Sexual Assault Should Transcend Party Loyalty

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Sexual abuse, assault & predation transcends politics & party loyalty. From top to bottom and left to right it is wrong regardless who is doing it!

For a moment there, It was exciting to see the tide turn and all sexual assaults were being taken seriously.   It looked as though the public conversation about sexual harassment and assault might for once escape political polarization by virtue of the plague’s depressing ubiquity. Fox News founder Roger Ailes was a pig, but so, it turned out, is Hollywood producer and Democratic donor Harvey Weinstein. There was little to gain by quibbling over whether Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly or Eric Bolling is pervier than NPR’s Mike Oreskes or ABC’s Mark Halperin.

Then came the accusations against Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, and just like that, the issue was jerked back into more familiar, more partisan territory. Two women have accused Moore of sexual abuse, seven others have said he pursued them when they were teenagers and Moore was in his 30s and an asst D.A. Party lines were drawn, the wagons were circled, and that old familiar positions were staked out. Moore’s fan base (heavy on religious conservatives) blamed the liberal media, Democratic haters, the Republican establishment, and, of course, all those lying women—all of whom Team Moore set out to discredit. Classic victim blaming at it’s highest.

In Washington, Republicans issued statements about how Moore needed to leave the race “if” the charges proved to be true. Fox News generally tiptoed around the erupting scandal, while Sean Hannity treated Moore with such gentleness that his advertisers began to balk. Donald Trump remains uncharacteristically quiet even now.

Having Moore ascend to the Senate would be like pouring kerosene on a campfire: “The Democrats could basically run on, ‘Look at what the other party has become: the party that protects sexual harassers and child molesters!’”

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The Penalty For Abusing Authority

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The headlines are bursting with stories about people in positions of authority who have turned a blind eye when it comes to protecting someone under their care—failing to do the right thing—the very thing their occupation demands. Teachers having inappropriate relations with students, politicians sexually harassing young girls and pastors falling in sin.  Husbands hurting their wives and children. Does looking the other way, or pleading ignorance, really exonerate someone who could do something to stop abuse yet, for political, or personal gain, does nothing?

All is not well in this world. Husbands are hurting wives, Teachers are predators, politicians are predators, despite their political affiliation, church workers are predators precisely because we allow them to be. Victims stay silent (it’s normal for a victim to wait decades before they share because of fear, threats, and shame), and when they expose the predators, they are then berated, unbelieved, and marginalized. And yet, I see this great kingdom of God advancing in precisely the opposite way, with the weak ones, the broken, overlooked.

Certainly, as Christians, we struggle with the reality that everywhere we turn there seems to be a moral battle raging and, at times, it may seem hopeless, to stem the tide of evil. With the media onslaught of moral corruption pervading our world, it’s little wonder we have become desensitized and almost ambivalent to the moral failures of those who are in charge, some of these men are members of the very churches we attend.  But, can we adequately plead “not guilty” if we do nothing?

This made me start thinking about someone, long ago, who took the easy way out defense too. He was the high priest, he was the only one who was permitted to meet yearly at the mercy seat with God. His sole ministry was to represent Christ—who intercedes for the sins of his people. Yet, within Eli’s own family, a dark secret was lurking. He heard the rumors but, somehow, he failed to muster the courage to stop the evil. Why? What could he possibly offer as an adequate excuse for allowing such heinous sins to be committed on his watch, within his own church, and by his own sons? He had a choice to make and he chose to do nothing. Sound familiar?

Years pass by and God appears to be silent. He sent a warning message and now He waits to see what His servant will do. I’m sure the Spirit was pleading for this reluctant father to correct the evil course of his sons, but to no avail.  Finally, in a very unexpected manner, the message comes. When Eli has procrastinated too long, God speaks.

The Bible tells us, “The Lord came and stood there, calling… “Samuel, Samuel.” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10)  The message God spoke to Samuel that night long ago has similar implications for us today! Are we listening? If so, are we willing to say, “Speak, for we are listening”?

God had previously warned Eli about the sins of his sons and what would happen if he failed to check their sins. “The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your father’s house, …you will see distress in my dwelling.” (1 Samuel 2:31-32)  Do we stand firm in protest of evil or, like Eli, do our sympathetic actions toward a fallen minister, teacher, husband or politician counteract our ability to adequately protest their iniquities?

What could possibly be so wicked that it forced God to deal with Eli and his sons so harshly? It was the same sin that is destroying many in authoritarian positions today. “Now Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.” (1 Samuel 2:22 ) Not only was the sacrifice disgraced and polluted, the personal lives of the priests—the very ones who were to be godly examples of holiness—were defiled with sexual immorality and abuse.  Sound familiar?

