Tag Archives: domestic violence

Domestic Violence and Murder

Murdered Wives and Girlfriends

 “Women and girls have banded together to fight for themselves because no one else would do it.” – Rachael Denhollander, American lawyer and former gymnast. She was the first woman to publicly accuse Larry Nassar, the former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor, of sexual assault. Denhollander is a TIME 100 honoree and a 2018 Glamour Woman of the Year.

*Red text indicates a link to the original source of information.

“Three-quarters of domestic violence homicides by men are committed after she leaves.”

These are not acts that happen in the middle of an argument or are considered crimes of passion. These are acts that are carefully planned because the abuser believes she has no right to leave.  He also doesn’t want her to find happiness, nor does the abuser want anyone else to have her.

It’s important to remember when someone reports abuse and you can’t imagine the accused abuser is capable of what’s been reported, that abusers are grand actors and liars. If often takes years for the victim to come to understand and come to terms with the abuse…and they are the one being abused. Of course, an outsider would doubt.

You may think: He’s always been a great guy; we hung out together, did Bible study together, shared meals in each other’s homes, watched each other’s kids on occasion.  He was never angry, aggressive, rude, controlling or anything negative. I never saw him acting abusively toward his wife or children.

Those things can all be true because abusers rarely abuse everyone they come in contact with; it’s usually immediate family members, a romantic interest, and occasionally acquaintances or co-workers.

Did scripture point out anyone suspecting King David of murdering Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband after David abused his power and raped her? (She had no choice. He was the king). David plotted, deceived, and covered- up Uriah’s murder.  Those under David’s command or in his network of friends may have said something like this:  “David is a man of faith; he defeated Goliath when he was still a young man, he was a terrific friend to Jonathan, he cared for Saul’s crippled grandson Mephibosheth, he spent time with his God. I know David and I know he would never do that.”

We should never be surprised when someone we know does something out of character for them. We never know what is going on in someone else’s personal life, heart, or mind.

Pondering an unsolved death

I’ve been writing about a Missouri woman for the last few years who I think was killed by her husband. Did she discover another woman and decided to leave? Did her husband want more than one woman in his bedroom and she decided she wouldn’t go along with it? Did she think she was in an abusive relationship and decide to leave? Was she devastated after her years of faithfulness to know he wasn’t faithful? Did she think he had tried to kill her through accidents and prescription drug problems and decided her life was in danger? Was there a different reason? What she may not have known is that the probability of murder goes up when a victim decides to leave. We know three-quarters of domestic violence homicides are committed by men at the time of leaving, or after she leaves.

“Many victims realistically fear that their abusive partners’ actions will become more violent and even lethal if they attempt to leave. The abuser may have threatened to kill them or hurt their child or family member if they leave.”

“Many abused people leave and return several times before permanently separating from the abusive partner. In fact, it takes many survivors approximately 7 attempts before they actually leave their abusive partner permanently.”

1st degree or 2nd degree murder

Missouri needs to work better when it comes to justice for women murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.

Most often the murderer is charged with 2nd degree murder. Why not 1st degree? Is it because women typically don’t have as much worth as men and juries rule by this erroneous standard?

What justifies first degree murder in the state of Missouri?

First degree murder is the most serious of the homicide crimes in Missouri. In order to prove that the defendant committed first degree murder, the prosecutor must show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intentionally and deliberately killed a person without a legally justified reason (such as a police officer shooting an armed bank robber with hostages). Serial murderers who kill for fun and individuals who plot and execute a revenge killing of someone who allegedly slighted them would both be examples of first-degree murder.

Missouri first degree murder laws treat the offense as a very serious crime. The penalties are based on the circumstances of the crime. If the criteria for first degree murder isn’t met, the defendant may still be found guilty of a lesser murder charge, such as: second degree murder (killing without premeditation), voluntary manslaughter (“heat of passion murder”), or involuntary manslaughter (an accidental killing).

Missouri domestic violence homicides that made the news in 2019:

This summer a St. Louis woman managed to catch her own murder on her cell phone. Her video recorded her husband beating her in a parking garage near Busch Stadium. That husband was only charged with assault…and it was on video. Then in September the charges were dropped. We are still waiting to find out if new charges will be filed. “Court records show that Jenkins had previous run-ins with the law, even while working as a correctional officer. He faced felony aggravated battery charges on two separate occasions, and pleaded guilty to a lowered charge of misdemeanor battery in both cases. He received 18 months probation for the first offense in 2012 and 24 months probation and two days in jail for the second offense in 2017. A woman requested a protective order in 2012 that would bar him from contacting her, but a judge dismissed the complaint.”

Last year an elderly man from Arnold murdered his wife by shooting her in their living room recliner. He received probation. No time served.  

The 2006 disappearance of Megan Shultz led to her remains likely recovered in a Columbia, Missouri, landfill. “Police Chief Geoff Jones says that while evidence points to the remains being those of Schultz. Police began the dig after Shultz’s former husband, 37-year-old Keith Alan Comfort, allegedly confessed to killing her and putting the body in a trash bin. Comfort is now charged with second-degree murder.

“CLAYTON, MO – The St. Louis County woman found dead in Lincoln County one week ago was pregnant when she died, according to a source close to the investigation. The source adds, the woman’s husband, who is charged with her murder, was having an affair. Beau Rothwell, 28, is being held at the St. Louis County Justice Center without bond. He is charged with second-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence in connection with the death of his wife, Jennifer.”

Bobette Everhart-Boal, 59, had filed for divorce from her husband, Michael C. Boal, 59, in August, and a hearing in the case was scheduled for Thursday, December 14, 2019. Sunday, December 8, 2019, she was found dead in Chesterfield shortly before her husband’s body was found after a fire at their former home in Wildwood. Investigators believe that Michael Boal killed his wife, then set the house on fire to kill himself.

The husband of  missing Missouri woman, Mengqi Ji Elledge, allegedly took a “long drive through unfamiliar remote areas” of the state before he reported her disappearance to police, according to court documents filed with his arrest last week. Those details came in court documents identifying Joseph Elledge as the subject of an investigation into the disappearance of his wife, 28-year-old Mengqi Ji Elledge, who has been missing for three weeks and was last seen Oct. 8, 2019. Joseph Elledge has been arrested on charges of child abuse and his bond was set at $500,000. Law enforcement began “searching the Lamine River in Cooper County November 26, 2019. Crews have searched an area near the De Bourgmont access point 10 times.”

“MAYSVILLE, Mo. – The 49-year-old boyfriend of a Cameron woman whose body was found at a Maysville home has been charged in her death. Kenneth Wykert is charged with second-degree murder and abandonment of a corpse in the death of Leah Dawson.”   He said he was going to kill her. Later he told an inmate he killed her accidently when she said she was going to leave him.

“December 31, 2019, SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Authorities have found the body of a missing 19-year-old woman and are investigating her death as a homicide. Officers discovered the body Mackenna Milhon on Monday afternoon outside a home north of Springfield. Police and the Greene County Sheriff’s Office said she had been reported missing Dec. 20.”

“A St. Louis man who was facing domestic assault charges in jail posted $5,000 bail thanks to a non-profit group, then allegedly went to his wife’s home and beat her to death. Prosecutors have charged Samuel Lee Scott, 54, with first degree murder. Scott was initially arrested on April 5 and accused of hitting his wife, Marcia Johnson, in the face, injuring her ear and cheekbone back in January. He had also threatened to kill her, according to a probable cause statement.”

Mexico, MO. • A man convicted of killing his wife and dumping her body in a septic tank more than 20 years ago was sentenced Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Douglas Howery, 60, was found guilty of first-degree murder last year in the 1992 disappearance and death of his wife, Betty Ann Howery, 44, of St. Charles. She vanished in February 1992 after a night at their family farm in Annada, Mo., in Pike County near the Mississippi River. She was missing until October 2008, when a crew bulldozing the land found her skeleton in an abandoned septic tank. Authorities found a .38-caliber revolver in the septic tank where Betty Howery’s body was discovered.”

“O’FALLON (AP) – A St. Charles County man is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife.
Police arrested 42-year-old Michael Rone of O’Fallon on Saturday. Authorities say he admitted killing 38-year-old Stacey Rone during an argument.
Michael Rone is jailed on $250,000 bond and does not yet have a listed attorney.
Police say Stacey Rone’s relatives found her dead Thursday. She had been strangled.” As a side note: strangulation is a favorite tool of dominations for domestic abusers. If a woman has been strangled once, and lived to tell about it, her chances of dying by her abuser go up greatly.

