A Cry For Justice

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

A Common Tactic of Abusers is to Try to Alienate the Victim’s Allies

“I understand that you are giving _______ counsel and I want to talk to you.”

I have received that kind of message many times over the past few years. A message on our church answering machine. An email. A note. I never answer these messages because I know what they are about. They are attempts by the abuser to place doubt in my mind about the victim. Just think of it. A person actually contacts me, thinking that I am counseling their target.* The abuser actually expects that I am going to talk to him about his spouse!! Hello? I would not even be free to acknowledge that I have spoken with them or not, let alone provide any details!

Sometimes these calls are really a not-so-veiled-threat — “I know and I want you to know that I know.”

And sometimes the abuser’s attorney will even call and want me to talk to him. Can you believe it? I mean, I know that all they are after is more information that they can use against the victim. Never return those calls either. I think that some attorneys will call simply to imply that “you better stop talking to her or else.” Or others may even be trying to find out where the victim is.

And then you have the abuser’s “pastor” who will phone me, sometimes repeatedly, asking me to please, please telephone him and talk to him. Really? At best such a pastor is duped by the abuser and even quite likely a full-blown ally ready to eventually ex-communicate the victim. I have, I admit, wished at times that I could put a string of special messages on our answering machine. “If you are _____, please press “1” for a special message just for you.”

Very rarely, but once in a great while, I will be contacted by a pastor who really does want to help an abuse victim. How do I tell the difference? Because this kind of pastor has heard about our ACFJ ministry and has expended some effort to hear what we are saying and seriously consider it. The most telling way I can identify such a pastor is that they have taken the time to read our books (at least one of them anyway). Then they will ask for advice or they will ask a question or two and really listen to my answer. But once again, these kind are rare.

But most typically, by threat or by deception or some other manipulative means, the wicked types typically contact the friends and allies of their victim in order to intimidate them, or to place doubt in their minds about the character and truthfulness of the victim, or effect some other harmful goal.

We know. And we won’t be returning their calls. I don’t care to have a conversation with the devil.

***

*Note: I do not actually give professional counseling in this blog or in other settings. I will state my opinion, answer questions, direct people to resources. I will give my opinion about whether a pattern of behavior is abusive or not, but I will not give technical legal advice (other than “call the police”). And whatever my opinion may be, I know that decisions must ultimately be made by the victim.

***

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48 Comments

  1. Concerned Mother

    This happened to me alright. He called, over and over again; my mother, my sister, my brother (who told him not so politely where to go..), my friends, Lord knows who else, to tell them how much he “loved” me and “wanted me back.” I am pretty sure they all figured out it was a ploy and then it just got downright annoying to them. I wish they’d have all reported it as harrassment.

    • Moving Forward

      This happened to me, too. Right after I had the courage to talk to the pastor, he was in there like a dirty shirt doing damage control, and all too successfully. He went to many in the church talking about how much he wanted our marriage to work and how hard-hearted I was, pray for me/her – all the usual. He sent cards to my mother all poor him and so sad. She had him figured out before I did, so they just made her gag.

  2. anonymous

    Thank you for that Pastor Jeff! It’s sadly quite rare to find a support system that doesn’t listen to the flying monkeys. I pray that one day, the truth you are trying so hard to explain, will be more commonly understood. (I’d like to say “the norm” but sadly I know that a great number of “pastors” are narcissistic abusers themselves so that’s like wishing the devil would understand how to be kind)

  3. Marie O'Toole

    Ha! My ex-husband couldn’t be bothered pulling a stunt like this, but know who did? My ex-pastor — whose secondary (spiritual) abuse of me was more devious and evil than even what I’d endured in my marriage.

    He actually emailed my current pastor, who was counseling and protecting me, to instruct him to “hand [me] over” – presumably to be “disciplined” for refusing to reconcile with my (utterly unrepentant) abuser. Needless to say, my new pastor, who is a true Christian, refused.

    More emails and calls followed, culminating in meetings between the two churchs’ leadership (mine defending me), letters explaining why attacking the victim is unscriptural, and finally a last-ditch attempt on Heritage Bible Chanel’s end to blackmail me. You really can’t make this stuff up.

