The following are all true stories:
You see her in church every week. She is beautiful but quiet, reserved really. She gently directs her 2 children with a soft voice and a small smile. She always grabs your attention. There is something about her. You’ve tried to get to know her but she is an enigma always holding herself at arms reach. You only see her at church. She rarely attends any other functions and she is never without her children. She must be such a dedicated mom. Her husband is an elder. He is always involved in everything. He is such a great leader. He must be an amazing husband. He has a well paying job, drives a new car, you’ve even heard that he pays twice as much tithe as he needs to. She is so blessed to have such a put together successful family. She rarely smiles. You’ve never seen a real genuine, happy smile from her come to think of it. Something seems odd, out of place, but you can’t place it. Oh well, she’s entitled to live her life alone if that’s what she chooses to do. She’s so focused on her family, she probably doesn’t need or want friends. What you don’t see is that every day he verbally assaults her. She isn’t allowed to go to church or community functions. She isn’t allowed to go anywhere without her children. She is isolated. Away from family and not able to have friends. She struggles every single day to keep going. She is so lonely, so beaten down.
It wasn’t always this way. The abuse started so slowly and she had no idea. She has already left once and had to come back because she had no way to work and raise kids. He wouldn’t pay child support. He made her pay him for the car she took. He said he changed, that he found Jesus. She was told that her kids needed their father, that she needed to pray more; submit more. It was up to her to figure out what triggers him and not make him mad. She just wanted her family to be complete and happy.
Last week, he wouldn’t let her go the ER after breaking her finger. He only recently started hitting her, pushing her, throwing things at her. 15 years of marriage and she feels lost and totally confused. He regularly leaves her without any access to money, no cash, no checks, no credit card. He checks her spending everyday. He keeps her on a tight budget when she is allowed to shop and then dresses her down verbally for buying things he didn’t approve on the list. He rapes her. She lays there for hours waiting for it all to be over. Staring at the clock, counting the minutes. Its getting worse every day and she’s making her plans to leave. Nobody knows, it’s too dangerous to tell anyone. The excuses he makes when she does go, are all lies. Are you going to believe him?
They attend church regularly, rarely missing a week and only if someone is sick. She holds her head high, but never really looks you in the eyes. If you strike up a conversation with her alone, her husband will quickly join in and take over the conversation as she fades into the background. He is rarely away from her side and you think “that’s awesome how in love they are”. She’s involved in the church, maybe leading worship service, maybe teaching children’s classes but if you need her to attend meetings outside of weekly church attendance, she hesitates unless she can bring her children. You want to get to know her and invite her to special events or for coffee but she always makes an excuse why she can’t come and eventually you give up on her, thinking she’s too much work to get to know. She always has a smile on her face, though it rarely reaches her eyes but she almost never laughs. While her husband isn’t very involved in church, independently of her activities, he seems very knowledgeable. He appears very dedicated to God and the church and looks like an ideal Christian, supporting her ministries. You think she spends too much time with her children and she should make time to get out by herself, after all her husband can take care of the children for a little while, can’t he? You don’t realize he won’t, despite what he says. You judge her for not trusting him enough.
What you don’t see: he hits the kids when she’s not around, sometimes even when she’s just in the other room. He hasn’t hit her yet, but he’s putting holes in the walls and broke his own hand on the car when he was mad at her. She left once, but was counseled to forgive him because ‘God hates divorce’. She’s not willing to wait until he hits her, so she’s getting ready to leave… will the verbal abuse be enough of a reason for church members to support her?
She’s the life of the party. People are drawn to her laughter, her smile. She’s always welcoming and reaches out to anyone new or shy. She’s naturally charismatic and makes friends easily, yet only has a few in her close circle. She’s a dedicated mother, helping her children maneuver through life. She’s a mama-bear if you endanger her family! She is close to her in-laws, almost closer than to her own family. She encourages her husband’s pursuits, works to support him during down economic times, accepts his “ribbing” with grace and good nature. She takes care of the family, doing all the ‘typical’ woman’s work at home – cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping, gardening. She always seems to have energy. She’s appears strong and confident.
