Is This Love? Part 7

As stated in the earlier DV blogs, abuse encompasses the minor emotional assaults to the major beatings which terminate in death. Do you believe silence is abuse? Professionals are not speaking of just sitting quietly while occupied with an interest, but deliberate and defiant refusal to address another person.  While our children resided in the home there were 15 days of total silence from Charles. There have been shorter periods of ceasing all communication, but this was the lengthiest. When we awakened there was no reply to “good morning”. When he arrived home, there was no reply to my greeting of “how was your day?” There was an adamant refusal to any form of communication.

I met with my pastor due to the perplexing behavior of Charles. He was a pastor with a great concern about his congregation and telephoned Charles for a meeting with the three of us. When the pastor queried Charles his behavior, his sole reply was that he was punishing me for not doing what he told me to do. Charles couldn’t recall the offense. How great is an offense one can’t recall?

Threats are also a form of emotional abuse, unless acted upon with physical and then they are both emotional and physical. I was threatened on a routine basis if I considered divorce or if I continued to discuss the abuse. “I will make you pay” and “you will live to regret this” were as commonplace comments from Charles, as “what is for dinner?”

Is restraining someone from leaving a room abuse? According to the NCADV shoving, poking, twisting limbs, blocking exits, pinning down, grabbing, pushing/pulling, pinching are all forms of physical abuse. I endured each of these and some to the extent of causing extreme emotional distress. Often times when Charles was physically abusing me, I would cry out and call him Clyde. He understood the motive behind these accusations due to the extreme physical abuse from my father, Clyde, until I was almost 18 years of age.

At age nine, our daughter pulled up her sleeve, exposing a bruise on her arm and stating, “Mommy, look what Daddy did.” Unfortunately, I too carried those same bruises routinely. He didn’t just grab our arms, he would twist them as he loudly and defiantly stated, “you listen to me.” Being shoved into closets and pinned against walls brought on something akin to an anxiety attack for I was reliving every merciless beating from my father. White collar abusers don’t want others to see their abuse, so they are careful where and how they abuse.

I’ve been awakened out of a sound sleep, while being dragged from bed by one arm. Charles had decided he wanted to talk and he believed physical abuse would stimulate my hearing. I have had his fingers poked repeatedly into my tightly, closed eyes.  I would cry out to please stop and utter over and over, “my ears work fine, but please, please don’t do this.” The physical abuse lingered for over 35 years of our marriage. Even though Charles didn’t bring blood to my body as my father did, the harshness and strength of his restraints while also yelling at me and spitting in my face left me shaken for days. Ephesians 4:32, ESV “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted…”

Is This Love? Part 6

As I shared when I began the series of DV, this is atypical of my blogs on gratefulness. However, because this is a subject which most churches choose not to address, it is something which I feel is important to bring to the attention of other believers.

There are some support groups for victims of DV, but not for all.  I live in an area of approximately 1.25 million people. However, there are no support groups for women like myself. If I were currently being battered and needed emergency shelter, I could seek refuge. There is no support group for women living in or moving from the situation.  This is another aspect of the ostrich syndrome, “just can’t be happening if the women are with their abusers.”

Focus Ministries states, “abuse is not an isolated or a random incident in a relationship. It is a pattern of behavior. It is not the loss of control, but the opposite.” There are numerous traits and certainly abusers don’t display all the traits. However, if a victim must experience even several, that is too many. Charles frequently displayed some of those traits with his moodiness, nitpicking, putdowns, yelling, criticizing and withdrawing affection. Charles’ blatant refusal to show any form of affection, not even a hug, were among my greatest challenges in our marriage.  Having been severely battered by my parents, I trusted that the man I married would not only love me emotionally, but certainly physically.

Abusers also show frequent periods which DV professionals refer to as the “honeymoon period”. They will treat their victim with kindness for a short duration and then return to their numerus modes of abuse. These include but are not limited to: “I’m sorry”, pleading for forgiveness, promises to go to counseling, enlisting family support, “I’ll never do it again” and crying.  I have experienced each of these, some more discouraging than others, for I so greatly wanted to believe Charles was sincere.

I recall vividly when we had just celebrated our 25th anniversary while residing in FL. The marriage seemed hopeless. I had exhausted all resources for reconciling the marriage and contrary to the numerous directives from pastors to remain, I had no choice, but to be file for divorce. Charles turned on the tears of remorse and made countless promises, including all of the above.

I shared the analogy with him that for years I had been drowning, pleading for help to save the marriage. I said he would dangle a lifesaver over the edge of the ship, but always refused to throw it to me. The further I drifted out to sea, the less he was there to save us; our marriage. He sobbed as he said he wanted to save the marriage. After I withdrew the divorce petition, he had returned to the abuse and this time greater than before.

