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“Making the Best of a Bad Situation with God”: Jannice D’s Story

How a Blind Woman Saw the Ungodliness of Her Abusive Christian Husband

Jannice’s story has so much in common with other survivors of religious domestic abuse.

But consider she met all this while being blind. Her story of immense courage inspires us all.

Jannice is a woman of faith born in the early 50s in rural Ohio, attending church regularly. Neither her parents nor her two younger sisters were born with any visual impairment. They were able to get training for her at Columbia’s School for the Blind. Jannice excelled so much that she studied at the local public high school during the last three years and earned her diploma in 1970.

Jannice met her husband in 1972 at college. What started out as a Christian marriage soon became a nightmare. As so often, the marriage began well. But over time, her husband changed, became more critical, unreasonable, and even assaultive, all while upbraiding her with Bible verses and accusations against her spirit.

Her husband used feet, hands and words to try to break her spirit. As a result she lost three boys, (two were twins), all born after 6 ½ months. His violence compromised her pregnancy and made the babies unable to survive.

As he escalated, she became convinced he would kill her as well.

He refused marital counseling or any urging to seek help at church.

Jannice has an enduring faith in God through which she worked to find and make clear decisions and to choose the best options.

Jannice found work and a safe place to live to sever herself from the toxic relationship. Some women don’t want to break their covenant vow, and Jannice wrestled with this as well. But she writes “I believe he broke the vows of our marriage long before I left.” 

She also struggled with her commitment to stay married but eventually left for her safety. Jannice believes that it is best for women to try to save themselves with God’s help if a partner does not abide by God’s laws regarding marriage.

Finding work at an area service agency, she moved into her own apartment and built a life beyond abuse with God’s help and good friends.

She then earned a Master’s degree in the late 80s and became a rehabilitation teacher in Louisiana and New Jersey.  A promotion took her to Memphis. Afterward she found more opportunity in a Midwestern city. She packed her boxes and arranged the moves by herself.

Jannice writes “There is always hope” to encourage other women living in abuse underscored by false use of God’s name to harm.  She trusts God to meet her and provide for her needs, honoring her faith. She has seen people respond to support her when she showed her willingness to live in faith.

See your God-given dignity as Jannice did! Contact me for access to online support.

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Do It For the Kids

Many abused spouses wrestle with the separating from the abuser by their fears that it is harmful for their children to grow up with only one parent.

They may not have looked beyond the effects behind such blanket pronouncements based on ideal of successful family life.

Of course a strong, protective and wise loving parent, both father and mother, is important for children’s nurturance. However insisting that a male body and a female body is all that is necessary falls short of the reality of what is actually needed for children’s development.

Is a cruel father or a derelict mother really preferable just to maintain the presence of two adults in the home? Or perhaps more important to the church, the image of family life as secured by church membership?

If that one parent is abusive, testimonies and studies of children who grew up in domestic abuse may be able to correct this misgiving.

SHORT TERM EFFECTS ON CHILDREN OF DA (Domestic Abuse): PRESCHOOL

Bed wetting
Thumb sucking
Excessive crying and whining
Difficulty falling or staying asleep
Showing signs of terror such as stuttering or hiding
Severe separation anxiety

Usually concerns for maintaining two parents are also influenced by fears of social image or peer interactions at schools. The stigma around divorce is less outside the church than within.

School staff are familiar with children living in single parent homes. It is not the grim disaster that those upholding male power have painted. Dealing with painful home situations leave persistent issues for children as they grow up, but living in them creates more.

SHORT TERM EFFECTS ON CHILDREN OF DA (Domestic Abuse): Grade School
Blame self for abuse
Headaches, stomachaches
Few friends or bully others
Excuses not to bring friends home or go to school activities
Stuttering,
Try to be perfect or not try at all; falling grades

Students are usually sympathetic with one another when they learn someone is navigating living with a single parent. They may lend a sympathetic ear as their classmate is dealing with custody visits or other issues that can arise. Needless to say, abusive spouses can use children as political footballs to put pressure on their victims.

SHORT TERM EFFECTS ON CHILDREN OF DA: TEENS

Girls tend to withdraw or be depressed
Boys tend to act out in aggression; bully others
Loner or spend all time at school, jobs or sports
Risky behaviors; drugs; alcohol; poor sexual decisions (of course girls sexually abused in home act out sexually) Choose abusive partners.
Avoid drawing attention to self in case parents called in
Try to protect abused parent; boys try to attack father; or identify with abuser and disrespect victim; blame victim

Spouses who do leave may have to live through the deliberate alienation of a child that the abuser fosters by lying to them.

