I can’t tell you how many abuse victims I’ve spoken to where this happens. The victim’s family, friends or church take the side of the abuser in a separation, rather than standing by the victim.
This doesn’t make logical sense. Why would a person’s own family turn their back on a domestic violence victim, and side with the abuser? Why do churches tell the victim to “forgive and forget” and to take the abuser back, rather than holding the abuser accountable for his* actions?
The following is taken from my Domestic Violence Guide for Churches. Abusers are masters at disguising their thoughts and actions. They might be your next-door neighbor, your brother-in-law, or your best friend and you would never know it! Probably the only people who know it are their intimate partners and children. And the abuser has made sure their intimate partners and children won’t tell anyone through many abusive actions that make them too afraid to share what life at home is really like.
While the victim is too afraid to share what is happening, the manipulative abuser will slyly denigrate the victim to others when it suits him. He will tell others that she is “really trying, but can’t quite seem to treat me well,” or “She wants to be a good mother, but really, she can’t quite manage it.” He puts a lot of energy into lying to the victim’s friends, family and church. Then, if and when she tries to leave him, any person who might have been the victim’s source of support will side with the abuser not the victim.
Abusers are master manipulators. Just as Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, abusers are highly capable of deception and presenting a very different public face than their private face. To those outside their homes they appear to be:
- Good spouses
- Model parents
- Upstanding citizens
- Even leaders of the church, elders and pastors.
These people look so good on the outside they are often able to fool those around them into thinking their victim is causing all the trouble in their home, and that she is:
- A Liar
- An unsubmissive wife, and/or
But why are they able to fool others?
No one would believe someone could be this evil. Tweet This
We all want to believe the outward appearance of a godly man loving his intimate partner and children, don’t we? There are many men who father children and never take any responsibility for them. When we see one who appears to be doing the right thing, we want to believe the outward appearance.
But God doesn’t look at the outward appearance, and neither should we. The Bible has a lot to say about people who disguise themselves in this way, but we must search the Bible for them. For example, 1 Samuel 16:7 says:
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at.
People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Tweet This
A DV victim can point to some of these bible verses when she tries to get support from others who often don’t believe her. She can share that Jesus himself warns us about abusive people in Matthew 7:15:
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
Why do wolves dress up like sheep? So they can eat the sheep! These abusers have been dressing like sheep and have been eating their victims in our own homes and pews for years, and we haven’t realized it. Why not? What do wolves dressed like sheep look like? They look like sheep! In other words,
They look just like us.[i]
But, were you to implant a nanny cam in their home you would be shocked to see him committing[ii]:
Verbal Abuse – He criticizes the appearance, actions and thoughts of the victim, often calling her obscene names in front of their children.
Emotional Abuse – He robs her of sleep, waking her in the middle of night, or will keep the children up very late. When he is in a rage, he might scream at her all night long. He will monitor everything she does, her phone calls, her car mileage, her computer usage, how much money she spends, where she goes and whom she sees. He will tell her what to wear and to whom she is allowed to speak. He will keep her from her friends and family so that she has no one to help her if she should decide to leave, or turn them against her so they refuse to help her. He threatens her with weapons, and threatens to harm her pets or children. He may also give her the silent treatment, refusing to acknowledge she exists. He may be very neglectful, and refuse to help her with anything about their home, children or life.
Psychological Abuse – He will try to make her think she is going crazy. He will move an item that is important to her, and then help her “find” it. He will make promises to her; then deny ever having the conversation. Later, when she begins to doubt her own perceptions, he will call her crazy, or seem concerned about her mental health.
Financial Abuse – No matter how much money they have, he will keep her in poverty. She is put on an allowance, or must beg for money to feed the children, even if she works. Meanwhile, he buys anything he wants for himself, like TVs and new cars. He may refuse to work, whether in the home, or to bring finances into the family.
Medical Abuse – He will prohibit her and the children from seeking medical care, saying they “can’t afford it,” but go to the doctor himself for the smallest bump.
