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Rose Saad

Liz Brody’s article, “Why Women Stay in Abusive Relationships,” in http://www.glamour.com, compiled data from an online survey of 2,500 women ages 18-35. According to this survey, the number one reason why these women stayed in their abusive relationships was love. I believe most people marry because of love. Love is the glue that holds a relationship together.

Love allows us to see the good in others, despite their flaws. It gives us faith in them. It enables us to envision their full potential, to look beyond the gloomy present and see the shiny future. Most importantly, love keeps hope alive. Hope for change. Hope for a better tomorrow.

I married out of love. When I met my Xavier, I saw his ability to make his dream come true. I could relate to his dreams and plans. As a team, I believed that we would fulfill those dreams together. I had faith in him even when I saw his flaws. I believed that he could change.

He behaved in ways that looked an awful lot like love. For example, he bought me gifts and flowers, took me to dinner, and attended to my physical needs. All these actions “proved” that he loved me.

Then, when the abuse began to worm its way into the relationship, my view of love became skewed. How could he say he loved me when his actions showed otherwise? How could he whisper sweet words of love to me one moment, and then a few hours later belittle and degrade me? Even though I couldn’t make sense of his behaviors, I still needed to be loved by him. Therefore, I made it my responsibility to make him so happy that he could feel loved enough to love me back.

When that didn’t happen, I internalized that I wasn’t good enough. There was something wrong with me. Or maybe I wasn’t smart enough to know his needs. But to arrive at this kind of thinking, I had to discard my own belief of love and accept his version.

To accept his abuse and still believe that he loved me was incredibly dysfunctional. I wish I knew then what I know now: I had embraced a sick view of love from a person who did not know what healthy love was, let alone how to give it. I wish I also knew that he wasn’t the giver of the love that I needed to nourish my well-being.

My definition of love wasn’t healthy either. I had come to believe that my happiness and self-worth was the result of another person’s actions towards me. When I left my husband, I had to work on re-learning love, especially self-love. I had to go back to the ultimate giver and source of love, which is God. I had to redefine love and embrace that love in order to heal.

To a Christian, God is the wellspring of love. The bible says God is love. It is he who is the giver of love, not out partners. Let’s see how scripture defines love and compare it to the behaviors seen in our abusive relationships. I will paraphrase the definition of love from 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8. (I will be quoting from my book, A Path to Hope: Restoring the Spirit of the Abused Christian Woman.)

What is love and what is not love?

Love is… patient.

Love allows for your faults without criticizing everything you do. It doesn’t harp on your mistakes to belittle you. It guides you patiently through difficulties by teaching you to overcome your challenges.

Love is… kind.

Love is empathic and compassionate. It produces goodness. It doesn’t make you feel “stupid,” “lazy,” “useless,” “like a failure,” or “unwanted.” It does not ridicule you. It always strives to bring comfort and joy, not fear or pain.

Love is not… jealous.

Love is trusting, not suspicious. It does not spy on you or gather information to use against you. It does not stalk you. Nor does it try to separate you from your friends and family. Love always expects the best and gives you the benefit of the doubt.

Love is not… boastful or proud.

Love is humble. It does not need to be superior or make others feel that they are wrong. Love listens and seeks input. It accepts responsibility rather than seeking blame.

Love is not… rude.

Love is respectful and considerate. It is not aggressive. It does not seek to degrade. Love does not ignore your presence. Love respects you and your needs.

Love does not… demand its own way.

Love thrives on freedom. Where there is love, there is freedom. Love does not demand “my way or the highway”. It is not controlling. It respects your right to make choices, even when they are sometimes wrong. Love accepts and rejoices in the individuality and uniqueness of every one of us.

Love is not… irritable.

Love is self-controlled. It is not easily angered, overly emotional, out of control, and does not experience “fits of rage.” Love is calm and accepts others’ weaknesses and differences.

Love does not… keep a record of wrongs.

Love is forgiving. It does not undermine or erode your confidence by keeping a record of your mistakes. It does not hold grudges. Love moves forward, rather than dwelling on the past.

Love does not… rejoice about injustices.

Love embraces justice. It does not take away your moral and legal rights, which include the right to speak your mind or participate in the decision-making processes, as well as the right to privacy. It does not take away your right to socialize or have your own personal friendships. It does not view its own rights and needs as more important than yours. Love recognizes the value and equality of others.

Love rejoices when truth wins.

Love cannot lie. It never deceives. Love does not keep secrets or twist reality. Rather, it celebrates when the truth is spoken. It does not hide abuse but exposes it. Love is honest and open because it has nothing to hide.

Love never… loses faith.

Love is faithful. It has faith in you and your good character. It has faith in your abilities and accomplishments. Love leads you to believe in yourself.

Love is… always hopeful.

Love has high hopes for the future. It expects improvement and growth. Love seeks ultimate joy and peace for others.

