is this abuse

It Can’t Happen to Me

I am quite simply the poster child for “This Can’t Happen to Me.”  I was raised in a stable Christian home.  My mom and dad just recently celebrated 50 years of marriage.  Both of my parents were raised in loving Christian homes, and so on and so forth for generations.  I am the baby of the family, the only girl.  I have two older brothers.  One was my partner in crime, while the other was more like a father figure.  In high school, I was the president of the debate team and floor captain of the volleyball team.  I was in all honors courses and got pretty much straight A’s.

Can you see the picture of the perfect middle class upbringing?  Of course, my childhood was far from perfect, but it definitely doesn’t fit most people’s picture of where an abuse victim would come from.  Yet, it did happen to me.

In college, I began dating a Christian guy, from a good Christian home.  After just two dates he wanted a commitment.  It was every girl’s dream, right?!  He was so attentive and made an effort to listen to the music I liked, study with me, take me dancing, and hang out with my friends.  We spent every possible free moment together.  When he felt we didn’t get to spend enough time together between school and both of us having part time jobs, I quit my job.  He kept his.  We’d see another girl walking down the street, and he’d suggest I wear an outfit like hers.  Suddenly he didn’t like to dance, and he didn’t like me dancing with anyone else.  I stopped going to the places I had gone before I met him.  I spent less and less time with my friends.

Over time things escalated even more.  My internal warning bells would start to go off.  But he said he loved me, so I would ignore them.  No one had ever paid this much attention to me before.  I was caught between feeling loved by him and being suffocated by him.  I desperately wanted him to love me, and I found myself willing to do what I had to do to keep him loving me.

The name calling got worse.  He called me things I wouldn’t call my worst enemy.  He constantly insisted that I wasn’t a normal girl.  A normal girl would do this or that, especially if it related to sex.  When he’d get extremely frustrated, he’d put his fist through the wall.  His jealousy became all consuming.

After 2 years of dating, he asked me to marry him, and I said yes.  A year later, we were married.  A month later, he hit me for the first time.

It didn’t matter that I had come from a Christian home or not.  It didn’t matter whether I came from a stable home environment or not.  It didn’t matter that I came from a middle class family in a good community or not.  It still happened to me.  It didn’t matter that I managed to complete 2 Bachelor’s degrees and a Master’s degree.  It didn’t matter that I was the bread winner for our family.  It didn’t matter that we had the perfect house in the perfect suburban neighborhood and 2 kids.  It still happened to me.

It happened to me because I did not know any better.  Dating violence was not something that happened to someone like me.  If it didn’t happen to girls like me, then why should I be aware of it?  Why should I know what the warning signs were?  Why should I be taught what constituted a healthy relationship versus an unhealthy one?  I went to Sunday school.  I went to youth group every Sunday.  Didn’t I understand just how much God loved me?  Didn’t I find myself worthy of that love?  Why would I let someone abuse me if I did?

If I had known all of these things, this wouldn’t have happened to me. 

Since they heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head. If they had heeded the warning, they would have saved themselves.

Ezekiel 33:5

Hindsight is truly 20/20.  So let me give you the benefit of my 20/20 vision.  You do need to worry about dating violence.  Intimate partner violence can affect you, your child, your friend, your neighbor or your parent.

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They cried out to the Lord, and He saved them…

This past weekend, I had the honor of presenting two workshops on God’s Design for Healthy Relationships at the Ignite Shout youth conference in Des Moines, Iowa.  Encouraged by my story, one by one, others came forward and shared their stories with me.  One of those brave enough to step into the light shared the following story with me.

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I am the oldest of four kids. My family home life was awesome.  My mom and dad didn’t have a lot, but we had a great family.  Mom and dad were always in love and showing us how love should be.  We never, ever saw them fight, just love each other. It was great.

But there was always tension between my mom and I.  I was the result of a teen pregnancy.  My parents married a week after graduating high school.  Maybe my mom felt that I had taken away her youth.

I was always happy as a child, always smiling – you would never see me sad.  But when it came to boys – I was scared to death.  I dated in high school but was a “goody”.  Out of all the boys I dated in high school, I only kissed one.  I remember in high school I said “I would never get a divorce”.  I have now been divorced 3 times.  It kills me to even see that number. It leaves a huge pit in my stomach.  Here is my story..

