As a woman of faith, and seeing so many search engine terms coming up on my blog looking for answers as to how faith and abuse possibly fit together, I simply must make some meager attempt to address this point. I was raised in the 60s, and through that time society taught the religious tenets that a woman is to obey her husband. It was even in our wedding vows. I’ve been digging around in my Bible, and I find scriptures that tell us we are to submit to one another, we are to love one another, we are to have the faith as a grain of mustard seed. I had faith. I had a lot of faith. I prayed every day for many years that God would change the man I was married to, and cause him to cease the emotional and verbal abuse. It only worsened over the years. Was God not listening? I think He was, and I believe He was working some sort of divine plan, but when you are in the midst of being told how useless, fat, ugly and how nobody gives a rat’s butt about you, you begin to believe that. I heard words such as, “Who is going to want you with two kids in tow?” or “Do you honestly think anybody is going to want somebody as stupid as you?” I mean, I had qualified for admission to a women’s teaching college and decided to forego it because he convinced me I’d go off and become an old maid for the remainder of my days. I knew I had been smart at some point, but it had apparently faded away, at least according to what I was told. So, I began to hate myself…to the point of attempting suicide. Anything to stop the pain I was enduring.
Well, that put me into a place of disobedience of another scripture. You see, right there in bright red letters it told me I am to love others as I love myself. The fact I had become self-loathing put me in the category of sinning, as the church explains it. How can we possibly love others if we do not have some degree of respect for ourselves?
Emotional and verbal abuse strip that dignity from us. It leads us to a point of hopelessness, and without hope there is no faith. So, I did what any self-respecting Christian woman would have done in my shoes—I began to pray God would strike him dead. It’s okay, I have long since repented for such a mindset.
You see, with all the prayers I prayed, the emotional and verbal abuse escalated to physical violence. A pastor preached a sermon on how physical abuse perpetrated by the husband on the wife breaks the covenant of marriage. So, basically, I now understand that adultery is not the only Biblically sound purpose for ending a relationship. I do not encourage divorce. I strongly encourage temporary separation, and warn Christian counselors of the dangers connected with counseling both parties together. You are revictimizing the wife. She is not stable enough to handle that, and you have no idea what she will get when they return home. Please believe me—I was there. I learned to keep my mouth shut, and was constantly threatened with my very life if I dared open my mouth to speak of what was going on behind closed doors.
So what do we do with our faith in the center of abuse? We hang onto it with all our might. We believe that God is in control and He is working behind the scenes for our good. We find good sound counsel (be it secular or faith-based) that understands fully the complexities of domestic violence and spouse abuse. We find an advocate who has traveled that road of darkness and found her own way into the light of renewed hope and restored trust. We develop a safety plan and coordinate a safety code word or phrase with a friend or family member. Most importantly, we realize that remaining in the abuse for the rest of our life is not our only option. And just maybe, we continue to visit this blog and read more posts on abuse, gathering information and applying it to our own set of circumstances.
Carolyn is an advocate for sexual/domestic violence and assault awareness, also focusing on child sexual abuse. She is a Life Direction & Empowerment Coach, working with victims and survivors of molestation, sexual assault, domestic violence or spousal abuse, and bringing training to organizations seeking to help victims. Listen to Carolyn’s interview with Cynthia Brennen, on “Help, Hope & Healing.” Visit her Everyday Health blog, Emotional Wellbeing, or her website at orangeblossomwishes.com.
- Domestic Violence – In the Beginning: Emotional Abuse (cshennecy.wordpress.com)
- Help me identify abusive relationship (ask.metafilter.com)