Love endures through every circumstance.

Love does not change with the circumstances. It does not use bad circumstances or outside influences as an excuse for doing wrong or hurting someone. Love endures patiently to achieve what is right.

Love will… last forever.

Love never dies. It does not show itself only when things are going well. It does not disappear during disagreements or conflicts. Love lasts forever.

Form the scriptural definition of love, we can all see that we were not loved in our abusive relationships. Our abusers’ actions did not demonstrate love. To move forward, we have to go to the source of love and embrace God’s love so that we can love ourselves and then love others. When we embrace God’s love, we are empowered to break free from the shackles of abuse.

Paul knew that our inner power is established in understanding God’s love, so he prayed for us in Ephesians 3:16-19: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have the power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Put your hope and trust in God’s love. Let your roots grow deeper in his marvelous love so that you may receive the power that comes only from God. This power will allow you to discard all of your dysfunctional forms of love and to love yourself and others the way he intended.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love” (John 15:9).

Next blog: Understanding Abuse: The Abused Christian Woman

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November 17, 2017 0 comment
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In my last blog, I discussed denial as the most common reason for accepting abuse. In this blog, I will talk about fear as another reason why a woman might stay in an abusive relationship.

Let’s start by looking at what fear does to the body. Fear activates our body’s alarm systems, just like denial. Unlike denial, which blocks us from experiencing the emotions, fear keeps us stuck in “fight or flight” mode. It allows us to live in a frightful state. As a result, we find ourselves trapped with no relief.

Fear robs us of the energy that we need to function. This lack of energy impacts all areas of our lives, such as taking care of our children or doing our job. The strength needed for these tasks is shifted to thoughts of how to stop the violence and be safe. We become preoccupied with seeking ways to protect ourselves and our children.

I remembered being preoccupied with what was happening at home. I spent many hours trying to make sense of my husband’s abusive behavior towards me and to find ways to escape it. His unpredictable moods kept me in a state of anxiety because I didn’t know when to expect an explosion of verbal threats and intimidation. As a result, I found myself physically and mentally exhausted both on the job and while caring for my three children at home.

Fear stops us from seeking help. We feel helpless and believe that we can’t break free. We fear we cannot change our lives, so we stay. This is where your abuser wants you! He wants you to be in a place where you are afraid to seek accountability for his actions and, consequently, where he can have control over you.

There are many types of fears experienced by the abused woman. A common fear is being blamed for the failure of the relationship. The role of the woman, according to society, is to make the relationship work. Because of this assigned role, we blame ourselves for not doing everything we can to create a happy family. This way of thinking is especially true for the religious woman who has a spiritual component that supports this belief. (I will discuss this aspect in future blogs).

Other types of fears are rejection from family, friends, the community, and, especially for those who are religious, their faith community.

For me, the fear of rejection from Xavier’s family kept me staying in the relationship. My mother died when I was nine years old. My mother-in-law had no daughters, and she treated me like her biological daughter. I was afraid that I would lose her and the relationships I had developed within his extended family.

I know of survivors who lost relationships within their own families. The abuser was successful in manipulating family members to believe his version of what was happening in the home. And when they finally parted, friendships that had formed during the marriage were sometimes sundered as a result of his manipulations.

Fear of rejection and judgment from the faith community is enormous, especially for the Christian woman. She fears that the church will condemn her for wanting to leave her husband. She fears that she will lose her membership in the church and the friends within it. I know of women who had to leave the church when they finally decided to end their abusive marriage. Others stayed because they were afraid to lose their church family. A Christian woman might even fear that she will be punished by God if she leaves the relationship.

For the woman with children, there is the fear that they will lose their father if she leaves, and so to become failures in life. Society has doomed children from abusive relationships to failure. According to statistics, children from abusive relationships also become abusers or victims, or have high potential to use drugs and alcohol. This prognostication reinforces the fear of failure and robs the woman of hope for her children.

I grieve the fact that my children will not have a father who is actively involved in their lives. I made every effort to smooth relations between my children and their father. Only when I realized that it was also his responsibility to nurture his relationship with them, was I able to grieve and let go.

Fear of losing her children keeps the woman in the relationship. Any normal woman cares about her children’s safety and wellbeing. This fear gives the abuser another means of control: he can threaten to harm the children if she leaves him. She might also fear losing custody because she is unable to physically and financially care for them.

Some women rely solely on their partners for financial support. Even those who have jobs and contribute to the household might not have any input into how the money is managed. With few financial resources, it can be difficult to leave the relationship.

But the most important fear is the fear for her life. According to research, seventy-five percent of women who are murdered are killed after they leave their partners. In many cases, her attempt to leave is followed by increased threats to stop her.

These are all legitimate fears. But when we let these fears control our lives, it hinders us from seeking change. It also obstructs our ability to see God working in our situation.

