I saw a post on Facebook today about the recent football player / wife story....it talked about Tweets from people saying why they couldn't / didn't leave their abusive spouses. It sparked something in me...I feel like I am someone who came out on the other side of this issue...and I want to share some thoughts....
So, when I was 20 I got married. Honestly, now I am not sure why I did it...I really wanted to be married and be a mom and have a "normal family"....I thought I loved him. I don't know, anyway...I did it--I got married. We were not together very long before things started to change. The abuse did not happen overnight though. First, it was little things like I did something wrong, I was dumb about certain things, I wasn't "cultured", he just slowly made me feel stupid. It was very gradual, but over time I questioned my intelligence, I doubted my worth, I took blame for things that were not really mine. Then he started getting angry and breaking things or throwing things or hitting things...not me, but things. I found myself trying not to make him mad...trying to do the right thing, trying to calm him down and then apologizing for making him upset. By this time, he had me convinced that I could not make it without him...that I would fail at whatever I tried...that I needed him. I knew that I had made a horrible mistake by this time, but I felt like it was my own fault and that I needed to just deal with it. I believed that marriage was for life and that I needed to make it work--whatever the cost. And--I believed that somehow I could fix things so they would not be like this forever--they would get better. He finally escalated to hitting me after about a year and a half of being married. He eventually started punching me in the arms and then in the face. By this time, I knew that he was crazy and that there was no telling what he was capable of. I thought about leaving, but I was terrified about what he would do. You see, when you are with someone like this--there are bad times, but there are also good times. They claim to love you and they often try to make up for what they have done...but when you leave them, they just do the bad stuff and there is no remorse because they want to punish you. One day he went completely crazy and started screaming and smashing everything in the house...he flipped the furniture, threw everything in his reach, smashed holes in the wall, and smashed the chandelier. That was when it clicked for me...I hid behind a chair waiting for him to get to me. He didn't, but I honestly was afraid that he was going to seriously harm or even kill me that day. I remember crying to my friend and saying I didn't know what to do. When I finally did leave, he really got worse. He stole my car and left me stranded at work. He chose a day that we had meetings off site--so I was stranded at a strange location. Then he kept breaking into my house and doing things to make me think I was crazy...like moving things around and changing my alarm clock from am to pm. He stole my journals and copied them. He mailed them to my boss and my friends and my pastor. He poisoned two of my pets and killed them. And while he was doing all of this...he wrote me love letters saying how much he missed me and how he wanted to grow old with me. I had a restraining order--but I could not prove it was him and I had no idea where he was because he was hiding. I really felt like I was crazy and sometimes I thought about going back just to make him stop. I finally ended up quitting my job, getting a different car, using a different last name, and moving to a really small town several counties away with a PO Box in a different city. That was the only way he finally stopped. He did finally stop and I have not seen or heard from him since--that was 1994. I looked over my shoulder for years terrified that he would find me. I still don't know what I would do if I bumped into him somewhere...Thankfully I never had children with him. I cannot even imagine what that would have been like.
It is so easy to judge men and women who are abused or mistreated by someone they are in a relationship with....We think "why don't they just leave". It just isn't that easy sometimes. It takes a lot of courage to leave an abuser. And it takes a feeling of self worth that many victims don't have. Often, people that are in an abusive relationship were abused as children--that lifestyle is all they know. I believe they want something different but don't know it is possible or even know where to begin.
I am so fortunate that I got out. I am so happy that my kids don't have to live through that life. I watched the face of the football player's now wife....if you look you can see the pain. She was probably made to do that conference. She did not want to be there. She probably doesn't feel like she has options. I don't know...but before we judge, how about we show some compassion. How about praying for her and for him. How about we not add to her shame and embarrassment?
Chances are that you know someone who is being abused and maybe you are even frustrated with them because they won't leave....How can you help them???
1. Don't judge them....they will leave when they are ready. It takes something clicking in their mind and until that happens...they won't leave--can't leave.
2. Help them build their self worth...encourage them...point out their strengths...help them find things they are good at.
3. Share God with them....teach them to pray and learn about Jesus who is crazy for them...who thinks they are amazing and smart and funny.
4. Help them come up with an action plan...have them put important documents in a safe location where they can get to them...insurance papers, bank accounts, birth certificates, marriage license, titles to homes and cars.
5. Help them set up a PO Box so they can get mail somewhere other than home.
6. Help them set up a bank account in their own name or maybe even in your name so their spouse cannot get to it.
7. Help them find a safe place to go...
8. Help them get things in order to file a restraining order when the time comes.
The biggest thing is to build their self worth so they feel they deserve better and then help them make a plan so they can break free. People can totally break free and heal and have a healthy life, but they have to believe it first. Instead of judging and getting frustrated with them...be patient and be that calm voice of reason that says "you deserve better and you can do this".