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When we discuss the cycle of domestic abuse, the honeymoon phase appears to be a period of rest from the abuse and perhaps even an end to it. But the question here is this really a honeymoon? In my opinion, it is not. Don’t get caught up in the honeymoon phase because it is just a continuation of the abuse. For that reason, we need to look at how to escape the honeymoon phase and why we should. 

According to Lenore Walker, the cycle of abuse consists of three phases. Walker’s description of this cycle has been modified over the years, but in her original version, the first phase consisted of tension building, in which the woman “walks on eggshells” due to the abuser’s behaviors. He becomes critical, jealous, cold, distant, or withdrawn. And the woman can only wait for the impending doom.

The second phase is where the battering occurs or the battering phase. There is an explosion of verbal attacks. The abuser becomes hostile and screams out threats, breaks objects or physically assaults her. 

The third phase is known as the honeymoon phase. He says he is sorry and gives her flowers or expensive gifts. He might start to take on responsibilities such as caring for the kids or participate in household activities that he refused to do before the violent events. During this time, he might even say he is going to seek help and change his behaviors. Most women, more likely, they want to believe that he is sorry and is going to change.

Let’s look at the honeymoon phase to see how it is an extension of the abuse.

Manipulative and deceptive behaviors

During the honeymoon phase, he does not give the real motives behind the sudden change from being mean to be nice. His reason for being so tearful and apologetic is to stop her from going to the police, especially when there is bruising or other evidence of a physical assault. Or he could be afraid of losing her. His ultimate motive is to return the relationship back to the state where he was in full control.

Therefore, he showers her with so many gifts and kind words that she doesn’t have the time to think about or even remember the abusive events and seek help. She may feel pressured into accepting his presents. She might be afraid to refuse him, afraid that the abuse will return, like a bad movie sequel, bigger and meaner than before. There is a fear that if she is not receptive, the tension or abusive cycle will resume.

Due to his deceptive behaviors, she is pushed back into the grooming phase, which reminds her of the good times. Those memories reinforce the hope that he can change. She begins to fantasize that the relationship will become the kind of relationship she had hoped for. This hope leads her to tell herself that “it wasn’t that bad” and to dismiss the idea of seeking help. And so, he gets away with his behaviors*. As a result, the cycle of abuse goes on.

Coercive forgiveness

Forgiveness is a process

The woman feels compelled to forgive him, which is premature forgiveness. Premature forgiveness is accepting an apology without having time to process the hurt or acknowledge it. He says he is sorry and promises not to hurt her again. She accepts his apology before working through the process of forgiveness. I believe that forgiveness is a process. For healing to occur, she needs time to acknowledge her hurt, be aware of the effects of the offense, and to see some changed behaviors—in this case, no more abuse.

How to escape the honeymoon phase

The important thing is, during the crisis, and especially after an abusive event, you need to seek help! Your safety is your number one priority. If your abuser is unable to manipulate you during the honeymoon phase, then his frustration and rage might intensify. It is crucial that you get help if you decide to make any drastic changes, such as leaving the relationship.

Here are some actions you can take

Insist on time to process the event. The human brain needs to process and make sense of every social interaction. When forced into moving forward without a logical understanding behind the abusive behaviors, there is confusion. This confusion can lead to denial, which traps you in a relationship that damages your physical and emotional well-being.

It might be best to maintain no contact when you insist on time away from him. This will allow you time to think and process the events and what actions to take. If you do not distance yourself, you might be manipulated and pulled back into the cycle.

Seek help

Ask God for wisdom

I will repeat: It is critical that you seek help during the crisis phase. It is during this time that you might have some control and can make decisions without his interference. If you are showing signs of physical abuse, he might try to stop you from seeking help due to fear of the consequences. But you have to be strong and get help without his permission.

Seeing through the confusion means educating yourself about domestic abuse. Therefore, find resources in your community to gain awareness that you are not alone, and there is a way to break the cycle so that you won’t get caught in the web of the honeymoon phase.

Here are links to find the domestic violence centers in your areas:

http://www.thehotline.org/resources/victims-and-survivors/ https://www.domesticshelters.org/

Wait to see the changed behaviors over time

Some of the actions you should look for are he admitting that he is an abuser and is seeking professional help. Willingness to accept the consequences of his behaviors, and asking others to hold him accountable, are the things he should be doing. Most importantly, he must allow you space to see his change over time. How much time that takes depends on the kind of man he is. He might not even change at all, and you will need time to accept that situation.