The younger the child, the better it is to leave. But workers have also seen older children pleading with the victim to leave and feeling tremendous relief when they can sleep in safety each night. Also women report that, as the son gets older, the anger builds and he may try to injure or kill the abuser to protect his mother. No one wants to see their child go to court over this tragedy.

In later life, diabetes, heart disease, depression and suicide are present at higher rates.

If you cannot leave

  •  help children feel safe.
  • Talk to them about healthy ways to relate.
  • Take them to safe surroundings as often as you can.
  • Allow to talk about their fears.
  • Talk about boundaries.
  • Find support system.
  • Get professional help.

If your church stigmatizes divorce, know that this is not the stance they should be taking in pastoral care.  Staying in abuse serves those who want power, not the victims. Civil authorities like the courts hold mothers more responsible for child welfare than fathers. If you don’t leave for your own well-being, leave for theirs. The longer you stay, the more deep damage is done to your children. Their welfare is your responsibility. Raising them in abuse is not what they need.

Children do better in a safe, stable, loving environment whether there is one or two parents.  They feel tension and fear. Leaving can teach them it’s not ok.

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Which Spin Cycle Are You In?

A primary tool of those who want to keep someone controlled is confusion.

Some well-known tools of confusion are gaslighting, accusations, and isolation.

These are used to disorient the person and keep them doubting the evidence of their senses and gut feelings, or intuition, which is the pipeline of the Holy Spirit within. God’s voice within is not fearful or negative. They counter any incoming information which would help the target.

I and other religious domestic abuse veterans report seven levels of confusion, which my self-help workbook explains. When a partner fears to challenge one level, the controller escalates to the next level. The most severe level creates the most severe trauma.

What level are you in?

  1. Am I being abused?

Those who cannot empathize may ridicule this question, but the subtle and complex methods of coercive controllers have explained away their cruelties by couching them in terms of caring about their victim.

I had to call a hotline to understand. Because abuse is not always physical, some partners do not identify their violations as abuse. One of the most heartbreaking words I hear are “At least he doesn’t hit me.” Coercive and covert control does not need to use violence against the one they have targeted for manipulation and brainwashing.

  • You Know It’s Abuse but You Wonder if You Deserve It

Believing women are in struggles with perfectionism, chronic giving, and people pleasing. Unfortunately, cherry-picking Bible verses to emphasize and other dogmas uplift the very behaviors that controllers find ideal. Any desire or effort to take care of normal needs or choose self-care can be slandered as faithlessness or worse.  In this toxic culture, dehumanized suffering becomes a way of following Christ. This is not Jesus’ example.

  • You Know You Don’t Deserve It but You Wonder if You Can Help Him

At this level, partners are struggling to obey a misguided ideal that they can and actually should save their controlling, abusive or oppressive partner. Spiritual pride, learned from those who are vested in keeping partners controlled, has developed what amounts to idolatry. Only the Holy Spirit and the person can decide to follow a path of compassion, care and respect. The vow to honor is not in their interest. So in this level, spinning between wanting to help someone who does not respect the helper keeps the sufferer from escaping a one-way, no-win relationship.

  • You Know You Can’t Help Him, but You Wonder if it is God’s Will

In this spin cycle, the partner tries to establish or navigate boundaries that are like an obstacle course. A victim will try to avoid the toxicity while moving ahead or keeping a home together. The controller will not allow this.

The misunderstanding of God’s will traps those who try to live in faith at this point. A concept of God’s will as subjection is applied to only one of the partners. Hurling charges of not obeying God’s will never boomerang back to the abuser, who projects his own defects and fears on his partner.

The controlling partner does not apply the Christian ideals to his or her own life, only the partner and children.  They claim immunity from any partnership, saying s/he is disrespectful for asking for consideration. The oppressed partner is prohibited or discouraged from leaving the futile fight by misguided family, friends or church leaders who have no understanding of the abusive dynamic.

These are only four of the levels but show the devastation to the partner whose daily life is spinning with the effort to make sense of confusion. While stuck in this struggle, the controller is free to do what he/she wants without any responsibility or consequences.