After my first kiss broke my heart in college, I met husband number 1.  It was destined to be a disaster from the very start.  He was the first person that I gave myself to.  Even then I wasn’t sure if he was the one I should marry, we graduated from college and got engaged on my 20th birthday.

The day after we were married a letter came in the mail for him from a woman that he had been seeing – I had NO IDEA!!!! My stomach was just in knots, but I kept smiling and looking to God for help. I got pregnant about 4 months into marriage.  After I miscarried, I got pregnant again immediately.  When my daughter was born, he and his mother bought boy clothes and boy diapers.  He already knew we had a girl, but really wanted a boy. The first few months of my daughter’s life were hell.  She and I slept on the couch because he didn’t want her to hear her screaming.  She was born in January, and he was gone by August.  Despite having left us, he continued to insert himself in our lives.  He would threaten me, sometimes with a gun.  He hit me, just for trying to clean out his closet.  Over the years, he quit coming around, and my daughter refuses to have contact with him.

I knew my second husband for a few years before we started dating.  He moved in right away.  I didn’t ask him to, he just did.  I really loved him.  We were married for 8 years, and had 2 children. He was a military guy.  The first years were pretty good, but we frequently fought about money.  When I was pregnant with my second daughter, he needed help becoming aroused as he wasn’t attracted to me.  He turned to pornography.  As the years went by, he withdrew further from me and more and more “magazines” showed up.  Eventually, I discovered other women’s phone numbers and naked pictures.  He would frequent strip clubs with his buddies.  I felt so dirty.   That year for Valentines Day, he bought me porn.  I turned to God for refuge.  I started spending a lot of time at my church.  I would just go there and play the piano for hours.  However, I began to doubt God during this time as my second marriage was falling apart.  I yelled at God.  But he stayed with me, and I continued to pray.

While I was still married to my second husband, I met husband number 3 while out with a friend.  He pursued me against my wishes and despite knowing I was married.  It felt good to have someone want me.  I filed for divorce and started seeing him.  I felt so low for moving so fast into a relationship with him, but I felt as though I had too. After a few months, my kids and I moved in with him.  We were married a year later after I became pregnant.  I miscarried the day before the wedding.  He was good to me and the kids at first, although we fought constantly.  I got pregnant again.  The day I had my fourth child, he said I needed to get pregnant again.  I said no.  My doctor said no. He kept after me.

That year I lost my job due to cuts at the company.  He was angry at me for losing my job, and everything started to turn bad, really, really bad.  The kids and I started attending church again even though he hated it.  I loved it and so did the kids.  I felt God’s presence every time I walked through the doors.  I started playing the piano and then started singing.  I spent a lot of time in church. But things at home just got worse.  He constantly criticized and belittled me.  I continued to take it.  I thought that I deserved it.  When I started working with the youth group, he would accuse me of having an affair.  Then he began accusing me of having affairs with every guy I saw or ever talked about.  He called me a preacher woman that was a hypocrite. I started to believe it.  I hated myself so much.

He started abusing the children.  He took their Christmas presents and broke each one in front of them.  He broke so many things.  He would be remorseful but find a way to put the blame on me. We were married 12 years.  The kids were afraid of him.  Anything that brought me happiness he tried to ruin, and when that didn’t work, he would try and hurt them. When my oldest daughter graduated from high school, she informed me she had saved up $2000 for us to leave.  She had started saving when she was 16, by working 3 jobs.  And yet I stayed.  I didn’t want to fail another marriage.

I eventually hit bottom and I lay down on the floor of my church and cried out for God to help me.  My husband always reminded me he had a gun, so I hid it and the shells leaving only the case and left.  My last straw was watching him hold my son against the wall by placing his hands around my son’s throat.

We moved out the week of Easter, into a one bedroom across the street from the church.  I felt safe for the first time.  When the kids fell asleep I would run across the street and pray – for love – for peace – for happiness.

I have since found and married my best friend.  Our kids, all six of them, love each other like they were all meant to be brothers and sisters.  We will have been married a year in April.  He is a man of faith, a man who loves God before his family and me.  We pray together, worship together, and the day we were married, the whole world felt like it was at peace.  I know that God is blessing me.