    Only when the media became involved and a couple attorneys advised HBC to back off did the harassment stop.

    Pure. Evil.

  4. A. Schindler

    In context this is where victims are seeking your assistance outside of your church it sounds like, would your approach be different if it was a couple in your own church? Your ministry makes you uniquely suited to speak to the abusers and call them to repentance it seems. Is this something you advise and if so are there resources to help with those conversations?

  5. GypsyAngel

    I was wondering how I might be able to be involved with counseling with you. I am living with my pastor and his wife, and they counsel with me, but honestly sometimes I don’t thing they totally understand the breadth and depth of the abuse. They do love me, they do care, but I know at times I overwhelm them. There ate times when I don’t feel as if they believe me….or they expect me to move faster in healing than I am.
    I have limited income. So helping me may be out of the question anyway, just thought I’d ask.

  6. Anonymous

    In our situation, it’s my father. He actually wrote a letter to my pastor requesting church discipline on me and my spouse. Fortunately, our pastor saw right through it, wrinkled his nose at it so to speak and dropped it like a hot potato. This is one of my favorite blogs and I have read your book, A Cry For Justice. It changed my mind on divorce and my former stance was quite stiff. Since then, I have been able to comfort a friend going through a divorce in ways I never would have even known about. Keep it up, Christians need to be reminded over and over that there really are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Thank you!!!

  7. Anonymous

    How, ironic, I wrote my message before seeing the one before mine, quite similar!

  8. Herjourney

    Shortly after my abuser left, I get a message from my son in laws best friend stating and I quote “Praying for you. ” God would receive much glory and the saints would rejoice if you were reconciled to Him.” Just noticed the upper case he in this message. It appears this man believed whatever my son in law told him. As he knows my abuser better than I do? To this day my son in law refuses to allow me to have contact with his three children. This family attends a church that shames women into submission, by guilt, fear, and control. The abuser is seen as the victim.

  9. JesusmyJoy

    What an accurate article! We saw this happen again and again with a friend who was in an abusive situation and got out. The phone calls were made to her friends and family repeatedly by him and his allies, We let the answering machine take those calls and never called back. Sometimes those messages were accusing and sometimes sickeningly sweet. Sadly, we know of some who were taken in and sided with the abuser.

  10. IamtheVictim

    My husband had been going to a Christian counselor for over 6 months. I then contacted him with an email and the book ‘why does he do that’/Bundcroft. He then contacted me, and we set an appt. However, within minutes i could tell it was a waste of time, as he discounted me and the truth re my husband/abuser/marriage. My husband had painted me as the liar, abuser, legalist, angry, crazy/BPD wife. I left feeling very hurt and discounted. So what you’re describing… was my situation. That counselor was in the situation you describe… only he had the abuser/victim mixed up!?! [We are now divorced; I’ve been going thru my worst nightmare!!!]

    • In Session Four of his webinar (which was broadcast only a few hours ago) Lundy said this about the idea of abusers going to counseling: “One to one attention does not work for an abuser. The abusive man needs to be in a group.” That is, the abusive man needs to go to a group for Abusive Men, called an Abuser Intervention Program or Batterer Program. In Australia they are called Men’s Behaviour Change Programs. (Yay, I got to spell ‘behaviour’ with a U for once!)

      Lundy said that in America and Canada, abuser programs vary tremendously in quality.

      He said that some programs in American and Canada are not good. For example, some programs do not even contact the woman to find out from her how the man has been behaving. And as well as not contacting the woman, some programs end up writing a report for the man saying that he has completed the program and “he showed a lot of empathy in the program”. The man then gets to show that report to the court and anyone else he wants to snow…and the woman is even more isolated and disbelieved.

      Lundy said that good programs always contact the woman, knowing that she will truly state what the abusive man has done, whereas the abusive man will not truly and wholly admit to what he has done without a LOT of calling out and education in the group, and even then few abusive men admit to everything they have done and make profound long-lasting change. This is the same as what the experts in Australia say too.

      He said that a good program will hold the abusive man accountable every week, call him out every week, and give him the message every week that he has to change.