Any calls to be a partner are sent into the spin cycle of gaslighting, accusations and isolation. If the cycle slows down, the partner just pushes the reset button.

What to do? Begin to chart the patterns of behavior. Clarify and strengthen yourself within the situation. Turn your attention to your own well-being and away from trying to get the controller to stop the spin. It’s a game to the abuser but destroying you.

The workbook contains tools, exercises and clarifying faith concepts to help a reader in this situation. While a victim must have support, the workbook is a map out of the maze to the “Stop Cycle” button.

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Some Beliefs Can Be Deadly

Distressing but needed news has been multiplying as three situations have come to light around religious domestic and other abuse.

First, the SBC released their 205 page list of “credibly accused” leaders who had violated women’s souls, hearts and bodies along with any others who loved them, for the entire family and friends are affected when someone is violated by an authority in a position of trust.

Secondly, a soccer student at the University of Kansas in Lawrence was killed by her “godly believing” fiancé. Her mother had the insight and courage to explain to shocked residents: “He used her faith against her.” This underlies all religious abuse.

Lastly, many of us advocates felt strongly that Marylane Carter had been murdered, not a suicide as the law enforcement had ruled. When her uncle, who was associate pastor with her husband, committed suicide, it sent a message. He was the one who found her body when law enforcement did not.

Those of us who understand and advocate for victims of this perversion are sadly relieved that more is coming out. It is not shocking to those of us who are all too aware of men using the name of God to control, dominate and abuse women.

They are attracted to those churches which uphold male power and denigrate women as inferior.

But how did this become so widespread? Why is it being uncovered in so many faith organizations?

When a system represses a natural part of being human, like the sexual urge, the result is going to be perversion. When a system blames half the membership as creating the evil, as too many churches do, it creates a red flag. It is similar to saying “Don’t think of the elephant.” The forbidden is alluring, creating an unhealthy fascination with destructive behavior.  A church that preaches incessantly about sin is not preaching the gospel of Jesus, which emphasizes human worth.

This approach removes the humanity of women and presents her only as an object. Her body is her total reality in these men’s eyes. If she is seen as a second class soul, she is going to be preyed upon.

In the case of the tragic loss of #Regan Gibbs, we see how so many women fall prey to predators in the church. Tragically Regan seemed so deeply steeped in her desire to serve God that she totally missed the irrationality of her fiance, a religious psychotic. Few realized that some mental illnesses feature religious grandiosity or other associations, such as believing one is a Messiah above normal people and exempt from accountability. Those who knew her praised her Christian devotion.

First of all, anyone speaking in the “code”, those formula words and phrases from the Bible or faith writings, is welcomed into the congregation without any questions. Critical awareness of behavior or other factors is abandoned in the fantasy that they are safe.

Secondly, obsession with Bible study, church attendance, or other religious activity is often encouraged to the point of compulsion. Other normal activities are shamed as being part of “the world”. Trying to monopolize members becomes imbalanced in a person’s development. The constant preoccupation with approved authors, Bible, faith writings, music etc can actually work against facing reality. The “wolves in sheep’s clothing” then operates.

In fact, #Barbara Roberts writes “The very qualities Christian women are encouraged to cultivate re the very qualities that are most attractive to abusive men.” (“Waking the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in Its Midst, https://cryingoutforjustice.blog).

That is why clarifying your faith concepts is so important. Without discerning and “rightly dividing the word of truth”, abstractions like “suffering” “sacrifice” “faith” “will of God” and others become clubs used to shame, guilt, intimidate and control believing women. They become used in verbally abusive ways as labeling, name-calling, accusations, and other condemning and judgemental ways.

Examples: “You’re faithless if you don’t..”  “You’re selfish if you….” “Don’t lean to your own understanding…” “Be meek and humble of heart”.  There are favorite verses of abusers that are consistently used by religious abusers.

Of course those enforcing these statements never apply it to their own lives.

The ideal of “carrying your cross” is one of these undifferentiated formulas. What is the cross made of? Does Christian living mean going out and seeking unnecessary suffering? Does it mean being a martyr or a doormat? If unquestioned or unexamined, these general ideas can remain accepted with harmful results. Unfortunately these are too common for many in the church.

There is enough suffering by being a part of the physical world. There is no need to seek out unnecessary suffering. To do so can become emotionally pathological. “Subduing the flesh” only increases concentration on it. Monks who flaggelate themselves or anyone who invents suffering thinking it is pleasing to God has not understood Jesus.

