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.

12 Comments:

Blogger Molly said...

Wow. I am glad to hear that you finally made it out. Coming out of that is difficult enough for a regular woman---how much more so one who is taught that a woman's place is under obedience? It must have taken a tremendous amount of courage.

10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I understand her letter, she is not out yet. She is still dealing with practical issues such as all the legal aspects of her situation.

Hang in there, Ms. Letter Writer. You appear to be intelligent and motivated. It is a long, very hard process, but the alternative of not going through it is much worse.

I can speak first hand as to how scary and intimidating all this can be. I was in a 27 year relationship with a man that either physically or pscyhologically abused me each and every day. This included the first day we went out.

I got out when my children were grown. I was on the edge of either being committed to mental hospital or doing harm to myself to make the pain stop, which scared me enough to seek out help.

I can also totally understand about being submissive. It was all that I was taught and all that I experienced in my own house from my parents. Being submissive to your husband was the only way to live your life and thrive in the relationship. Like you, I was paired with a man with an abnormal personality disorder. He has never functioned as a caring human being and he never will.

I highly recommend therapy as you go through this process. Talking with a caring, extremely experienced psychologist saved my life.

Good luck to you!

6:44 PM  
Blogger h said...

Your situation is why I started my blog. I have also found the silence behind this subject in churches.

If you church can't handle the truth to come into the light then you need to find a church that doesn't wish you to live in darkness. I think you know your husband has twisted scripture out of shape.

http://eaandfaith.blogspot.com/

is my blog, and in the March Section of this year is a sermon called the destructive secret by Pastor Erwin Lutzer. Its about 40 minutes long, but it will open your eyes.

3:44 PM  
Blogger Pat Gundry said...

I'd love to have permission from you to post your story on my blog http://www.tellingaboutabuse.com

Please email me permission if I may, at suitcasebooks at ameritech dot net

I've studied about abuse, including subtle emotional abuse, for many years, and have worked as a life coach with people who have been abused. It is an area of great interest to me. I write frequently on the issue on an abuse recovery support email discussion list at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/abuse-recovery-central/

I think it could be very useful to you to subscribe, and to read widely in the list's archives online.

Also, please visit my blog sites at http://www.abuseville.com
http://www.changemaking.com

Be sure and read the ebook on changemaking.com and the article there on forgiveness. Many people put pressure on abuse victims to "forgive" their abusers. I think much that is commonly believed about what forgiveness is and means is mistaken.

I wish you the very best in all you do.

Pat
http://www.patriciagundry.com

1:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been in a relationship with my husbabd for 19 years and we have been married for 7 years with 2 kids. My oldest child have watched her dad not come home, cheat, beat me, and call me out of my name. When do the bible gives u grounds for a seperation or a divorce when u feel that its't going to get any better. Right now I just want to move on but I want to do what is right in gods eyes. I know he said for us to have a forgiven heart but how long do i have to take the abuse. He hasn't hit me lately but the verbal abuse still goes on..... Please send me some type of message.,


Thank you
Just want to live my life right

12:31 PM  
Anonymous Al Johnson said...

Dear Anonymous:

I am so sorry that your husband has abused you for so long. I especially understand your pain because I have watched my father abuse my mother all my life. Even though he no longer beats her, he still verbally abuses her, as your husband does. As you probably know, the Bible never allows a husband to abuse his wife.

God does not want you to experience this abuse. If you have not tried marriage counseling yet, I suggest that you do, even if your husband does not attend with you. A godly marriage counselor can help you sort through the abuse issues. They can also help you set boundaries for your husband's abuse. For instance, one boundary might be: "If you do not come with me to marriage counseling and if our counselor and I do not see progress on your part, I will have to ask you to leave." You can get a restraining order against him if does not leave.

The Bible does not specifically address the question of what a woman should do when her husband is abusing her. But it makes it very clear that husbands are not to abuse their wives. Husbands who abuse are sinning against their wives. In the Bible continued sin calls for deliberate action, which could include help from church elders, a woman's shelter, police, a marriage counselor, etc.

I believe that a husband who continues to abuse his wife, after he has been warned about his sin, has, in a sense, already broken his marriage vows. He is not treating his wife as the Bible teaches him to.

At a minimum, if he continues abusing you, you have the legal (and I believe, Biblical) right to separate from him. I also personally believe that you would be justified in divorcing him on the grounds of abuse.

I hope this helps.

11:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i understand. I was married for 16 years to a minister. At first he was not abusive and although our marriage was not exceptional it was fine. something changed my husband became abusive verbally and physically, not working, havinh an affair with someone in the church, who was also married wheni sought help i was handed a copy of me obey him wich basically said that whatever he did i was to submit. My divorce came as a great relief to me.I have been married for 8 years to a wonderfull man who
wants a partner not a doormat and god is blessing us greatly.
HANG IN THERE!

12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you know what, im in a somewhat similar situation.im a student & in my case the abuser is my boyfriend.He swears at me & beats me regularly...belittles me infront of friends & now that im trying to get away from him has even threatened to kill me.The worst part is that we are classmates so there is no way I can totally avoid him.I am really scared.

3:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been married to a "very religious" man who has abused me for over 20 years. He never misses church services and witnessing to other people. He studied to be a pastor and was one for a few years, but had to go out and do other things, that "the Lord was calling him to do".
Our financial life is chaos, we've been humiliated and embarrassed beyond mention, at least once a week he blows up into a rampage of violent threats, name-calling, and endless blaming me for all his problems. He has pushed me, hit me dragged me on the floor, doesn't let me sleep, etc.
When he loses control it's because I drove him there, when he had an affair, it was because I didn't take good care of him and the devil tempted him.
But then he has the ability to turn around and be charming, romantic, beg for forgiveness, bring flowers.
I've wanted to leave him, but have not had the financial means to do so.
I feel my life has passed me by, and I've carried this burden far too long. Can't take it anymore. I finally have a job, but it doesn't pay enough for me to support myself and our children.
Any ideas? please help.
Ready to live.

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to you and I send you all the love a courage I can muster. I too was raised in a very male dominated christian church. I find myself still now in a relationship with a child with a man that clearly thinks verbal abuse, monetary restrictions and physical abuse is normal. He is what I call a second generation wife beater. I am lucky enough to have a beautiful supportive mother that has never given up on me despite my crazy choice to stay. My argument. I will not bend to the bullying and thug behaviour. I will be strong stand up to this man and I will break this cycle. I will show my son that a woman can be as strong as any man and will show him that this man, his father, is mentally ill. I wll show him that all I feel is pity for his father who clearly needs help when he drinks and rants and threatens. I will show him pity. I will show my child that violence against a woman or any person is the behaviour of an unwell person. I will show my son that I will show his father pity and compassion and that alcoholism is an illness and his fathers sociopathic behaviour is an illness like any other. I will show no fear!! I will break this cycle and I will show my son that if he ever thinks he can treat a woman like this that he is ill and needs help. My heart breaks for the woman this story is about. I wish you all the love you truly deserve. I wish your husband the mental help he clearly needs.

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