I try hard to look at my past, but it burns my eyes.  I have to remember that it is part of what has shaped me into the woman that I have become. I know that God has amazing plans for me and for my husband. We are both led to help serve.  I want my story to help others.  I want to use my voice to make a difference.

Then they cried out to the Lord because of their problems.
And he saved them from their troubles.
He brought them out of the deepest darkness.
He broke their chains off.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his faithful love.
Let them give thanks for the miracles he does for his people.

Psalm 107:13-15 (NIRV)

Your Wife is Abusive

To Anonymous,

Your wife is abusive.  There is not a doubt in my mind.   She might not deliver cuts or bruises (or maybe she does), but the injuries she inflicts do leave scars.

I do not know what it is like to be a man living with an abusive wife.  But I do know what it is like to live with an abuser.  I do know the effect it can have on you and especially on your children.  I know the feelings of confusion, of hurt and despair.  I know what it is like to constantly have to walk on egg shells, afraid that something you might say or do or even not say or do could set them off.  I know what it’s like to question your own sanity; to question or even believe that you are truly at fault; to wish you could just do exactly what they expect of you so that you can make them happy.  I know the fear of what they might say or do to your children.  You hold your breath or even get angry with your children when they do something that you know might set your spouse off.

I know it goes against all social norms.  I can imagine how it might make you feel to admit that you are being abused by your wife.  I am an extremely successful independent woman who made twice as much as my husband, was raised in a Christian household with parents who are still together and have no history of domestic abuse… and I yet still allowed it to happen to me.  You are not alone.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you feel afraid of your wifes reaction so much so that you cannot discuss whatever is bothering you?
  2. Does she frequently humiliate you, criticize you or undermine your self- esteem?
  3. Does she try to isolate you from friends and family?
  4. Has she stolen from you (or your children) or run you into debt?
  5. Does your relationship swing from extremes of distance and closeness, as manipulated by her?  Such as walking out one day followed by weekends away the next?
  6. Has she damaged or destroyed anything that belongs to you (or other members or your family)?
  7. Do you feel that she controls your life?
  8. Does she act possessive and accuse you of being unfaithful and involved in affairs?
  9. Does she belittle your ideas, thoughts and feelings?
  10. Is any emotional response to her behavior unacceptable?
  11. Do you have to account to her every moment of your time?
  12. Do you have to account for every penny you spend?
  13. Does she threaten or intimidate you to win an argument?
  14. Does she blame you for every problem, even her behaviour towards you?
  15. Does she regularly threaten to leave you or the kids?
  16. Does she make you feel that you are alone and unwanted?
  17. Does she ridicule or insult your beliefs, gender, sexuality or ability?
  18. Does she withdraw approval, appreciation and affection to you or your children?
  19. Does she call you names and shout at you in public? Does she humiliate you in private or in public?
  20. Does she manipulate you with lies and high drama?
  21. Does she manipulate your sexual relationship based on her moods? Seeks sex to make up after an argument?
  22. In sum, she generally makes you feel that you are not good for anything, unwanted, and  a burden to everyone.

This list is the same list applied to help a woman realize she is being emotionally abused by a man.  I just changed all the he’s to she’s.  You don’t have to answer yes to every question either.

When most people think of domestic abuse, they picture a woman who has been physically assaulted. But not all abusive relationships involve violence. Just because you’re not battered and bruised doesn’t mean you’re not being abused.  You may think that physical abuse is far worse than emotional abuse, since physical violence can send you to the hospital and leave you with scars.  But, the scars of emotional abuse are very real, and they run deep.  In fact, emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse—sometimes even more so, especially on a child.  Verbal and psychological wounds leave a child forever changed.

  • Emotional abuse attacks a child’s self-concept. The child comes to see him or herself as unworthy of love and affection.
  • Children who witness abuse in relationships or emotional spousal abuse demonstrate higher rates of physical aggressiveness, delinquency and interpersonal problems than other children.
  • The consequences of emotional abuse on a child can be serious and long-term.
    • Emotionally abused children may experience a lifelong pattern of depression, estrangement, anxiety, low self-esteem, inappropriate or troubled relationships, or a lack of empathy.
    • As teenagers, they find it difficult to trust, participate in and achieve happiness in relationships, and resolve the complex feelings left over from their childhoods.
    • As adults, they may have trouble recognizing and appreciating the needs and feelings of their own children and emotionally abuse them as well.
  • Emotional abuse can result in serious psychological and/or behavioral problems. These include depression, lack of attachment or emotional bond to a parent or guardian, low cognitive ability and educational achievement and poor social skills.

