A look into the life of an abused woman

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The life of an abused woman

Psalms 34: 18, The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

The life of an abused woman is one I know too well. My father was abusive as was my husband. I saw what it did to my mother; I know what it did to me and my children. For most of my marriage, I, like many abused women, kept the abuse to myself. I was afraid of my husband, and I feared what would happen should he be confronted.

When I finally tried to find help, there was little to be found. Over the last decade we were together, I sought help through seven different churches (as he moved us from place to place with frequency). When I reached out to my pastors, my story was questioned with no effort to verify it, I was told “call the police if you want to go somewhere” (for we had no car), told to respect him more, be more obedient, and “it probably isn’t as bad as you think it is.” One pastor said, “If you are telling the truth, your life is a crazy mixed up mess.”

Yes, it was and that’s why I needed help. I had no family, no friends to reach out to. No one except God’s people.

As an abused woman, I begged pastors to help me to know how to help my children, for counsel for me and them, for advice, for mentoring for my sons. So many times I pleaded for my elders or pastors to simply give me advice, to help me to know how to honor my husband. How was I to respond? What was I supposed to do to ever make things better? I wanted to know how to honor God in the fiery trenches we lived in. I made it clear that I wasn’t asking for money. None of that mattered.

Some pastors refused to meet with me unless my husband would meet with them, too. Because he refused–he always refused–they wouldn’t meet with me. Some listened, told me they were sorry, but still refused to counsel me or offer me guidance. I was told on multiple occasions, “I can’t help you.” One pastor threw me out of his office when I went to him for counsel. Another repeatedly told me “I won’t leave you as orphans” but did just that; I’d plead for guidance, he’d say, “Let me pray about it and get back to you”–again and again. He never got back to me. I’d ask again. Nothing.

My efforts to seek help always ended with silence.

With the exception of one, all of these were Reformed pastors.

A bad marriage isn’t the same as an abusive one

There’s a world of difference between a bad marriage and an abusive marriage. A bad marriage is the fault of the husband and wife not doing their duty to God and one another. I’m not a man-basher; in fact, I fully embrace biblical patriarchy. But, like my husband did, some husbands do abuse their position and authority. My husband’s definition of leadership was, “I get to tell you and the children what to do and you have to do it, no matter what it is.” Sometimes his demands were sinful. He admitted to me that he’d never put me or our children above himself. In his life, and in ours, he always came first in everything. This isn’t biblical patriarchy.

Domestic abuse isn’t cookie cutter in its definition. There are different kinds of abuse. All domestic abuse begins with emotional abuse. When dealing with an abuser, the lies, the accusations, the gaslighting, the cruelties are varied, many, and constant. In my family, the abuse was varied and frequent. My husband was porn addicted, a liar (who lied to me, my children about me, and to everyone around him), and financially destructive and negligent (we did without so much that we needed by his design). He cursed and called us names, was physically abusive, intimidated and humiliated us, and so much more.

A peek inside the life of an abused woman

What follows is a peek inside the life of an abused woman. I’m not trying to throw domestic abuse in your face, make it a primary issue for churches to address, or tell you what to do. I am simply trying to share a glimpse into the life of an abused woman.

The life of an abused woman is harder, more painful, more chaotic, than those who haven’t walked in these shoes might imagine. I have walked in the shoes. I was married to an abuser for over 30 years.

Helping an abused woman is really no different from helping others in need. There’s things every church, no matter the size, can do to help. Helping an abused woman begins with caring enough to listen to her, pray for her, verify her story as needed, and then the willingness to offer biblical and practical guidance and help.

Feminism and domestic abuse

I find my identity in Christ, not in being an abused woman. Moreover, I am well aware of the lies of feminism as it relates to domestic abuse. Not for a minute, do I believe that one in four women have been abused. Most men are not and will not be abusers. The DV data feminists like to spout serve the cause of feminism. We must never forget that. But just because feminists lie doesn’t mean that domestic abuse is real.

Domestic abuse is real. It is terrifying. The life of an abused woman is a horrific life for a wife and mother to live.

Seeing your children suffer is one of the hardest things about being abused.

The life of an abused woman

Galatians 6: 2, Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

An abused woman gets up in the morning, full of apprehension. Last night she was cursed, blamed, and made to pay for things that had upset him. She’s exhausted and sore. It’s Sunday morning and she has so much to do to get ready for church and for the afternoon following. If she does anything the wrong way, at the wrong time, or if she fails to do something that she ought to have done…she afraid to consider the consequences.

Her life is full of chaos and fear is her constant companion.