He also promised he wanted to go to my family as an accountability factor, touting he understood he had not been a godly husband or father and vowing he would do better. Those words died on his lips for he never made any effort to be accountable to anyone, including me. Such false and shallow words are certainly more destructive than making promises which one had no intentions of keeping. John 15:12 NIV “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

I Have Better For You!

Dear Blog Readers, As I shared when I began this latest series of blogs on domestic violence, I noted I’m sharing some of the outline and highlights from a training I attended with Focus Ministries. A reader noted the blog is too repetitive. Yes, the aspects of DV may indeed be to some persons, especially […]

Dear Blog Readers,

As I shared when I began this latest series of blogs on domestic violence, I noted I’m sharing some of the outline and highlights from a training I attended with Focus Ministries. A reader noted the blog is too repetitive. Yes, the aspects of DV may indeed be to some persons, especially those whom have never been victims of DV.

What about persons whom have been in a devastating accident or had a terminal illness or lived through a natural disaster, yet ALL survived and noted, “this is what has imprinted me.” This is what has made me the person I am today. I could not be as productive in some of the countless volunteer capacities which I’m involved with had I not been a part of that community at one time. I volunteer at a food pantry for I was born and reared in poor home and often went to bed hungry.

I’m a Casa (court appointed special advocate) for I was severely battered as a child. I make pillowcases for critically and terminally ill children because my own family lost many of its’ members to cancer. For over 50 years, I have prepared meals for those with a need which I call “care meals” for I have felt the sting of having a “need” and desiring a caring hand.

Thus, as i shared when I began this current series of blogs, it is to share w/those whom know of someone that is a victim of DV. If you haven’t attended workshops/training, etc. and certainly if you have never lived through such a time, then yes, this is “boring and routine.”   I have read and re-read many person’s testimonies whom have shared the same story for years and years. Joni Eareckson Tada comes to my mind as well as many others in the faith-based community whose lives are living testimonies to the glory of the Lord.

As I shared on day one of this current DV blog, numerous counselors and those even in my church or local community have said “but why are you not angry and/or bitter?” I can proclaim, “because of the Lord. He has given me the strength to endure.” The notes from the training will be concluded in the next few days of blogging. This has been a format to share with those whom have not attended such training.

If you do choose to read, there might be a small snippet of information whereby you recognize that a friend or family member may be experiencing this. You can perhaps then say, “I hadn’t realized that before.” Just yesterday I received a message stating my blog has opened their eyes to something they now realize a family member is experiencing. When I have covered the highlights of the Focus Ministries training, I will resume the format of appreciation in “daily living.” Blessings, Jane

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Is This Love? Part 5

I just wanted to reiterate to my blog readers, this series on DV is not about being a victim. It is about being grateful I survived and doing so with blessings and gratitude. I cling to Jer. 29:11 for child abuse and DV is not pretty. It’s horrific, but I chose to overcome and not be a victim. Yes, I’m sad and grieve that I never had parents or a husband that loved me. However, I also know that God knows this and He will receive the glory. This blog is also to remind each reader  if you know of someone going through this, I can only urge you to be there for them. Victims of abuse need support, not criticism.

As Focus Ministries states, “would you recognize violence and abuse if they occurred in your relationship or in your church? Because abuse can be subtle and can be denied, many people do not recognize it at first.”  As I shared in part 4 of this blog, I frequently reached out to fellow church members for prayer and support. Our frequent moves with Charles’ desire for career changes did not permit me to have enduring friendships. Consequently, I had no one whom I could turn to when I needed prayer and support.  Thus, I believed some in my own church congregation would be willing to not only “hear me” but,  pray with me.

Not only did many not believe my cries for help, the majority went to Charles immediately with my pleas; causing the abuse to escalate. Even today, 7 years after he left me, he is still using the gossiping of church members years ago, to continue emotional abuse against me. For 44 years and beyond, Charles denied he was abusive. The validations from counselors, the numerous books I purchased on DV and even the bible studies on such behavior in marriage fell on deaf ears with Charles.

I can’t recall any of our pastors whom I did not seek prayer from. Even though I was in counseling, I desired spiritual support from the leader of our congregation. As with church members, most of the pastors disbelieved my concerns. However, during our 44-year marriage, the four pastors whom did sincerely believe me were a blessing. I knew they were praying with and for me.

My prayers never changed. I so greatly desired our marriage would be healed and Charles would love me. It was a prayer God chose not to answer. For six years after his betrayal, Charles confided that he never truly loved me. I then understood his frequent words during our marriage “if only I were single”, and “I married to be successful in my career” were valid.

Realizing I remained in a marriage which would never be healed and loving a man that never loved me was another emotional element of the abuse. Why couldn’t Charles have the integrity to tell me years ago he had no desire for me? Despite the words from pastors to “remain in the marriage, no matter what the circumstances or outcome”, we could each have parted ways with perhaps the opportunity for a new life. Charles had begun planning a new life long before he left me, but I continued to believe that I would be at his side when we passed from this life.