 “58-year-old Delores Kirk was pronounced dead at the scene. Police took Kirk’s boyfriend into custody as a person of interest. The interim police chief said he expects the boyfriend will be charged. Kirk’s family was left grieving Tuesday, saying her boyfriend was abusive and the violence culminated with her death. St. Louis County court officials confirmed Kirk was granted a temporary restraining order against her boyfriend in January. However, the case was dropped after neither Kirk nor her boyfriend showed up for a court hearing.”

Abuse survivors on average file a petition for a protective order against their abuser seven to eight times before going to their hearing to receive it, or leaving the abuser.

“KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A Missouri man was found guilty Friday of first degree murder for murdering his wife after the couple’s daughter found the woman’s body in the basement. According to court documents, police found Melissa Byers’ body covered with carpet, sheets, clothing and plastic. A medical examiner said she died from multiple stab wounds.

Here is a national murder from 2019

November 2019 the jury convicted Patrick Frazee of first-degree murder in the killing of Kelsey Berreth. Prosecutors believe Berreth was murdered in her Woodland Park home in Colorado. She was last seen on Thanksgiving Day 2018 on security video at a grocery store. Her body has not been found.

2 unsolved local cases

There are two local cases in which families of deceased women continue waiting for charges to be filed in the death of their loved ones; Amanda Jones and Lynn Messer.

According to family members, Amanda’s case and evidence were not professionally or properly investigated, processed, or taken seriously from day one. Amanda Kay Jones was 8 1/2 months pregnant when she disappeared. The alleged father of her unborn child, Brian Westfall, is reportedly the last known person to see her. The two met at the Hillsboro Civic Center on August 14, 2005, at 1:00 p.m. During the meeting, Amanda answered a call on her cell phone at approximately 1:15p.m. After the meeting, no one else is known to have seen or heard from Amanda. Later that night, Amanda’s blue 1997 Pontiac Sunfire was found unlocked and abandoned in the Civic Center parking lot. Her purse, car keys, wallet, and cell phone have not been found.

Lynn Messer disappeared July 8, 2014. We now know that Lynn has been deceased the entire time and I have been told by law enforcement that Kerry Messer, her husband, has not been cleared in the investigation surrounding Lynn’s death.  Kerry is a Missouri state lobbyist who represents family, homeschooling, right-to-life, gun safety, and Christian/Biblical values. Upon her disappearance, the family farm where Lynn lived with her husband was mapped with grids and searched by rescue and recovery teams, along with trained search and rescue dogs. Searching was done by air, foot, and all-terrain vehicles; by day and by night.  Rescue dogs are trained in locating human remains by tracking, trailing, and air scenting. This should have been an easy job in the outdoor air of the extreme summer heat during July and August. Law enforcement did not find Lynn in those early days and were certain she was not on the farm. Three years ago, November 1, 2016, Lynn’s remains were found on the farm; recovered from the direction of the scent found that first morning in 2014.

On Lynn’s death certificate the state could have listed the cause of death as ‘unknown’. They didn’t.

Instead it says, ‘MANNER: PENDING INVESTIGATION’ 

‘UNDETERMINED AT THIS TIME’

The death certificate does not say ‘Could Not Be Determined’. Undetermined at this time leaves legal room to easily come back and make changes to the certificate. This case is not closed and the death certificate gives me hope that #JusticeForLynn does exist.

Ste. Genevieve Country Prosecuting Attorney Wayne Williams is quoted in an article by Leader Publications, written by Laura Marlow as saying about the Lynn Messer case, “We have to be very careful,” he said. “Because, if we file charges and it goes to a jury trial and we lose, double jeopardy forever bars us from bringing any charges again. On the other hand, there is no statute of limitations on a homicide.

For more information on domestic abuse that ends in murder, check out:

This is the ‘last warning shot’ before a man kills his partner

Expert: Choking strongly predicts homicide

Dawn Elizabeth Wilcox is a domestic abuse advocate and nurse who tracks America’s epidemic of murdered women. You may find her on Facebook at Women Count USA

92% of female murder victims are killed by a man they know.

DomesticShelters.org

Police say 11 questions can reduce domestic violence. Why aren’t more police officers asking them?

If you are in a destructive relationship, please contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline. It is free, confidential, and judgement free. Safety Alert: Computer use can be monitored and is impossible to completely clear. If you are afraid your internet usage might be monitored, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224

Family Court Protest 10/18/2019

Family reunification camps and policies like those run by Overcoming Barriers https://overcomingbarriers.org/trainings/  are proven to be ineffective and dangerous to children. Overcoming Barriers is in town tomorrow to lead judges, lawyers, guardians ad-litem, and mental health professionals in a conference. The purpose is to help court personnel learn how to force children to spend time with both parents, and how to give financial consequences to parents who don’t agree, or don’t want to make their children comply. The Washington Post reported in 2017 that Overcoming Barriers workshops were shut down after studies failed to prove their efficacy. These camps are a danger to all children, but imagine the impact especially if the child is afraid of a parent due to prior abuse and then is court-ordered to attend camp with the abusive parent. It is NORMAL for a child to be scared of their abuser and to suffer from a trauma or stressor-related disorder such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, or have suicidal thoughts. It is NOT normal or healthy to require a child to let down their protective barriers so they ‘get over’ being scared or stressed by their angry and controlling abuser, or so they believe the abuser loves them, wants the best for them, and is worthy of a closer relationship with them.

Here is a snippet of my interview with FOX 2 news from Tuesday.

Dr. Leslie Drodz says the training is “to arrive at actual solutions instead of endless court battles.” Here’s the problem: When you are dealing with an abuser and a protective parent there is no solution that will please the parents or the court. The abuser is out to hurt the protective parent’s heart, turn family and friends against them, and financially ruin them. The protective parent’s goal is to insure the children are safe. The court wants shared custody, or at least visitation, regardless of abuse. The court needs better training to help the victims. I’m not sure I can agree with Judge Banas that highly contested custody cases are the problem and the reason for needing ‘Overcoming Barriers’ to hold a conference this Friday. The problem I see and continually hear about is domestic violence being seen by the court as a high conflict divorce/custody case. High conflict divorces and domestic violence are NOT the same thing. This is why court personnel need training on how to identify and deal with domestic abuse. This will require ongoing education; not a 5-8 hour class. This is why I’m participating in a peaceful protest outside the court house this Friday at 10:30 AM. Please join me!

Watch Judge Burlison’s rebuttal below..

Organizers of the protest suspected she would say she takes the side of the protesters, and she did so. Judge Burlison says a parent can be stripped of their rights if there is abuse. They can, but are they?

What about all the protective parents who come in with professional documentation from one or many of these? Child protective services. child psychologist, family therapist. school counselor or teacher, or a police report. These reports are most commonly ignored in St. Charles County family court. And…if a child discloses abuse they have to disclose it a second time to the ‘correct’ county child advocate so it can be video recorded as evidence for court. If the child doesn’t re-disclose…it’s as if the abuse didn’t happen in the eyes of the court. For toddlers and preschoolers it is often difficult to get them to re-disclose. The interviewer isn’t allowed to ask leading questions in hopes of retrieving the information from them.

Of all the women I, Carolyn, have ministered to in St. Charles County who left their abusers, only the one whose husband went to prison was able to have the abuser’s rights taken away. Another was able to get the abuser to leave them alone if they agreed to a minimal financial settlement.It wasn’t because the court was willing to take his rights away. I also know of multiple cases where the protective parent lost custody to the abusive parent. This happened when they provided professional evidence to abuse. Bringing up abuse to the court often doesn’t end well and is used against the protective parent.

Organizers of the protest believe that more than a ‘parenting plan’ and the right of an abusive parent to have a relationship with a child; a child has a right to a non-abusive home.

Don’t just say these things have to be looked into. LOOK INTO IT! Children’s safety is in your hands and are you are not using the fullest extend of the law, state statutes, to protect them. Criminal courts would not get buy with ignoring and over riding professional testimony like family court does!

Dear readers, please go to overcomingbarriers.org and read for yourself what they teach in their seminars. If our judges want to do a better job for children of family court; we recommend ALIVE STL, BarryGoldstein.net, or https://www.law.gwu.edu/joan-s-meier #CourtToo

Link to FAMILY COURT WATCH: ST. CHARLES COUNTY’s Facebook page here to find out the many reasons the protest is being held. I know it’s last minute, but please, join the protest.

