Wednesday, November 29, 2006

onehandclapping on violence against women

Julie at onehandclapping blog has written passionately about violence against women in her post, "International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women."

Thursday, November 23, 2006

a beaten wife's story

A friend of mine wants others to hear her story. It is not safe for her to include her name. Here is her story:
I was brought up in a fundamentalist denomination by traditional parents who respected each other. I attended university, received a master's degree in history and became a high school teacher. I did not work when our children were young but now I work full time, have time for the children and take care of the family finances, banking and taxes. I am the kind of person who can help you with your taxes or computer problems. I can deal with technical problems but I was not equipped to take care of myself.

In my upbringing I was influenced to believe that a woman should have an education but she must also get married and once married she should never divorce. This was not acceptable in the Christian community.

I became engaged to a young Christian man who wanted to become a missionary. This seemed to be the right direction for me also and I felt we had a lot in common. We married when we were both finished college.

My husband made it clear that he wanted me to obey him from the first. There were many reasons why I thought at the time that this was acceptable, after all it was in the marriage vows. Our goals seemed so unified that I thought this would never be a problem. It seems hard to believe now.

After our marriage we moved away from my family to another city where we both found good jobs. For several reasons we never did work as missionaries. However, we were always committed church members and I taught Sunday School and ran children's clubs.

Soon after our marriage it became clear that I was expected to obey anything and everything, commands clearly expressed and those poorly expressed, and those that had never been expressed.

For 25 years I was hit - battered, bruised and humiliated on a weekly basis, held against my will, berated and sworn at. I have been called every filthy name in the book. But I was only once bruised on the face. After that it was on the upper arms and legs. I was knocked over, kicked and shoved in front of the children, and kept in a room against my will while I was made to listen to hours of lectures on my insubordination, and threatened with worse violence.

We managed to have two children and for many years I stayed at home with the children. I used to pray that my husband would be away on business when it was time for the children's birthday parties so he could not ruin them.

He made life miserable for us all but he never did hit the children. If he found them doing something wrong I would immediately say that I had allowed them to do it, or I had even told them to do it. I stood there and deflected his violence for years. I would make him angry at me so he would hit me and leave the children alone. Of course, the children have been witness to some very violent scenes. He would also routinely lecture them for hours. I could not stop this.

When I finally started considering divorce, I was afraid that he would get joint custody. I could not bear the thought of the children being with him and my not being there so I decided to stay with my husband until they grew up. A few years ago, through police intervention, the physical violence was brought to an end.

However, the threats and psychological abuse, the desire to subordinate me continued. My husband fed off every mention in the church of the submission of women. He routinely pointed out that I was not submissive. I was not, but I was faithful and carried out the responsibilities of my job and family the best I could.

However, I was intensely loyal and for 30 years, from the time of our engagement up until a few months ago, I never told one person about the abuse. I made excuses and covered up. I was unwavering in my loyalty and fidelity. I finally realized that when the children leave home, which is very soon, I will be left in the house alone
with a person I am afraid to be alone with.

I recognize that violence is a pathology and not the result of wrong teaching. However, the teaching of submission and loyalty was impressed on me every day to keep the blame in my court and keep me silent. I was told by my husband that if I told anyone about something that was private between us, he meant the abuse, that was the same as infidelity and I would be punished for it.

I have just started taking the first steps toward getting out now. Now I have to deal with the fact that in law I am equally responsible for our financial situation and debts. I am equally responsible for what has happened to our children. I am responsible for dealing with my own pension issues. I have equal responsibliblity for making decisions about our house and belongings, and the children's future. I can't tell the lawyer that my husband is the 'head'. She can't pass that on to the court. I can't plead diminished responsibility on the basis of Bible texts.

I believe that no one should ever preach submission or let the word cross their lips unless they have lived 24/7 in subordination to another imperfect human being. Men speak glibly of women accepting limits, do they have any idea?

I write this to let people know of the secret and unpublicized nature of this problem in the Christian community. I asked the pastor's wife for a book on spousal abuse 'to pass on the a friend' and she said she didn't know of one off hand. No one who knows me in our church has any idea that this is who I am. But Christians need to know that the teaching of submission was a part of what has kept me in bondage to a serious pathology - violence.
If you have any words of encouragement for this dear woman, you can post them here as comments and she will be able to read them.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

a la commode

Yesterday my wife noticed a widening wet spot on the ceiling of our downstairs bathroom. We immediately suspected that our upstairs toilet was leaking. And I immediately felt angry at the subcontractor who removed and reinstalled that toilet when we had new flooring installed upstairs last spring. I had asked him to be sure to make a good seal because our main contractor had had a problem with a leak from that toilet in the past and it had been difficult for him to get it stopped.

The flooring company was closed when I learned of the problem. So I had to wait until today to call them about the problem. In the past I would likely have gotten quite stressed out over this issue. There is a good chance I might have raised my voice in anger and maybe even threatened legal action. But I did better today. I still expressed my disappointment with the work of the subcontractor. But I was more civil. I'm learning that that usually works better when talking about problems that need to be resolved.

The flooring company sent their inspector to our house right away. And they have contracted with a plumber to do a proper job sealing the toilet.

It feels good to continue making progress.