It was difficult to accept that I had allowed my fears to stop me from seeking help and taking responsibility for my situation. I had to admit that I made a choice to take no action due to fear. Then I had to go through the painful process of learning to overcome those fears and move forward.

To move forward, you must acknowledge that you made many decisions based on fear. You must evaluate your fears to determine if they are rational or irrational, real or unfounded. Overcoming fears will require identifying them and seeking help. The domestic violence center in your area is an excellent place to seek help. Find resources in your community to help with financial support, childcare, and other tangible fears.

You can check out my website, rosesaad.com/abuse-information/ for contact to resources for assistance.

Safety will always take priority. Please ask for help to develop a safety plan! Be cautious how you deal with your abuser, especially if you decide to leave. Know your abuser and his potential for harm. There are different types of abusers. Some are volatile, especially when drugs or alcohol are involved. The potential for harm increases when the abuser has a violent history.

Even when there is no history of physical violence, trust your intuition. If you feel that he has the potential to hurt you, develop a safety plan. I disregarded my intuition as I struggled to answer the question, “How can I believe he loves me when I can’t trust him with my emotional and physical self?” Due to the fear of being belittled and degraded, along with the real possibility of physical harm, I couldn’t be honest with myself. I wish I knew then what I know now, that instilling fear to control others is never an act of love. (I will address love in my next blog.)

Most of my fears were unfounded. My fear of losing my new family did not pan out. I still have a great relationship with my ex-mother-in-law and the rest of her family. My worries about being unable to support myself or the children also weren’t borne out. I was very blessed to have physical and emotional support from my church family and my ex’s family. My college-educated children are pursuing their various professions, and have the incredible hearts to serve others.

As Christians, fear stops us from living the lives that God intended for us. As told in Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” God wants us to overcome our fears and will be there for us when we do.

As I stated earlier, examine your fears and seek help for the ones that are tangible. Remember that God is on your side as you seek help to overcome your fears. Hold on to his truths because they have the power to set you free.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Next blog: Understanding Abuse: Love

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November 3, 2017 0 comment
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I never thought that I would find myself in an abusive relationship. My parents never raised an unkind hand against me. My mother died when I was nine years old. Even though my father was seldom involved in my upbringing, my memories of our interactions are pleasant. I was sent to religious school from kindergarten to high school. The Bible stories taught during those years helped me to develop a moral conscience, which enabled me to see the good in others. I believe that good has the power to overcome evil.

As I reflect, I ask myself how I could have ever become entangled in an abusive relationship. Many factors played a role. For starters, there was fear of judgment and rejection by others, a sense of failure, and the hope that he could change. The important factors, though, were denial, fear, and love. I will discuss fear and love in future blogs. For now, I want to talk about denial.

It is amazing what denial can do. As an emergency room nurse, I took care of women who had been brutally beaten by their partners. These women excused their partners’ actions. I imaged I would never act this way, even as I was making excuses for my husband’s behaviors. I remember watching the movie The Color Purple. All the belittling and degrading exhibited by Celie’s husband, and her reactions to it, were similar to what I was experiencing in my relationship. And yet I could not emotionally connect to it.

Denial keeps you from dealing with the reality of what is happening. It unconsciously protects you from emotions that you are unable to tolerate, and so you suppress them. It makes it easy to tell yourself and to persuade others that the abuse is not happening. Denial says the truth is not real.

When the truth cannot be ignored, then denial is ready with excuses. It says your partner called you hurtful names and hit you because he was under stress. It says you are overreacting.

Even though he hit you and might have injured you, you believe he won’t kill you. Denial allows you to accept that type of thinking. Consequently, it puts you in danger. We hear stories of women who denied that their abusers would kill them, and yet they lost their lives.

Denial helps you cope with the violence. You come to believe that everything is OK. You desperately cling to the hope that things can change. “Be patient,” you tell yourself, “he will change.” And you look for behaviors that feed this hope. For example, when he makes small gestures of kindness, like taking you to dinner or buying you flowers, it props up the hope that he will change.

However, using denial over time stops the inner alarm that warns us of the danger. Our alarms activate our “fight or flight” response to make us aware that what we are facing is not good for us. When denial is overused in a situation of repeated harm, it turns off that alarm. When your body’s signal is turned off, it loses its fighting ability, leading to hopelessness and helplessness.

I wish I knew then what I know now: Denial hindered my ability to see how I was emotionally and physically exposing myself to danger.

Denial also stops you from relating to others. When others are talking about their experiences, you hold to minor differences to prove that your experience is different. “My partner doesn’t do that, or say that.” Therefore, your situation is different from mine. Denial allows you to believe that since he is not behaving like everyone else he is not abusive.

In reality, the minor differences mean nothing. Each abuser might use different tactics. Yet, the end goal of the abusive behavior is the same: control. The motive behind the actions is to control the one being abused. Understanding that fact was empowering for me.