The 2 sides of abusive men

  1. Number of people per minute who experience intimate partner violence in the U.S.: 24
  2. Number of workplace violence incidents in the U.S. annually that are the result of current or past intimate partner assaults: 18,700
  3. Number of women in the U.S. who report intimate partner violence: 1 in 4
  4. Number of women who are killed daily in the U.S. by their intimate partner: approx. 3
  5. A history of domestic abuse is a common, disturbing thread connecting the majority of America’s mass shooters. Google: mass shootings and domestic violence for more articles on the subject

For friends and extended family of domestic abusers the possibility that the person they know could be capable of having a dark side seems impossible, so they reject the idea. This amounts to rejecting the abused survivor, accusing them of lying, or implying they are crazy.

When people find two different versions of a person incompatible, they often render the other person’s view point as false.

I want to submit that both sides can be telling the truth about what they witness. There can be two sides to the story because a duplicitous personality is involved.

Let’s start by inserting some names into this picture:

Laci Denise Peterson was an American woman who was the subject of a highly publicized murder case after she disappeared while eight months pregnant with her first child. She was reportedly last seen alive on December 24, 2002. Her husband, Scott Peterson, was later convicted of murder in the first degree for her death, and in the second degree for the death of their prenatal son, Conner. Peterson is on death row at San Quentin State Prison.

Drew Walter Peterson is a retired Bolingbrook, Illinois police sergeant who was convicted in 2012 for the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, a few months after their 2003 divorce. Peterson first received national publicity in 2007 when his fourth wife, Stacy Ann Cales Peterson, disappeared. Although law enforcement and Stacy Ann’s family suspect foul play, she has never been found, and Peterson has not been charged in her case.

There are currently two cases near me which are unsolved:

One involves a missing woman, Amanda Jones, who was last seen with Bryan Westfall, the alleged father of her unborn child. Bryan Westfall phoned Amanda and made arrangements to meet her on a Sunday afternoon. They met, but Amanda never returned home. Her car never left the parking lot where they met. Amanda is presumed dead and has been missing since the summer of 2005.

The second involves a woman I’ve written about many times, Lynn Messer. Lynn disappeared July 8, 2014. We now know that Lynn has been deceased the entire time and I have been told by law enforcement multiple times through the years that Kerry Messer, her husband, has not been cleared in the investigation surrounding Lynn’s death.

Disgraced former Judge Lance Mason accused of fatally stabbing estranged wife in Shaker Heights, sources say.

Yesterday, an Ohio grand jury has indicted this former trial court judge accused of fatally stabbing his ex-wife, Aisha Fraser Mason, on aggravated murder and murder charges, according to prosecutors.

He had “spent nine months in prison for beating his then-wife in front of their children.” The system utterly failed this woman and her children; as it fails many women. This time he murdered her when he was returning the children to her.

There are so many things to say about the Judge Lance Mason case…such as the friend of the couple who says of the abuser/murderer, “He really loved those girls though.” No, no, no! Any man who loves his children will love or, at the very least, respect their mother. Abuse and murder bear no resemblance to love for anyone other than himself.

Chris Watts, a Colorado father accused of murdering his pregnant wife and two children in August pleaded guilty to nine related felony crimes Tuesday during a court appearance in Weld County. I previously wrote about Shanann Watts and this case here, here, and here.

A timeline can be found here…

Larry Nassar was a pedophilic offender the outside world refused to believe was an abuser. Despite numerous young girls telling countless adults, over two decades, in detail, how Larry Nassar was abusing them, the girls were not believed. Why? Because people at work and in the community thought Larry was such a nice guy…a terrific guy…a helpful neighbor, and that the girls were lucky to have him. “Nassar’s cumulative criminal acts of sexual assault were the basis of the USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal, in which he was accused of molesting at least 250 girls and young women and 1 young man including a number of well-known Olympic gymnasts, dating as far back as 1992.”

November 20, 2018, Thomas Bruce, 53, entered a St. Louis, Missouri, Catholic Supply store where he ordered female customers to remove their clothing. He committed sexual assault and murdered a woman. He was charged with first-degree murder, eight counts of armed criminal action, three counts of first-degree sodomy or attempted sodomy, three counts of first-degree kidnapping, first-degree burglary and tampering with physical evidence in felony prosecution. No prior arrest record. According to a church official at a St. Louis-area Calvary Chapel, Bruce was the minister of a Calvary Chapel in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, about a decade ago.

For the above men who were found guilty, I’m sure that friends and extended family members had a difficult time believing in their guilt.

“We would rather believe a reassuring lie than an utterly inconvenient and disturbing truth.” Diane Langberg, PhD

Women disappearing or being murdered by an intimate partner happens multiple times a day around the globe. Other times, men who commit crimes outside of the home are domestic abusers in their home.

I’m not saying with certainty that all the above mentioned men are guilty of wrong doing in the disappearance or death of these women; although I know family members of the missing or deceased women have strong opinions on the subject. The point I’m making is that people outside the family often know the nice side of a person and refuse to understand how a seemingly nice guy could be responsible for such dark acts of violence.

Of all the people I’ve talked with over the years a common thread runs through stories of abuse. The parents of the abuser usually refuse to believe the truth. And if they know the truth, many take it to the grave with them. It’s rare to find a parent of an adult child/abuser who admits to the faults or failures of their child.

The outsiders looking in want to know how a person could be so vile. Were all his good acts just a pretense? Was his ministry a farce? What about all the times he was kind, the times he was hysterically funny, the times he helped us, and the times he prayed for us? What about all the souls he led to the Lord? He seemed so professional. How can he be evil? So, they don’t believe there is a dark side to the alleged abuser or murderer.

To the family the abuser can be angry, controlling, rigid, isolating, with holding, and verbally, emotionally, sexually, reproductively, financially, and/or spiritually abusive.

Do not think, “Well, at least he didn’t hit her.” Yes, he did. He just didn’t use his fists. Diane Langberg, PhD

Please understand that abusers can be all these bad things and more to their loved one or their victim, while being kind and thoughtful to others. They can be both. Some people admire him while others are repulsed by him. Decency and depravity can exist in the same person. Conceding to one does not mean rejecting the other. It doesn’t mean everything we always thought about them was a lie. It means we weren’t with them every minute of their life. We never know what goes on in someone else’s home. We never know if an individual lives a double life.

Like Jesus, we need to come from a place of love; not a place of inconvenience or disbelief when considering accusations of abuse.

Remember: Abusers are word spinners who tell half-truths and justify their behavior. When the woman is divulging the abuse and the man explains, justifies, minimizes, spiritualizes, and denies the severity of what she is describing; you are looking at the number one sign of dealing with an abuser; denial. They are wolves in sheep’s’ clothing. They do not change for the better, but rather adjust their game so as to not get caught by outsiders; especially not caught by Christians or church members.

I learned from my experience and from women I minister to that men with personality disorders tend to gain energy supply from upping their game. It’s as if they are daring someone to catch them at the abuse; whatever from it may be. Many of these men tend to think they are more intelligent than those around them and they enjoy boldly doing something outrageous in front of others because they know no one will ever believe they are actually committing an act so mean or dark. Healthy people tend to think, “surely he didn’t just do or say that.” Believe your eyes and trust your instincts. Heed the intuition in your spirit.

When you sit with a griever, your work is to be with him where he is, not drag him out where you are more comfortable. Diane Langberg, PhD

“How to handle a marginalized person’s or abuse victim’s anger:

1. Sit quietly 2. Listen carefully 3. When they are done, say “You didn’t deserve that and I’m sorry.” 4. If they start talking again, refer to step 1.” Mandy Nicole, First of Her Name

All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in court. Arrests and charges are merely accusations by law enforcement until, and unless, a suspect is convicted of a crime.

Toxic Tuesday: Traumatic bonding

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Abuse comes in many forms and knows no boundaries. 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse during her lifetime and more than 3 million children witness domestic violence in their homes every year.

*Men can also be the victim of abuse, but my ministry is mainly to women so I address my readers from this viewpoint.

 

Traumatic bonding

 

Yes, it can happen in Christian marriages.

You dated. He showed healthy amounts of charm, tenderness, attention, affection, gift-giving and/or selflessness; perhaps even through shared Bible study, prayer, and attending Christian events together.

After much prayer you decided to marry him only to find out after saying, “I do” that he was fraudulent on many levels during the dating phase.

The years have passed and his anger, control, rigidness, and lack of attention and affection have chipped away, piece by piece, at the love, trust, and respect you originally had for him.

His withholding and passive aggressive personality (or fill in the blank with his toxic behavior) consistently remind you that you aren’t enough for him, you don’t please him, and he is punishing you for not being the object of his desire.