Can a minister, teacher, husband or politician who willfully chooses to destroy precious lives under his care simply excuse his actions as “a fall from grace”? Obviously, we know people make serious mistakes.  But this is on a deeper level.

And today, thousands of years later, there are those who still fail in their responsibility to protect those vulnerable under their leadership and care. When a transgression of this nature takes place, those who refuse to correct the evil done by a person of authority are guilty of the same sinful neglect to God’s heritage as was Eli.

It is time for pastors to believe the women who come to them seeking help from their abusive husbands.  To admonish and impose must needed church discipline. To believe the children that come forward about the teachers who have taken advantage of them.  To believe the small child that is being hurt by a parent.

It’s time we Christians, with sound mind and deep conviction, call predators and abusers out within the church. It’s time we stop tolerating any kind of abuse, stop looking the other way hoping things will improve. The statistics prove that predators and abusers typically continue to offend until they’re caught.   Our inaction, then, allows for more abuse.  We need to wake up and take this seriously!

Are we as Christians becoming desensitized by sins leavening effect—precious souls are being violated everyday.  I sat with a young women of 15 last week, who had been involved sexually with a teacher.  This poor child had tried to commit suicide from the shame and confusion.  I have to think that this teacher, who claimed to be a christian is just as guilt as Eli’s sons.

Recently in Papillion, Nebraska, a high school band teacher, Mike Pollock, was accused of sending inappropriate text messages to a former student. After his resignation, a spokesperson for the school stated that what Mr. Pollock had done was  “…not just a violation by that one teacher, but it’s a violation of the entire profession.” If the secular community can see how important the reputation of all teachers are, and that such actions committed by one destroy the reputation of everyone in that profession, certainly the church is in desperate need of true reformation when it comes to how we deal with a fallen christian.

All who hold positions of sacred trust and, like Eli, knowingly fail to take a stand against the abusive actions of leaders under their charge, will have to face serious consequences for neglecting their responsibility to guard the flock under their care.

Take heart, those who have been preyed on. The light is shining brightly, and the web of lies will be exposed.

Thankfully, there is still time and mercy still pleads with our hearts. The signs around us loudly proclaim judgment is soon to be executed upon this earth. We, like Eli, have been given a message of warning. God is still waiting to see if we will correct our errors, retrace our steps, and implement justice before He executes judgment. If we fail to heed Heaven’s admonition, we too will pass beyond the line where mercy will no longer be able to reach our ears. Sadly, God will ultimately say to us what He said to Eli, “…I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’” (1 Samuel 3:14 )

Why Are Voices Are Not Heard

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I am truly disheartening at the number of women who have shared stories, including my own, with pastors who, in one way or another, advised them to stick with their abusive husbands: to be more submissive, to pray more, etc.

So I started thinking about the fact that so many women having such similar stories.  If it had not happened to me, I would have a real difficulty believing that any one of these pastors, would ever condone domestic violence.  Especially,  since these are Godly men, who teach anointed sermons.  Who have continually blessed me through their ministries.

And yet here we are with all these women sharing the exact same thing happened with their pastor. And I know those women are not lying, or somehow mistaken about what happened to them.  Because it happened to me!

What I wish these pastors understood is how brave these women are when they finally come forward.  How scary it is to finally tell our secrets, secrets we have hid for years.  And that when a woman is writing/telling the real raw truth of their lives, their words take on an integrity that even the most accomplished fiction writers struggle to write. There could be no doubting the truth of these women’s stories.

Just this week, I wrote a pastor that dismissed my allegations, to clarify now that I come from a position of strength and healing as opposed to the weak woman asking for help.  Warning him he has a man capable of hurting women a sociopath in his congregation, and asked why he never confronted him when he was clearly in sin.  Even if he had doubts of my accusations, wouldn’t you want to investigate.

But howHow could these good, loving, Godly, well-intentioned men give advice that’s so manifestly, egregiously, cruelly wrong?

Is it because to a Godly man Domestic violence is fundamentally unbelievable. Like all true evil, domestic violence is basically incomprehensible. Most people find it simply inconceivable that any man would systematically victimize his own wife and children.

So, maybe, it’s easy for pastors to, in fact, fail to imagine it. When faced with a woman saying that her husband is abusing her, pastors must sometimes immediately and even instinctively assume that in some fundamental way the woman must be mistaken.  Especially, when every interaction he has had with her husband has been positive.  They can even seem charming, loving, and care deeply about the unsaved in the world.

What I think pastors are missing is the fact that these men are master manipulators.