Even among people who are highly educated, denial is common. Women who have authority at their jobs and the resources to protect themselves use denial a lot. It is shameful, embarrassing, and humiliating for a strong woman to admit that her partner is abusive. This denial might even stop the woman from being open about the abuse when she leaves the relationship, resulting in adverse effects on her healing process. I have encountered many educated women who left their abusers and have moved on with their lives without addressing the violence but are still showing the emotional scar of the abuse.

Unless we are open about what is going on in the relationship, we cannot break the walls of denial. Breaking the walls of denial requires being honest and exposing the truth. We have to expose the abuse, whether past or present, for what it is and ask for help.

It was hard to admit that I was in an abusive relationship. The shame and humiliation that it produced were overwhelming. Even to this day, I have some of those emotions. What do others think of me? Will they believe my story, or will they think that I am out to smear the good name of my ex-husband? Will they see me as being weak? But you, like me, must recognize that we can’t break the bonds of abuse if we don’t acknowledge the truth about what has happened to us. As John 8:32 tells us, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Just as important as knowing the truth is speaking it. Validating our stories is the first step toward empowerment. If you are in an abusive relationship or have left one, find a safe place, like a domestic violence center in your community, or an empathic listener to tell your story to. You no longer have to wear the mask of denial.

When you tell your story to an empathic listener, you change your brain’s neural pathways, thereby allowing you to change your story. When you change your story, you change your life. When you integrate your story with God’s story, life-sustaining changes occur! -Curt Thompson M.D., Anatomy of the Soul

 “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32).”

Next Blog: Understanding Abuse: Fear

Purchase my book on Amazon: A Path to Hope: Restoring the Spirit of the Abused Christian Woman

Please check out my website: rosesaad.com

 

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October 20, 2017 0 comment
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During my ten years of marriage, I wasn’t aware that the abuse I was experiencing was infecting my physical and emotional well-being. It took a while to recognize the symptoms of abuse and its invasion of my psyche. Just like a disease, when you don’t heed the signs early on, it spreads and will take more effort to treat. Anxiety, fear, low self-esteem, and the sense of helplessness all impaired my healing process.

Subtle behaviors exhibited by my husband and the transformation of my thinking made it difficult for me to identify that I was in an abusive relationship. Take the example of his ignoring my presence when he walked into the room. I didn’t know that sort of behavior is emotional abuse.

My culture and religious beliefs also played a role in concealing the fact that his controlling behaviors were abusive. For example, he made all the major decisions without my input. I grew up in a culture where the husband is in charge of the household. Also, my religious beliefs reinforced that I had to submit to the man’s leadership. With these types of beliefs, it was easy to let go of all the decision-making power even when his choices were bad ones.

I would spend nearly all day ruminating about his behaviors to make sense of them. If he said, “You didn’t clean the house, so that’s why I screamed at you,” then I believed him and found myself cleaning the house to please him. But that rarely happened; in most cases, he didn’t even acknowledge the house was clean. Instead, he found something new to complain about.

When I asked him the reasons for his anger, his response was usually, “You didn’t do what I told you to do” or “You don’t listen.” His answers didn’t make sense. How does leaving a dirty spoon in the sink lead to being called a stupid bitch?

My rational mind wanted to understand his actions. I began to create reasons to justify his behaviors. I figured maybe he had a rough day at work or he didn’t mean to do it. My answers made it easy to accept his behaviors.

I often hear people ask, “Why didn’t you guys communicate?” That question assumes that the reason for the abuse was poor communication. The reality is that abusers use the communication process as a tool for control.

For instance, there was the time when I tried to talk about our finances. I needed him to contribute more to the household budget because I wasn’t earning enough to pay for what he had assigned as my portion of the expenses. I went into the communication process for understanding and assistance, but he simply retorted that I was careless with money and didn’t know how to budget.

I left the conversation feeling at fault for spending too much money, which was simply not the case. The truth was, I was spending every penny of my income on childcare and household expenses.

I didn’t know then that his goal during the communication process was to create self-doubt. He twisted my words around to blame me. As a result, I left the conversation questioning my competence. I accepted his reality that my financial difficulty was because I was irresponsible with money.

This type of communication was evident in all areas of the relationship. I got into a conversation with a goal and left feeling that I’d done something wrong. I wish I knew what I know now: these types of behaviors are emotional and financial abuse.

Over time, the abuse had an impact on my rational mind. I was unaware that I was changing. I disregarded my reality and accepted his reality as the truth. It was like brainwashing: you accept and believe your captor’s truth.

This lack of awareness was seen in my reaction when Xavier physically assaulted me. My response was to tell him I hadn’t done anything wrong—as if to say, he had the right to hit me if I did do something he didn’t like. It took the transformation of my thought process to get to where it was easy to accept abuse.

What is domestic violence? Check out this link: http://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/abuse-defined/  

It is important that we understand the dynamics of abuse and how it affects us so that we can break the cycle. We don’t have to take the abuse. There are resources to help us break the bonds of abuse and find healing.