I mean object as in a possession; a possession to sit on the shelf and take down to use when he has a need. A need for a companion at a social function, a listening ear to hear how his day at work went, a person to clean the house, do the laundry, run errands, prepare meals, keep up with the yard, and care for his kids (yes, I know they are your children too, but most angry and controlling men don’t like to share their property, and often view the kids as theirs). Women come face to face with this truth when they try to divorce an angry and controlling man. You likely aren’t viewed as a human with worth and value other than being viewed as a mom; the mom of his children. You are a thing, a mom; not a person with dignity, wants, and needs.

I hear comments and questions such as:

·         “I know what he’s done to me, but I still have feelings for him.”

·         “Why do I still love him?”

·         “Why do I still long to be intimate with him?”

·         “Why do I cave-in to him every time he flashes a smile my way? I know he doesn’t mean it.”

·         “I find myself wondering if he was really that bad or if I made it up or over reacted.”

·         “My heart and mind can’t reconcile how normal he looks with his anger and abuse. I think I must be crazy…then I read my journal and remember I’m not crazy and I’m not making it up.”

·         After they have left: “I don’t know why I feel this way, but I want him back.”

·         “I must be crazy because I miss him.”

·         After he’s cheated: “I don’t make sense even to myself. He cheated and is likely abusing her…but I’m jealous and heartbroken that he left me.”

 

I’ve had women ask me why they still have feelings for the man they live with when he isn’t capable of unconditionally loving them.

The answer might be traumatic bonding.

Traumatic bonding, also known as Stockholm syndrome because it contains many of the same elements as Stockholm syndrome, “occurs in abusive relationships which are characterized by an imbalance of power, high intensity, and an unpredictable atmosphere, rapidly shifting between periods of cruelty and tenderness. Traumatic bonds can form very quickly and last long past when the relationship is severed.” –Bree Bonchay, LCSW, http://www.freefromtoxic.com

Add to this that abusers aren’t angry and controlling 100% of the time. Sometimes they are loving, gentle, and humorous; perhaps even capable of compassion and empathy.

Traumatic bonding/Stockholm syndrome does not occur in every abusive situation.

Abused women testify to a common fact surrounding emotional abuse, also known as psychological or narcissistic abuse.  Emotional abuse and the health crisis they experience from the abuse remains longer than the physical abuse they suffered.

When we are physically abused we know at the moment it is wrong and hurtful. Not so with emotional abuse. By the time we figure out we aren’t the problem and there isn’t anything we can do to appease the abuser; damage has already been done.  

Emotional abuse involves patterns of anger, control, dominance, manipulation, coercion, mind games, gas lighting, criticism, threats, and withholding. Over time it erodes our self-esteem, identity, and judgment. It can leave us feeling dead inside.

You are not alone.

 

In the margin of this website you will find help on safety issues, solid Bible teaching and free counseling videos on the subject of abuse and toxic relationships by Christ-centered counselors.  There are also links so church staff/leadership can receive training to combat domestic abuse taking place in their church body.

Shanann Watts case: 20 reasons abuse stays hidden and can lead to death

The last time I wrote I gave you my observations on the Shanann Watts case; specifically my thoughts on the husband’s behavior in interviews. 

*Disclaimer: Abuse crosses all genders, socioeconomic statuses, nationalities, tones of skin, and religions. I minister to women and therefore I use the term woman in most of my writings.

Allow me to explain what it could have been like in Shanann Watt’s home based on my experience of domestic abuse.

Here are lessons I’ve learned from my own background as a survivor of domestic abuse, and from ministering to other survivors of domestic violence:

1.      You NEVER know what goes on in someone else’s home. Sometimes a spouse doesn’t know what goes on in their home, or during the other person’s time away from home. Don’t assume you know better than them.

2.      You can live with a person and not know if they suffer from mental illness or a personality disorder.  

3.      Many women don’t understand that the difficult marriage is actually a destructive marriage by an angry and controlling man. When a woman tries to talk through a problem the tables are turned on her and he insists the only problems are the ones she creates. He often shames, talks down, belittles, withholds, and throws temper tantrums while telling her, “It’s all you.” Or, “I never did or said that.” Lots of crazy making/gas lighting goes on in this type of relationship.

4.  Constant denial or justification of the hurt and wrong they’ve committed against you is the number one clue that you’re living with an abuser.

5.      It can be nearly impossible to know if your loved one could kill you. (If you question your safety, please take the free MOSAIC threat assessment to determine if you are a candidate for violence or death).

6.      Angry and controlling men rarely change; in fact, the abuse usually escalates…not improves.

7.      Often times the system fails abuse survivors. Victims are statistically not believed in a court of law when they bring up domestic abuse.

8.      Promoting an ideal marriage in social media posts may be an attempt to throw the abuser off the trail of an upcoming separation or divorce; especially if the victim fears for their life. It could also be an attempt to appease the abuser and ‘respect’ his orders to make him look good.

9.      Talking well of the spouse is expected in most social circles. Truth telling about marital problems has caused many abused women to lose friends, or their children’s playmates.

10.  Positive media posts can be a coping mechanism for surviving a traumatic marriage. Maybe it’s a snapshot of a good moment in the midst of many difficult circumstances. It encourages outsiders to believe they have a wonderful life. What person wants to admit to domestic abuse?

11.  Sometimes the abuser controls the victim’s social media and electronics by posting for them; as them, going as far as to place spyware on the devices and GPS tracking on the vehicle. (The women I minister to all report having spyware placed on their electronics right before or during the separation or divorce).

12.  Domestic violence doesn’t always equate to physical abuse. It can manifest as sexual, reproductive, verbal, emotional, spiritual, financial, and one I had not included in my list before today; digital abuse which would be secondary emotional abuse.

13.  Domestic violence causes health care problems.  The  trauma caused by domestic abuse can cause immediate injuries, and contributes to a number of chronic health problems, including depression, alcohol and substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, heart problems, cancer, and auto-immune diseases.

14.  Domestic violence is about control and power. It’s not about anything the wife or children are doing wrong.

15.  Women are objectified and viewed as property. Property is disposable. (I haven’t seen a case yet that didn’t involve the use of pornography). 

Shanann and Nickole Utoft
Shanann with friend Nickole Utoft. Photo credit: Shanann Watts’ Facebook page.

16.  Victims need support from family, the church, and friends; friends like Nickole Utoft who knew enough to know Shanann and her children were missing and in danger. Be the friend a woman can safely confide in without passing judgement on her. 

17.  Most of the women I minister to report that friends, neighbors, and church family always looked at their family as normal, happy, and healthy. Very few outsiders would have guessed there was a toxic personality in their home.  

18. Instances of domestic abuse are not limited to isolated cases and there isn’t just one type of person who feels entitled to abuse and/or kill their family. It’s becoming more rampant for men to abuse women. I have my opinion on why abuse is escalating, (Pornography mixed with hand-held electronics. Any woman at any time; instantly. The devaluing of life.), but that is an article for another time.

19. Family, friends, neighbors, and church family have a difficult time believing these men exist and are as bad as the wife knows he is. They aren’t the only people in doubt. Law enforcement and those who work in the court system also don’t believe the depth of the problem; leaving the victims unprotected.

20.  Court cases requiring legal intervention are overwhelmingly domestic abuse cases, but the courts fail to recognize and act on this fact. This leads to retraumatizing the victims, continued abuse…and sometimes…death.

 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

Here are some possibilities of why Chris Watts may have finally went through with disposing of his family based on other domestic abuse cases.

·         He could have suffered from severe, untreated mental illness or a personality disorder.

·         He could have been having an affair.

·         He could have taken out life insurance policies on his family members.

·         He may have known she was leaving, and since angry and controlling abusers must maintain power and control; he may have decided to kill them rather than allow her to leave.

·         Financial reasons: There is a legal obligation the court would have enacted on him for child support. If he wanted relational freedom to wine and dine a new romantic interest, paying money to an ex-wife and three children would greatly hinder his fun.

I don’t believe one thing could have caused Chris Watts (or any other abuser) to snap, but rather numerous issues building up over time led to it. This is why the MOSAIC threat assessment is important. MOSAIC takes all these issues in to account and determines if you are at risk.

There is NOTHING; not a thing…zero, zilch, zip that this momma or her daughters did that could have caused Chris Watts to murder them. Abusers and murderers do what they do because of evil in their hearts. In many cases, the abuser’s brain is wired wrong and there is no making sense of it. 

If you believe you, or someone dear to you, may be in danger please check out the links in the margin for safety concerns and other help. If you wonder if you are in an emotionally destructive marriage there is a free relationship test for you to take.