For example, my husband was the friendliest, most sincere, open, warm, kind, generous person I had ever met.  That was the very thing I was drawn to.  But, wife abusers are sociopaths. They can talk the stink off a skunk. And guess who’s at the top of the list of people the abuser is determined to fool? Exactly: The family pastor. Who is very much inclined to love and trust people. Most pastors don’t stand a chance against a perpetrator of domestic violence.

Or could it be that a lot of pastors hold to the traditional Biblical definition of the proper relation between a husband and wife. Ephesians 5:22: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”) But I hardly think that from that pastors typically think that it’s acceptable for husbands to abuse their wives. Most pastors know that the rest of that passage from Ephesians enjoins husbands to “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her … .” I think it’s safe to say that pastors get that it’s wrong for a husband to beat or otherwise abuse his wife and kids. But I also think that not enough pastors have spent the time thinking about the broad, fuzzy line between biblical submission and repugnant victimization.

I think Pastors need to face and acknowledge this truth. They need to take case-by-case responsibility for drawing a clear line of demarcation between the kind of “submission” they and the church has traditionally understood as healthy, and the kind of submission everyone knows is unhealthy.

Pastors believe in the power of Christ to heal, to bring new life, to reclaim, to save, to resurrect.  They believe that through the community of church God radically and permanently transforms people’s lives. They believe in the enduring, righteous strength of marriage and family.

Pastors are not in the business of divorce; they don’t recommend the shattering of a family unit. They believe not in dissolution, but resolution.  And really God Bless them.  So am I, but there is a time when it is necessary, if the man is not repentant.

Let’s face it Domestic violence is simply not a subject present on pastors radar.  so a pastor faced with a domestic violence problem is likely to counsel patience, forbearance, and the discernment of the will of God. Each man is just doing what he knows. And in so doing each, of course, creates pain.

It’s not enough for us to simply desire that our pastors do a better job of handling issues of domestic violence. We must also help them to understand and obtain the training necessary for doing so.

So, although I failed to get the help, I so desired from my church, I will not turn my back on God.  I will continue to educate and support women in crisis.  I also, learned that all churches are not devoid of the knowledge of domestic violence.  There are many churches with great support groups for women in crisis.

Remember, It is impossible with our limited knowledge to see all God is doing to convict your husband and bring him to repentance. You might not see evidence of his conviction for years. That doesn’t mean God isn’t pursuing him. Remember that God has an eternal perspective. His timetable is not your own.

Also, remember although it isn’t fair what has happened to you with your pastor,  God hasn’t disappointed you; man has! God is the one constant in your life. If anything wasn’t fair it was piercing the hands and feet of the totally innocent God-man for your vile sins. If need be, Repent of your bitterness toward God. Ask Him to give you a right perspective of His love for you.

This is perhaps the most important lesson of all. God wants to do a work in you. He doesn’t want to leave you where you are—He loves you too much. He wants to increase your faith, your reliance upon Him, and your love for Him. Be willing to allow God to transform you.

God loves you. He will never reject you. He hears your cries! He longs to draw you close and fill you with His supernatural peace. No matter what your circumstance, no matter if your situation never changes this side of heaven, God is there. He is the steady hand underneath your days.

I Need Your Direction Lord

 

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I have shared many times on my blog about my divorce and it’s aftermath. These past several weeks have been a bit difficult with regard to my attitude about my ex-husband.  I shared my sadness/anger of discovering he placed a praise the Lord and christian fish after his name on our divorce decree.  Compounded by the fact, that I work with Christian women who find themselves in abusive marriages, has made it even more difficult.  I realize daily that he desperately needs to change his heart so he does not abuse another women.  Truth is, I do not miss the man I was married to, but I do miss the best friend he was for years, before we married.  It is hard as a christian, you are told to fight for your marriage, which I did while we were separated even fight while the divorce is being processed.  Then the decree is final….then what?

I forgave him three years ago, but sometimes I still get annoyed with him. Especially, when every time I need to get a hold of him, I receive angry emails from his family attacking me. He acts like I am a non-person after 2 decades together… Funny, they are never from him, he just ignores me, he hides behind his family. It is such a paradox for me, professionally, I work to educate and stop domestic violence, then knowing that I personally know someone who needs help to stop their abusing behavior.

I’ve been pondering the whole response to an ex that needs help, do I just turn a blind eye and walk away or do I try my best to make sure he never hurts another women.  If he does, is it a blood on my hands kind of a thing.  I know that isn’t exactly accurate, but it is hard to see someone you loved living with a hard heart either. Of course, I am far from perfect, and I have my own issues, and only by the grace of God do I live.

I believe that God is showing me to just give him up to the Lord, period: in an attitude of love, goodness, blessing and prayer. My eyes focused not on my life, not on my circumstances, and not on the wrongs done to me, but rather focused with laser intensity on Jesus!

