have boundaries, and that I must be always NICE, and never offend anyone, and rather than confront anyone, I must “forgive” them, and “accept them for who they are” and “not rock the boat” and “make things worse.” This is the very same message the church taught me, using spiritualized words. So it’s deeply ingrained in me and I have to not only stand against the abusers and their allies, but I have to battle the two parts of me–to over-write the lies I’ve been taught all my life. I really relate to when Repunzel escaped her tower in the movie Tangled. I alternate between “I’m free! This is SO WONDERFUL! This is the best day EVER!” and “I’m the worst daughter ever.”

    Sometimes I think that with all the battles I’ve had to fight–and continue to fight–it’s no wonder that I’m so tired and struggle with PTSD. But I am winning…step by step. My husband says he thinks I have incredible strength.

    I am thankful for sites such as ACFJ and I read all the comments where people share their stories. These help me to remind myself that it’s not just me, that I really am not the monster, to recognize the patterns of abuse so I can recognize them in the future, and to untwist the Scriptures that the abusers have twisted.

    • Seeing Clearly

      Well written, Un-Tangled. Each time you step out courageously to state truth, you reclaim a small part of yourself that the villian stripped away from you. The confusion of perhaps having two sets of thoughts/emotions is the process of regaining your personhood. You are recognizing the mind games an abuser can use to manipulate and confuse. They disregard any true emotions because that would be an admission that you are, indeed, a real individual with equal value. The thoughts/emotions may sort themselves out as you continue to heal. Continue speaking truth to yourself. Be gentle with yourself. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks Un-Tangled.
      And you might like to read our post about the movie Tangled:
      https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2013/02/12/emotional-abuse-tangled-and-a-revealing-comment/

  8. healinginhim

    Another excellent post. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!
    I must confess to being frustrated by not having many willing to check out ACFJ when I testify of how this ministry has helped me and others to stay focused on God’s Truth.

  9. 3blossommom

    I went over twenty years never telling a soul what happened in our home between the two of us. Everyone loved my husband-even when he confessed to multiple affairs. The church tripped over itself to see him restored. I didn’t think there would be any chance anyone would believe me, especially when my husband would be permitted to defend himself and challenge what I said. He was a better actor and very good at making me feel like everything was my fault. When he left, I still waited over 6 weeks before I spoke about it. Then I spoke with great hesitation, thinking I would be told I was overreacting or gossiping. I thank God I was believed. I think it was because, in leaving, my husband had shown a bit of his hidden character, but also because of some very discerning leaders. It was the start of the healing I had waited 20 years for.

  10. Sunflower

    The last time I tried to talk about it to someone close to me, I got, “It’s ok, you don’t have to talk about it.” I thought of the priest and levite walking by the beaten man. Really, it means, “I don’t want to hear about it.” This is not gossip. It is a cry for help and understanding.

  11. Sunflower

    There ARE two sides to these stories. The right side and the wrong side.

  12. JJ

    The clearest possible example of what it feels like to not be believed can be found in the Jessica Gonzales case. Google her. Not even after the death of her daughters at the hands of her estranged husband was she believed. There is an abundance of material on the web detailing what she went through because people didn’t believe her.

    Until finally she was.

    Ironically, it was not an American system that believed her. Our entire culture/society is warped.

  13. Remedy

    Hi ACF community…. an extremely timely post today. I need help. A situation coming to a head in my extended family with an extremely abusive brother in law. Several in the family trying to help, but with complete lack of knowledge of the depths of complicated mindset of abusers. Hearts are in the right place, i believe though. What is your best recommendation of a book to the unread on this topic….a thorough introduction for laypeople that i may give those who wish to help, but lack total understanding?

    Thank you all for any help you can offer!!

    • Hi Remedy,

      Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He Do That? is an excellent resource for learning about the mindset of abusers. It is listed on our Resource page on the top menu bar.

      IMPORTANT NOTE: While we endorse Lundy’s writings about the dynamics of domestic abuse, we do not recommend anyone attend the ‘healing retreats’ Lundy Bancroft offers or become involved in his ‘Peak Living Network.’ See our post, ACFJ Does Not Recommend Lundy Bancroft’s Retreats or His New Peak Living Network for more about our concerns.

    • Stronger Now

      I absolutely agree with TWBTC – the best book on the shelves to understand the mind of the abuser is Why Does He DO That? by Lundy Bancroft.

      It was the one book that cleared the fog for me. It took more than one reading, and it takes continual reminding myself – the mind of the abuser does not function like a “normal” mind. And when you say or do anything and expect a “normal” response, you are blindsided by the bizarre things that hit you. But when you begin to understand the patterns of the abuser’s thinking, you know exactly what to expect. It’s like flipping the switch on a floodlight.

