Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Domestic Abuse Misconception #31

Domestic Abuse Misconception #31: Domestic abuse just isn't that prevalent or that serious. I saved this one for last. Domestic abuse is incredibly widespread. A woman is twice as likely to be abused than to get breast cancer. One out of every four women is or has been in an abusive relationship. So if you are sitting in church and there are 100 women there, 25 women have or are experiencing or will experience domestic abuse. 

Sure, you say, domestic abuse is bad and all but it doesn't get really bad very often, does it?

The fact of the matter is that domestic abuse can, and often does, turn deadly. The numbers are horrifying. One graphic I found, with numbers from the FBI, showed that between September 10, 2001 and June 6, 2012 11,766 women were murdered by husbands and boyfriends. This was more than the deaths during that time frame in the War on Terror (deaths on US soil (9/11), troops in Afghanistan, troops in Iraq) combined. 

There are some truly terrifying statistics. Pregnant women are at much higher risk for homicide. The presence of a gun in domestic violence raises the risk of homicide 500%. Intimate partners are not the only ones in danger. Family members, friends, law enforcement, and even strangers have been killed along with the intended victim. And, as I shared in Misconception #8, 75% of homicides occur while the victim is seeking to leave the relationship or in the weeks or months after she has left. 

Domestic abuse is a serious, serious problem and a life or death issue. Here is a link to more information on domestic abuse and homicides. 

(Note: In all of my posts I use "he" for abuser and "she" for victim for simplicity and because, in the majority of cases, the abuser is male. But it can be the opposite with a female abuser. Dynamics of abuse can also happen in same sex relationships.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Domestic Abuse Misconception #30

Domestic Abuse Misconception #30: Religious beliefs and scripture will always be used to encourage and comfort the victim. Oh, people! It is just not so. 

Most people understand that domestic abuse sometimes does include physical abuse. Hopefully most now understand that it always includes emotional abuse as well as financial abuse. Domestic abuse can also include sexual abuse, resulting in a victim's inability to say no, or at times resulting in flat out rape. But many people don't understand that there can also be spiritual abuse. 

Spiritual abuse happens with the person with the power uses specific religious ideology or scripture (often out of context) to maintain control over the victim and to coerce the victim into some activity. 

It is common for an abuser to demand obedience and submission to demand power over his victim. He might also demand forgiveness and reconciliation, emphasizing the sacredness of marriage vows. He might use scripture to his own advantage. He might use the words of faith to manipulate and give the appearance of repentance and transformation, pulling the wool of the eyes of both victim and onlookers. 

But spiritual abuse doesn't just happen between the abuser and his victim. If the victim's church becomes involved in the situation, the same dynamic can take place, in effect, giving the victim a double dose of abuse. 

As I discussed in Misconception #14, uninformed and ill-equipped churches are rarely a safe place for victims of abuse. Churches carry their own authority with them. Pastors and elders speak of their spiritual authority over their flock. Victims are beaten down and unsure of themselves and, at this point, very vulnerable to others telling them what to do. It is a perfect storm. 

Here are some of the ways (and there are so many more) church leaders or members can use religious ideas and scripture in ways that are harmful to anyone, but especially to victims of domestic abuse:

-Forcing the couple to meet together.
-Treating the abuse problem as a marital problem.
-Demanding the victim examine her heart and confess her sin which is causing the abuse. 
-Telling the victim she needs to be meeting the abuser's needs by having more sex with him.
-Commanding forgiveness from the victim and reconciliation with the abuser.
-Insisting the victim get help only from "approved" therapists and community groups.
-Telling the victim it is God's will that she suffer emotional and physical harm at the hands of her abuser.
-Threatening church discipline if the victim refuses to comply with their demands regarding her relationship with the abuser.

When those who claim belief in God then use those beliefs to get and maintain control over another, it is abuse. And it isn't only abuse, it is a slap in the face of God because it is a blatant lie about his character and who he is. He is not a God of oppression but of safety and freedom.

Here is a good article that spells out spiritual abuse.

(Note: In all of my posts I use "he" for abuser and "she" for victim for simplicity and because, in the majority of cases, the abuser is male. But it can be the opposite with a female abuser. Dynamics of abuse can also happen in same sex relationships.)

Domestic Abuse Misconception #29

Domestic Abuse Misconception #29: Once the victim leaves, she won't go back. That would seem logical, wouldn't it? It is so hard to leave you would think that once a victim got up the courage to leave that she would run far, far away, never to return. Sadly, that is just not the case.