 

Read: The Shanann Watts case: My observations

8/21/18 5:20 PM update: COLORADO MAN CHARGED WITH MULTIPLE COUNTS OF MURDER IN KILLINGS OF PREGNANT WIFE, DAUGHTERS

8/21/18  6:20 PM update: Chris Watts claims wife strangled kids

His account of what happened doesn’t make sense to me. I would think if you saw one daughter blue from death, and the other being strangled by your wife, you would call 911 for immediate help; not go kill your wife and then hide the bodies. I don’t own a newer baby monitor, but would you be able to clearly see on a baby monitor if a child was blue? And who on earth could have a conversation, kill a person, decide how and where to dispose of the bodies, clean-up the crime scene, and load a truck with three deceased bodies & evidence in under 3 hours?

 

 

The Shanann Watts case: My observations.

 

I think these were likely heinous, violent, selfish, dark acts of murder from a cold, calculating, evil, angry, and controlling man who looked normal, nice, caring, and nurturing to those watching on the outside.

 

Shanaan Watts family - Copy
Chris Watts with wife Shanann with daughters Bella, four, Celeste, three, pre-born son, Niko. Picture: Instagram public picture

 

I’m sure you’ve seen it all over the headlines: Husband kills pregnant wife and their two little girls.

I’m involved in an online community of domestic abuse advocates so when this story broke I immediately took interest. You know me…my first thought was that the husband is statistically most likely involved. I immediately watched the interview done by a local Denver, CO news station.

Here were some of the red flags about Chris Watts that caught my attention:

The detachment in one of his statements when he referred to his family as: “everybody”, “anybody”…it was off. His demeanor during his interview was non-emotional about his family and detached from the gravity of them being gone…just words; which seemed empty to me. He appeared to be smiling during some of it; almost giddy with underlying excitement…which to me speaks the age-old adage that he possibly believed he’s so special and smart that no one would ever catch him at what he did. His grin told the story of how proud he was of his deception. He exuded arrogance and assumed people would believe him.

With word spinners you have to pay attention to the grains of truth woven throughout the lies… “It was like I walked into a ghost house.” Hmm, could this be because he killed them and was haunted by what he did?

He talks about himself…his feelings, his needs, and his thoughts. He lacked the emotions that go with trauma and fear, and instead smiled through most of the multiple interviews.

He mentioned the empty house but showed no emotion about the loneliness or fear of why the house was empty.

“When I got home yesterday it was like a ghost town…it’s like a nightmare that I just can’t wake up from.”  Why is he speaking of a nightmare so early in the investigation of which he says he knows nothing and has no inclination of what happened or where they are? After all, the possibility exists that they are with a friend or family member? What’s so nightmarish about that?

“I had every light in the house on.” Perhaps because he couldn’t live with what had taken place during the night?

I noticed how tightly he had his arms crossed in front of him as if to say I am bottled up, I’m lying, and I am not telling what I know.

He was shaking his head no, while stating he wanted his family to return.

When Chris Watts stayed with friends Monday night he referred to his wife in the past tense. They notified police that they didn’t think Chris was doing enough to actively look for his family.

His body language, words, emotions and actions didn’t add up to innocent.

 

Chris Watts arrested for the murder of his wife and daughters

 

When news broke that Chris Watts had been arrested for the murder of his wife and children, people were asking, “what made him snap?” The public and the media seem shocked that this nice looking, well-spoken man could be responsible for murders while smiling at the camera and stating, “Shanann, Bella, Celeste, if you’re out there, just come back. If somebody has her, just bring her back. I need to see everybody; I need to see everybody again. This house is not complete without anybody here.”

I wonder how the police obtained a confession from him. Perhaps they had overwhelming evidence from the crime scenes.

A next door neighbor said Chris Watts was a normal helpful neighbor, “He would reach out and help anyone who needed help with anything.”

A reporter asked, “How a man who appeared to be such an adoring husband and father could do this?”

If you’ve read my blog for long you know this is a major issue I’ve tried to address. I also addressed it when I spoke in Dallas at the SBC: For Such a Time as This Rally.

These types of men “are grand actors and magnificent manipulators. They may be sitting next to us in worship, Sunday school, or small group. They can be pastors, Sunday school teachers, and our best friend, charming, smart, and biblically brilliant. They can be high functioning in their job, helpful in our time of need, and financially generous if hardship strikes us; all while destroying the wife and/or children at home.”

What’s worse is that often times the women don’t realize they are being abused. How can this happen? you may ask.

The victim may be confused about what is wrong, or who is in the wrong in the relationship. For me, and for other countless women, we believed our spouse’s lie that everything wrong in the relationship or home was our fault. Chris and Shanann hadn’t been married many years. It’s possible this may have been her experience…or maybe she was waking up to the idea that something was wrong in her marriage.

Here is an excerpt from a journal of an abused wife in the first years of marriage. She believed all the anger and control problems her husband had were going to get better as he became accustomed to being married.

“Thank you, Heavenly Father, for a godly husband who loves me. He’s a good daddy and an excellent provider. Please help him adjust to married life quickly, and help me to be the wife he needs and wants.”

In the above case; years would prove that she wasn’t the problem and that no matter how wonderful a wife and mother she was, it wouldn’t meet with his approval or kindness, or satisfy his need for power over her and control of her.

Other possibilities: 1) You can live with a person and not know if they suffer from mental illness or a personality disorder. 2) The wife is usually the last person to find out about an affair. 3) Maybe Shanann had decided to leave her husband.

Whatever the case; make no mistake, Shanann and her daughters did nothing wrong to provoke anyone to murder them. I don’t believe this was a snap decision, but likely numerous issues building up over time. This is why I recommend the free MOSAIC threat assessment.  What is MOSAIC? A combination of factors that are associated with escalated risk and danger requires that you know what questions to ask, and then know how to consider all your answers in a way that enhances insight. The MOSAIC method works by breaking a situation down to its elements, factor-by-factor, and then seeing what picture emerges when the pieces of the puzzle are put together.

As many women have learned; it’s difficult to leave an angry and controlling man…sometimes impossible.

I think it’s safe to assume that Shanann confided in a friend that something was deeply and fearfully wrong with her husband. Her friend Nickole Utoft, who dropped Shanann off at home around 2 AM after a business trip, tried making contact early that morning by text, phone, and going to the house. When Nickole couldn’t make contact with her friend she called the police and asked for a welfare check that afternoon. When Nicole discovered Shanann’s purse, phone, and keys in the house she filed missing person’s reports. Nickole knew something!

I’m grateful Chris Watts confessed early and disclosed where he placed the bodies. When a woman ‘disappears’ it’s usually at the hand of her significant other. When children are killed it’s usually at the hands of a parent or guardian.

Next time I will address lessons I learned about domestic abuse.

If you question the possibility of being in danger, please go to MOSAIC and take the free threat assessment test.

 

My Video & transcript: For Such A Time As This Rally

I was invited and had the privilege of speaking at the For Such a Time as This Rally in Dallas, Texas. Our team had three goals to express to attendess of the Southern Baptist Convention:

#1 Treat women as equals like Jesus did.
#2 Establish a predator database.
#3 Mandatory training of pastors and seminarians regarding the handling of domestic abuse. SBCmen

Although this was specifically for encouraging the Southern Baptist Convention held in Dallas, Texas, this week; my plea is to the universal church.

Below is the video of my talk. The generator went out moments before my turn to speak so we lost our mics, speakers, and live feed. Fortunately there was an iPad recording the event so we didn’t lose footage of the event.  To listen to the rally you’ll have to turn up the volume. We were in sweltering heat, sun-baked and frying to a crisp, in the middle of downtown Dallas with city noise in the background; plus, a large open space absorbing my voice. I had to talk as loudly as possible to be heard by attendees and the media. I felt like I was screaming in an attempt to be heard which had me literally gasping for breath. Thanks to the Baptist disaster relief worker walking by who knew how to fix the problem and got the generator running again.

There are article links and the complete transcript included below.

 

Go to this link to find more photos and videos from the For Such a Time as This Rally

Dallas Morning News

The Oklahoman – There are several ads and links to scroll thru to completely read this article. There are also additional pictures of yesterday’s event to scroll through.

For Such a Time as This Facebook page

For Such a Time as This Twitter

For Such a Time as This websiteMary DeMuth

TRANSCRIPT:

I’m Carolyn Deevers from St. Louis, MO.  I minister to women living in, or leaving, destructive marriages, and I write at Spiritual Battles.org about toxic relationships, abusive marriages and how God has used my prayers to navigate me through these life issues.