What was Jesus’ cross? Political power was afraid of him. Religious leaders were afraid of him. That was his cross.  How many of us risk helping others see their freedom and dignity in God even if it upsets political and religious authorities?  His cross involved being willing to die without retaliation, confident in the overcoming life of Spirit. There was no mournful position of taking on what you don’t want to and then wanting others to praise you or building resentment up when they don’t.

In contrast, misusing this idea involves guilting people to do what others want with no relevance to the accurate idea or application to their faith journey. Jesus healing was not a cross. His teaching others was not a cross. His loving children was not a cross. Ironically, others can encourage taking up a cross to please themselves when Jesus’ cross was part of not pleasing people. And he only did it once. He didn’t live that way every day,

Sexual abuse makes headlines but women in religious domestic abuse are not used to seeing their situation in these terms. They may assume their “wifely duty” omits any of their own desires or preferences. Many don’t see domestic abuse  in the continuum of abuse in religious bodies.

Abusive ministers may not have a congregation. Their wives and children are their group. They suffer alone behind closed doors. If they are a part of a church, the church will not support the victim.

The movement is addressing porn addiction, but many wives do not even know their husbands are addicted or that this is abusive to them, since the mindset of porn is objectification of women. Some try to make women feel that they are at fault or deficient if their husbands use porn. Reject this accusation if it is put on you.

The Guidepost organization that has created the report and is handling ongoing deliberations about what needs to be done has a hotline at 202 864 5578 or SBChotline@guidepostsolutions.com

If you know someone still struggling with faith confusion in religious domestic abuse, direct them to my self-help workbook that will clarify the ideas and tactics used to keep her confused and in bondage thinking it is God’s will and that she will go to hell if she doesn’t stay in the relationship. Redemption from Biblical Battering on Amazon and Kindle.

“It’s hard to fight an enemy with outposts in your head.” -Sally Compton

Although fears of leaving are complex, one thing is sure: no woman has to do it alone. Many have gone before her and are reaching out their hands to her.

I know. I am one of them. And now there are more than ever.

Join the private support group Susannas Sisters on Facebook by contacting me here or at @RedemptionfromBB on Twitter or FB.\

Other resources are found at

@SbcSpeak   on Twitter for SBC Survivors Speak

For Such a Time As This Rally    @SBCForSuchATime

I am involved with DeeAnn Miller in creating a Survivor Retreat for Fall 2022. @writer_dee on Twitter for more information.

Gretchen Baskerville. The Life-Saving Divorce. On FB

Ashley Easter  “Courage 365” on FB

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A Fearful Faith

 Easter approaches to celebrate new life shown in Nature’s spring and thoughts of victory over death.

Where is that victory for those living in religious domestic abuse?

Why would some churches, preaching the belief of life over death, support abusers over victims?

The soul attacks levied against women and men who stay in religious domestic abuse belie the words preached on Easter morning.

The life force in Nature seems stronger than words preached on Easter morning

That’s because, too often, the faith that is promoted is based on fear.

Some organized religion has chosen the side of a static, not a dynamic faith, because of its power to control.

A dynamic faith emphasizes abundant life from the Spirit within. Believers are encouraged to seek their fullest development as pleasing to God. Confidence that God is love, love prevails, is the reason for life. The good is the basis for human relationships. Human dignity works with God to uplift everyone.

A static faith leaves the believer a beggar, relying on power outside of them. A belief that their worth comes from salvation rather than the power of God within. It emphasizes fear and suffering rather than victory. God may or may not answer pleas and the believer never knows just what God’s will means. Even if they do, they have no power to live it.

Nature shows us that there is no life without a Power outside and inside ourselves to keep  us alive. Christ revealed the identity of that Power that dwells within at all times, just as the life force is working in the earth even when we don’t see it.

When churches rob women of faith from claiming their inheritance from the resurrection, they are promoting a fearful faith.

Women are not second-class souls. The power of the resurrection belongs to them as to all believers.

How can you help a fearful believer refuse to be subject to the bondage of religious abuse and claim God-given freedom?

How can you help a religious body claim spiritual equality for victims?

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The Church on the Power and Control Wheel

Most people familiar with the abuse cycle, known as the Power and Control Wheel, realize how important it has been in helping define the toxic tactics of coercive control.