When I learned of the fact, he had never loved me, I also learned of his affair which began during our marriage. No matter how intense the abuse during the marriage, the realization of such betrayal while I was his wife opened the deep and painful emotional scar. James 4:1-2 ESV, “What causes quarrels…among you? Is it not this that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have…You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.”

Is This Love? Part 4

But he doesn’t look like an abuser! Are abusers identified only by appearance, career or social status? Of the countless times  I would confide in fellow church members that I was seeking prayer and support, how often I heard, “oh Charles can’t be abusive because he is an executive.  He drives a Mercedes and wears expensive clothes.”  As the lyrics of the song “what does love have to do with it”, well what does appearance have to do with it?

A huge component of Charles’ persona was his image. That was his rationale when he required us to move to the smaller, but more expensive home; appearances of prestige and success. That is the reason he mandated I work outside the home and he would dictate what expenses I must cover so that he could purchase Mercedes vehicles (trading frequently for newer models).

I was commanded to take a jobs requiring travel and working week-ends. I loathed being away from my home and family, but I would learn over the years, my time away allowed Charles to develop relationships with our children and others whereby I would be excluded. With his commands on what I would do with my payroll check, he hid money which I never learned about until years later and which I would never receive even a portion of.

As I came home one Saturday, our young son excitedly said, “guess what Daddy bought today?” I had not yet seen his purchase. Chris was thrilled to tell me it was a Mercedes. As I sobbed, I said, “you force me to work outside the home so you can go and purchase a luxury car?”

For years, I pleaded to remain a full-time wife and mother, but each request was denied. Charles always stated, “you need to work.”  I didn’t need to work, but this is a trait of financial abuse. I was obligated to be employed so that he could spend what he deemed “his money” for his desires. Until the day he left me in 2012, he declared the home and all our joint assets were “his.” No, they were ours, for as a young couple whom married at age 21 and 22, we acquired everything we had as a couple. We had no inheritances of financial or monetary assets.

As I stated in my recent blog on DV, with the “Me Too” movement more people are realizing that status in life and appearance has nothing to do with the desire to control, manipulate, humiliate, intimidate and harm another person. In my situation, it was imperative that Charles was always in absolute control; in his career, his home and most especially with me.  This had nothing to do with biblical submission which our church touted frequently to the wives and women of the church. I was in submission, doing as he required. However, being physically and emotionally abused is not a component of submission.

While accompanying Charles on a business trip only months before he left me, one of his colleagues introduced himself and queried whom I was. Before I could reply, Charles cited, “she belongs to me.” The surrounding colleagues chuckled, but I knew what he meant. I was merely property to him. I had been from the day I became his wife. I was never viewed as his “other half”; God’s intention for our spouses. I was merely someone that brought him an income, maintained his home, cooked the meals, ran his errands and cared for his children. I was never deemed “his wife.” Ephesians 5:25 NKJ25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,

Is This Love?-Part 3

 

According to the NCADV (Nat’l Coalition Against Domestic Violence)  1 in 4 women in the US is or will become a victim of DV. As I have shared with pastors and church staff dozens of times, as you stand in the pulpit and look out over the congregation, 25% of all the women there are victims of DV. Most church staff choose to disregard the statistics for they believe if ignored, it will go away.

There are many elements of DV, some of the most prevalent are: intimation, humiliation, physical injury, power and control. At the core of each case of DV is a component which is a trigger to the abuser. For me personally, despite the enduring love I had for Charles, the more I desired him to fulfill the roles of a husband; emotional and physical interaction, the more he pushed me away. The more Charles withdrew, the more I tried to be accepted by him. The countless hours and thousands of dollars spent in counseling to be loved and accepted by a man whom years later touted he never truly cared about me, caused the cycle of abuse to escalate over the years.

I understand the statement from Focus Ministries, “Abuser wants power and control over their victim and they will use any means they can to do so.” The examples of this power and control in my life, would fill a multi volume book. I will remember always a house which Charles insisted we purchase. We were in a new house only 4 years old. I loved the house and the neighborhood.  He desired to be in a smaller house, but a more prestigious neighborhood at a much greater cost.

Because Charles mandated that I work outside the home, specifying what things I must pay for, then purchasing a more expensive, smaller home was irrational to me. Additionally, the increased mortgage would only place an unnecessary encumbrance on our budget. I did not desire to move or to purchase that house. He manipulated the realtor to pressure me to the point he purchased that house. This would not be the only time in our marriage he did this. He purchased other homes and automobiles without my consent.

In all relationships there must be compromise, but husbands that love their wives don’t “bully them” to achieve what they yearn. I Cor. 13: 4-5 NKJ, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely…”

Is This Love? Part 2

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.”