I’m here today speaking from experience as a survivor of sexual assault and domestic abuse by my former husband who was a pastor and a pedophilic offender. He’s now in prison for the rest of his life.

I’ve often heard people respond doubtfully, or roll their eyes, at the term emotional abuse. Let me clear up this misconception. I’ve endured all forms of abuse, but the one that was the most damaging, caused multiple health issues and repeatedly, most deeply wounded my heart, soul, mind and strength was emotional abuse.

I’m talking today because the church needs training on how to recognize and respond to allegations of domestic abuse, and because the evangelical church is long overdue on creating a database for tracking offenders.

Why are we so adamant about this you may ask? Allow me to ask you a question. When you hear the clopping of horse hooves what do you think of? Horses, right? But no, they aren’t horses; they’re zebras. These toxic men are the ‘zebras’ in this analogy. They are grand actors and magnificent manipulators. They may be sitting next to us in worship, Sunday school, or small group. They can be pastors, Sunday school teachers, our best friend, charming, smart, and biblically brilliant. They can be high functioning in their job, helpful in our time of need, and financially generous if hardship strikes us; all while destroying the wife and children at home.

It’s not just in the home though.

I hear from Christian women, pastor’s wives, and missionary’s wives around the globe who tell of angry, controlling men in places of leadership. These men would be fired in corporate America if they condescendingly talked down to, objectified, or told women their opinion didn’t matter since they aren’t a man. Yet, these things happen in some churches and we don’t bat an eye or grimace.

Some of these abusive personality types have gained places of high status within our churches, and their unbiblical view of women has trickled down through the ranks.

I recently read that Bible teacher and well-known author, Beth Moore, came to the same conclusion. She wrote there have been “attitudes among some key Christian leaders that smacked of misogyny, objectification and astonishing disesteem of women and it spread like wildfire.”

This is often the attitude abused women receive when they go to church leadership for help.

Dear Church, Jesus spent time on earth breaking cultural rules and traditions to love, heal, and bring women to the life God intended for them. Women were never an afterthought, or a second class citizen to Jesus. He didn’t deny, cover-up, enable, justify, or excuse anyone’s sin. Jesus would have been the one bringing this oppression to light; leaving no need for the #MeToo movement. Like Jesus, we need to come from a place of love; not a place of inconvenience or disbelief.

Unfortunately, I rarely hear of the church being a safe place for abused or assaulted women. The abuse is often minimized while they are told to continue submitting to their husband and/or forgiving their perpetrator.

My message to the church is:

  1. Please don’t criticize women or question their timing when they come forward. We have no idea how long it took them to come to the realization that they weren’t the unstable party in the relationship after years of hearing everything was their fault.
  2. Don’t tell them what to do. They’ve been controlled for years and they need to learn to make their own decisions and be able to live with them.
  3. Often women are retraumatized by their pastor or someone in the church and are met with unbelief, church discipline, or expulsion. What they need is validation, a listening ear, prayer, and gifts of practical service and/or financial help.

It seems the church is the least safe place to deal with domestic abuse. I’m not asking you to learn how to counsel these women; I’m asking you to recognize domestic abuse and abusers, respond correctly to assault victims and refer these hurting souls to professionals who know how to meet their needs. And…when someone comes to us with allegations of a crime; our only choice is to call the authorities and allow them to investigate; no matter our personal opinion. Remember: Abusers are word spinners who tell half-truths and justify their behavior. When the woman is divulging the abuse and the man explains, justifies, minimizes, spiritualizes, and denies the severity of what she is describing; you are looking at the number one sign of  dealing with an abuser; denial.

Let me clarify that not all professionals; in fact few, know how to help abusers which often makes them ineffective or harmful to the wife/survivor. (See today’s free resource sheet for help).

Please hear this:

  1. God does not expect us to place the institution of marriage above the safety, sanity and health of women and children.
  2. Couples counseling does not work for domestic abuse. They don’t need marital counseling. The abuser needs help for their abusive personality.
  3. When teaching about marriage say something like this: Today we’re talking about a normal, marriage. If you’re in a destructive, abusive marriage where there is physical, sexual, verbal, financial, spiritual (I accidently left spiritual out at the rally), withholding, or emotional abuse by an angry and controlling spouse; please know we want to help you.

Statistics tell us that domestic abuse escalates with time and that abusers have little to no success rate for recovery (because they don’t desire to change); much like pedophilic offenders according to Don Hennessy, former director of the National Domestic Violence Intervention Agency.

Because of this we need to put away the one size fits all, “God hates divorce” mantra. God hates the ongoing, active trauma that violates the wife.

Without intense training you can’t help the victim because of the academy award-winning performance the abuser is giving you. This is one reason you need a database.

Sex crimes investigators and prosecutors across our nation agree that some predators (and people with narcissistic personality disorder) go to Christian college and seminary to gain lifetime access to an endless supply of victims. These professionals also say that with the rise of internet pornography they are seeing women becoming predators.

Please consider this list of concerns when designing a database for the recording of patterns/behavior if they should continue for years:

  1. Ministry allegations
  2. Church discipline
  3. Evidence that led to divorce
  4. Sex offender registry

This is essential to safe-guarding the people entrusted to your care.

Here are examples of why a database would have been helpful based on my experience with my former husband.

  1. Lost ministries multiple times for being angry, controlling and deceitful to leadership.
  2. Lost a ministry for grooming and molesting of young children without charges ever being filed.
  3. Allegations of unfaithfulness.
  4. Again being investigated for grooming and crimes against children. In the middle of this investigation he found a new senior pastor position at another church.

He had a 30 year history. He attended summer church camps where he slept next to young boys in the dorms and he travelled internationally as an evangelist working in orphanages.

In the middle of the last investigation he obtained a senior pastor position at another church.  No one ever called to ask me why I left him or why I had his parental rights revoked. I kept psychological and psychiatric test results, doctors’ notes on their official letterhead, and prescription receipts; for serious and some dark psychiatric disorders; database worthy documents. Most people live a normal life with their mental illnesses; with pedophilia thrown in the mix; he did not. He continued landing ministries because there was no ministry database.

Here is my challenge: Please, go back to your churches or institutions and schedule mandatory domestic abuse training for your staff and anyone who holds a place of leadership so you’ll be ready next time. And please, develop and begin using a database.

Thank you.

 

 

Rally Outside SBC Annual Meeting Brings Abuse to Light

SBC rally

DALLAS, TX – June 5, 2018 – Discussing and responding to the epidemic of abuse within Protestant Christianity’s largest denomination has long been overdue. A rally to outline the prevalence of abuse and its enablement within the Southern Baptist Convention will be held at the SBC Annual Meeting in Dallas, Texas, on Tuesday, June 12th. Called the For Such a Time as This Rally, the organizers will gather outside the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. and invite any who are concerned about abuse in the Church to attend.

Organizers are gathering for these reasons:

1. The time has come for women to be respected and honored within the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention—as Scripture teaches. 2. The time has come for a clergy sex offender database for the Southern Baptist Convention. 3. The time has come for mandatory training of all pastors and SBC seminaries on the issues of domestic abuse and sexual assault.

Many rally organizers and attendees are involved in Southern Baptist Churches or have deep roots in the SBC. “The event is not anti-Southern Baptist or anti-Christian,” said Cheryl Summers, one of the rally organizers. “We are advocating for a reform of culture, and for training of pastors and church leaders. We follow Christ’s example who treated women with dignity and honor as equal, valuable members of His Church when the culture of His day did not.”

Cheryl noted the recent scandals that made this rally necessary, saying, “In recent weeks as the Paige Patterson scandal has erupted, the faulty ideas within the SBC about women, abuse and sexual assault have proven to be tragically systemic. We are praying for reform, but also are moved to respond, insisting that respect for women is rooted in Scriptural teachings and the culture within the Church needs to change.”

Speaking at the event will be abuse survivors and victim advocates including Ashley Easter, founder of The Courage Conference, an annual gathering of survivors and advocates; author, speaker, and advocate Mary DeMuth; the pastor of Emmanuel Enid Church, Wade Burleson; author and speaker Dr. Christy Sim, Carolyn Deevers, abuse survivor, writer and advocate and Gricel Medina, a pastor, writer, and advocate.