    • Hi Remedy, I agree that Lundy’s book is the best for understanding men who abuse their partners. However, if the man you are thinking of is abusive in a wider sense, abusing extended family or workmates for example, you might find George Simon’s book Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing helpful. And it’s shorter than Lundy’s book. Also, Dr Simon’s book is a good introduction to manipulative people, so if the people you want to educate are not yet at the stage where they are willing to countenance the idea that Domestic Abuse is taking place, they may nevertheless be willing to learn how to identify manipulative people in general. We have Dr Simon’s books on our Resources section, as well as Lundy’s.

  14. MarkQ

    I grew up having a highly sensitive, but strong-willed child as my older brother. I was pretty compliant, but that wasn’t what my parents saw. My brother developed a gift for convincing my parents, especially my dad, that I was the culprit whenever something bad happened.

    I tried to protest and defend my innocence, but that just got me more severe discipline. Ultimately, I just had to accept that part of my life was being punished because my brother had honed the art of lying.

    It was unbelievably humiliating and deeply painful. When he recently confessed about ONE of the incidents, my mom was horrified that they had punished me unjustly. There were probably hundreds just like it. I dreamed of running away. I thought of suicide. I longed to run away and never talk to my family again. I visit maybe once a year now, and I still get to experience the utter lack of respect shown towards me and my family. When I still lived at home, people would gush about how amazing my parents were that we all turned out so well.

    • Onlymyopinion

      Yes, MarkQ. I have a younger brother by less than two years. He tortured me my whole childhood and because he was the only boy of five, he got away with everything. My mother has dementia now and the only person who is caring for her is me. She always asks for my brother, every day, kept a scrapbook about just him. It breaks my heart that he never calls her and all she wants is to talk to him. I often wished as a child that I could run away from my family. I recently told my dad about some of the things my brother did to me and he was shocked. Thank you for sharing this.

    • MarkQ, you might like to read Megan C’s two posts about family scapegoating.
      Part 1
      Part 2

      • MarkQ

        Thanks for the responses! My family was careful to maintain a perfect image to those outside, so we didn’t need a public scapegoat to blame for anything.

  15. Anotheranon

    MarkQ– I had a similar experience with my younger brother growing up. Very painful, and still bringing pain to our family after more than 50 years.

  16. StandsWithAFist

    I post this knowing that Jeff & Barb may edit it, but here goes.

    It’s written by Kathy Krajco, 2007, from her blog, “What Makes Narcissists Tick”. Kathy is no longer with us, but her wisdom lives on. After reading much of her work, I sense she was a Believer, a sister. Perhaps I am wrong, but this particular post is brilliant. It is entitled, “The Betrayal of the Bystanders”, and speaks to when others don’t believe you & in fact betray everything they know about you:

    “To believe these things about you they have to unknow everything they know about you. That is, they have to unknow you. They have to revise history. They have to erase that track record of yours.
    And that track record is your life. They have to wipe it out.
    That takes your life.
    Which is why they call it “character assassination.”

    http://narc-attack.blogspot.com/2007/02/betrayal-of-bystanders_21.html

    • Jeff Crippen

      Yes! Excellent article. Thank you. I checked it out at the link you gave and it is right on.

      • StandsWithAFist

        🙂

    • Wow. Thank you so so much for posting this article, Stands With! I am sharing it on the GHW Facebook page. I know it will bring a lot of healing. It certainly helped me! xo

      • StandsWithAFist

        So glad to know….There’s more from Kathy but her masterful work “What Makes Narcissists Tick” can now be hard to find… It’s a gem. And yes, it is healing and affirming!

  17. Rachael

    I’ll never forget how when at 16 I finally worked up the courage to tell one of the youth leaders that I liked in my church high school group about my dad’s verbal and emotional abuse (at this point we were having weekly shouting matches with him threatening to pervent me from doing anything I enjoyed if I didn’t do or agree with what he wanted and I was always terrified he would hit me because he got so angry). My youth leader said “your dad wouldn’t do that, he has a lot of biblical knowledge.” My dad does have a lot of biblical knowledge… I was so devistated by the leaders dismissal that I didn’t tell anyone about my dads abuse until years later, even though I became addicted to cutting and burning myself to cope whenever I had to go to his house.

    • Oh I am so sorry! How awful.
      Your story illustrates how important it is that the victim receives an affirmative and compassionate response to her first disclosure! Thank you for sharing your experience, and welcome to the blog.

      We always like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting here 🙂 .

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