In the early days of identifying domestic abuse, others involved in advocacy had mistakenly thought it was one-dimensional: violent. The Power and Control Wheel, developed out of work with women in shelters, described the wider dimensions of tactics used in abuse or coercive control.

The Wheel was first devised during the 1980s in Duluth, Minnesota by Dr Eilen Pence Since then, it is a key tool for understanding domestic abuse. Victims said it was the first thing that made sense to them, that described what they were going through.

But some churches are saying 40 years later that they are not aware of the problem, even though 1 in 4 members are affected. Or they are saying they don’t know what to do. Or worse, they say it’s none of their business.

So how did some churches become abusive?

Because of publicity and financial pressures, churches are examining practices that contribute or excuse abuse within its leadership or members. Recently the Southern Baptist Convention came to terms with its collusion with abusers after 20 years of victim testimonies, seminary presidents objections and loss of church revenues. The Catholic Church’s story is widely known. But these two groups are by no means the only religious organizations in which abusers are found.

Because the pastor depends on the good reputation of the church, the church image and financial support are the primary concerns. Damage control measures are used:  turning a blind eye and blaming the sufferer preserve their image and group identity.  Group dynamics find ways to remove threats. Social status yields the money and power that feed collusion with church abusers.

Faith cliches are used to avoid accountability or hide offenses. They collude with the predator and blame the abused, primarily because the majority of abusers are men and victims are women  Churches have put upholding male power over helping the hurting, and all that that stance requires. 

Church policies and practices can enforce HALF (4 of 8) of the tactics in the Power and Control Wheel of coercive control.

  1. Minimization, Denial and Blaming*

A victim coming for help to a church leader or member will encounter Denial.  Statements like “Are you sure you’re not overexaggerating?” indicates  they don’t trust the victim. Or the leader might say the husband is “under the devil’s influence”. So it’s the devil, not the abuser. ( Partner is then responsible to pray him out of it, so if that doesn’t work, church will go on to blaming victim.)

Minimization is communicated in statements such as: “He’s under a lot of stress at work.” “He’s had a hard day.” “But look at all the good he does.” “Every marriage has its ups and downs.” “Oh I can’t ever see him doing that kind of thing.”

Blaming is tried the most: “Have you given him enough sex?” “Are you submitting?” “Just pray more.” “Just have faith.” “Your love can save him.” “But he’s such a good father.” “Do you want the kids to not have a father?”
What did you do to provoke him?” “Renew your mind” (Don’t think about what is happening to you.) “Be ye angry and sin not.” (It must be your fault if you are mistreated.)

2 Isolation

Churches members can unofficially shun the victim or actually tell them to leave if they will not “repent” of “gossip” about their partners. If they don’t “forgive” they are accused of being “bitter” “hard hearted” or worse”.

 “The church is made up of sinners” means the victim is wrong to expect them to be helpful. “No church is perfect” means don’t ask them to correct their harmful practices.. “You can’t trust your feelings.” means trust what we say instead. “God is all you need.” means don’t ask us to practice what we preach. “You don’t have enough faith.” is a way of saying  “look to God, not us.” In other words, you are on your own.

3. Emotional Abuse

While the previous tactics are emotionally harmful, there are others as well, like name calling (“Jezebel” “Whore of Babylon”), labeling (feminist, lesbian, disobedient, rebellious), and demeaning jokes about women as silly, weak, or nonsensical. (“Well, you know how women are. What can you expect?”)

Additionally, short of kicking someone out of the church, ignoring can also be used. Invitations can be withheld, phone calls not answered, or removal from email lists without any explanation. Corruption is very harmful. In corruption the victim is warned not to tell anyone, not to “air dirty laundry”, think of the church’s image, and similar threats. Exploitation involves shaming the victim if they don’t cooperate, expressing expectations that they should not hold the abuser responsible, or guilting them for being a victim.

 4. Male Privilege

Coercive male power has been elevated to doctrine in too many churches. Coercive teachings about biblical manhood and womanhood emphasize submission of wives to husbands as their Lord.  Too many do not allow divorce.

One woman told me she would rather suffer hell here by being abused than

forever be in hell because of divorce.

The doctrine of complementarianism steps around equality by teaching the idea of “offices”: that is, partners are equal but are “ordained” to do different things. The effect is inequality, because gender is the standard for offices.