Check out my website, rosesaad.com for links to resources.

Next blog, Understanding Abuse: Denial

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7, NLT).”

 

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October 6, 2017 0 comment
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Education is the first step to breaking free from violence. As a college graduate and emergency room nurse, I might be expected to have some knowledge of domestic violence. This assumption is far from the truth. My education didn’t prepare me to spot early signs of domestic abuse. This lack of knowledge made it easy to ignore the red flags in the early phase of my relationship.

Xavier (a pseudonym for my ex-husband), had ongoing conflicts with his family and friends. It seems he blamed them for these conflicts and did not take responsibility for his erratic actions toward them. He believed they were responsible for making him angry. He lacked the ability of how to explain his hurt to others and was unaware that the suppression of those feelings might contribute to his behavior.

In the early phase of our relationship, Xavier created an environment of distrust. For example, he would make comments like, “You can’t trust anyone” or “They’re out to get you.” This suspicion included the people we knew. According to him, my female friends were “hitting on him” and couldn’t be trusted. When they came to visit, he was cold toward them; he ignored them or would even leave the house. As a result, they felt uncomfortable and stopped visiting.

I wish I knew then that his purpose in sowing distrust was to physically and socially isolate me from my friends and family. With no support system, I would have to rely on him for physical and emotional sustenance.

Even though he did not want me to trust others, he expected me to trust him. To create that trust, he said it was essential that we have no secrets from each other. He wanted to know about my childhood and past relationships. He would tell a few of his encounter with his old girlfriends to lure me into sharing details of my past sexual encounters.

Little did I know that exposing my deepest secrets would become a tool to shame me later in the relationship. I wish I knew at that time that revealing secrets shouldn’t be a criterion for establishing trust. Trust requires time to develop, and emotional security is a must.

When driving, he exhibited frequent road rages. If a driver cut in front his car, he would become aggressive and use abusive language, or intimidate the driver by tailgating him to force him out of the lane. His road rages created fear and anxiety in me. I was afraid that he might cause an accident and harm us both.

Some might say that these types of behaviors are common. But when they are used to intimidate and manipulate others into submission, they become psychological abuse.

Another red flag was his rushing the idea of marriage. After only a few months into the relationship, he asked me to marry him. Since we lived in different states, I had few opportunities to get to know him well.

Often a woman might think that receiving frequent calls or texts from her partner is a sign of his affection for her. But wanting to know where she is all the time is being possessive. When he monopolizes her time and is jealous of her friendships, then that should be a cause for concern.

Other signs of concern are when he is overly attentive to meeting her needs. For example, fixing things around the house without her request, cooking her dinner, embellishing her with flowers, she comes to believe he is madly in love with her. But, when these behaviors are “too good to be true,” beware! There is a possibility his actions are a way to manipulate her for control.

Most women are unaware of these red flags, or they may feel that something is wrong but ignore their intuition. When something doesn’t feel right, the woman should give careful thought to those feelings. When she senses that her moral conscience is being violated, the relationship is not right!

It is important that we are aware of these red flags. I want others to recognize the red flags so that they can make an informed decision to stay away from relationships that have the potential to become abusive.

An old cliché states that “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Stay away from a relationship that has the potential to become abusive, or else you will have to deal with the physical and psychological consequences. If you are in a dangerous relationship, recognizing the red flags is the first step to getting help.

Is your relationship abusive? Or do you think it might become abusive? Check out this link: http://nnedv.org/resources/stats/gethelp/redflagsofabuse.html

What were the red flags in your relationship?

Next blog: I wish I Knew What I Know Now: Understanding Abuse

 “Wisdom will save you from evil people, from those whose words are twisted (Proverbs 2:16, NLT).”