      • GypsyAngel

        My ex went through Batters Intervention (what the program is called here) five times, and each time the abuse got worse. Each time he was given more tools to use, more lingo to throw around, and more a lies to run to in order to feel justified in his abuse of me. I’ve found that it is similar with many others that I’ve spoken with on the subject. While the abuser learns better ways to mask the abuse, and better methods to abuse ( my ex actually told me he learned new methods from the classes) we, the victims are reviled and disbelieved, and even further abused by the agencies who are supposed to be protecting us including law enforcement.

        Having been on the receiving end of church elders who gladly join in the abusive process, I am so very happy that there are people who are willing and able to step out in faith, and be there for victims on a spiritual level, as you do. Thank you all, may God continue to bless this ministry.

      • Hi Gypsy Angel, the Batterers Program your ex went through sounds like an example of the poor quality ones! Not all Batterers Programs are poor quality. If a victim wants to know how good the batterer program is in her area (if one exists!) she should talk to the Women’s Support Services in her area that specialise in supporting victims of domestic abuse.

      • GypsyAngel

        Yes Barbara; my situation is a decade past, and the program of which I speak, was and is, not a well run program. Unfortunately, it’s the only one in my County. It is court-ordered and administered, and even though we, [I belong to a small section of strong vocal men and women in my community that fight the battle for the rights of victims] have tried for years to improve it, there is still the faction of the “old boys club” in political control here, that feels that it is good enough and they need not pour more money into it (there are even those in power here who still believe that the victim is at fault for the abuse) the rise of domestic abuse deaths, incidents, arrests and repeat offenses, shows the truth of the matter. But still, I will keep working for reform, as will the very fine men and women who stand for the rights of victims here.

      • How awful! I am not an expert, but I think that in my state (Victoria, Australia) Men’s Behaviour Change Programs must be accredited, and the standard for accreditation is set by No To Violence.

        I get the impression that in America there are not very tight standards for how such programs ought to be run.

      • GypsyAngel

        No, there really are not a tight set of standards either within the individual states, nor country wide. There are groups who are working diligently to change that and hopefully there will come a day and a time when there is a country wide standard, that every State, every County, and every City is held too. We do in fact look to No to Violence as a blueprint. That program has made a great impact on our own fight here in the states.

      • I’m pleased that people in the USA are looking to No To Violence as a blueprint. Not that it’s the only or necessarily the best blueprint — from what I gather, good work is being also done in New Zealand and Scotland and (?)England, in mens behaviour change.

        One thing that makes it much harder to effect change in the US is the sheer number of states have in the USA. New Zealand is a small country and they just have a national government, they don’t have states so they don’t have state governments. Australia has seven states and a couple of territories that are almost like states. So Australia has a national government and several state governments. But in the USA you have a national government, 51 different state governments and then counties & cities which have their own laws and their own police forces to boot. That makes the US system a great deal more complex than Australia’s or New Zealand’s.

        New Zealand is even more advanced in its domestic violence response legislation and policies than Australia. I asked some New Zealanders who work in the DV field why that is, and they said it is because they have no state governments, so they only have ONE government system to lobby and effect change in.

        As an Aussie, it boggles my mind to think of a place having THREE different police forces having jurisdiction within it. We have two: state police and federal police, and that’s complicated enough! Having three would make it very unweildly!

  11. kim

    I would like to thank Pastor Crippen and the community who have posted here. I honor your struggle and the hard-won wisdom you have learned. I pray God will continue to bless this ministry, and that those who can benefit from this wisdom will be led to it.

  12. ThankfulReader

    My deepest thanks for your commitment to do what’s just and honest and honorable.

  13. Standing Strong

    Thank you for posting this it is so true and victims have to fight even harder to heal after this. So grateful that you take a firm stand and won’t reveal information or allow abusers and their collaborators to manipulate you. Thank you for helping people become stronger and and heal. Your words of truth give us the confidence to not give in to the tactics of the abuser.