For a time “Christian discipline” was taught, in which a husband could whip his wife to correct her.

Members in destructive relationships find little if any support from pastors or members. They may have contributed funds and volunteered faithfully for years but find the wall against them is solid. It is a one-way relationship: as long as they are helping the church and adhering to the code of acceptable womanhood, they can belong. But if they assert any needs that conflict with church image (male power), they find themselves alone. This is very painful for a woman of faith and further jeopardizes her ability to escape harm.

This is why women are leaving the church. There is no support for them there. It is too painful to remain. They are finding more of Christ’s love and acceptance outside the church.

Church women can help the church get off the wheel and bring them back.

*Dee Ann Miller has invented the term “DIM” thinking as operating in church collusion in abuse. DIM stands for “Denial, Ignorance and Minimization.” DIM allows money and upholding men in power to operate above concern for victims.

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The Evidentiary Abuse Affadavit

Few victims in abusive situations think there is much they can do to defend themselves while in the situation.

But there is!

Born out of the Stacy Peterson case, the E.A.A. was created to insure that the victim’s words about her fears and previous violence will not disappear if she does.

For the victim it is simply documenting their history and experiences in a notarized document. The addition of any type of documentation such as police/hospital reports, photos, letters, emails that help substantiate their stories and DNA samples if possible is always helpful. Having this type of Affidavit would eliminate the hearsay argument that was such a hurdle in the Kathleen Savio case. Making multiple copies will ensure that this information will find it’s way to law enforcement in the event anything should happen to the victim and they cannot testify on their own behalf.

The Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit (E.A.A.) is the mastermind process of violence expert Susan Murphy Milano that combines video taping (of the victims actual words attesting to the abuse) coupled with creative witnessed and notarized legal documents that successfully satisfy legal hurdles often faced in these cases. A unique packaging of testimony, documentation, perpetrator historical profiling, and pre-collected evidence delivered to established safe and legal persons, wrap this delicate issue up for successful prosecution.

See #documenttheabuse.org for more on how to generate this court-worthy evidence.

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A Veteran Survivor and Advocate for Victims of Church Sexual Abuse Reflects on the recent Victory over Collusion within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

Many sufferers of religious domestic abuse (RDA) feel they are the only ones going through the trauma, isolated in their homes.

That is because, of those who did reach out to their church leaders, most found no support but blame, guilt, and judgement.

Church leaders, if they are not the perpetrators, have little if any experience understanding religious abuse.

Compound that with teachings that blame the abused and uphold the abuser, and a woman or man will not find the solace and comfort they need by confiding in their faith leader.

It may help religious domestic abuse victims to know that survivors of church sexual abuse (CSA) have been fighting since the 1980s to bring perpetrators to justice and remove them from church leadership.

This decades-long action finally bore fruit when the SBC reversed its decision on October 12 and will allow predators to come to justice.

Dee Ann Miller is one of if not the earliest survivor advocate in this fight. While domestic abuse partners are often sexually abused, many do not understand how these two forms of religious abuse are related. But Miller understands how collusion in the church re-traumatizes everyone. I recently had a conversation with Dee Ann and want my readers to hear her vast background, experience and wisdom.  I hope it gives courage to anyone still fighting alone in her or his home, feeling abandoned by their church.

Following the Light in You

“Christ in you, your hope of glory.” – Col 1:27

I love this verse, and it strengthened me in my struggle to escape religious domestic abuse.

But how does it work?

Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to empower his followers. These powers include guidance, comfort, and healing. But the major truth to remember for those living in abuse is power.

The entire work and message of Jesus is to elevate human lives. During this season, globally, Christmas is celebrated as light overcoming darkness.

A woman living in religious domestic abuse are given platitudes about why she should stay, try harder, pray harder, save her husband, and other man-made teachings that only serve to keep her in bondage to the abuser mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

This is not Jesus’ message and He left the Holy Spirit to dwell within us when we face such challenges to our relationship with Christ.

Wealthy foreign wisdom keepers traveled to honor the presence they saw shining from afar. Humble people came to see their hope for a better life, an escape from oppression and cruel domination of governments.

There is no indication that the birth of the Christ child would leave people in suffering. The joy was in the opposite expectation.

