|Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglican Church http://www.stjohnsashfield.org.au, Ashfield, New South Wales.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
While all but the most fringe of religious faith systems will condemn physical domestic violence, the beliefs of many faiths (Christian, Muslim, Judaic, Hindu, and others) that the husband should be the head of the household and that the wife should submit to him, can open the door to verbal and emotional abuse. When in doubt as to whether your relationship is "really" abusive, seek professional help. Ask yourself, Who Would Jesus (or your personal deity) Abuse?
Guest post by Caroline Abbott.
I was married to my abusive husband for 20 years. Before we were married, there were signs he might become abusive one day, but I missed them:
- He always blamed others for his mistakes.
- He wouldn’t speak to people if he was angry with them. It was always the other person’s job to make up with him.
- He had a volatile temper. For example, he would throw his golf clubs at the trees if he made a bad shot on the golf course.
The first 5 years of our marriage were good. The next 5 years not as good. The next 5 years were becoming abusive. The next 4 were very abusive, and the last year was hell on earth. However, I was determined to never be divorced for two reasons:
- I came from a divorced family, and I knew the pain of being a part of a broken family.
- I am a strong Christian, and I took my marriage vows very seriously. I wanted to honor the Lord, and do what I thought was right in His eyes.
It took me a long time to realize I was being abused, since I wasn’t being beaten. My ex-husband's favorite tool was the "silent treatment." Whenever he was angry at me, he would stop talking to me, and pretend I didn’t exist. He also used psychological, economic and verbal abuse on me.
I would try everything I could to figure out what I did to make him angry. I did whatever I could to keep the peace. I ended up “walking on eggshells,” changing my life around so that he wouldn’t be mad at something I did or said, or something I didn’t do or say.
Then, he hit me with a belt one day. I went to our church, and asked them for help. He was FURIOUS! He was so embarrassed that I had “lied” about what he had been doing (his words). He never forgave me for that. I insisted he go to counseling with me. I didn’t know at the time that an abused woman should never go to joint counseling with her abuser. This made things worse. The counselor (who did not understand domestic violence) told me to explain to my husband the things he was doing that were hurting me. This gave my husband more ammunition to hurt me. The counseling sessions made me unsafe.
Once the pastors at our church knew what was happening, my husband never hit me again, but he did trap me on the floor, lock me outside my house, yank covers off me while I slept, and told me he wanted me to die one day when I went out in my car. The next day, he asked me very calmly, "How does it feel to know I want you to die?" I realized later that all these things are considered physical abuse.
Even then, I wasn't fully aware I was being abused until he told me one day to tell our children he had never abused me. Something in me balked at this. I couldn't do it. It would be a lie, and it would be telling my kids that it was ok for my husband to treat me this way, and it was NOT OK!
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After that, I decided to leave him. Within 6 weeks I had gone to my local women's shelter for counseling, found a lawyer, and gotten a restraining order, kicking my husband out of the house.
That was seven years ago. I have received a lot of individual counseling and have joined support groups for victims of domestic violence. With the help of the Lord, I consider myself mostly healed. I am remarried, and my new husband is very loving and supportive. Every now and then I feel the affects of my past abuse if my husband is upset with me, but we work through it. I am not ashamed of my experiences, and will tell people about it; though I don’t go around announcing it to everyone I meet.
My advice to someone who is being abused is to get educated about domestic violence, and get help. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233).
Also, I have a website to help other Christian women. Find it at www.carolineabbott.com.
National Domestic Violence Hotline - 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) TTY- 1-800-787-3224
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (includes downloadable guides for helping women in abusive relationships)
RAINN - Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network 1.800.656.HOPE
National Alliance on Mental Illness, aka NAMI
National Clearinghouse on Family Violence - you will need to opt for English or French
Women's Aid - 0808 2000 247
Australia & New Zealand:
Domestic Violence Information Manual - phone numbers vary by territory
For Male Victims:
Why Men Stay in Abusive Relationships
Please join me in thanking Caroline for her story.
If you'd like to share yours, there's still time.
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