A Cry For Justice

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

Mr. Charming and Miss Target

Mr. Charming and Miss Target are sitting together on the grass looking out at the starlit sky. Miss Target is a new Christian and Mr. Charming is an old hand at religion, so they’re not making out; instead they’re getting to know each other in a deep and intimate way through conversation.

They’re holding hands, and Miss Target sits with her head on Mr. Charming’s shoulder. Conversation lags a bit. Mr. Charming introduces a new topic, almost in a whisper.

“So, what are you afraid of?”

“Huh?” Miss Target raises her head. “Why do you want to know?”

“Well,” he replies, gently putting his arm around her, “we’re getting to know each other, you know, in a deep and intimate way through conversation. If you tell me what you’re afraid of, I’ll tell you what I’m afraid of.”

Reassured, Miss Target snuggles back into position on the shoulder. “Well,” she begins, “it’s going to sound sort of stupid, maybe childish.”

“That’s ok.” His head turns so that she can feel his stubble on her forehead, causing a thrill to go up and down her spine. “I won’t laugh at you.”

She hesitates, then begins. “I’m afraid of the dark. I told you it was going to sound stupid. I still need a nightlight.”

He murmurs a gentle sound of encouragement. She continues.

“And spiders. I know some of them are good and help farmers and all that, but all of them give me the creeps, especially the big ones.”

He says nothing, but strokes her hand with his large and gentle one.

“And . . . water. I mean, not like showers or washing my hands, but like swimming pools. My cousin almost drowned me when I was little, so now I just want to go in the shallow end. See, I sound like I’m five years old.”

“Listen,” he whispers urgently, taking her chin in his hand and gazing into her eyes. “I love you exactly the way you are.”

Her heart melts, and the intensity of his gaze makes her have to look away. She picks at a blade of grass. “So, you have to keep your promise. You said you were going to tell me what you’re afraid of.”

The pause is a long one, but she is learning not to interrupt him when he’s thinking.

He’s gazing up at the stars. Finally he speaks.

“I’m afraid of not reaching my potential,” he says. His voice sounds unnatural and she looks at him, startled. But then, in a flash, the strangeness is gone and he gazes at her with those mesmerizing eyes.

“Not really, though,” he says. “I’m sure I’ll reach my potential.”

“Sugarcakes,” she mutters, grabbing at the grass with tears in her eyes. “I sound like such a baby, and you sound like you’re not afraid of anything.”

“Not really.” He sighs with contentment and lies back on the grass. “Will you marry me? I think I’ve found the girl of my dreams.”

Darkness . . . spiders . . . water. How useful they all can be in persuading the girl of one’s dreams to cooperate when one is busy fulfilling one’s potential. How handy that Mr. Charming found out about them all ahead of time.

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Rebecca Davis is an editor for Justice Keepers Publishing and the author of Untwisting Scriptures that were used to tie you up, gag you, and tangle your mind. She blogs at Here’s the Joy.

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We have pasted below a few of the comments that came in on our FB page about this post, because we think they add helpfully to the discussion.

On our Facebook page, one of our readers, Kay, said:

I have a HUGE problem with this story because the victim is portrayed as very trusting and naive. It’s an assumption that far too many people make, and it’s not necessarily true. It leads on the one hand to the victim getting unfairly blamed, and on the other to people underestimating the abuser’s skills at deception. These predators are clever. Anyone can be fooled.

Rebecca Davis kindly responded to Kay, saying:

I didn’t mean to imply that every story of abuse proceeds this way, only that this is one of the ways the trap is laid for a target. As Lundy Bancroft says, there are several kinds of abusers, and “Mr. Charming” is only one kind. Also, women have different strengths and weaknesses, and a sociopath will target whatever weaknesses he sees. In this case, the target is quite young, a Christian college student. I have several friends who were very new Christians when their “mature Christian” abusers ensnared them, and I think that can’t be a coincidence. Obviously not all stories are like this one, and yes, all kinds of people can be fooled, but this is one way the entrapment can proceed. That was all I wanted to convey.

Another reader, Anu, then responded:

I agree with you Kay; I see your point but also agree with the replies to boot. I read some of the stories from a link shared: “Shattering the Silence.” There were stories of smart, successful, ambitious women who got involved with abusers–and the abuser is just so darn slow, subtle, charming &/or manipulative that it’s like the victim was “bewitched.” (from Galatians 3:1). Paul asked the Galatians who had bewitched them into being lured away from the true Gospel. My Bible commentary said it’s like the Galatians were seduced by snake charmer, under a “spell” & the only solution was to look away & look to Jesus. So a victim must look away from the abuser’s lies & see truth for what it is thru Jesus.

Everyone has weaknesses & after careful study an abuser can exploit them. But I would ask if being trusting is now being seen as a weakness, when I do not think that’s necessarily so. Trusting someone always requires risk, and it’s the fault of an abuser for exploiting it for his/her gain. I wonder if abusers know how to take something that’s the best about us (being kind, giving, trusting, willing to help) & exploit it for their own evil purposes, while “framing” the victim as being weak.

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Further Reading

Thursday Thought — Charm: A Red Flag

He is Just the Nicest Man I’ve Ever Met — Beware the Abuser’s Charm

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