A victim leave her abuser and then returns to him on seven times on average before she leaves for good. Why on earth would she do that? There are a lot of reasons, really. 

Lets start with fear. Fear for her and her children's safety. There is financial need. There are the promises of change from the abuser. There is the pressure from others to return and reconcile, especially if the abuser has enlisted Flying Monkeys (Misconception #18) and/or the victim is part of a church that believes that reconciliation is always the desired (or required) outcome. 

Sometimes victims return because the abuse is all they know. They are, in a way, addicted to the adrenaline rush of the up and down. They don't know how to function without it. Some say that the victim suffers from Stockholm Syndrome and identifies with and has an unhealthy attachment to her abuser. And many victims have such a low view of themselves that they don't believe anybody else will ever love them. That the abuser is as good as it's gonna get. She will endure Mr. Hyde if she can only have Dr. Jekyll every so often. 

It is absolutely heartbreaking to watch a victim that you love return to her abuser. The discouragement and helplessness are overwhelming. Yet remember that this is her decision and she will leave for when she is at the point of being ready to do so.

Here a victims explains her reasons for returning to her abuser before she left for good. 

(Note: In all of my posts I use "he" for abuser and "she" for victim for simplicity and because, in the majority of cases, the abuser is male. But it can be the opposite with a female abuser. Dynamics of abuse can also happen in same sex relationships.)

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Domestic Abuse Misconception #28

Domestic Abuse Misconception #28: Financial abuse just isn't that big of a deal. The reality is that, while financial abuse may not sound like a serious issue, it has a huge impact on a victim's life, ability to leave an abusive relationship, and ability to start a new life away from her abuser.

Financial abuse, or economic abuse, is almost always present when there are other forms of abuse. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates that 94-99% of domestic abuse survivors have experience economic abuse.

Financial abuse happens when an abuser takes the victim's money, refuses to let the victim get a job, jeopardizes her ability to keep a job due to stalking and other abuse, refuses to let her get the education she needs to get a job, 
limits her access to money, hides income in separate accounts, takes out loans in her name, or forces the victim to pay for all necessities for both the abuser and the victim. Again, this is all done as a means of power and control. 

The damage is huge. A victim who has no access to money has very few options. Most victims find they are unable to leave their abuser because of economic reasons. The ability to establish a new life, free from abuse, is particularly challenging when the abuser has run up huge bills in the victim's name and likely ruined her credit.

Please don't ever take financial abuse lightly. It may not seem as serious as physical abuse or emotional abuse but it is certainly destructive with the intention on limiting the victim's freedom.

Here is an article that discusses some of the challenges a victim may have when trying to move forward with her life. 

(Note: In all of my posts I use "he" for abuser and "she" for victim for simplicity and because, in the majority of cases, the abuser is male. But it can be the opposite with a female abuser. Dynamics of abuse can also happen in same sex relationships.)

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Domestic Abuse Misconception #27

Domestic Abuse Misconception #27: Taking a neutral position won't hurt anybody. Ah, the neutrality myth. And it is just that. A myth. Truth is that remaining neutral always helps the oppressor, the abuser. 

I can see how many friends and family members and even pastors would want to take a neutral position. After all, their loyalty is to both parties. Most people don't want to have to pick sides. 

Trying to maintain a neutral position sends a lot of messages. Neutrality tell the abuser that what he is doing just isn't that bad and that he can cause unspeakable damage with no relational consequences. It tells the victim that she must be partially at fault, otherwise you wouldn't be so on the fence. It tells her that you really don't believe her. It tells her that she is on her own. 

Neutrality benefits no one other than the one who wishes to remain neutral and keep their hands from getting dirty. But unspeakable atrocities have been done while good people chose to turn a blind eye and look away and stay out of it and do nothing. Doing nothing always helps the abuser. 

Jeff Crippen, one of the foremost authorities of domestic abuse and the church, has written this powerful article on the myth of neutrality and the damage it does. 

(Note: In all of my posts I use "he" for abuser and "she" for victim for simplicity and because, in the majority of cases, the abuser is male. But it can be the opposite with a female abuser. Dynamics of abuse can also happen in same sex relationships.)

Friday, October 26, 2018

Domestic Abuse Misconception #26

Domestic Abuse Misconception #26: The children will always side with the victim. Sadly, this is just not true. Children can end up siding with the abuser, making a heartbreaking situation even more heartbreaking for the victim. 