The verse that the Lord continually bringing me to is Luke 6:27-28:

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”

It seems harsh to refer to my ex-husband as my enemy … although sometimes it feels that way. I believe in my heart that he isn’t my enemy. I think I feel like I’m in a spiritual battle with him, but maybe we are more like opponents in a tennis match—but there’s definitely no love in the score.  Which makes me sad.

“Love your enemies.”

Awww, Lord. Really?

“Love … do good … bless … pray.”

Love him? Love him. Really?

What does that even look like? ‘Cause I did that for a long time and it ended up almost destroying me. I ended up abused, used and thrown away like thrash, notified he was divorcing me by email.  Love the person who put praise the Lord and a christian fish on our divorce decree?  So I’m praying as I write because I really don’t know what that looks like.

Talking about love always reminds me of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Love is:

Patient, kind, does not envy or boast, is not arrogant or rude, does not insist on its own way, is not irritable or resentful, does not rejoice in wrongdoing, rejoices in the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Am I patient with God’s dealing with my situation and my ex? Am I kind in the face of my ex’s attitudes, accusations and actions? Am I rude when I could choose to be kind? Do I insist that things go my way regardless of God’s plan? Am I irritable and resentful? (Ugh. Definitely.) I do not believe I rejoice in my ex’s wrongdoings, but maybe I do a bit when it’s me trying to justify my angry response to him. Do I rejoice in the truth?  I hope so.

But in this circumstance, do I bear, believe, hope and endure all things? Nope. I wanna cry and hide in the corner. I want to yell and argue and fight with my ex, telling him how much he hurt me and the children.

Who am I kidding—I can’t do those things! Love like that? That’s not logical.

But when has God called me to do something that He hasn’t enabled me to do?

Once again, I’m gonna have to rely solely on Jesus. After all, He has given us “a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7).

And I’m going to need the Lord in my life, because not only am I called to love that man, but to do good, bless and pray for him.

 

But what is my role in the meantime?  Am I you supposed to sit around and passively wait for more persecution? No, the answer is to become aggressive with good. When wicked behavior is running rampant, it feels like it is in control. However God’s Word tells us that good is more powerful than evil. God does not say that doing good to others will help us tolerate their evil. He says that we can overcome it. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Light overwhelms darkness. Hope triumphs over discouragement. Love casts our fear. It is our task, in the face of evil, to offer good. Why? Because good invites repentance.  I pray he repents, before it is too late.

Consider Romans 12:20 “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” The phrase “heap burning coals on his head” referred to awakening the conscience of another. With good, we can melt the heart of evil with burning shame. Constantly repaying evil with good holds a mirror up to the perpetrator reflecting only their evil; in some cases this will bring about a change of heart.

I believe I will pray for God to enable me to live the way God desires me too!

When Your Spouse Is In Sin

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I was a wife willing to keep my vows, no matter what. I desired—a godly marriage. Yet I failed, when my husband developed a hard heart and became abusive.  This was probably the hardest and most sorrowful time in my life.  When you love someone with all your heart, but try as you might you cannot change them.

I can speak personally, as my husband was a man of God. When your spouse has known the Lord Jesus, and you now witness them defying God’s Word, God’s moral standards, and walking away from their Lord and Savior, you become deeply grieved. I was personally burdened for the consequences that he faces if he does not repent of his sinful abusive lifestyle. There are many women around the world whose spouse may have been in the ministry or were leaders in their church who have fallen into sin. This is why we need to stand in the gap for our spouse, for their repentance and their joyous return to a surrendered life to the Lord Jesus Christ.  

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals,[a] nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. I Corinthians 6:9-11

If you, like me are dealing or have dealt with a husband with a hard heart and find yourself in an abusive situation.  First off, I would like to say, I am so sorry and I know first hand how difficult that it has been for you. I certainly understand the feeling of being crushed under such pain and sorrow for your marriage. Believe me, God sees all that your husband is doing. He also sees and hears you as you continue to cry out on your husband’s behalf. I believe no one will pray for him as you will, so I encourage you to continue to intercede for his soul, asking the Lord to do whatever it takes in order to cause him to surrender. Remembering that it is God who will change the heart of a man.

You are in a battle, a spiritual war is raging around you. The enemy enjoys destroying christian marriages.  While it may seem hopeless now, know that God is greater than he who is in the world.  It is God who calls the sinner to Himself.  Seek counsel from your pastor and elders to intercede for you and your husband.

It is also important that you ask the Holy Spirit to examine your own heart to make certain that you have not developed a hardened heart, due to all the many circumstances that you are facing. Do not allow unforgiveness, doubt or unbelief to harden your own heart. If you do not repent of your hardened heart, your own sin will build up a wall between you and the Lord.