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September 22, 2017 0 comment
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My book, A Path to Hope: Restoring the Spirit of the Abused Christian Woman, was published more than a year ago. I had anticipated a significant audience, speaking engagements, and collaborating with others who are working with victims of domestic violence. What I didn’t anticipate was that I would be in a state where my purpose and mission was not defined, and experiencing difficulty navigating social media. I spent most of my time focusing on what others were doing and comparing their actions to what I was doing (or not doing). My hypercritical self-image led to feelings of disappointment and defeat.
I tell myself that I don’t want to be like everyone else, yet I am not sure of what my particular role is. I know what I don’t want to do. For example, I don’t want to spend all my time to have to advocate to change the laws for abuse victims. I would also prefer not to engage in intellectual or biblical debates about what the scriptures say about abuse. And yet I do want to be the abused woman’s voice, to be her advocate within and outside the church. The question is, How?
As I self-reflect, some questions demand answers. Questions like, “Why did you write a book?” “Why are you willing to share your heart with the public?” “Are you ready to risk your privacy and the privacy of your children?” These questions might seem simple at first, but the emotional strength that is required to answer them is overwhelming. To answer, I will have to expose a part of my inner being.
I believe that my answers should overcome the emotional risks and inspire me to stand firm even when life becomes overwhelming. The answer is that my core values, which include my beliefs and my desire to make a difference, should serve as a catalyst for my actions. I believe that every woman who is experiencing domestic violence has the moral and legal right to protect herself and her children against violence. I also believe that she has the God-given power to bring about change. Her power lies in her decision to break free.
I also believe that education is a powerful tool for change. For the woman of faith, education includes understanding the interpretations of her religious scriptures. Understanding the dynamics of domestic violence and its physical and psychological impact was critical in helping me seek change. Studying the scriptures empowered me to change my perception of the abuse, which led to the conviction that God does not want me to be abused.
To return to the question, why did I write A Path to Hope? The answer is, I did it to educate female victims of violence and help lead them to God for emotional and spiritual healing. I also wanted to encourage them to have a voice within their faith communities.
Too often, women and girls who are experiencing violence do not have a voice. (I realize that men are also victimized, but my primary focus is on women.) Their voices are suppressed by the abusers and their communities, but when they learn about the dynamics of violence and tell others their stories, their voices will be heard. They will be catalysts for change. With united voices and God as the focus of their interactions, change is bound to happen. I wish to see this vision come to pass.
As part of making my vision a reality, I am going to write a series of blog posts called, “I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now.” They are based on my journey to find clarity and understand the dynamics of domestic abuse and how the scriptures helped me to break free. I am passionate about sharing my story because I want others to know that they, too, can break free.
Will you join me?
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:3).
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September 8, 2017 3 comments
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Have you ever considered what the bible says about abuse?
As a Christian survivor of domestic violence, I wanted to understand God’s view of violence-especially as it relates to abusive relationships. Through my personal bible study, I developed the conviction that abusive behaviors are sinful actions and should not be tolerated because they destroy both the abuser and the victim.

It is important to note that there are no stories about abusive martial relationships in the scriptures. Accepting violence is violating God’s plan for relationships.

What does the Bible say about abuse?
First, domestic violence is sinful. Let’s look at the scriptures that describe sinful behaviors and see how they relate to the characteristics of the abuser:

In Galatians 5:19-21, some of the characteristics of a sinful nature are discord, jealousy, fits of rage, dissensions and factions. These are tools abusers regularly use to control.

Fits of rage
Anyone who has experienced domestic knows what “fits of rage” look like up close. The Message Bible translation for “fits of rage” is “violent temper.” When a man* with a violent temper gets angry, his anger takes control of him. He loses his ability to think rationally, which demonstrates that he is dangerous and can seriously harm or kill without a thought about the consequences. This irrationality creates fear among those who see his temper, particularly his wife, which results in her constantly “walking on eggshells” to de-escalate his verbal and physical attacks.

The Lord examines both the righteous and the wicked. He hates those who love violence. He will rain down blazing coals and burning sulfur on the wicked, punishing them with scorching winds. (Psalm 11:5–7, NLT)

Dissensions, Factions and Discord
The abuser causes dissensions (conflicts) within the family and factions (divisions) in the wife’s relationship with her friends, extended family, and church. For example, he undermines her relationship with her mother, closest friends or refuses to allow her time alone to visit her family. Social isolation makes her totally dependent on the abuser for emotional and physical support.

A scoundrel and villain, who goes about with a corrupt mouth, who winks with his eye, signals with his feet and motions with his fingers, who plots evil with deceit in his heart––he always stirs up dissension. Therefore, disaster will overtake him in an instant; he will suddenly be destroyed without remedy. (Proverbs 6:12–15, NIV, emphasis mine)

Jealousy
The abuser shows excessive jealousy of his partner’s interactions with friends and family, co-workers and others who he imagines might threaten the relationship. He may present his behavior as love. He monopolizes her time and is suspicious of her activities that do not involve him.

For jealousy arouses a husband’s fury, and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge. (Proverbs 6:34. NIV)

Pride
All humans struggle with pride, but pride controls the abuser. He has a need to be right, feels superior at home and refuses to listen to advice from others. Tweet This

The abuser’s pride rears its head when the wife attempts to participate in the decision-making or parenting or, worse, suggests that they seek help for their relationship. He may turn these conversations into arguments, or he may ignore her and find an underhanded way to get what he wants, regardless of her stated needs or plans. He usually refuses to seek help for the marriage. When she attempts to seek outside help, he tells her, “You can’t think for yourself,” or “Why you do always let people tell you what to do?” His pride stops the family from seeking the help it desperately needs to survive.