Her pastor listened when she reached out to him for help. Then he shook his head and told her to search her own heart, make sure her motives are pleasing to God. “It’s probably not as bad as you think it is. He’s a good man. Maybe you just need to love him more,” he said. “Try to be a better wife. If you obey him better, things will get better.”

She’s tried. Her Bible is underlined and highlighted. She’s read marriage books. So many times, she has asked her husband how she please him more. No matter how hard she tries, no matter what she does, her husband tells her she’s not submissive enough, that’s she’s lazy, and selfish. He tells her God is unhappy with her.

Daily she searches her Bible to see where she’s failing. If only she could do better, be more, if only she could be perfect maybe her husband would be pleased with her.

She hurries to get her children ready for church. Serving breakfast, finding lost shoes, dressing wiggling little ones, combing hair, washing faces, gathering supplies, and cleaning up, are her jobs. They are always her jobs, even on those occasions he goes with them. Today isn’t one of those days.

Last night, he was out late. There were places he wanted to go. Friends he wanted to be with. Things he wanted to do. He came in late, exhausted, and agitated. Cursing, he told her he wasn’t about to go to “that place” tomorrow. Then he punished her for asking him.

Rushing to get ready, her head starts to throb. If she can just do this quietly enough, maybe her husband won’t wake up. If he does, things will not go well. She used to be a woman with joy; now she’s just a woman who endures. Often she doesn’t feel as if she can manage much longer.

Getting to church with moments to spare, she dries her eyes and leads her children in. She prays to focus on the Lord. She longs to worship with joy but she fears what awaits her at home. As the service draws out, her mind strays…What if she is late getting home? Will her husband be angry? If she doesn’t get his lunch on time, or if she fails to please him in some way, will things once again escalate? What if the children are too loud and disturb him? That always causes him to explode. What if…?

There are always so many “What if’s?”

Asking God to forgive her wondering mind, she refocuses. She worships, prays, and sings. She wishes this service could never end. She fears it going on too long.

The final prayer is prayed. Fearful of making eye contact, she gathers her children and rushes out. She tells her little ones, “We don’t have time for you to play, we’ve got to get home.” Heads down, they follow along.

Her husband is scowling as she walks in the door. With sinking heart, she sends the children to their room. Wanting to eat, they start to fuss. “Please, I’ll be right with you.” She knows it’s a lie. Her husband comes first, demands to come first. He always, always, comes first even when the family suffers because of it. As she works, her pounding head echoes the rapid ratcheting of her heart.

Her husband is finally settled. As she feeds her children and shushes them, she talks to God. She begs Him for help to be a more godly wife. She begs Him to change her husband. To change her. Begs Him for forgiveness for ever doubting Him. Begs for things to change. For a moment, hope rises. Maybe there can be a better day…someday.

Someday is not today. Her husband screams at her son, calling him stupid. Reality rushes in. This life, right here, just like this, may be all there ever is. She rushes to try to sooth her son, calm her husband. He turns on her, anger in his eyes.

That night, once again, she goes to bed alone in the wee morning hours. Her husband’s raging faces looms before her in her mind. Her children’s questions ring in her ears: Why does Daddy yell? Call us names? Hit you? Why doesn’t he like us? She has no answers.

She refuses to call herself an abused woman. Her husband just has an anger problem. She’s not enough, never is good enough. It’s probably all her fault. He tells her so on a near daily basis. She is so utterly tired of never being enough. Not for her children. Never for her husband. There’s just not enough of her to ever be enough. If only she weren’t who she is, if she could be more, maybe things would be alright.

As she drifts off to sleep, she justifies her husband’s actions. She blames herself that things got out of hand. She really shouldn’t set him off. She really ought to try harder. That’s what her husband always tells her, no matter how hard she tries. She just doesn’t know how.

His words of condemnation play in her thoughts. His threats loom heavy. She falls asleep praying for a better day tomorrow.

She gets up the next morning, full of apprehension just like all the days before.

Loving the abused woman

I don’t believe in the Social Gospel. I am not and will never be part of the crowd who holds up social justice as the main point of Scripture; it isn’t. However, God does call us to love our neighbor as ourselves. I walked the road of an abused woman for over three decades. My mother was also an abused woman. Finding help in the church was nigh impossible and that shouldn’t have been the case. However, I also know the way feminists have lied about men, how feminized the church is, and the dangers of upholding women to the point that it almost seems that, in some folk’s eyes, women cannot sin. There’s got to be a balance.

Truth is important. Reclaiming patriarchy is important. But so is helping women like me in dangerous marriages who seek help without ever finding it.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

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