I know that you feel alone and deserted right now. I want to encourage you that God will never leave you nor will He forsake you. No matter the outcome of your marriage and your relationship, God will never ever cease to love you, care for you, and desire what is best for you. Man has free will, we cannot change anyone or force them to change, but we can pray that God surrounds our heart with His peace.

Get others in your life who will walk with you. Ask the Lord for those who have sound judgement, Biblical wisdom who will journey through this with you and help you make any necessary decisions. You need others in your life who will remind you of truth, remind you of who you are in Christ and remind you and help you to go on living as you wait and pray.

It can seem so confusing and that is understandable but God isn’t a God of confusion. He will show you what to do. Ask Him for wisdom, ask for discernment, ask for direction! He will be faithful to lead and guide you.

I’m praying for you now, I’m interceding for YOU! Praying that you would be comforted, that God would speak His peace over you through His Word. I’m praying that He would bring faithful friends who will surround you and help you through this difficult time. I’m praying for your beloved, that he would surrender his sin and his life to Christ.

Your identity is not in your marriage or your happiness, it is found in Christ, alone. I know it seems so simple but you truly can have joy by knowing Christ. I know your heart is aching for your marriage to be healed and this chaos to be gone but God will not waste this time – so, be willing to learn, grow and trust Him through this.

I know you long to live a Christ-honoring life. You need to draw from a deep well of biblical knowledge to set captives free.

Always remember, you are a beloved daughter of the King of Kings. No matter what any man has ever spoken to you or how they have treated you, you are spoken for, a treasure, a precious daughter to God Almighty.

Today do not allow the enemy to steal your faith, hope and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether your spouse was a believer who fell into sin, or if your spouse has never made that personal decision, the Lord Jesus is calling their name to come to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of their life, repenting of their sins and have godly sorrow. (2 Corinthians 7:9-10) Our Lord God created Adam, Eve and marriage. The Lord wants you to pray and intercede for your beloved spouse’s salvation. Keep praying that the Lord will break the chains of bondage or open your spouse’s spiritual eyes from their spiritual blindness that your spouse is living in today. May you start praising and thanking the Lord for what He is going to do in your life, resurrecting your dead marriage. Never give up on your husband or wife or on God!

So I’ve committed to pray God’s Word over my ex-husband. Today, I’m sharing what I pray and invite you to join me in praying for your husband:

Father, give my husband a discerning heart to know Your great love for him and the great plans You have for him and our family. Plans to prosper and not to harm, to give us hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Father, give my husband the mind of Christ, saturate it with godly wisdom. Help him to take every thought captive that is not in obedience to Your Word, and in so doing protect him from pride and temptation. (1 Corinthians 2:16, 2 Corinthians 10:5)

Father, open the eyes of my husband’s heart to understand Your Word, so that he won’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of his mind so that he may know Your good, acceptable and perfect will for his life and our marriage. (Romans 12:2)

Father, help my husband to trust in You with all his heart, not depending on his own understanding, but acknowledging You in all his ways, so he knows what direction our family should take. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Father, may the favor of the Lord rest on my husband. Bless and establish the work of his hands and his heart. (Psalm 90:17)

Father, help us to live together in perfect unity by loving, honoring and respecting one another and serving each other for Your glory, honor and praise! (1 Thessalonians 5:13)

When we replace our toxic thoughts with the precious Word of God and then pray those words, we pray the Word that is living and active, capable of changing hearts and minds. We are praying the mind and will of God, as revealed in His Word, into our marriages!

So pray with hope, boldness and confidence! God will be faithful to honor His Word.

Heavenly Father, replace my toxic thoughts with Your life-giving words and teach me to pray those words over my heart, my husband and my marriage. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

I Am The Women Sitting beside You In Church

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Church leaders say they abhor abuse of any kind. But advocates say the church is not just failing to sufficiently address domestic violence, it is both enabling and concealing it.

I hope and pray that all readers will pray about what they can do to help bring change to domestic violence happening in your church.. Whether you are in church leadership or part of the church. We can all do our part. No one should have to endure what many women have endured.  Psalm 91.4, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” 

I pray that with the light shining on this issue, that there is a great opportunity for the church to better reflect what Jesus Christ calls us to be. May we listen to the Holy Spirit and may we listen and believe the women who seek help. 

