The Abuser’s Best Kept Secret

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If you or someone you know is living with an abuser, he or she is overwhelmed.

Even if no force is involved, confusion and  isolation combine to reinforce fear.

High levels of fear immobilize. And that is what the abuser wants. At least on the surface. But we have to go deeper if we are to begin to see a path out.

Reactions to Fear

Standard ways of dealing with fear are fight, flight, freeze and fawn. You may have tried all of these without relief.

An abuser may intimidate through threats of violence, removing fight as an effective response. It is not wise to physically confront someone stronger than you.

He (or she) will block avenues of escape, so flight is not an option.  Isolation is a tool for this.

Confusion often shows up as freezing.  The goal is to remove the ability to process what is happening. The abuser will always be right, always criticize the target’s thinking and feeling.You can’t do anything right, according to the abuser.

Gaslighting makes those targeted feel they can’t trust themselves and keeps them bewildered, immobilized.

Finally the victim is reduced to fawning, using flattery and self-betrayal to ward off attacks. Each time they betray themselves to survive, they lose another piece of the self-respect they need to fight. And so each one of the responses to fear are shut down. Eventually blocking self-protection creates physical illnesses on top of emotional and mental depletion.

So what is left?

Discover His Secret

What doesn’t he want you to know?

The abuser is a parasite. You are the host. The abuser is a bully. You have what s/he wants.The abuser is a liar. You must begin to counter the lies in your mind.

And in the case of a religious abuser, you have to disregard any appeal to God or religious texts used to keep you in bondage.

He is a hypocrite, using God’s name only to control you because he knows your faith is important to you. Like all wisdom literature, the Bible has abstract  ideas which are open to interpretation.

While you can find many comforting and strengthening verses, the aim of an abuser is to turn verses he emphasizes to gaslight you. He wants to escape responsibility and leave you believing that escape will send you to hell forever.

Church leaders who put the church’s image ahead of your survival might shield the abuser.

Find Your Ace

What can you do when you feel surrounded? 

You can counter this wrongful use of your faith by educating yourself on religious domestic abuse, removing some of the confusion. This removes some of the fear. You can then seek support, removing some freezing isolation.

You can stop some fawning with verbal self-defense. You can then consider flight. Whatever you do, though, you can’t help him because he does not respect you.

How do I know this about abusers? Because I learned it and successfully used it to escape religious domestic abuse.

 Understanding I had power turned the tables on my fear and gave me an Ace to play.

An abuser needs a victim

You see, in all history, the oppressor depends on the oppressed. An abuser needs a victim. People who want to misuse others depend on the other person’s desire not to be like them. They know idealistic people don’t want to retaliate. They want to forgive or be the “bigger person” in the relationship.Some man-made doctrines want to keep women controlled. They may even teach women to accept abuse as a path of salvation or being Christ-like.

If the oppressed can identify what the oppressor needs the most, you will discover what your leverage is. And you will start to feel stronger and glimpse a way to get free.

That’s why abusers are masters of image manipulation. They don’t want anyone to see the reality of who they are.

In my case, I realized the years of ministry, prayer and Bible study were a smokescreen for what my husband wanted: control of my money.Most abusers want control, sex , money or all three. My husband of course married me to have the first two, but the one he wanted the most was money.

What is the consistent demand that your abuser makes? What is at the root of all the other demands? What is he afraid of?

He intimidates you to keep you from realizing his dependence on you. In fact he is afraid of that dependence.For example, while it may seem unbelievable, I was actually glad when my husband found a mistress.

That was because she had money. Earlier in the marriage, I would have felt to blame if he had sought out another woman. But now I was so ready to leave that,  instead of moaning and pleading for him to stay, I realized she could distract him while I made plans to escape.

If the abuser can be provided a way to save face, look like the winner, and discover another supplier, escaping is easier.

Stop believing him. It’s a game to him, and like all games, your opponent’s moves are more important than what he says. Actions speak louder than words.

Some games and counters are explained in the Redemption from Biblical Battering workbook or other advocacy resources. Advocates also understand the game. They can help you discover more cards to play.

But for now, your task is to identify your Ace.

He isn’t the strong one.

You are for being able to operate under a vicious and prolonged captivity.

Tred carefully but know you have more cards to play than you thought.

The Key to Your Door

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The Key to Your Door.

Those of us who were in a destructive relationship know the strength it takes to cope with those who don’t understand. We often would hear, “Why doesn’t she just leave?”

Often those who say this won’t help. They don’t understand the pressures to stay.

Isolation

Lack of money

Violence

All powerful external forces working to keep us trapped.

And as long as I focused on those, I felt tormented and helpless.