“The same systemic failures that silenced the victims of Paige Patterson also enabled him to remain in power for years,” said Ashley Easter, noting Paige Patterson’s abusive teachings and behaviors were known for decades. “We believe the time is long overdue for Christian women—and men—to work together and insist systemic changes in the treatment of women in the SBC.”
Carolyn Deevers, an abuse victim advocate and survivor of an abusive marriage to a pastor added, “When an abused spouse comes to the church or an institution with abuse allegations they are often told to be silent, submit, and stay in the abusive relationship. This faulty advice leads to more abuse as well as death,” Deevers indicated, citing how similar advice from recently-terminated SWBTS President, Paige Patterson, was used to keep women in dangerous situations. “The Church’s track record on these cases has made it one of the least safe places for victims to find help,” Deevers concluded.

Reference guides by victim advocates and professionals on how to respond to abuse disclosures will be distributed at the rally. Included will be a recommended reading list for pastors to build knowledge and understanding on how abuse works and ways to minister to the wounded and vulnerable. Rally organizers aim to share these best practices with the hundreds of Southern Baptist pastors and Southern Baptist Convention leadership who attend the annual conference. Rally organizers chose the name “For Such a Time as This” in reference to Queen Esther, a woman who was a victim of sex trafficking and refused to be silent to her authoritarian husband, the king of Persia. Esther’s story shows the courage that is required to speak necessary, hard-to-hear truths (cf. Esther 4:14).

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________________________________ About For Such a Time as This Rally: For Such A Time As This Rally can be found on Twitter as @SBCForSuchATime, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/forsuchatimeasthisrally and the web at http://www.forsuchatimeasthisrally.com.

 

 

 

 

For your consideration: A woman’s role…biblically; Part 5

 

Read Part 1  here  Part 2 here  Part 3 here…  Part 4 here

 You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
    you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
    so that mere earthly mortals
    will never again strike terror. Psalm 10:17-18 (NIV)

Paul’s words to husbands, “love your wives, and do not be harsh with them” Col. 3:19 (NIV)

Here is the final installment of this series. Let’s tie it all together to consider the lens through which God sees this in the Bible; not just a select few verses. We’ve read numerous texts throughout scripture to see what a woman’s role is in marriage, the church, and our culture. Now let’s consider our responsibility to abuse victims and survivors.

Take a fresh look at the Proverbs 31:10-31. It shows absolutely no glimpse of a woman under the thumb of an angry and controlling husband, or living in a subordinate role of an authoritarian man.

Her husband trusts her completely and knows he will lack nothing in his relationship with her, and lack nothing as she runs their household. He knows she will always do him good. She is wise, creative, a business woman, energetic, and provides for her household and her servants. She is free to make purchases and decides how to farm the land. She is strong physically and in character. She makes good, informed decisions and keeps her house fully prepared for its needs. She keeps her family clothed and is a social advocate for the poor. She is confident! She lends to her husband being well-known at the gates. She is a positive, grateful, wise thinker. Her husband loves that she’s a strong, independent, capable woman and he praises her for it.

 Back to the New Testament…

Jesus didn’t sit quietly or close His eyes when He saw sexism or prejudice. He didn’t stay silent to keep from offending someone. He didn’t turn away as women were being abused or belittled. He didn’t tell anyone it was their lot in life to go pray and wait on God to change the other person’s angry, abusive heart toward them. He didn’t cover His ears as women called out to Him. Jesus wasn’t sensitive to cultural or political leanings when He saw injustice and sin. He didn’t try to run a smoke screen to blind society from the ugliness of what was happening. He didn’t tell condescending, distasteful jokes about women or girls. He didn’t defend men who perpetrated sin or made accusations against women so as to not bring ruin upon the man’s job or place of leadership. He kept one thing on His ever-loving mind; His Father’s business.

Paul, whose writings are most used against women in the church, was a man who worked alongside many women while travelling, ministering and preaching. He mentioned at least 10 such women by name.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

God has used women to speak, lead, prophecy, and change the world. God has always empowered women to think for themselves, held women accountable for their own sins, and used women in miraculous, history changing ways.

Does the Bible say we should confront the injustice of sexual assault, misogyny, and abusive marriages; call it out and do something? Yes, it does, when we apply these scriptures:

Prov. 31:8-9 “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

Is. 1:17 “seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause”.

Jer. 22: 3 “Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. Do no wrong to the resident alien, the fatherless and widow.”

1 John 3:17-18 “But if anyone has the world’s good and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in you?

Isaiah 61:1 “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners”.

 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

When we have a heart for injustice that means we’re reflecting the compassion, mercy, and empathy of God. We are being a voice for those who have no voice, and are advocating for those who are oppressed or abused.

God does not care for men more than women. Women are equally as important, valued, and worthy in the eyes of God. Jesus spent time on earth breaking cultural rules and regulations to love, heal, and bring women to the life God intended for them. Women were never an afterthought, or a second class citizen to Jesus. And that is why I stand for women and speak out for women. It doesn’t mean I think men don’t face injustice or abuse (because they do) it just means that for me, personally, I am called to share my story and lessons learned, and be one who advocates for women – just like Jesus did.

Thankfully, Jesus didn’t have an unbending view of marriage any more than He had a narrow view of the Sabbath. Jesus is about relationship and putting people first. Jesus wouldn’t leave a woman living in an abusive situation; He would lead her to freedom.

Men have repeatedly been taught that they are to be the authority in the home. Angry and controlling men take this to an extreme, even when told they are to love like Christ. In their minds they believe the decisions they make are the wisest and best; and therefore that makes them loving…like Christ.

Male headship doesn’t cause abuse. No, that’s not what I’m saying, but it certainly intensifies it when practiced by an abusive spouse. Using words like leader, authority, patriarchy, and headship in church fans the flames of abuse in an angry and controlling man.

Patriarchy was a symptom of the curse in the garden; it was never part of God’s plan.

Jesus’ death and resurrection broke the curse of patriarchy. Jesus’ finished work on the cross confirms the dignity of all human life.

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Here are unifying scriptures no matter our background, church affiliation, doctrinal beliefs, social agenda, or political leanings:

·         All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus Christ. Matthew 28:18.

·         A command that carries through the old and new testaments is this: Love one another as Jesus has loved us. John 13:34

·         Those of us living under the new covenant have all been gifted by the Holy Spirit and our sons and daughters shall prophesy. Acts 2:17.

·          We have clothed ourselves with Christ…there is neither male nor female. Galatians 3:27-28

·         It’s about serving; not leading. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21.

·         “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. I Peter 4:10.

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Biblical womanhood in marriage is this: be who God has created us to be. The Bible is filled with women who defied cultural and traditional norms, held positions of authority, took huge risks, and changed history. So, serve Jesus in whatever way He has created you to, calls you to, and gifts you to through loving service. There is freedom in Christ! You are not under bondage and do not have to submit to any form of abuse.

I encourage women to trust their judgment and speak up; if safety allows. If you are in an unsafe situation; leave immediately and seek help. In the margin of this website you will find help and safety precautions.  

Men, I encourage you to value the women around you like the Proverbs 31 husband esteemed his wife. 

Thank you for considering a woman’s role…biblically.

 

Read Part 1  here

Part 2 here

Part 3 here…

Part 4 here…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For your consideration: A woman’s role…biblically; Part 4

Part 4 is a continuation of a series on what scripture has to say about a woman’s worth and role.

Read Part 1  herePart 2 herePart 3 here

 

Let’s consider Abigail from I Samuel 25. We’ll study her a bit more because we are talking about angry, controlling, abusive men and Abagail was married to one.  Nabal was utterly selfish, ungrateful, mean, sarcastic, arrogant, and lacked any amount of empathy. His refusal to feed David’s men; as was the custom; especially since David’s men protected him, prompted David to set out to kill Nabal and the males who belonged to him. On his way, David met Abigail riding her donkey on the road. She was a wise woman on her way to intercede with food and drinks, and to ask for forgiveness. I imagine she was thinking of her innocent family members; not Nabal. Abigail “got off her donkey” and pleaded, “Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent.” After David listened to Abigail’s appeal, he was impressed by her and thanked her for keeping him from bloodshed that day. If Abigail would have done what any good, culturally correct woman should have and asked her husband’s permission, think of what could have unfolded.  Abigail showed immense courage; plus she was sensible, capable and persuasive.  Being an abused woman DOES NOT mean you are weak, incapable, stupid, unattractive, boring in the bedroom, or insensible. Most likely you are strong. How else could you survive the abuse?  Nabal could have severely punished Abigail for her independent actions that went against the rules of marriage in those days. David and his men could have taken her life and continued on to massacre Nabal’s household. Yes, Abigail, was strong and courageous. David was wise. He listened. He took extra time and effort to understand Abigail’s predicament. He did not hold Abigail responsible for her husband’s actions or tell her she held a portion of responsibility for his actions.  Neither did the Lord; in fact, when Abigail told Nabal what she had done, “He became like a stone.” Possibly he became so worked up that, “His heart failed him.” Ten days later the Lord took Nabal.