How is your relationship with Christ living with a rager, a person disrespecting whom he is supposed to love as Christ loved us?  A person who cannot control his own spirit as the Proverbs urge? The Proverbs are in the Old Testament, so Jesus called us to even higher relationships. The abuser you are with is not even meeting old Jewish standards of marriage, much less Christian love.

The reasons you stay are many or perhaps just one. But before all else, I had to believe I could be free. I knew that my heart could not hold a close relationship with Christ when confronted daily by hatred. To honor and commune with the Holy Spirit within that Jesus sent me, I had to have the power to leave. And I knew it was God’s will I do. I believed I would be guided and supported in refusing degradation. I would have power.

May you honor the Holy Spirit given to God’s beloved. May you rejoice in the birth of Jesus, a  man with God’s spirit within, who preached liberty to the captives.

including you.

Abigail, Winner of the 2022 RBB Thriver Award

Here is Abigail’s story, the first grant winner who is not in the U.S. You will read about how abuse in the name of God creates devastating and long-lasting the effects.

My ex, a “good Christian”, used the command to submit to inflict pain and justify anything he wanted to do without any accountability. Whenever I disagreed with what he said, or if he was making a foolish choice that would affect me or my family, he used that verse. I was told other Christian woman I knew were submitting and that other Christian husbands in the church we were involved in would be “shocked” if they knew I wasn’t. This was used to shame and control me.

I was not allowed a voice, especially one that questioned his adultery or lies.  Some verses he used were “none is righteous, no not one,” “God’s mercies are new every morning,” “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” If I tried to hold him accountable, he would shame me this way or accuse me of not forgiving. I had no choices.

If I raised my voice in frustration at his abuse, he would shame me and make me feel like a bad Christian. I had told a lie a decade ago, which he used to excuse his chronic lying.

I did things I was uncomfortable with under his pressure to submit. He would yell at me, “you have to submit to me”. I heard this over and over again. Once I drove an unregistered car, a potential $1,000 fine and loss of my license, because of his pressure. Behaving against my conscience made me feel like not submitting was the worst sin of all.

I constantly make me feel like a failure as a Christian and mocked my beliefs. But I always knew he didn’t love me. I reminded him that love was actions like in I Cor 13. He countered this with demanding I write a list of all the things he did for me and read it to him if I felt unloved. He shamed me for not feeling loved but I knew his actions of abuse, adultery and lies were not loving. A few kindnesses in between abuse is not love.

I wish someone had warned me that there are many abusive pastors out there.  I told one who pretended to be counseling me at home and on the phone about my deepest hurts and private pain. He recorded me without my knowledge. When counseling, he pretended to give me choices, then insist I do what he wanted.

When I tried to get away, he lashed out and tried to destroy me. It is very hard to leave a dangerous pastor.

Controlling pastors and abusive church cultures put down women, especially single divorced women. They would even shame me from the pulpit. This doubled the abuse. Churches I was in emphasized being controlled and put down. He and others who preached high expectations never placed them on themselves. I would warn women to be very careful about disclosing too much in so-called “private counseling” with this type of pastor. They want someone to lord it over and control.

The workbook helped me see that the enforced dedication is what kept me trapped. If my vows included suffering, that’s just what I had to do in obedience to God.

One key question from the workbook was “Are you dedicating yourself to a partner who mistreats you because you want to be faithful to God.” I knew my answer was YES!

This is what kept me stuck. Abusers calculate using fear and shame for power and control. We have no idea at the time how planned and deliberate it is on the part of the abuser.

I like how the workbook labels tactics of abusive behaviors. The ‘no win’ tactic was an “eye opener” for me. I spent countless hours of discussion trying to resolve things and get him to understand how he was mistreating me with no resolution at all. This was his intent. I just could never get anywhere. Like Margery in the book, if I questioned any behavior, I would be punished, usually cut off from our bank account with no access to money.

The book suggests keeping a record of the tactics used and seeing how unfair and unreasonable they are. This can help you see you do not deserve the abuse.

I am still working through a lot of abuse I was put through. I’m not going to lie: sometimes it feels like it will take years. But I am much further along that before. The first year after leaving were just trying to stay alive, due to poverty, periods of homelessness, and serious illness. I am still in survival mode, but try to do some recovery work each day. I have had so many “aha” moments as I look back. It is not a linear process. Sometimes it may take me a day or three to recover from grief at how my husband treated me so horribly on purpose for so long crops up.