To conclude, don’t get caught in the web of the honeymoon phase. It is after the abusive incident that you might have the ability to seek help without him. Find time to reflect on his behaviors, so that you can determine what actions you need to take to break the cycle. Pray for wisdom to expose the truth behind his behaviors.

*A Path to Hope: Restoring The Spirit Of the Abused Christian Woman

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July 26, 2019 0 comment
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In my previous blog, Domestic Abuse: The Transformation Process, I stated that the impact of the abuse is subtle and that it takes time to recognize that the abuse has changed who you are as a person. Yet some of these changes are obvious to others. I will list how to tell that you have been transformed and how to reclaim yourself.

You may recognize that something is missing and sense that something about you has changed. You might not like the person you have become, however you are not aware of your loss. You may recognize that your thinking process has altered, yet you might not be aware of changes to your self-esteem.

God will help you

Signs and Symptoms That You Have Transformed

If you experienced any of these signs, you mostly have been transformed.

  • You know something is wrong, but you can’t figure it out
  • You isolate yourself because you feel embarrassed about yourself
  • You accept his excuses for his actions
  • You accept responsibility for his action and take the blame
  • You deny that any abuse is happening
  • You don’t trust yourself to make decisions
  • You rely on your abuser to do all the thinking
  • You live in shame and humiliation
  • You believe that you are the problem
  • You second-guess yourself
  • You feel confused and disoriented about his behaviors
  • You are unsure about your recollection of events at home
  • You are consumed by thoughts about the abuse and how to stop it
  • You feel that you are losing your mind
  • Fear consumes your day-to-day activities
  • You feel powerless to change the situation
  • You are easily anxious and irritable
  • You are afraid to voice your opinion
  • You feel emotionally fatigued and physically drained
  • You feel emotionally numb
  • You lack interest in activities that you once loved

As a result of these signs and symptoms, your self-image is profoundly damaged. To put it another way, it is almost like a “death of self.” This state of mind can lead to feelings of hopelessness and make you believe that you don’t have the power to get help. The good news is that there is always hope for change.

Ask for help

Reclaiming yourself

Awareness that the abuse has changed you is the first step to recovery. Reclaiming yourself can be difficult, and it will take time and effort to do it. Here are some of the actions you might have to take to reclaim who you were before the abuse.

  • Remove yourself from your abusive environment
  • Seek professional help
  • Pray and meditate to strengthen your spiritual self
  • Be kind, patient, compassionate and empathetic toward yourself
  • Forgive yourself
  • Tell your story in a safe place; it is your truth and it will help to set you free
  • Celebrate your survival, especially if you were able to break free
  • Love yourself by engaging in activities to promote wellness like exercising, eating right, and finding time to relax
  • Reconnect with people who love and care about you
  • Join a community of support to meet your physical and emotional needs
  • Attend a support group with people who have experienced domestic abuse
  • Engage in activities you enjoy, or consider new activities
  • Set healthy boundaries
  • Regain your voice by telling others what you need and want
  • Combat your negative thoughts with positive thoughts
  • Take responsibility for your actions and let go of things that you cannot control
  • Focus on your strengths
  • Volunteer to help other survivors of abuse
  • Grieve and let go of your sense of loss
  • Journal about your transformational journey
You can overcome any difficulty

You can overcome any difficulty

As you journey through the stages of regaining the person you were before the abuse, remind yourself that you are strong and can overcome any difficulty. Surviving abuse is evidence that you have the power to find yourself again. Hold on to your faith. Embrace God’s love because it has the power to set you free. The abuse was never a part of God’s plan for your life. So, move forward and be the wonderful person that God wants you to be.

Check out these links for more on self-care:

Self-care

https://www.domesticshelters.org/resources/lists/self-care-strategies?q=0#list-scroll

* https://images.app.goo.gl/Tmb1VihZC3twpXwt7

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July 3, 2019 3 comments
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We take time off when we’re not feeling well, or we take a vacation to visit friends and family, but rarely we think about taking time away from home for a mental health rest. What I mean by this rest is to slow down our minds by being still in the moment. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know how to slow down. My mind is constantly busy. I can be in a room filled with people and yet not be aware of anyone because my mind is somewhere else. As a result, I decided one day to get away, to slow down my thoughts so I could focus on prayer and listen for wisdom from God. During my time away, I learned three valuable lessons.

Tilghman Island getaway

For my mental health rest, I chose Tilghman Island, Maryland, mainly due to the pictures I saw on the internet. Tilghman Island is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from where I live and is located where the Choptank River meets the Chesapeake Bay. The island is literally where they connect. At the point of connection, there is a bed-and-breakfast called the Black Walnut Point Inn.

