Contributor: Joy Bollinger
STATISTICS: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that over 50 percent of female, homicide victims are murdered by a spouse or boyfriend. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, more than (one in three) women (35.6%) in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
Abused women suffer paralyzing fear, physical and emotional torment, isolation from friends and family, and threats of death. Because of the recent rash of women murdered by partners or ex partners, I am sharing my story with an urgent plea to all women — leave your abuser before it is too late!
MY JOURNEY: It was New Year’s Eve of 1968. My cousin was having a gathering at his apartment. While there, he introduced me to a handsome and very charming career officer in the United States Coast Guard. After a whirlwind romance, we married.
Immediately, he forbid me to have further communication with my friends. He monitored my phone calls and my coming and going. He went through my belongings and trashed anything that he believed connected me with my past. Eventually, his unrelenting verbal abuse and threats broke me, so that I shook violently when I heard the rattle of his keys in the door. I lived in constant fear, not knowing what would set him off.
A little over two years into the marriage, I became pregnant. He demanded I get an abortion. I refused; he refused to allow me to buy maternity clothes. Fortunately, a co-worker loaned me four maternity outfits. He then began shoving and knocking me to the floor. I feared for my baby and knew that I needed to escape before the violence escalated, because it always does.
Daily, the neighbors heard him shouting foul profanities at me. They pleaded with me to leave him. During the last four months of pregnancy, I planned our escape. Ten days after my son was born, I waited for my husband to leave for work. The movers rushed in, packed my things, and with my infant son securely in my arms, I headed for the airport.
A month later, my estranged husband called. Evidently, my attorney had shared my phone number with his attorney. He offered the same ingratiating platitudes: “I am so sorry; it will never happen again.” “Things will be different.” “We can work this out; You know I love you.”
I had heard it all before, so with great resolve, I told him it was over. And yes, I feared he might find me, but as a new Christian of just one month, I had placed my life and my son’s life in God’s hands. However, I have no doubt that had I caved into his charms, both my son and I would have become another statistic in the news, which brings me to the reason for writing this.
FACTS ABOUT ABUSE: Abuse is unacceptable. Don’t believe the lie that if you were a better person, he would stop the abuse. No matter how much you try to please him, he will continue to abuse you by shaming you into thinking that you are the problem. He will demoralize you into believing that you are ugly, stupid, worthless, and useless.
Generally, abuse begins with belittling, criticizing, screaming, and telling the victim they are worthless. This type of demoralization escalates into pushing and shoving and eventually turns to violent physical abuse, and even murder. These incidents are often followed either by threats of more violence, if the woman doesn’t keep silent, or the offender gives gifts, with a promise that it will never happen again. A brief honeymoon from violence may follow, but just when it seems that things will be better, tension builds over a frivolous issue. Despite attempts to soothe and de-escalate the situation, the woman’s efforts only fuel her abuser’s wrath, and the abuse begins again.
Sadly, victims suffer in silence, because they minimize the violence and blame themselves instead of the abuser. They fail to understand that abusers have deep insecurities and actually feel powerless. Thus, they become distrustful, jealous, possessive, controlling, aggressive, verbally abusive, and violent.
GOD’S TRUTHS ABOUT YOU: The truth is that God created you in His own image (Genesis 1:27). Before you were formed in the womb, God knew you (Jeremiah 1:5). Imagine…God knew you before He created your inward parts and knit you together in your mother’s womb. You have value, because you were wonderfully made by God’s hand (Psalm 139:13-15). He created you to be a shining light for Him, and Satan wants to snuff out your light.
God never intended that anyone live in fear. Nor should any woman remain in an abusive relationship, for He said, “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Abuse is not the future that God has for you (Jeremiah 29:11). We have all been created in His image; therefore, abuse of another human being is a direct assault on God.
AVAILABLE HELP: Those caught in this cycle of abuse, especially if there are children involved, should seek immediate help and safety in a shelter, where they can find support and counseling. For help in locating a local shelter, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
FORGIVENESS HEALS: I suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), resulting from the extreme mental abuse, which far exceeded the physical. I would hear a noise or comment that reminded me of my ex-husband and would have flashbacks and shake violently. My self-esteem and confidence had been obliterated, and my fear and anxiety levels were at an all time high. In my distress, I prayed and asked God to heal me, so I was shocked when He spoke into my spirit, “Forgive him and pray for him.” My initial response was, “I can’t.” Then, reluctantly, I prayed, “Father, I forgive (_____). I pray that he comes to know the love of Christ and accepts Him as His Lord and Savior.”
I prayed that prayer every day for two years, until one day, I realized that the fear, pain, shame, insecurities, and hopelessness were no longer in my thoughts. I no longer trembled when I heard his name or a sound that reminded me of him. The anger was gone. For God had given me wings to soar above the past. I had peace in my heart and was truly free at last!
PRAYER: LORD, I feel trapped in this abusive (marriage/relationship) and I don’t know how to leave. Give me strength to seek help. Protect my family and me against any retribution. Your Word tells me that I must forgive, but I don’t feel like I can. Help me to forgive (name), because if I refuse to forgive, You will not forgive me of my sins (Matthew 6:16). Heal my broken heart and bring restoration to my life. I ask that You lead and guide me and make provision for my safe escape. In Jesus name, amen.
“In all things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)