I’m a normal friendly person, who loves the Lord with all my heart. If I didn’t tell you, you wouldn’t know I’m a survivor of abuse. Until this year, I probably won’t have told you because I was too embarrassed and ashamed. But I was sitting next to you in church. Watching your happy family with tears in my eye’s. Feeling like I failed. Like my husband was right – that I used his imperfections (i.e.abuse) as an excuse to run away. Don’t I know that God hates divorce? Don’t I believe in forgiveness, grace, second chances? In love that doesn’t keep a record of wrongs? In faithfulness, perseverance, and sacrificial servant love? I do, I really do!  I never threw my vows away, I just wanted to be safe and my husband to repent and change.  I desired reconciliation with all my heart and he knew that.

But, All I knew when I left was I could not do marriage on his terms anymore. I could not live with the fear pervading my body when he walked through our front door. Holding my breath, placating, saying whatever he needed me to, to make the anger go away.  And now I wore the double sided guilt. That somehow the abuse was my fault, and that I should’ve seen, should’ve known, should’ve protected my children. Oh the guilt, of the damage I have let come to them.

The reaction and blame shifting of some Christians after I chose to separate has added insult to injury. I was desperate for help, any help.  I sought refuse at a church in my new area that I loved, until my ex-husband wrote a letter to the pastor that in his words was “vile and hateful” and they asked me to leave.  Me leave??  I thought the letter would have shown them how abusive he was, but instead he said “we cannot get in the middle of this.”  Here I was, alone and now leaving the second church that I loved.

Some Christian leaders responded with compassion and a desire to do better at caring for survivors of domestic violence, some have cried foul and wanted to point the finger elsewhere: “What about that group? It doesn’t happen at my church! They have an agenda! Abuse has no place in the church! The stats weren’t reported improperly! Regular church goers are least likely to abuse!” etc etc etc.

Frankly, they’ve missed the point. Stories of violence in the church, like mine, actually happen. In my opinion, One story is one too many.

Here’s the response I wish I’d heard from all Christians:

These stories are heartbreaking.

What can we as a church do?

Do we believe the women who come forward, even if their violent husbands claim to be Christians and are regular churchgoers or are on staff, or do we disbelieve/dismiss/blame them/tell them to go home and learn to submit?

Just as my husband would lock me in rooms to teach me submission.  “Your problem is you won’t obey me. The Bible says you must obey me and you refuse,” he yelled. “You are a failure as a wife, as a Christian, as a mother.  For years, I believed that God wanted me to submit to my husband, and I did my best, bending to his will, despite the pain I was in.

The church needs to hear the wake up call, and proactively investigate claims and check the attitudes, beliefs, practices and structures of each church to discover if there is any inadvertent complicity or unhelpful misunderstandings that contribute here. One woman or child facing violence in the church is one too many.

Here are some questions for the Church:

Why have there been so few sermons on domestic violence? Why do so many women report that their ministers tell them to stay in violent marriages?

Is the stigma surrounding divorce still too great, and unforgiving? Is this also a problem for the men who are abused by their wives — a minority but nonetheless an important group?

And if the church is meant to be a place of refuge for the vulnerable, why is it that the victims are the ones who leave churches while the perpetrators remain?

“Often people say it is the guilt of going against the church teaching that leads them to stay in relationships well beyond a time they should leave because they are trying to please the church as well as please their partners … they often feel they will have to choose between the church or violence.

We have to see that some evil men are using their wives’ Christian guilt and the teaching about the sanctity of marriage as a weapon to keep harming them. I can’t help feeling that if more women started saying, “This is over” and were backed up by a church that enabled them to escape instead of enabling the abuse to continue, other men in the church, tempted toward the same behavior, might finally wake up and change their ways.

I hope that my story can shed more light on the issue of domestic violence so that effective strategies can be developed to address it. I also hope my story is of some consolation to others who are or have been affected by domestic violence. To those who care about this issue, I propose that it is not enough to address domestic violence as a problem in itself for often it is only the first layer of abuse. The second and subsequent layers of abuse are the unconscionable responses of people who are mandated to help and don’t. There is a phenomenon in which victims of domestic violence are often ignored and/or blamed and the actions of the perpetrators are denied and/or covered up. It is tragic enough that these layers of abuse occur in the wider community but when they occur as pervasively as they do in Christian contexts we need to ask some serious questions of our culture and leadership.

Stop Enabling Abusers

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To share your story ‘the only rule is to pray, love people, & seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit’  I am sharing this with this hope..The holy Spirit has been speaking to me on this issue for awhile now.

Today as I share with you, I am tired and a little disillusioned.  As a victims advocate with a christian agency.  I want to share a concern I have with victim blaming.

I recently read an article about Bill O’Rielly regarding his sexual misconduct.  He first blamed the media, but now he is blaming God.

“You know, am I mad at God? Yeah, I’m mad at him,” O’Reilly said on the latest episode of his web series, “No Spin News.” “I wish I had more protection. I wish this stuff didn’t happen. I can’t explain it to you. Yeah, I’m mad at him.”