You do not have to live this way.   No one should have to live this way.  You have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.  Her behavior is not your fault.  Nothing you have done results in her abusive actions.  You can not fix her.  I know you have tried.  Only she can make the change, and it will take more than talking to a counselor a few times.

By staying in the relationship in its current state you are enabling her abusive behavior, while continuing to put yourself and your chidren at risk.

Love,

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Sleep Deprivation

While we were married, my husband wanted to live 100% by the rule “don’t let the sun go down on your anger”.  If I begged him for sleep, he would accuse me of loving sleep more than him.  He found it as an attack on him if I asked to stop arguing so I could sleep.

Night time was absolutely the worst time of day.  I was terrified to go to bed.  In the end I would do almost everything I could to avoid entering the bedroom.  It always started with some expectation of sex or some sexual favor.  If he was not “satisfied” and sometimes even if he was, the torment would continue throughout the night.  On average, 2 nights a week he would keep me awake until the wee hours of the morning.

On nights I would fall asleep before him, he would wake me up.  He would slam his hand down on the bed, jarring me awake.  Some times he would accuse me of doing things to myself (think touching myself).  Other times he would accuse me of cheating on him, because he’d just dreamt that I had.  I learned to not move.  I learned to barely breathe.  I could lie like that for hours waiting to be sure he was truly asleep.

 He came home late from hanging out at the bar with his friends and was disgusted that I was reading a book.  He had clearly drunk more than usual and lashed out immediately.  Upon entering the bedroom he blurted out a very profane comment towards me, which in turn set off a whole chain of unpleasant events.  He lay down to go to sleep, but was soon unsatisfied with the situation and got back up.  He picked up the humidifier and threw it across the room, smashing it against the wall.  He then stormed out, slamming the door.  I didn’t move.  I barely even took a breath.  I continued to lie frozen in fear.

A while later he came back into the room and ripped the covers off of me, proceeding to throw them onto the floor to soak up the water from the humidifier he had smashed.  He left again.  Terrified I remained frozen.  Another block of time elapsed before he once again returned.  He laid my wedding rings on the bed next to me.  His special way of letting me know I had forgotten to put them on before bed.  Then he was gone again.

I have no idea how long I remained frozen, afraid to move even a muscle.  Eventually I found my courage and quietly slipped out of bed to make sure he was asleep.  I hung up the drenched duvet, got towels to mop up the rest of the water, found a blanket, and finally settled in to try and get some sleep.

In the morning it was as if nothing had ever happened.

 I was not even aware I was being abused by being kept awake at night.  It took me months of counseling before I ever understood that sleep deprivation was a form of abuse.  An often easily dismissed form of abuse, I now clearly see it as a very effective form of torture.  In fact in most states consider purposeful, repeated, and unnecessary sleep deprivation to be a form of physical abuse.  The United Nations defines sleep deprivation as torture.  “The forced deprivation of someone’s necessary amount of sleep has been used in the interrogation of terrorist suspects to make them more amenable to providing information or confessions.”1

The effects of consistent loss of sleep are severe and can make it harder for someone to free themselves from the cycle of abuse.  WebMD reports that the lack of sleep has 10 surprising effects2:

  1. It causes accidents.
  2. It impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving.
  3. It can lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes,
  4. It kills your sex drive.
  5. It can contribute to the symptoms of depression.
  6. It ages your skin.
  7. It makes you forgetful.
  8. It can make you gain weight.
  9. It may increase risk of death.
  10. It impairs judgment.

Yet as a society we find it much easier to protest the use of sleep deprivation as an interrogation tactic by the US military, than to acknowledge the abuse happening in our own neighborhoods.  It’s time we opened our eyes to the reality that the same tactics we so readily abhor, when brought to light by the main stream media, are in fact being carried out in bedrooms across the world.

Sources:

  1. http://terrorism.about.com/od/s/g/SleepDeprive.htm
  2. http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/excessive-sleepiness-10/10-surprising-results

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