If you spend time talking with women who’ve been in or are in abusive marriages, one disturbing fact almost always comes forth…they also were abused as children. In fact, it is the rare abused wife/girlfriend who was not.
In church there is a sickening assumption, that if the whole family, multiple generations, attends church, somehow these people are OK. But this is a total deception. In the case of the church, I believe the self-deception is at least 95% intentional. See, a multi-generational church-going family fits the narrative of Christ being the cure for everything. It’s the same as a supposed intact marriage. We see grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren of the same family in our corridors and we just automatically assume that this proves our form of religion is right. The fact that the church harbors abusers never crosses our minds.
The church’s silence on child abuse is the beginning of this problem. It’s refusal to speak on this subject in a way that liberates the abused child perpetuates the abuse for generations. The abused girl knows no different. She’s been treated like shit by her parents and possibly other family members, all church members in good standing, so how is she to know that the abuse her husband metes out is not normal?
(I’ve written extensively on how the church promotes marital abuse via its indoctrination methods so I won’t bring that into this post.)
The church in its insistence that submitting to those who are evil, who beat, who belittle, who even rape, little children will somehow bring about the evildoer’s salvation, is the root of a problem as old as time. It is a problem that I personally feel will never be eradicated because the church is never interested in looking at things from the point of view of the victim. Somewhere along the line we have decided to have sympathy for the devil (my apologies to The Rolling Stones) and his victims either submit or are rejected.
It wasn’t that many weeks ago that I began to research more liberal churches in my area, hoping to find a place I’d be safe, where guilt for standing up to people who abused me would not be dumped on me and where I might not be forced to hear a sermon offering the right hand of fellowship to the abuser while completely ignoring the abused.
Sadly, as I’ve mentioned before, even liberal churches embrace the evil and place undue burdens on the victims.
There is no church locally to me that teaches that child abuse is wrong by allowing the abused child to place the necessary boundaries between herself and the abusers. There are probably only a handful of such churches worldwide that do.
The abused girl grows up in the church thinking it is God who brings her suffering to make her trust Him more. She has no idea what a safe person is because, well, even those who are not her physical family are re-enforcing that her abuse is acceptable. So she meets a guy whose family is in the church for multi-generations like hers and she has no idea whether this man is safe or not. She cannot know because the church keeps its eyes closed to abuse and it never bothers to educate its children what a healthy relationship is.
It further compounds the problem by preaching incessantly that marriage is forever. Once you are married there is no escape . Once that evil man has you in his grips (in Christian relationships most abuse begins immediately after the wedding ceremony. My opinion is that it is related to the sexual power the man now wields over his wife because in co-habitational relationships, the abuse usually starts after the couple has sexual relations.) she has no way to ever be safe again because the church has spoken. The supposed mouthpiece of God has made its law and has bound this woman and all her children to evil.
It usually takes many years for her to acknowledge that what her husband is doing is abuse, even if he’s physically beating her or raping her, because she has no idea what healthy is and the church refuses to teach healthy.
Instead, the church teaches spiritual bondage to our abusers and our rapists, and condemns anyone who speaks out against the evildoer or against the church for its complicity.
And even after the woman gains the courage to leave, it is so easy to get sucked back into that sort of situation. And I’m not talking about the 80% of women who go back to their abuser (most forced by their church or relatives) even women like me who think they’ve dealt with it and are beginning to make their way can find themselves in the middle of another situation. Again, because the church’s belief is that really “all you need is love.” If you are just more understanding to (boss/coworker/neighbor/new boyfriend/abusive child) everything will turn out alright in the end.
I was frankly surprised at how quickly I fell back into old patterns. How quickly I went from surety that I was getting somewhere, to the same feeling of being trapped without possibility of escape and had no idea what to do, because I can’t just quit my job.
I had to work through it on my own. I have no time for therapy these days. I work so much, my only therapy is taking a bubble bath and writing.
Fortunately, I have been blessed with a friend who gets it.
I’ve never known anyone who gets me. I’ve known people who are empathetic and understanding. But to get me apparently means you have to have similar life experiences and you have to admit that those life experiences were bad ones.
She’s helped me a lot with wisdom beyond her years, as us old people are wont to say of the young. 🙂 I know she’s going to stand with me whether I follow her advice or do what I think I need to do (and that is a rare level of maturity for anyone), and I know she will always have my back.
In the church I have met kind and sympathetic people. I’ve met amazing people who will nearly literally give you the shirt off their backs. But I’ve never met anyone who gets it. Who understands the pain and the horrors I’ve seen and sees the world in both the jaded and non-jaded tones I see them in.
In church, we should be mature enough to speak to the pain of the abused. We should be mature enough to bear their burdens. And we should be mature enough to help victims learn to set healthy boundaries instead of heaping guilt on them because they won’t go to Grandma’s house for Christmas because their abuser(s) will be present.
Until such a time as this happens, those of us who have experienced nothing but abusive relationships will have to make due the best we can. Knowing full well, the best we can will never be enough for 95% of the church.