Another Sisterhood Story… from one of the many Christian women who live in terrifying daily awareness that their husbands might kill them.
I’m in my car this morning, and there’s a radio interview about the shooter who killed people in a church in Texas. They’re saying the military neglected to put his history of domestic abuse on his permanent record. They’re saying this error made it possible for him to continue to purchase weapons, despite laws prohibiting the sale of weapons to people with charges of domestic violence.
They’re talking about the strong link between mass murders and domestic abusers.
I sit in my car, yelling at the radio:
When will people see domestic violence as something other than a family matter that got out of hand?
When will there be real and lasting consequences?
When will they recognize the darkness in a person who can do untold damage to those he claims to love?
If he can do that and be unaffected, how much damage could he do to someone he doesn’t know?
I listen as they list the commonalities among mass murderers…
And every one of them fits my husband.
“Generally, it fits a pattern of:
– easy access to firearms by individuals who have
– very controlling kind of relationships
– with their intimate partners and who are
– greatly threatened when their control is challenged,” the man in the radio says.
There are signs when someone is considering mass murder.
“Individuals who are amassing weapons and ammo, that obviously is a red flag. Individuals whose violence generally extends beyond the family would be an indicator of greater danger,” the voice in my radio said.
This shooter they are speaking of sounds the same as my husband.
My husband owns 20+ weapons – several are AK-47 and AR-15 assault weapons.
He has hundreds, if not thousands, of ammo rounds for each gun.
We are separated for the fourth time over domestic abuse issues.
I recently told him I am filing for divorce.
He is currently ignoring the legal papers that have been served him.
All the boxes are checked…
He fits the profile.
I’m yelling at the radio because we have a long history in the family court… Restraining orders, guardian ad litem intervention with my children, years and years of counseling, charges of felony abuse. Behind our personal history, stand the courts and police, as well as the churches we have attended — all of whom have colluded (without intention) to keep me in danger.
When I told one pastor how I was afraid my husband was gonna kill somebody in our house, he said, “He is only threatening you with heaven. Saved people should never be afraid of going to heaven.”
This same pastor counseled me that separation was wrong, and offered his own explanation for my abuse. “Just as Jesus was beaten and bruised for our transgressions, perhaps God is calling you to the same?“
This same pastor offered me no hope, only guilt and condemnation from God. He never confronted my husband about his abusive behaviors and never asked my husband to step down from his leadership position at church.
Later, this same pastor later admitted he took no action because he was afraid of my husband.
Eventually I went against church counsel and went to the courts alone, asking for help. In my mind, doing this was tantamount to thumbing my nose at God. But I received from them what the church would not afford me — protection.
Based on reports about my husband’s history, the state stepped in. After granting restraining orders, the court brought felony abuse charges against my husband.
Then my pastor went to the courts on behalf of my husband, asking for all felony charges to be dropped. He promised that the church would counsel my husband and hold him responsible. Laughable, you say?
But the court agreed, and dropped the charges.
Restraining orders stayed in place to protect myself and my children, but within two months our church and pastor were pressing me to drop the court orders and allow my husband to visit the children and move home.
The church threatened to remove me from fellowship for being a disobedient wife. Did they realize they were threatening removal of my only social outlet? At home, I was not allowed to answer the telephone, get the mail, or have private conversations… just a few on a long list of things I couldn’t do. Yet, the church focused on repeatedly chastising me for “living in fear” and being “ungodly” for suffering with PTSD.
The church also told me if I went for “secular help” I would be removed.
I couldn’t fathom losing anything more.
The pastor never chastised my husband when he broke the law by repeatedly violating restraining orders.
The pastor also kept telling me, “in God’s eyes, his sins are no different than yours.”
Over and over, I found my husband in my home or found evidence that he had broken in, even though the court orders forbade him from being there. Each time, I called the sheriff to report the violations. Law enforcement would visit my husband, who kept admitting he had done it. Each time, they told him, “NEXT TIME… you’ll be in trouble“.