Domestic abuse is a very complex dynamic and it only gets more complex when you throw children in the mix. At some point the victim can't take the abuse any longer and sets up boundaries or separates from her abuser. I want to deal a little more with what happens to the children if and when the parents separate. 

I was surprised recently when a survivor of abuse told me that it is quite common for the children to side with the abuser. I have read many explanations for this. Perhaps the children are angry with the victim for "breaking up the family." Perhaps the children have identified where the power in the family is and they want to stay on the good side of the power. Perhaps the children don't even understand the abuse themselves because, to them, this is just normal family life, since they have nothing to compare it to. For many children the devil you know is better than the devil you don't, so together parents, even in the midst of abuse, are better than parents that are apart.

Perhaps one of the most common reasons that the children may side with the abuser is that he very well may be courting them to his side to maintain that power and control. If he can't control his partner firsthand, then he can do so through the children. This really is a hideous game of emotional chess, with children as pawns. 

This is not to say that a victim should just stay put for the sake of the children. I touched on the impact that domestic abuse has on children iMisconception #22. The damage is pervasive and life long. This is to say that you cannot assume that the abuse isn't real if the children side with the abuser. This to call you to lend an extra hand of support to victims when they find that the children they love more than life are being used as weapons against them. This is to help you understand the intricate and difficult maze of dynamics that a victim must navigate in dealing with her abuser.

Read the following article and learn more. 

(Note: In all of my posts I use "he" for abuser and "she" for victim for simplicity and because, in the majority of cases, the abuser is male. But it can be the opposite with a female abuser. Dynamics of abuse can also happen in same sex relationships.)

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Domestic Abuse Misconception #25

Domestic Abuse Misconception #25: An abuser who claims he has changed has really changed and you should believe him and give him a chance. Sheesh! This is just not true. At all. Claims of change are usually just another tactic to get you back and keep you where he wants you.

I know this sounds like what I have already shared in so many of my previous 24 posts but I am saying it again because it cannot be said enough. This is so so SO very important for victims to know and it is so so SO important for other people to know. Abusers will often go to any length to get the victim back because, as we all know now, it is all about power and control. 

I love this post I am sharing here. It is from the LaSalle Parish Sherriff's Office in Louisiana and here they describe five common tactics abusers use to try and convince their victims that they have changed and once you know these don't be surprised when you see them over and over and over again in the abuser. They are:

1. The Honeymoon Syndrome where an abuser tries to get the victim back by wooing her and courting her all over again. Flowers. Cards. Gifts. Professions of undying love. "I'm nothing without you." That sort of thing. Guard your heart. 

2. The Super Parent Syndrome where an abuser who may have never showed interest in the kids or may have even been abusive to them all the sudden becomes Super Parent. Father of the Year. This does incredible damage to the kids who have been starving for the affection of that parent and think he really cares now when, in effect, they are strictly pawns in his game to maintain power and control. 

3. The Revival Syndrome where an abuser claims to have had a religious experience and is now so close to God and ready to be the man God called him to be. This one is hard for so many in church circles because of our longing for a good redemption story. This is particularly hard when other people begin to push the victim to reconcile because her abuser is suddenly "a new creature in Christ." Repentance can only be proven over time and by fruit. Forgiveness is one thing. Trust is yet another. 

4. The Sobriety Syndrome where an abuser claims he has gotten sober or clean and will never abuse a substance again. This, of course, comes with the assumption that the abuse is caused by the substance use. While substance abuse and domestic abuse may very well overlap, substance abuse does not cause domestic abuse. They have to be treated as separate issues. A sober abuser can easily still abuse. 

5. The Counseling Syndrome where an abuser says he is getting counseling and wants marriage counseling. As I have already addressed in Misconception #3, marriage counseling is NEVER EVER recommended with abuse. And even individual counseling, for it to be effective, has to be done by somebody who is well trained in the dynamics of abuse.

Here is the link for the article. It is so important for victims to know what to expect when they set boundaries against the abuser so that they are not caught off guard with these tactics. Is it equally important for the friends, family, and supporters of the victim to know what to expect so that they do not naively encourage reconciliation based on the apparent changes in the abuser as he works these tactics. 

(Note: In all of my posts I use "he" for abuser and "she" for victim for simplicity and because, in the majority of cases, the abuser is male. But it can be the opposite with a female abuser. Dynamics of abuse can also happen in same sex relationships.)