  14. God Fearing Mom

    Just a couple days after postpartum my abuser told my ally about my misstep during an emotional breakdown with one of my kids who was testing my boundaries during my pregnancy. Then my abuser said to my ally that I have schizophrenia. [My abuser is not qualified in any way shape or form to make a mental health diagnosis…]

    Thankfully my ally informed me about all this, because she knows me very well. She defended me to my abuser. My abuser tried to hurt me really bad at such a vulnerable time. My abuser tried to make a “flying monkey” out of my ally.

    I’ve been an ally to a victim before who turned out to be an abuser too. She was a victim to another abuser, but still I erred on the side of empathy. I’m reading a lot, to get better at discerning.

  15. StandsWithAFist

    This.
    I can’t even begin to recount the times, methods & successes that abusers have had with this.
    It also bears witness to why the targets of abuse either give up, give in, or go away.
    Silently.
    “Weary” doesn’t give justice to the reality.
    I am weary today.

  16. healinginhim

    Joining others in thanking ACFJ for their firm and unwavering commitment to educate and comfort the afflicted and for the discernment necessary to see through those who have evil intent.

  17. Michael

    Alienation is often perpetuated in adult sons.

    How do you help grown men who have quietly blamed their mother, abused over many years and who subsequently divorced out of increasing fear? What if they are simply afraid to accept what it will mean; a partisan view which they can’t see already exists in them? What if they were shielded from most of the evidence except near the end?

    Is there a checklist of questions about human nature they can be challenged with to exercise hindsight to get a clearer picture? Can they be encouraged to do a rethink based on likelihood and statistics even if they have no concrete proof? What if they cannot see they have been manipulated by the abuser?

    I have a couple of thoughts but there are lots of questions that could be asked.
    Even the ones I have thought of may be wrong!

    1. Do you believe that _____ has a basic sinister and condemning nature or is she more of a forgiving or encouraging type of personality?

    2. Did/does _____ attempt to win your favor with gifts of little lasting value or nurture and help her children unselfishly?

    3. Did _____ have a clear motive such as a lover, money or power? If not, could the motive be safety?

    4. Is _____ the kind of person who wallows in self pity or is she trying to put her life back together in a God-fearing manner?

    5. Is it reasonable that _____ could have experienced something that it is impossible for you to relate to or appreciate?

    Any additions with this from your experiences would be appreciated.

    • Hi Michael, I’m not entirely sure what you meant in your first paragraph, but I’ve published your comment just as you submitted it.

    • Charis

      How do you help grown men who have quietly blamed their mother, abused over many years and who subsequently divorced out of increasing fear?

      In my opinion – these individuals will have to *want* to be helped.

      What if they are simply afraid to accept what it will mean; a partisan view which they can’t see already exists in them?

      This is a reality. It is a reality for each of us with small children (male or female) who have not yet become adult children. It is a fear we live with and one we do not name except in very safe circles. And because it is a possibility some will go to great lengths to avoid it – taking unhealthy steps in parenting, others reconciling themselves to the “what if” and hoping never to cross that bridge yet knowing it is there and steeling themselves because…choices are choices. And choices are outside our purview. Meanwhile, we pray and hope and train and pray, pray, pray that day never comes. But it might.

      What if they were shielded from most of the evidence except near the end?

      This is likely to be a case-by-case scenario depending on the situation. In my particular situation, my son was not shielded; however, he was very young. Even now, he does not remember the abuse. All he knows is that he “wishes we were all back together.” Yet the reality is he wished quite the opposite when we were “all together.”

      Is there a checklist of questions about human nature they can be challenged with to exercise hindsight to get a clearer picture?

      Yes, but these are best taught while the child is yet young and as interactive opportunities with a sort of 3rd party, detached mindset – not as a “this is what your dad did/how your dad behaves” example. For instance, taking opportunities and situations (movies, books, commercials, billboards, music lyrics, tv shows, human interactions while out and about) to point out disrespect and discuss it together is a great way to open the mind’s eye into what respect should look like as opposed to what was just witnessed. The same with a lack of empathy or citizenship, community, safety, etc.

      The more 3rd party examples that are discussed in a detached way – the more the child/adult will be able to apply to family members as examples in situ. My own son has done this on ocassion. When discussing what “good stewardship” or “honesty” looks like – he arrived at his own conclusions: “dad lies to me” or “dad is not a good steward.” Then comes the opportunity to validate the child’s observation with an empathetic response: “I believe you. It makes me sad to hear that dad has lied to you.”