Sexual Abuse – He will demand sex, even when she is ill, even raping her. He will call her sexual names, force her to watch pornography, and refuse to use birth control. He will have affairs and give her sexually transmitted diseases.
Spiritual Abuse – He will use the Bible to inflict guilt or gain control over her. He will claim to be her God, to be all-powerful and all-knowing, and require her to bow to his wishes over God’s.
Of course, every abuser will not do every one of these actions. But these are typical. Please notice that I did not list physical abuse here. If he can keep her in line, (make her do whatever he wants), without resorting to physical abuse, he will. If she refuses to do something he wants her to do, he may resort to physical violence at any time, without any warning. She is aware he could do this, and is fearful that he might.
There are many incorrect beliefs (“myths”) about why an abuser will abuse. Friends, family and churches often believe these myths, which leads them to feel sorry for the abuser and disbelieve the victim. Here are a few:
- He can’t control his behavior.
- He doesn’t know how to handle his feelings.
- He was abused as a child, and this is the only way he knows how to behave.
- He has poor communication skills.
- He has low self-esteem.
- He hates women.
- He is mentally ill.
- He doesn’t understand the bible; he isn’t a believer in Christ.
- We are all sinners in need of forgiveness. He is no different than the rest of us.
- He is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol.[iii]
However, while drugs and alcohol can make his behaviors worse, they are not the cause of his abuse. Most abusers only abuse their intimate partners and children, and have complete control over when and why they behave abusively. They rarely lose control of themselves in other social situations, and usually look great to their bosses, friends, and pastors. They usually treat other women wonderfully. In fact, the only time they are abusive is at home. Why is that?
In his mind, an abuser abuses his victim because:
- He likes being in control
- He has convinced himself it is OK to behave this way
- He gets what he wants by this behavior.
He has a great feeling of entitlement, and feels he has a special status no one else in the family does. In his mind, he has the right to:
- Physical, emotional and sexual caretaking
- Deference (“Everyone should respect me, but I owe no one else any respect.”)
- Freedom from accountability (“No one should question my actions.”)
I pray more people will be willing to learn about these sheep in wolves’ clothing. One of my greatest goals in blogging and writing books is to help educate the general population, the family court system and the Christian church about domestic violence. I believe that if more people understood the manipulative tactics of an abuser, more victims would receive the support they deserve, helping them stand up to their abusers. This would mean fewer children being raised in abusive homes, and less domestic violence in coming generations.
I created my Domestic Violence Guide for Churches to help the church learn about domestic violence. This resource includes a written guide and two PowerPoint videos. The first video describes the dynamics of abuse, and explains how abusers are adept at twisting scripture to keep their victims in bondage.
The second video prepares church leaders to deal with domestic violence in their churches. It begins by helping churches think through ways they can become a safe haven for abuse victims, so that victims will feel comfortable coming to them for help. This includes things like talking about DV from the pulpit, training a DV advocate for the church, and having books and materials about DV around the church. It also describes what to do when a victim comes forward and how to deal with the abuser.
The DV Guide for Churches sells for $29.99. If this is a hardship for you, please contact me via my contact form, and we can discuss a lower price.
Question: Have you ever experienced your friends, family or church siding with your abuser over you? If you feel comfortable, please share what happened.
Let’s pray. Dear Lord, please open the eyes of the general public. Help many become educated about domestic violence so they can support and help DV victims. I pray we will have less DV in coming generations. Amen
May God bless you all today,
*Abusers can be male or female, and so can their victims. In this blog, I portray the abuser as male.
[i] Jeff Crippen and Anna Wood, A Cry for Justice: How the Evil of Domestic Abuse Hides in Your Church (United States: Calvary Press Publishing, 2012), 41.
[ii] The State of New Hampshire Governor’s Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence and Attorney General’s Office of Faith Communities, 30-31.
[iii] Caroline Abbott, Debbie Stafford, A Journey through Emotional Abuse: from Bondage to Freedom (Franklin TN: Carpenter’s Son Publishing, 2013) 26.