As we walk on life’s paths we often ask, “what is God teaching me in this?” Because my abuse has been the fiber of my entire life, those in the faith community have cited often, “share your story, for God has a purpose in this and He receives the glory.”
Before I became Charles’ wife, his control over me had begun. We had dated for a year and were then engaged for another year when he cited “we could not marry if we both continued in college.” Thus, his desire was that we wait several more years to marry. My parents were adamant, “break off the engagement or marry.” When Charles heard this, his demand was that I must drop out of college to work full-time to allow him to graduate. The information and knowledge we have today would have been a red flag this was a controlling and manipulative man. Because it was the 1960’s and this information was not available, then “in love”, Janie continued on my journey.
In less than 12 hours after I took my vows to be “Mrs. Woods”, I realized something was atypical. What 22 year old groom would invite his 17 year old brother to arrive at our residence at 8:00 a.m. to linger for the entire day? By that night when Mike remained in our apartment, my tearful pleas for his departure were received only by Charles’ anger, “this is my brother and he can stay as long as he wishes.” This came after weeks of pleading to Charles for a “honeymoon” of any kind; even a night in a lovely hotel, but all were denied.
Over the years I would come to understand such behavior was termed, “avoidance” by counselors; another way to avoid being alone with a new wife whom desired love and attention from her husband. I had dreamed of the time I would have a husband with whom I could cherish the physical attributes of our union. This component of the marriage was missing.
As a naïve 21 year old bride reared in an ultra-conservative fundamentalist church, after meeting with a psychologist about the lack of intimacy and the desire for Charles to spend our first day of marriage with a brother instead of his wife, his advice revealed this was indeed not a typical marriage. I believed it was imperative that I have our marriage annulled.
My parents requested that I converse with our pastor about my desire. The pastor was unyielding; I had taken a vow before God and I must remain married. Less than 30 days after taking my wedding vows the abuse had begun. It was initially from my husband for denying me what I would learn years later is considered “sexual abuse” (to deliberately withhold physical intimacy from a spouse) and then emotional/spiritual abuse when I was instructed to remain in this celibate marriage. As years passed and the abuse escalated, numerous pastors in as many different churches, mandated the same advice. The old cliché that hindsight is 20/20 could not have been more apropos in my situation. Believing that I must remain in this union, began a very long and arduous journey for me.
For years, Charles denied he was abusive for he cited he had never severely beaten me as my father did. Focus Ministries states, “anyone who has been a victim of verbal, emotional, psychological or financial abuse understands the power of oppression. DV may not be evident in physical bruises or open cuts to show the world-but often the wounds of oppression are much deeper and slower to heal.” Proverbs 22:24 NKJ, “Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go.”