I will never again allow a mere man to be an intermediary between me and God. I do not need a man pretending to be spiritually superior to look down on me. I am becoming stronger and believing more and more that I don’t deserve abuse. Jesus has never forsaken me, has loved me with an everlasting love without cruel judgment and putdowns.

I see the grant helping me meet the costs of staying financially independent from my husband. He used to send me money at the cost of still controlling me by requiring updates on my life. I took the step of cutting all contact a few months ago. That means things are financially harder because my health problems do not allow me to work yet.”

Am I to Blame for Being Abused?

Many victims ask themselves why they were attracted to their partners if it weren’t God’s will.

They firmly believed that this marriage was ordained and took their vows seriously, completely intending to stay married for life.

Yet they find themselves in a relationship in which they are relentlessly punished for trying to make it work.

Their best intentions are ridiculed.

Their kindnesses receive cruelty.

Their obedience receives pain and disrespect.

They ask themselves if there was something wrong with them that they were chosen to suffer like this.

They ask themselves if somehow they were foolish, naïve or not hearing God’s voice clearly.  Are they being punished for some wrong they did?

This self-blame and searching for answers serve the abuser. S/he can keep heaping blame, guilt and intimidation to control the victim.

While the victim is in the spin cycle of confusion and self-doubt, crying out in anguish for answers, the abuser can do what s/he wants with no responsibility.

The abuser is not interested in a relationship. S/he is only interested in controlling someone for their own benefit.

Abuser-narcissist-predator-manipulator: it doesn’t matter what the label is. It doesn’t matter why s/he acts this way.

What matters is how you can find your way out of  pain and regain safety, sanity and  serenity, which is your birthright as God decreed through Christ.

Here are some of the orientations that an abuser looks for in a potential victim.

Unfortunately some church doctrines teach these as desirable, primarily for women. If women try to comply but are mistreated, too many churches do abandon them to those who mistreat them.

  1. Self-sacrifice.  With no- limit giving as a standard, a good person is plagued by guilt or resentment. The abuser preys on this as long as possible.

Corollaries of this misconception are beliefs in subjugation (one partner should submit to another) or perfection (endless effort to prove worth).

  • Fear of rejection/abandonment. Without examining past wounds, a woman or man may believe that they are somehow unworthy or defective .

Shame tells a person they are a mistake rather than someone who just makes mistakes. People with this feeling put no limits on being mistreated. They believe it is not acceptable to have needs.

They may have been taught to keep their feelings to themselves or never ask for what they need.

They may have been taught to not “get in the way” or “always put others first.”

 If this has been a past experience, the relationship with the abuser may feel familiar or a repeat of the past. This is always how it has been or how it always will be.

The victim has learned how to put up with it but not to fight it. People-pleasing becomes a mandate rather than a choice.

Even worse, some legalistic churches choose to emphasize how sinful people are. They have no goodness except in Christ. Sermons constantly emphasize how we all fall short, are displeasing to God, etc. instead of the full life Christ’s resurrection gives the believer.

I do not want to perpetuate the stereotype that all victims think they deserve it. But after prolonged demoralization, a person would succumb to these feelings.

I knew I did not deserve it, but for too long I couldn’t figure out how to cope with it or get out. I kept trying to “fix it”, which is futile. The old cliché would appear that helped others feel better and excused them from trying to help: “Well, she must be ok with it or she would leave.”

  • Women’s conditioning to find worth from partners. In the past, women had to depend on men for social status, finances, and other necessities.

This is still true to some extent. But even if a woman is financially independent, she is still held to the standard of status through a man.

Churches who uphold male power discourage her from seeking freedom from abuse. Family and friends, even well-intentioned,  might also because they do not understand the realities of her situation. But God did not ordain men to be superior just because they are men. Believing so is idolatry.

People who seek out those with these past wounds can also have similar experiences in the past but they have decided or been conditioned to take the opposite approach to the experiences.

They develop grandiosity or entitlement. They may have vowed never to be misused again and so demand others do whatever they want.

They do not accept limits to their behaviors.

The bottom line is they do not value relationship. They value a person to use.

Their partners cannot help them because they do not respect their partners.

It is up to the victims, then, to take steps to secure their own safety, sanity and serenity.

Their partner is not going to.

But we are here to support anyone seeking to live free of abuse. Contact me through the form on this site, FB, Twitter, or LinkedIn to access a support network.