What you don’t see: He’s destroying her from the inside out. His “jokes” lost their humor years ago. He never helps out at home and is frequently out of work. He gets to go out and have fun while she bears the responsibility of home and children. He thinks he owns her and any independence is criticized. He is jealous of her outgoing nature and accuses her of having affairs or flirting when she’s working in customer service jobs. She tries not to talk to anyone when he’s around. She tried leaving but he told his friend that “if he can’t have her; no one will” so she had to go back to be safe. Although he’s never hit her, never pushed her she’s scared. She doesn’t know and you don’t recognize that one day he’s going to kill her.
You see her at church almost weekly with the kids and occasionally with her husband. When he is in attendance, he is the center of attention and often holding the youngest child. He is friends with the Pastor. When it comes time to build the new church building he is on the building committee and donates materials, labor and volunteers to do work needed. He even offers housing for other volunteers who come from other places and organizes a big BBQ for all the volunteers at the family home. You think how lucky she is to have such an involved family and church man. When you go to their large home, you find it beautiful and immaculately clean and organized. You think Wow this woman really has it together! She has a nice car and expensive jewelry. Her husband must really adore and love her. She is a homeroom mom at the school, substitutes teaches, and during the summer works at the local golf course and during tax season at H&R Block. You think she sure has a lot of energy and really handles things well. You wish you could be like her. She seems to be so talented and happy and have a magical life. She always has a smile and the kids with her. But you notice, she is always alone and doesn’t seem to do activities with other people much. She is friendly but you know very little about her or the family.
What you don’t know is that she is almost 2,000 miles from any family or friends and doesn’t know anyone here. That every time she and the kids get to know people and form a social circle, he decides they need to pack up and move. She is exhausted from all the work of caring for the children, house, working and keeping up appearances of the perfect family.
Yes, they have a home phone but it is one that he can remotely monitor all the incoming and out calling phone #’s. She isn’t allowed to call her family. If she does, he interrogates her for hours and keeps her isolated away from the kids and she is afraid for them.
The car is not one she picked out (it was one he wanted) and it has a tracking device on it so he always knows where she is. He has her followed wherever she goes, especially when he is out of town. He wants her working at the golf course not only for the money she makes but so he and his friends can golf for free, as that is one of her benefits. He demands that she works but that the kids cannot be left with anyone. Yet he is rarely home, as he “travels” for work. She tries to get jobs that she can do when kids are at school or at the school. But if that job doesn’t meet with his approval he demands she quit and get another one. If she refuses, he does everything in his power to get her to loose said job (except the golf course). He calls or comes in causing problems.
At home, he demands that the house be immaculate, if it isn’t she gets “punished” and he will threaten her with harm to the children if she doesn’t obey. She lives with constant threats and demands. Even if he is not physically present. He has the older children (his from a previous marriage) spy on her and report to him on her activities. She can’t relax or enjoy life. He accuses her of sleeping with any man that comes across her path. They have never lived in a house that doesn’t have a hole in the wall or cabinet doors broken from his violent acts. He has trapped her in rooms by blocking the door saying she will get out when he is good and ready. He has hit the phone out of her hand and thrown her across the room. And all those expensive gifts, those are payments from when he feels a little remorse for the violence or infidelities he has transgressed. She wants to leave but has no financial means to do so and the way her every move is monitored it also is not safe for her. She fears for her children as he has threatened her with taking them away if she ever tries to leave. So she stays, praying God will provide a way of escape.
Are you concerned that someone you care about is experiencing abuse? Maybe you’ve noticed some warning signs, including:
- Their partner puts them down in front of other people
- They are constantly worried about making their partner angry
- They make excuses for their partner’s behavior
- Their partner is extremely jealous or possessive
- They have unexplained marks or injuries
- They’ve stopped spending time with friends and family
- They are depressed or anxious, or you notice changes in their personality
- They become fearful when asked to make decisions without checking with their partner
- They seem more and more isolated
- They make comments about ‘rules’ or expectations that seem unreasonable or ‘off’
If you think that someone you know might be abused here are some things you can do to help them.
- Let your friend know you’re concerned about her safety. …
- Tell them “I believe you”
- Be supportive. …
- Offer specific help. …
- Offer the number to the local women’s shelter or DV hotline
- Be careful not to place shame, blame, or guilt on your friend. … ie. don’t say “what did you do to make him mad?” or “God hates divorce”
- Help her make a safety plan or connect her with someone who can
- Encourage your friend to talk to someone who can help.
- BELIEVE HER!