Black Walnut Point Inn

When I arrived, I admit, I wasn’t impressed by the inn and the surrounding landscape because the pictures on the Internet didn’t reflect the current environment. They had been taken mainly during the summer. The scene during my visit was of winter: cold, windy with no snow, and the flowers all gone. Furthermore, the inn is a historical site owned by the state. Most of the interior was built in 1847. Not much has changed, and the caretakers are not allowed to make any structural modifications. I personally prefer contemporary interior decor.

I soon changed my attitude when I realized the building wasn’t the reason why people chose the inn. It was the view! I was mesmerized by the sunrises and sunsets and overpowered by the colors I saw. There were pink and purple hues during dawn and yellows and reds at sunset. All I could do was stare at the sky.

Sunrise at Black Walnut Point Inn
Sunset at Black Walnut Point Inn

Lesson 1: I can’t slow down until I explore my environment

Now let’s go back to the lessons learned. First, my brain has to immerse itself in my environment before it can slow down. There was so much beauty around me that my mind got distracted. I felt like a kid in a candy store who is excited to see the different kinds of candies and doesn’t want to leave until she has tried each flavor. My mind was so diverted that I couldn’t say which was the most important reason for my coming here. I had to see everything before I left.

Instead of slowing down mentally, I went into a picture-taking mode. All I wanted to do was find new things to take pictures off. I even decided to walk through the thick marsh to look for swans, even though I am terrified of snakes. I didn’t find any swans, but my new-found courage to walk through the swamp took me by surprise.

Looking for swans

Lesson 2: Focus on the images that interest the mind

After exploring the area, I realized I needed to focus on one particular aspect of the place that captured my mind. For example, there were the sunrises and sunsets I’d mentioned earlier, but the most thought-provoking place was the site of a huge cross. The cross is at Black Walnut Point, the southernmost part of the island, where the Choptank River and the Chesapeake Bay come together. I don’t know, and I didn’t think to ask, why the cross was placed at that spot.

The merger of the Choptank River and Chesapeake Bay

I began to leave behind my hectic thoughts and enjoy the majestic splendor of God. Gratitude came alive. With a joyous heart, I started to thank God for being there, for allowing me to immerse myself among his magnificent works. With my grateful heart, I poured out my prayers and petitions to him as an overwhelming sense of calmness came over me.

Immersed into God’s Creation

Lesson 3: Be still to listen for God’s voice

As I stood still under the cross with the sunlight striking the left side of my face, and the river and bay before me I felt God telling me to pay attention to see how this moment, this image of the environment, related to my present life. It was an analogy for my life. Ahead of me was this body of water which represents all my fears. The fears of the unknown. Yes, I have a lot of unknowns in my life. The fear of rejection, failure, lack of confidence, the evils of the world and so forth—they all prevent me from moving forward and sometimes stop me from accepting God’s truths about my life.

Under the Cross

The cross, on the other hand, represents love, forgiveness, hope, triumph, and the assurance that I am never alone. I am part of God’s family. Because of his Son’s suffering on the cross, I can conquer any difficulty.

The sunlight that was radiating over my face represented God’s light. A light so powerful that it can banish any darkness. A light that allows me to shine regardless of all the mistakes and messes I made of my life.

I felt God speaking to my heart and saying: Rose, because of the cross, you are with me. I have chosen you to shine. Step into my light. I know you’re fearful of what is ahead, just like this body of water. It looks enormous, but I am still greater. My light is greater than any darkness you have ever feared. I will help you overcome your fears and the obstacles that that block my light. What a rejuvenating mental health experience! But I had to keep still so that my senses could engage in that experience.

As I drove back home, I felt a sense of freedom listening to the below song, Step into the Light by Passion.

Step into the Light

Life bombards us with decisions that we have to make every day. It is important to find time to take a mental health rest to declutter our minds and listen for God’s voice. That might mean going away from our familiar environments. The lesson for all of us is that we can’t hear God speak to our hearts if we don’t slow down and keep still. Check out this link for scriptures about stillness and rest.

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February 25, 2019 2 comments
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I hesitated to share my self-reflection for 2018. But as I look back, I see that gratitude builds faith. Writing down what I am grateful for and recounting all the wonderful things Jesus has done for me has been a source of comfort and hope when I get stuck in life’s difficult challenges. Remembering what God has accomplished for my life renews my commitment to hold on to my faith as a Christian.