The shift that turned the key to unlock those doors began within me. My bottom line. The straw on my back.

And that is what the abuser fears the most.  That is why he began and continues to work to demoralize you. He knows you are powerful.

What was that shift?

Conviction.

Conviction of the core truth about me. Whatever the central button was that he would push, that’s the one I began to affirm the truth about.

I stopped believing the lies.

Each time he hurled an accusation – an insult – a condemnation at me, I had to affirm the truth about me.

My prayer changed. I used to ask God to change me or him. That prayer wasn’t being answered after 15 years. That’s because it wasn’t God’s will.

Now I silently asked God to show me the way to get out. That prayer began being answered.

This practice kept me going as I found

Support

Money

And a way to escape Violence.

Here are some common falsehoods that keep women of faith trapped. These must be overcome to access the strength you need to get out and stay out.

  • Few understand that we may not think of ourselves as victims. Instead we may think we are taking the high road morally.
  • We may have been conditioned to value the ability to suffer, thinking we are pleasing God. We may be praised as “longsuffering” or “patient”.
  • We may be tolerating the abuser’s extra affairs, telling ourselves we will not give in to jealousy – “like other women”.
  • We may believe we have an unlimited amount of forgiveness, emulating the teaching of “70 x 7” verse.
  • We may have been taught to look to our life in heaven.
  • We may have been told we will go to hell if we divorce.
  • We may fear losing social status, asking “What will others think?”
  • We may believe we should stay “for the kids”.
  • We may believe we can keep a relationship going without the other person doing his part.

All of these ideas are not only untrue, they harm us. And they allow the abuser to continue without any consequences while we grow steadily weaker.

It is not pleasing to God to enable sinful behavior in our partners.

It is not God’s will to be yoked with someone who harms us.

It is not our job to earn salvation by suffering: Jesus already did that.

Men have perverted absolute ideals about living the spiritual life into locks that keep us in bondage. They never hold the same standards for themselves.

In this way, they get to do what they want and we pay the price in the name of God.

When I began mentally converting each statement made to keep me down into its opposite, I became stronger in my conviction not to live this way anymore. I knew Jesus did not die so I would live like this.

I used the weapons hurled against me to strengthen me. For example, if he said I was lazy, I reviewed the work I had done that day. If he said I was a derelict mother, I knew the love in my heart that I had shown my children that day.

It’s useless to argue but I can keep my mind on the truth.

And I stopped trying to change his mind, correct him, make him understand, or any other wasted effort that were not my job, no matter who told me it was. I committed  him to God and stopped trying to do what only God could do.

Eventually, this practice did more than stop the demoralization.

It opened doors so I could leave.

It kept me going in that difficult first year out of the marriage with three small children.

I believe God moves for those seeking righteousness.

Leaving an abuser is a move toward righteousness.

Listening for God’s guidance, I found money when we needed it.

Listening for God’s guidance, I found food when we didn’t have any.

Listening for God’s guidance, I got transportation to work after my husband took the car.

Claiming God’s promises, I ignored pressures to return.

Claiming God’s promises, my children no longer lived in emotional terror.

Claiming God’s promises, I found competent trauma counseling to recover.

Claiming God’s promises, I rejected those who would try to enforce guilt, fear or intimidation on me.

Don’t let the lies in. Fortify your mind and heart with encouraging and comforting truths.  “Gird up your loins of your mind” I Peter 1:13.

Get those who understand to help you. There is always a way but rarely a good time to do it. We just have to make plans, take Christ’s hand and step out on faith.

But first we have to find the key in your mind and heart. What is the core belief you need to tap into determination? Courage is not the absence of fear but acting in spite of it.

You have it within. Hold someone’s hand, turn the key in your lock and be free.

New Recovery Workbook

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More awareness of gender abuse within church groups has become news recently. Doctrinal groups both reflect and shape the culture they are in.

Groups like Christian for Biblical Equality, FaithTrust Institute, and Twitter voices such as #savedfromthe silence, #defendthe sheep, #churchtoo, #emptythepews and others are witnessing that church is not always safe for women.

During Domestic Violence month, I want to point out that an estimated 25% of church women are abused in their homes. They stay longer because of wrestling with faith questions.

Although prevalence seems to be higher in conservative religions, enforcement of patriarchy as God’s will is not limited to these groups. Many books are now coming out about the struggle to maintain faith within a system that does not honor the equality of women.

However, I did not find a self-help recovery workbook to  help women sort out the complex and subtle pressures to keep them in an abusive relationship within some churches.

That is why I am happy to report that my workbook, Redemption from Biblical Battering, is now available on Amazon and Kindle. I hope you will consider it when you meet a woman of faith who thinks she must choose between her faith and her marriage.