      Can they be encouraged to do a rethink based on likelihood and statistics even if they have no concrete proof?

      Short answer: no. While I do not have adult children, I do have adult friends – some of over 20yrs who have known me like family. When presented with facts and statistics, it does no good. The tendency is to dismiss the facts in favor of the abuser because…”that just cannot be true of him.” It is a cognitive dissonance for them.

      What if they cannot see they have been manipulated by the abuser?

      They may never. And this is where we come full circle. Boundaries must then be painfully established – just like they are with others eventually deemed to be unsafe, toxic, or unhealthy. I have known some who have tearfully said “goodbye” to adult children because the children never see the abuse and the relationship with the victim becomes too unhealthy. This, obviously, is a last resort – and one we hope never happens. It is a possibility. There are; however, so many steps between a final “no contact” boundary and several other boundaries established around the relationship redefining the terms of engagement. Perhaps, another book with advice in that area would be beneficial – maybe specifically about adult relationships between parents and children.

      These are just my observations and thoughts. I’m sure others here will voice their perspectives and experiences.

      • Charis, when I published Michael’s comment/questions, I put up a little prayer that some other reader(s) of this blog would answer his questions in detail. When I saw your comment, I realised my prayer had been answered. Thanks!

  18. Michael

    Hi Barbara. If adult children, who should be the victim’s strongest allies, are manipulated by the abuser into disbelieving the victim, a legacy of alienation can ensue. These children often actively alienate the victim. They can isolate themselves, their spouse, their children, friends…from the victim, and hold her at a distance.

      • healinginhim

        Thank you for the links, Barbara.

        So many feel that if the adult children alienate the parent especially if all the children do this; that it must obviously be the parent’s problem.

        What is so slick about the children’s game is that publicly they will express that they remain “in contact” with their mother… what they don’t divulge is how empty that relationship is or that there are times where the correspondence or face-to-face visiting is very harsh.

      • GypsyAngel

        I myself have experienced this alienation, and still do from my adult children. I am still seen as “the crazy one”, The one on who all the responsibility falls to have stopped the abuse. I am not seen as a victim at all…but the primary abuser because I didn’t leave or die. I’m seen as less credible,”bi-polar” for reacting to the abuse in less than perfect ways. I’m the one at fault for being there in the first place., and being unable to make it on my own with no help and ill health.

        The message that my now adult children have internalized is that I’m the one who is responsible for the abuser and the abuse. I have been separated from them and their children. I cry for them daily. They are the first thing I think about when I wake up, and the last thing I think about and pray for before I go to sleep. I went to jail because my son ran away from an abusive foster home. But I’m the bad guy because my hands were tied by an abusive system that created me as the bad guy and the only villain.

        And God help me…20 years later, I’m still very angry. God help me…there are days I just want to be done with this life, but I cant because I have to be a voice for the parents that come after me facing the same hell. I cant give up, because God has a promise for me…..He WILL bring my children back to me, and someday the truth will matter more than the lies.

      • Oh Gypsyangel, I’m so sorry!

        Have you seen the documentary Sin by Silence? Here is the blurb:

        Inside the California Institution for Women, the first inmate initiated and led group in U.S. prison history, shatters the misconceptions of domestic violence.

        Convicted Women Against Abuse (CWAA) was created in 1989 to help women inside prison break the silence about abuse and learn more about what they needed to do to help others stop the cycle of violence.

        Instead of fighting a system that does not fully comprehend the complexities of abuse, the women of CWAA led an initiative to help educate the system. Through careful orchestration of letter writing campaigns, media coverage, and senate hearings a movement was born and laws for battered women were changed. And for the founder of CWAA, the flicker of hope begins to grow as her possible freedom, after 26 years in prison, lies moments away.

        You might be able to harness some of your anger and put it to use for social change, by helping with the activism of CWAA.

        Not that your anger is ‘wrong’ in any way! Not at all!