Follow Me

I want to share what I am thankful for as I enter into 2019. Frist, sharing fills my soul with gratitude and shuts out the negative voices that say that my efforts are not working. My mindset has always focused on the future—on what I should be doing and what I am not doing. As a result, I missed a few opportunities along the way. Some might say I missed the mark and got stuck in “what I should have done.”

Being grateful for what has already occurred validates that I am on the right track. It redirects me to look at the present to see what is already there rather than looking back at what should have been. It reminds me not to be discouraged and to continue with what I am doing. Sharing my successes not only strengthens my faith, but it might also help others to self-reflect and fill themselves with gratitude for what God is doing in their lives.

Thankful for Blessings

As I look back, a lot of great things have happened that I should be thankful for. I will list a few and will also share some of my hopes and dreams for 2019. First, I thank God for giving up his only son so that I could be a part of his family. It is in his family that I can receive his love and grace. I am very privileged to be in a church family that loves me for who I am and encourages me to keep making Jesus the Lord of my life. I am thankful for their love, their physical care, their spiritual and emotional support over the years.

I am thankful for my children. Their love for others and willingness to help others fill my heart with joy. They are navigating their path to discover who they are and who they are meant to be. It takes maturity to have the insight in knowing your strengths and limits and confronting the barriers to self-discovery.  And that’s what they have been doing from an early age. I am very proud of who they are and who they will become. At times I feel guilty for pulling them into my world. I know I don’t have the power to protect them from the negativity I might encounter as a domestic violence advocate, but I am thankful for their support as I continue to walk this path.

I am Here

The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” applies to my experience as a divorced and single mother taking care of three children. I am often asked, “How do you do it?” The answer is simple: I’m not doing it alone. Church family, in-laws, and biological relatives have all played a role. Today I want to thank the Bernards for standing in as my maternal family. (I am withholding first names to protect their privacy). To the Bernards, the Dennises, the Johnsons, and the Sirleafs, I thank God for giving you wisdom and compassion to provide, physical, emotional, and financial support for my family. As I reflect, you all have been a part of most of my adult life. I will always cherish the memories I make with you all as long as I live.

My Village

I am thankful for my book, A Path to Hope. To be honest, I have experienced a lot of discouragement due to difficulties in marketing the book. I didn’t write the book to make money, although an increase in sales would repay some of the hard work that was done to make the book a reality. At times I can get stuck in what should have happened with the book when I should be celebrating the little successes. For example, a few days ago I received an email from a reader who told me that my “blog and book was invaluable.” I was excited at first, but instead of rejoicing, my mind shifted to the “what should have been.” This 2019, I am going to embrace small successes like that because they help me break down the walls of negative thoughts that distract me from my goals.

gratitude
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I will strive to put into practice Zechariah 4:10 that states, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin” (New Living Translation). Yes, I will celebrate every little step because God rejoices when he sees that I am doing his work.

gratitude
Embrace Small Steps

I am filled with gratitude for the Path to Hope first event in 2018, A Cry for Help. It was a very successful workshop!  As I have stated in previous posts, my mission is to increase awareness of domestic violence and its effects on families and to share information about resources that can be used to help victims. That was the goal of the workshop, and I am pleased to say that it was achieved! 

gratitude
A Path to Hope

I will be organizing another workshop this year. This will be a small step towards my desire to create a non-profit to empower the lives of Christian women who have experienced domestic violence, through education, peer and spiritual support.

I am also excited to announce the first A Path to Hope support group will be launched in February! More information to come soon.

All these experiences reinforced that God is taking care of me and will continue to meet my needs. He will send the people and resources I need to keep doing his will. As I speak, he is actively sending emotional support as evidenced by new relationships on social media and though other contacts with people with the same passion and mission as mine. I am thankful for my new friendships.

This 2019, as I stated earlier, I am going to enjoy living in the moment, the now, and will celebrate every little success along the way as I walk the path that God has set for me. With a thankful heart, I can move mountains.  

What about you? What are you grateful for? You probably have your own list of what God has done and is doing to help build your faith. 

As Psalm 106:1 reminds us, “Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

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January 13, 2019 2 comments
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I first heard about Dr. Tamara O’Neil’s brutal slaying from my daughter. She called to ask me if I was part of the conversation on Twitter. My response was, in effect (I didn’t verbalize my thoughts to her), “I don’t care.” But after a couple of minutes, my mind became flooded with emotions. These emotions were triggered by the fact that a lot of domestic violence cases are sensationalized on social media and in the news. When someone is killed by an abusive partner, that is when domestic violence is front-page news. After a couple of days, the topic is pushed back and forgotten. To prove my point, I am writing this blog a few weeks after O’Neil’s murder, and domestic violence is no longer a priority in the news.