My pastor said I was being unfair. “It is not natural for a man to go without his family!” He insisted that I just really needed to let him move home and then start marriage counseling. With the church, of course. He said this was my only option if I wanted to please God. He said that divorce, for any reason other than adultery, was sin and God hated it.
(How twisted it is to tell women and children they could have a “get out of jail free” card if their father cheated, but if he is only violent and controlling, they just have to deal with it.)
Finally, I agreed to try marriage counseling and let him come home. Within three weeks, he was violent again.
This time, I took my kids and stayed with a friend until he was removed from the house. Several months later, I fled the state with my children.
I felt abandoned by my church…
by the courts…
Later I learned my husband’s domestic abuse charges meant he could no longer own guns. Our pastor didn’t want him to lose the firearms, so the pastor took all the guns to his house. When we fled out of state, the pastor gave my husband back his weapons.
My story is not so different, not so unusual. Abusive men, time and time again, do not face the consequences of their actions. I honestly feel that if my husband had been required to face his felony charges, it might have woken him up to the reality of how heinous his abusive actions were. But he didn’t, so we will never know.
For almost 8 years, we were separated. We lived in a different state, not where the restraining orders and felony abuse charges were filed. Eventually, I believed he had changed, and I allowed him to move back home. He seemed very different at first. But it was a facade. My husband used a false profession of salvation to gain his return home.
My husband no longer showed physical violence, but we suffered all other forms of abuse daily. The church said I didn’t have any right to separate again if he wasn’t physical.
I stuck it out for six more years.
Then I discovered he was purchasing firearms again. I went to the sheriff’s department in our new state to ask how this was possible with his history. “Unless it shows on his background check, our hands are tied,” they said. The failure to file a report of domestic abuse on a permanent record gave my husband the power to purchase assault rifles again, and tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition.
Ironically, it our final separation was over ammunition. He purchased more than $1000 worth of ammo on a credit card I knew nothing about. I found a receipt in the garage. When I brought it to him and asked for an explanation, six months of angry stonewalling and silent treatment began, and it ended our marriage.
I am no different than thousands of other women.
We are not the ones protected by the courts and the law.
We face the real and deadly consequences of every domestic abuse charge that doesn’t get filed on record.
We live in fear and intimidation when lawless domestic abusers are told “next time, you’ll get consequences.”
We see the emboldened belief that our abusers are truly above the law.
We are not the ones who find mercy and grace within the church.
We have been taught that we are nothing and we are worthy of being ignored.
We do not, often cannot, stand up for ourselves — because years of abuse has stripped us of any authority in our own voice.
Most often, we make the clergy uncomfortable and our fears are chastised, minimized, or ignored. My abuser’s devaluing was reinforced by the the church, the police, and finally the courts when I reached my breaking point and asked for help.
We know that when the next shooting happens… the church, the police, and the courts will all be shocked and saddened. We know they may never realize it will actually be happening again BECAUSE of them.
We are the ones who go underground and continue living our lives as best we can.
You know us as your neighbors, your friends, your co-workers.
We appear to live a normal existence…until days like this morning when, the radio reminds me that I (and anyone who might happen to be around me), could quite possibly be in grave danger.
The weight of that knowledge is unbearable.
This is a real story.
This Sisterhood survivor remains anonymous because even though she has escaped, she still fears for her life.
People of faith everywhere want to believe their faith communities are immune to domestic violence, sexual addiction, and abuse. I know it’s not true because I hear the stories percolating behind perfect facades.
- the Sisterhood of victims currently in crisis.
- the Sisterhood of survivors who are building lives from the rubble.
- the Sisterhood of warriors who are raising their voices to bring an end to the misrepresentation of God’s character in God’s name within the faith community.
One of the ways we change culture?
By telling these stories.
Is your church really as safe as you think it is?
- If someone was abusing a child close to you, could you tell?
- Don’t victims often make up accusations to get attention?
- God tells us to forgive and forget, but does that include letting a sex offender attend church with children present?
- How can faith communities effectively protect our most vulnerable members?
Paperback coming soon!