 Actually, he’s mad at a “God” he made up because God doesn’t insulate sexual predators from the consequences of their actions.  He once allegedly assaulted his now ex-wife by dragging her by the neck down a staircase — in front of their young daughter.  The disturbing charges came out during a child custody battle in Nassau County Supreme Court with a judge reportedly granting McPhilmy sole custody of their two children.
I am more than a little tired of men feeling like the victim when they have a pattern of abuse.  Woman on the other hand feel guilt and self-condemnation which has deterred them from making a decision about leaving their abusive husbands. These are women that are not what the world would call “innocent victims,” because in some way they have fallen short of what people think a good wife should be like, so they in turn believe they are unable to seek a divorce. But just as abusers are not stereotypical, victims do not always look like victims.
One of the biggest problems is, we have bought into the world view on this issue.  Most of us have watched movies about what an abuser looks like, generally portrayed as the beer-drinking, lower socioeconomic bully who gets drunk, comes home and terrorizes his family by beating his wife and children. We have also seen (thanks to Hollywood) the other extreme, a well-dressed, professional, wealthy, and powerful abuser who uses intimidation and fear to control his wife and family. But what has been neatly presented to us by popular media is too stereotyped: abusers come from varying socioeconomic backgrounds and a variety of professions.

Here’s where I’m trying hard to land: to let go of the world’s standard, because too many women are stuck in abusive harmful marriages, because they are shamed into staying.  We need to come alongside these women praying for their marriages and helping both parties seek help.  Men need to come alongside the men and admonish abusive behavior and hold them accountable for their sin.  We need to stop giving men a pass, just because they are men.

Stereotypes also tell us the victims are portrayed as either timid, submissive housewives who married right out of high school, or as attractive, outgoing women who got bamboozled by a charming rich guy. Both of these types of victims exist, and I am in no way dismissing that their struggle isn’t real and valid. But here I am going to talk about what Hollywood does not present because it would be harder for people to sympathize with these victims. I am going to tell you my story.

I was married, I was born-again, to a (self-proclaimed) Christian man who did not drink, smoke, take drugs, or chase women. He is well educated, was just out of bible college, a little geeky, funny, and loves to be the center of attention. And he is an abuser. He is a teacher that attends church regularly and appears to be a good family man. And he is an abuser. When I met my husband-to-be, I had low self-esteem and little hope for the future. I was just abandoned by my first husband and had three small children, no job, no money.  Because we had chosen to home school the children and I would be a stay at home mom. I was completely vulnerable, I had no family (i separated from my family at 17, because of abuse and drug use on their part) except my children.  No one to rely on for help.

Into my life walks a man who pays attention to me, makes me laugh, and takes me to nice restaurants. Say’s all the right things.  He brings us groceries and generally was a life saver.  He doesn’t try to take advantage of me, and my children love him because he is fun and attentive. So, because we were best friends for several years and everyone at the bible college were sure we would be married, and I was in love with him, so, I married him.

After we were married, I lived with constant contention and fear of retaliation if I said something he didn’t like. As too many women know, the abuse consisted of so much more. But I was dealing with a lot of hurt in my own heart. I felt a lot of disgrace because I was divorced. The stigma of being a divorced women was huge, and I carried the weight of that shame into my second marriage.  Setting me up for further abuse.

Socially, I am out going and can talk easily to people. I am adventurous and fun-loving. My husband often referred to me as feisty, and it is true –I am not a meek and quiet woman. I also have a very sarcastic tongue. I was sexually abused as a small child, and as a result, I had a warped view of men and the world.

My husband towards the end of our marriage developed a habit of using pornography, which piled horror on top of the abuse. The men who abused me as a child and into my teens exposed me to pornography at an early age of about four/five. Much of my anger towards my husband stemmed from this embarrassment and self-hatred that I was exposed to, this recalled repressed memories for me.  I could not get my husband to stop, in fact he had demanded that I never bring it up again or else.  I felt more alone and afraid, because I could not handle this situation without freaking out and the enemy had me convinced I was in a dire situation where he would ultimately hurt me like the men before him.  I feared for my life.  I know that sounds unrealistic and dramatic, but when you have been systematically abuse from 4/5 to teen years with no emotional support, to me pornography was the reason…  All I knew was pornography equals hurt and violence.

I remembered a time when my daughter walked in on him screaming at me with his 6’4” body, threatening me with his finger in my face, punching walls, kicking furniture and becoming out of control.  This was before a special event, we had planned to go to a yale/harvard football game (something I wanted to do since I was a child), she would bring this up repeatedly, because she was horrified by the incident.  It was this along with the pornography, that I had the courage to finally leave him. I left without warning while he was at work.  Not my best work.

