Finally sittingdown to write about the stages of long-rerm trauma as set forth in Man’s Search for Meaning. It’s an intense thing to do because I have to remind myself of all the things that happened, but having these stages validated has been extremely helpful to me, and I hope it might help someone else.
I can’t recall how I felt as a baby being abused, I just know from stories from my grandmothers that I was, and really, abuse is my earliest memory. It was just a fact of life, something I couldn’t avoid, no matter how long I dragged my feet after school (it sometimes took my brother and me over an hour to walk the six short-blocks from our school to home).
But I do recall the beginning of the abuse with my husband. And I was definitely shocked. It was unexpected. He’d been one way while we were dating, and after we were married, he changed. He no longer treated me well privately, mostly he ignored me (even during the honeymoon) or reacted negatively and cruelly to everything I did and said. Even asking for the smallest kindness from him was likely to generate an angry reaction.
It took me some time to recover from the shock. As I’ve read stories and as I’ve spoken to other people who are/were in abusive marriages where the abuse began immediately after the wedding, I hear the same thing. They had the same experiences, the same reaction.
Frankl points out an interesting thing that happens during this period, the victim still believes they will be saved. He calls this the “delusion of reprieve.”
At first you try to convince yourself you are imagining it. You think that it can’t really be as bad as you think it is. You believe that things will get better so you look for any little sign, any little something better. In my case, and in the case of at least half the abuse victims I’ve spoken with, my spouse treated me well while we were in public, and that would buoy my hopes. It would make me think that things weren’t all that bad, or that they might get better.
As you slowly start to realize that things aren’t going to change, that salvation is not coming for you, that there is no getting out, that’s when things get really bad. That’s when you begin to enter the second phase, a phase which some never are allowed to leave either because of social pressure from family and church, or because they just think they don’t deserve better, or, in the worst case scenario, the abusive spouse finally does what they really wanted all along, they kill their victim.
Abuse is real. Abuse in the church is common. It’s time we stopped excusing the abusers, and far past time we stopped tolerating pastors who ignore it, justify it, and enable it.