        ((((hugs))))

  19. Tess

    ouch…guilty as charged!
    As a target of Narcissistic abuse by a friend, I have recently used this alienating tactic on her ‘flying monkeys’ to try to make her doubt their loyalty……its true, one of them especially has been a very poor ‘flying monkey’ recently, criticising and spreading untruths about her friend….not sure if it worked, but it was quite empowering!!!!

  20. Michael

    Charis,

    Thank you for your wonderful comments. I can tell you know what you are talking about and appreciate your wisdom.

  21. Michael

    Gypsy Angel,

    I will add prayer to your powerful faith, that you keep it, and that; “He WILL bring my children back to me, and someday the truth will matter more than the lies.”

    And for all those in similar circumstances. The Lord is our best ally in all things and can never be influenced by lies.

  22. JesusmyJoy

    GypsyAngel, I will also be praying for you. I am so sorry for your heartache. May God vindicate you in the eyes of your children and work in their life circumstances helping them to desire truth and understanding of the reality you have endured all these years. May He continue to bless and strengthen you for your courage and faithfulness.

    • GypsyAngel

      Thank you, all prayers are appreciated. God has promised me reunification, and I’m standing on that promise.

  23. Jane

    Not sure if this is the appropriate place to post a question…
    Just recently came to light that our daughter has been in a verbally abusive marriage for 10+ years. She recently exited the home and is doing “no contact”. Should we as her family have any contact with him? Are there concerns/consequences of us having contact with him?

  24. Anonymous

    Does this help?

    “It’s just recently come to light that our daughter has been in a concentration camp for the past ten+ years but has escaped. Should I start bringing treats for the people who tortured her while she was in there? Perhaps send her back?’

    “I’ve recently discovered that my daughter has been raped repeatedly for over ten years by a man who claimed to be loving her tenderly and maintaining her welfare. Does he need more hugs?”

    “My daughter has recently been released and pardoned from prison. She had been completely innocent but due to another person’s false testimony she was incarcerated and treated brutally. The truth only became known after another person came forward with evidence that showed that the person who testified falsely was actually the perpetrator. Should I go thank the perpetrator and start a relationship with him knowing that his heart and mind are evil?”

    • Jane

      Um, thanks?!?!

      • Jeff Crippen

        Jane – Anonymous is pretty outspoken! Let me see if I can add to answering your question, which is a very good question by the way. One very, very common characteristic tactic of abusers is that they work and work in a deceptive manner to win people over as their allies, against the victim. They are quite devious and some are pretty skilled at it, easily duping the victim’s friends, relatives, fellow church members and so on. The victim very typically finds most of her previous friends and family turned against her.

        This is one of the chief dangers I see of continuing to have contact with an abuser. Make no mistake, they can skillfully fake repentance, they love to play the victim role and gain your empathy, they accuse the real victim and on and on their list of weapons goes. Most people fall for it.

        Here is a man who vowed to love, honor, and cherish your daughter. Instead, he beat her with his words, failing to fulfill the vows and thus was lying on their wedding day. That is the reality of who such a person is.

        Sometimes going completely no contact isn’t possible, primarily if there are children from the marriage. As grandparents you may have to navigate the difficult waters of your daughter and her ex husband having shared custody. In such a setting you probably are going to run across your grandchildren’s father on occasion. Just beware. Look out for his attempts to put your daughter down to you.

        I should add, finally, that if there are no children from the marriage then going full no contact is what I recommend. Why? Because he not only destroyed the marriage to your daughter, but also all that went with it. That includes a relationship with you. If your daughter is going no contact and you keep in contact with him, then that is going to weaken her stance and probably will harm your relationship with her. In abuse cases, we have to stand and that means we must choose a side – that of the victim.

      • Jane

        Thank you Jeff.
        We in no way believe this guy. We see the effects on our daughter. I was honestly looking for the dangers/hooks to be aware of. I think, because we are normal, it’s difficult to keep our heads wrapped around that he isn’t.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Yes, absolutely. It sounds like you are on the right path. It really is hard to conceive of the mindset of evil, isn’t it? That is George Simon’s point in his book In Sheep’s Clothing – that we “neurotics” (normals- i.e. people who feel guilty when they do wrong) are often preyed upon by the sociopath because we have a functional conscience.

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