As is the rule with most domestic violence abusers, my husband did not change and the abuse continued. When we made attempts at reconciliation, I would come up and stay the weekend with him, but the anger and yelling continued, so I stopped coming back.   I desired reconciliation through counseling and pastor accountability not divorce…That was his choice.

We do not “deserve” to be hit, kicked, slapped, punched, or emotionally tormented. Jesus does not treat His bride this way — EVER.

Well-intentioned Christian friends told me what many women hear in the Church, “God hates divorce!” All marriages have problems, just suck it up.   I do believe that divorce is not God’s heart for us. But the problem was my ex-husband did not want to take accountability for his abuse and sinful nature.  I do think sometimes this scripture of God hates divorce is sometimes used as a weapon to admonish women,  and has destroyed any hope for them to ever be free of physical and emotional abuse. The fact I sought separation some felt I was asking for divorce, some said “what am I teaching my children about marriage”. We feel stuck, even though it is the abuser who has broken the covenant, and condemned us to a life of misery and bondage because he (or she) does not repent.  Why wasn’t this admonishment made to my ex-husband, instead he received support and nurturing from friends and the church.  He is still hailed as the wronged one as he proclaims he felt pressured to marry me (even though he asked me, I did not initiate nor would my confidence let me), in fact I had asked him many times while engaged..are you sure this is what you want?  and I that had abandoned the marriage through separation.  No mention of his abuse.  Every relationship he has had in the past ended horribly and hatred on the women’s side.

My point of this blog post, is that society and sadly even the church too many times blames the victims.  The men somehow get a pass, especially if they are charming, because of course he does not look like a typical abuser.  I would have probably said the same thing years ago.  We were together two decades.  I loved him with all my heart and I would have never divorced him.  I may have lived as a single women separated, but I believed that no one is beyond the reach of the Lord, He could change any heart.  The problem was he would not acknowledge his sin.

We can save some of these marriages, if we put aside judgment, shame and love them back to a surrendered life to Jesus Christ.  Changing their hearts first and foremost.  Instead I actually lost friends, because they did not believe me.  They told me to stay in my marriage, that I am a bad witness to the world, but these same people told me to move on after my husband made the decision to divorce me, when I tried to fight to save it.  They said Forget him move on.  As, I tried to bring the pastor alongside to bring him accountable.  I was then told Why would you do that if he is abusive.  Following this logic is not biblical and can make you feel crazy.

Does this make any sense? An abusive husband gets caught and says the “right” words to his friends and is quickly embraced, as the wife is disciplined by her/his friends for taking steps to protect her life.   Too many wives within our churches are intimidated back into abusive homes by unsupportive male leaders, who exploit their authority and misuse scripture in directing them to “try harder” and “stop making him angry.” This is a form of spiritual abuse that re-victimizes the abused and grants permission to abusers to continue their violence against a child of God.

I am saddened as I minister to women who are stuck in domestic abuse and violence.  How they are shamed, because of their meekness and the fact that they held this secret for so many years, their friends and churches do not believe them now.  I have seen and heard about women horribly beaten or even killed in this ministry.  We need to be like Christ, believe them, shelter them and above all else love them.  So, they can heal and have the courage to heal.  Please do not be like the world and automatically side with the men.

Today we are witnessing the power men have in our society, through Weinstein, O’Rielly, Cosby and the #metoo movement etc..we as members of the church need to be different.

Too many of us know abuse victims who have been instructed by a pastor or someone in their church to keep quiet about the abuse, and to stay with their abusive spouse in order to “work things out”. They convince these abused that doing anything otherwise is considered to be a “bad Christian witness”. The disgusting reality is that this has nothing to do with being a “bad Christian witness”, and everything to do with a church that worships itself as it sacrifices its vulnerable.  The “bad Christian witness” is proclaiming to love Jesus as you silence victims and push them back into the fists of their abuser. This is an abomination to the very Gospel proclaimed by so many of these churches.   Don’t they understand that Jesus gave his very life for the vulnerable and the abused? A church that silences abuse hasn’t encountered Jesus.

Ask yourself this, is your church a safe place for victims of abuse?

Any church that redefines abuse instead of stopping it, is not a safe place. Any church that devalues women instead of respecting them as equals to men, is not a safe place. Any church that silences the oppressed instead of protecting them, is not a safe place.

A safe church does not tolerate the abuse of women or anyone else for that matter. A safe church empowers and equips all victims to walk away from those who hurt them. A safe church is where the abused can leave the abuser being assured that is what God wants them to do.

We have much to confess and much to change.