Therefore, pride is their necklace. They clothe themselves with violence. (Psalm 73:6)
The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 15:5, NIV)

Verbal Abuse, Manipulation and Coarse Joking
The abuser’s communication process is filled with verbal abuse, perverse speech, word-twisting, and coarse joking to achieve control. He uses abusive language and makes belittling comments to make her feel unintelligent, less human, and not capable of understanding what his intentions are. He might say, “Are you stupid or what?” in response to her ideas or questions. He also twists words so that his wife leaves a conversation questioning her own motives. He distorts her words to use them against her. He keeps a record of or even invents past conversations and mistakes on her part as examples of her stupidity, immorality, laziness. He might accuse her of forgetting to pay bills or not washing the dishes when company is coming, etc.

They are always twisting what I say; they spend their days to harm me. (Psalm 56:5, NLT)

You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, “Do not murder.” I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother “idiot!” and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell “stupid!” at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill. (Matthew 5:21–22, The Message)

He may joke about his wife’s appearance, speech, or ideas in a hurtful way. He also may make threatening comments or engage in aggressive behaviors and then claim that he was playing or joking. Or he may make sexually degrading comments about her, her friends, or women in general. When she becomes upset about these behaviors, his response is, “Can’t you take a joke?” His jokes are not funny. They are intended to belittle or threaten her. These techniques cause her to doubt her thought processes and sanity, causing her to feel worthless.

Like a madman shooting firebrands or deadly arrows is a man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I was only joking!” Proverbs 26:18–19 (NIV)

James 1:26 (NLT) advises Christians, “If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.”

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen, Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place… (Ephesians 5:4, NIV).

Lies and Deception
Lies and deception are an integral part of the abuser’s behavior. He can continue his abusive behavior only by deceiving those around him. The abuser wears his mask and is in control as he exposes what he wants others to see. He wants everyone outside the home to see him as a great husband and father. He keeps a record of all the great things he does for the family. He may boast about the gifts he gives them. On the outside, he may seem like a fun, easygoing guy or a hardworking, responsible family man. At home, he is different: cool, distant, easily irritated, and emotionally and physically abusive.

Do not lie. Do not deceive one another. (Leviticus 19:11, NIV).
A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart, he harbors deceit. Though his speech is charming, do not believe him, for seven abominations fill his heart. His malice may be concealed by deception, but his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly. (Proverbs 26:24–26, NIV, emphasis mine)

The abuser is deceptive about his motives. He will give all kinds of reasons for his abusive behavior, but will never admit his true motive—control.

Here are six things God hates, and one more that he loathes with a passion: eyes that are arrogant, a tongue that lies, hands that murder the innocent, a heart that hatches evil plots, feet that race down a wicked track, a mouth that lies under oath, a troublemaker in the family. (Proverbs 6:16, The Message, emphasis mine).

So, who is responsible?
The scriptures are clear about abuse. They make it clear that abuse stems from the abuser, not the victim. Tweet This

The victim does not have the power to stop the abuse, only the abuser does. She does, however, have the power to expose the abuse and even has the moral responsibility to do so. If the sins of abuse are not dealt with, they destroy both the victim and the abuser physically and spiritually.

God’s way of dealing with sinful actions involves repentance. Therefore, we as survivors can ask for accountability for the abuser that might lead to his repentance. Accepting abusive behaviors not only violates our self-worth but also God’s commands.

Please check out my book, A Path to Hope. Restoring the Spirit of the Abused Christian Woman on Amazon or Barnes and Noble for more about my journey to freedom from abuse and spiritual and emotional healing.

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April 20, 2016 0 comment
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Edith: “I don’t understand his behaviors. He told me a few minutes ago that he loves me, yet he’s calling me stupid and lazy for leaving dirty dishes in the sink. Why does he say he loves and then treats me this way?”

“Why does he say he loves me, and then hurts me?” Women in abusive and potentially abusive relationships often find themselves asking this question.

Before we can answer the question, “How can he say he loves me and then hurt me?” we must first define what love is. Although most people agree that certain behaviors are associated with love, there are individual differences. I associate love with hearing the words “I love you,” physical and emotional intimacy, the acknowledgment of occasions that are important to me, listening to and validating my feelings, appreciation of the things I do, assistance with child care and household duties.

  • How did you define love before you entered your relationship?

In an abusive relationship, what a woman considered to be love when she entered the relationship changes over time.

  • f you are in a relationship now, ask yourself — how you know that your partner loves you
  • How do you define love now?
  • How does that definition differ from your definition of love before you entered the relationship?
  • Has your definition of loved changed to accommodate your partner’s behaviors or beliefs about love?

For example, some women come to believe that the fact that their husband wants to have sex with them means that he loves them, even when he physically and/or emotionally abuses them. Or women come to believe that a man’s gifts, apologies, and extra attention after he physically or emotionally attacks them is a sign that he still loves them. His words and actions are inconsistent, which leads to confusion.

  • Do you ever feel confused about your partner’s feelings for you because his actions contradict his words?