This leads me to ask myself “Are most people really interested in bringing about change?” From my observation, some people use the dramatization of physical violence on the media to attract viewers to promote a particular political agenda, such as gun control. For example, the NewYork Times article about the death of Dr. O’Neil dealt mainly with gun control. She was mentioned only briefly.

I am not trying to dismiss the fact that, according to that article, women are five times more likely to be killed in a domestic violence relationship when guns are present.

Yes, I do agree we need gun control. It doesn’t make sense  to purchase guns whose primary purpose is to kill people and not animals. On the other hand, we need to remember that many abusers have killed their partners without the use of firearms. Therefore, not owning a gun will not stop abuse.

Discussing the issues around firearms is essential, but when someone is killed by their partner, domestic violence should be the primary focus. When the argument shifts to gun control or some other political interest, it diminishes the victim’s story.

For those social and commercial news media outlets who broadcast the story, listing links or numbers to call about domestic violence is not enough. I believe the media should have the responsibility of defining domestic violence and showing how it really looks like. Or they should interview experts who could inform the public about the dynamics of abuse. Don’t we as parents use a crisis to teach our children about the conflict at hand? For example, when our kids are bullied at school or experience racial inequality in our community, don’t we use those incidents to address what to do, or talkabout self-acceptance? That’s what I did.

I also believe that it’s crucial to consider the physical and psychological safety of the victims and their families and other survivors that are watching.

Take the case of Andrea Grinage. Her boyfriend poured a flammable liquid on her body and set her on fire, inflicting her with seventy-five percent burns. Andrea was seven months pregnant at the time of the incident. Months later wusa9 had a follow-up interview with her. What I found troubling about the interview, as in other cases like this, was its timing and lack of concern for the safety of the victim. Andrea was still in the process of physical healing. She was scheduled for more surgeries. Even though some of the operations were successful, she still faced a long and difficult path to full recovery. In my opinion, she needed more time to recover.

Second, during the time of her interview, her assailant’s trial was postponed due to pending DNA results. I am not a lawyer, but I cannot understand how a DNA test was going to change the fact that he set her on fire. The point here is that her safety was still at risk and she was being asked to share information that might compromise that safety. At one point during the interview, she was asked if her boyfriend had physically assaulted her before the incident. She refused to answer the question because his trial was still pending.

I understand Andrea wanted to share her story to help others, but the interviewer should have recognized that she needed time to heal. Telling her story in her present stage of recovery might not be helpful for many who are watching. For me, it created anger and a fear for her life. My anger was due to the insensitivity of the media for not allowing her the time she needed to process the impact of the violence as she sought physical and emotional healing.

When the media dramatize domestic violence to attract viewers, they are forsaking the opportunity to educate the public and inspire them to take action. For survivors who might be watching the dramatization of the assault, it might evoke fear, shame, and outrage. There are no real takeaways or answers that might help in understanding the impact of abuse on a person’s wellbeingand providing the resources to heal. However, it should be obvious that the sensational headlines are not helpful.

If the media are genuinely interested in bringing about change, then yes, domestic violence education is the first step. As they educate the public, they should also call upon the people to take action. Taking action against domestic violence is even more important as talking about it. Organizations that have the political and financial resources should support advocates who are diligently working to bring change. Organizations that are advocating to change the laws at the state and national level to protect the victims and hold perpetrators responsible should be given the resources they need to succeed.

Domestic violence awareness should not be a once-a-year topic or wait until someone dies. Every October the issue is addressed. The sad thing is that, even during that one month, the events that are organized by dedicated advocates are poorly attended. I can attest to that. I held a workshop that was specially geared towards educating the church about domestic violence. Thirty-five people attended that event. I have been to similar events hosted by local and state organizations that had even smaller numbers.

As we watch the stories of Dr. Tamara O’Neil and Andrea Grinage in the media, we can turn our outrage into resolve to bring about change. We can begin by educating ourselves about effective ways of helping victims. Check out my blogs A Call for Action and Who’s Going to Speak Up? and the links below to learn about the basic steps in helping survivors of domestic violence. 

https://www.thehotline.org/resources/victims-and-survivors/

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/12-things-everyone-help-victims-domestic-violence

https://www.thehotline.org/help/help-for-friends-and-family/

https://youtu.be/ElJxUVJ8blw
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December 18, 2018 2 comments
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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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