If you feel confused by your partner’s behaviors or feel that your definition of love has changed to accommodate his behaviors, you probably wonder how you got to this place.

In this blog and series of blogs, I discuss the concept of “love” and how it applies in abusive relationships. My next blog will discuss how an abuser’s actions gradually change his partner’s definition of love, view of herself, and ultimately, her own behaviors and habits. Later blogs will provide some solutions for women who are in abusive relationships. This material will be presented from a Christian perspective. I will share my insight as a survivor of domestic abuse and as the author of The Path to Hope.

Dig into the well: ” How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings (Psalm 36:7, NIV).

Check out my book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, The Path to Hope: Restoring the Spirit of the Abused Christian Woman for more on how transformation occurs.

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April 20, 2016 0 comment
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I am overwhelmed with my thoughts. They are jumbled up with no sense of direction which has intensified the feeling of giving up. Consequently rejecting any information that might lead to a solution base focus; my brain feels like it is in overload and can’t process any new information. I asked myself, “What I am doing here?” I am not sure what “here” means. Gazing in so many directions and making subconscious evaluations have led to the feeling of defeat. “I can’t do what they are doing”, I say; and that self-defeating thinking has contributed to my state of mind.

My child-like behavioral characteristics are also coming to the surface. It feels like God is still, and I am a child with no supervision. It is frightening to feel like a child without protection or skills, attempting to venture into the complex and vast social media. I am fearful that I will be swallowed up by the all-knowing and lack-of-conscience social media world. In addition, there are so many uncertainties related to the role I would like to play that it is difficult to discern God’s voice. As a result, I am throwing tantrums, blaming God for bringing me here. “Why did he allow me to write a book?” “Why did he allow me to share my soul and the souls of others and then let me stand here with no direction?” I have invested a lot of money and time, for what purpose?

I can’t stay here, but how do I get out of this state of mind? Then, I am reminded of Elijah in 1 Kings 19. Elijah had a great victory, but when he heard that Jezebel was trying to kill him, he ran away. He suddenly forgot a miracle had occurred when he prayed and fire came down from heaven and destroyed the sacrifices of the prophets of Baal to their gods. When approached by an angel after he ran away, his response was, “I have had enough, Lord, take my life for I am no better than my ancestors.” Due to his fear of Jezebel, he doubted his accomplishments and discouragement led to defeat. He might have felt that he wasn’t good enough and might have questioned God for letting his life be threatened.

I can relate to Elijah’s emotional response after his great victory. I wrote a book on a topic that should be addressed in the church. God placed the desire in me to be brave and share my experiences and the experiences of others so that his daughters can achieve freedom from abuse. The abused Christian woman needs to have her voice heard and supported as she emotionally and physically attempts to protect herself and her children from domestic abuse. Even though I don’t consider myself a writer (still evolving), God didn’t let that stop him. He sent many helpers along the way to help complete his work. I have had numerous positive responses especially from women who are experiencing abuse. This is a victory! Yet, when I perceive that someone might have a negative response, doubts and inadequacy dominate all the positives. Immediately, I start to question my skills and abilities and God’s calling.

I love how the angel responded to Elijah. He didn’t state how ungrateful he was, or say, “I can’t believe you are afraid of Jezebel after seeing what I did.” The angel focused on meeting Elijah’s physical needs first by providing food and allowing him to rest. Further into the story, the angel confirmed that he will need strength because the journey ahead was too much for him.

As I reflect the on angel’s response to Elijah, I too need to rest from my self-destructive thinking. God’s response to me is not punitive, instead, he extends his arms for me to come and rest. Physical rest is required to revive my mind. When that occurs, I can then prioritize the skills and resources I need to market my book effectively and respond to God’s calling.

There is a great work ahead. Therefore, to be successful, I will have to not only rely on God for physical and mental strength but also on others.

I am thankful to God for his mercy towards me even when I let my tantrums question his plans for my life. Today I want to hold on to the words of the song “Great is Your Mercy” by Donnie McClurkin. “Great is your mercy towards me, your loving kindness toward me, your tender mercies I see day after day.” I pray that I see his kindness and mercies in all of my thoughts and actions.

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April 20, 2016 0 comment
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God has given us freedom as we follow Christ
Freedom to love
Freedom of self-expression
Freedom of choice

This freedom is not manipulated
It frees us from the manipulations of others

We are to serve others with a free will
A sheer joy of wanting to please those we love
The pace we set to serve is ours
Anything or anyone who violates that is not of God

We are no longer bonded to the thoughts of others
How we should live and think
God has empowered us to be free thinkers

This wisdom is not hidden from us
It is given to us freely as we follow Christ
Let us look deep within ourselves to drink from that knowledge and
Free ourselves

Our thoughts liberates us
We can choose to change every thought or
Choose not to until we are ready.
The pace we set to choose is ours
We will evaluate our choice in Christ

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September 13, 2015 0 comment
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