The 5 Daughters of Zelophead:  Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah stood fearless and firm and as a result reformed the culture of their day. Because they spoke up they reversed precedent and claimed possession of their father’s inheritance. Numbers 27 & 36, Josh 17.

Rahab made a business deal with spies and saved her family. She is listed in the genealogy of Jesus. Joshua 2 & 6.

Ruth the Moabite boldly presented herself to Boas for protection and marriage. She was used mightily of the Lord as the great grandmother of King David and is listed in the genealogy of Jesus. Ruth 3.

Jehosheba, daughter of King Joram, whose motherly instinct took over fled danger to protect her son from death. She helped preserve the future of Israel.  2 Kings 11.

Esther was a world changer. She could have stayed quiet and lived a cushy life as queen but instead risked her life. She went before her husband, the King, uninvited and unannounced which in her culture meant it was probable she would be put to death. She was strong, courageous, humble, wise, and respectful. She was a leader and she was a history maker who helped save all Jews from being destroyed, killed and annihilated.

Mary was a young woman of tremendous strength. She placed her joy in the Lord over submission to her betrothed husband. Jesus could’ve come a thousand different ways but God chose to send Him through a young woman. Mary surrendered her life and her reputation to the purposes of God. At a wedding feast Jesus submitted to His mother, Mary; although not immediately, and his obedience to her led to His first public miracle and ministry on earth.

Jesus sought out the Samaritan woman at the well whom men shouldn’t have been speaking to because of cultural racism and sexism. Jesus had no political or cultural leanings; He simply came to do the will of His Father.  Jesus cared about the woman’s deep hurt and told her of her past sins; not to shame her but to heal her. Her testimony of Jesus led many to become believers. John 4.

Priscilla, Lydia, and Nympha were all women who had churches in their homes.

Priscilla helped explain the way of God more adequately to Apollos. Acts 18:26. She was an effective mentor. Paul highly esteemed women he co-labored with for Christ. Paul sometimes wrote Priscilla’s name first; a rarity for his culture. Some theologians believe she may have been the better, or more frequent, teacher rather than Aquilla.

Mary and Martha: in a culture where women were expected to be busy running the house and serving meals; Jesus told Martha, in a round-about way, that He didn’t hold them to the same expectation. Luke 10:40-41

When the woman “caught in the act of adultery” was thrown at Jesus’ feet by men calling for justice (stoning for her but not the man she was caught with), Jesus doodled in the sand, calling the men out on their double standard. They all promptly left. Jesus advocated for an injustice against a woman. Jesus dealt with sexism- double standards for men and women, as well as violence towards women. John 8. Nope, Jesus doesn’t turn a blind eye to any of it!

A sinful woman rushes in at a private dinner and falls at Jesus’ feet weeping. She wets his dirty feet with her tears and pours expensive perfume (her life’s savings) on His feet and dries His feet with her hair. Talk about some angry and controlling religious leaders! How dare she! That money could have been better used; likely in their pockets. Jesus defended her in front of all the leaders while rebuking them…in front of the woman. Luke 7:36-50

The four single, young daughters of Philip the Evangelist had the gift of prophecy and their ministry is mentioned in the Book of Acts. They represent boldness, courage and a willingness to step out for the Lord no matter age, gender, or cultural traditions.

 

Next time we will look at the Proverbs 31 woman.

Read Part 1  here

Part 2 here

Part 3 here

Listen…to her visible heart

This is a series of writings from women living in difficult, disappointing, or destructive marriages…or leaving destructive marriages/relationships. When women are physically abused the harm is often visible, but what about verbal and emotional abuse? The injury is internal…on the heart, soul, mind and strength. You may never guess her husband rages in a different way but the family knows. Her body knows and it often manifests in depression, anxiety, and/or auto-immune diseases. Allow me to show you the inner cries of these women’s hearts.

These are all true accounts from women I personally know.

Allow me to introduce you to Ellie...college educated, works in the non-profit sector, volunteers in her community, attends church and a women’s Bible study, has a small home-based business and all this while she homeschools her children. She has been emotionally traumatized by her husband, shunned by her family and his family when she finally told what was going on in her home, and chastised by her church for telling the leadership about her marital problems.

Several Christian counselors listen, understand and agree there are major problems but their patriarchal background leads them to encourage her to pray, wait on the Lord, and never say a disagreeing word to her husband.

Ellie has recently found excellent Christ-centered counselors who are giving her hope, validation, and practical application for setting boundaries to protect the safety and peace of her home. They have gently led her away from the hold of the false patriarchal teaching that keeps women and daughters living as objects instead of humans with worth and needs, and who should be regarded as precious treasure.

“She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.”  Proverbs 3:15 (NIV)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _hills and valleys 2

 

Heavenly Father,

 

I never want less of you.

I’ve found that the mountain top experiences,

The power, the deep relationship,

Hearing Your voice 

Come when I’m walking, sometimes crawling through the valleys.

 

For me, an ordinary life does not equate to extraordinary Relationship

But I’m tired, weary, under attack on all sides and I obtain no relief from my tormentors.

Those who I need love from most are not capable of reciprocating. 

It’s painful to love but not be loved. 

 

Thank you for Your sustaining love. 

You are love.

May I show the Invisible visible to a watching world.         

You are the only answer to why I am still whole.

Give me more of You; Your power, Your ways, Your purpose.

I love You, I trust you, I need You…

I want You.

 

Always Yours,

Your daughter

 

 

 

My original interest in the Lynn Messer case

Today I’m addressing the reasons for my interest in the Lynn Messer case.  

For those who need a quick recap:  Lynn Messer disappeared July 8, 2014. We now know that Lynn has been deceased the entire time and I have been told by law enforcement Investigatemultiple times that Kerry Messer, her husband, has not been cleared in the investigation surrounding Lynn’s death.  Kerry is a Missouri state lobbyist who represents family, homeschooling, right-to-life, gun rights/safety, and Christian/Biblical values. Lynn’s remains were found on her husband’s farm property November 1, 2016.

Within the first days of Lynn’s disappearance the entire farm acreage was mapped out. The land was searched with GPS tracking equipment in the daylight and in the dark, by search and rescue teams. It was also explored by professionally trained dogs that should have picked up the scent of the remains; especially in the hot July and August heat. All structures were checked. Results were recorded on a grid to show the areas had been thoroughly searched.

 

I’m coming from a background of once upon a time living with a mentally disturbed man. A man who most people thought of as being godly, personable, funny, sincere, a dynamic speaker, a soul-winning preacher, politically savvy, a world traveling evangelist with a heart for hurting and needy children, and a terrific communicator and writer. He lived his life on a stage; acting out the role he believed people wanted to see; soaking in the accolades.

This is what I experienced living with this man: a sometimes dark, disturbed, angry, dishonest, abusive, unfaithful, controlling, woman hater and unbeknown to me: pedophile who suffered from mental illness and a personality disorder. I never told people for years what took place in my marriage. In the ninth year of marriage I began to tell those closest to me as I  found out about his pornography addiction, mental illness, and a personality disorder. Why? See: My Destructive Marriage. I left him when our last two nights together caused me to believe it was probable our daughter and I would not again wake up alive.

Now he’s in prison, but I imagine he is still a grand actor.

So what if I’m not the only woman who lived a life where no one would have ever guessed what my home life was like?

The letters I receive from readers tell me the problem is global. And I’m not talking about wide-spread in the secular, non-Christian arena only. I’m telling you there are untold numbers of Christian women; including pastor’s wives and missionaries’ wives living in destructive, abusive marriages.

Because I read extensively on the subject of spousal abuse I can share that statistics report women who disappear under questionable circumstances are usually found dead; usually at the hands of their significant other and at the least, because of their significant other.

So when a local woman went missing almost four years ago my radar lit up. Of course the Christian community rallied around the husband because they believed this wonderful man would never have a role in his wife’s disappearance. I hope they were correct. Their hearts went out to him when he was being questioned about his wife’s disappearance. Friends thought time was wasting and should be spent trying to find his beloved, “bride” as he refers to her in his Facebook posts. He also refers to her as, “Ma.”

Please understand, just because you know a couple doesn’t mean you know what goes on in their home. I know from experience.

To be clear; I did not know what went on in this family’s home when I began writing about Lynn two years ago, and I had never talked to anyone in her family.

In July of 2016 a news article about the second anniversary of the disappearance of Lynn Messer was published in the Sunday, St. Louis Post Dispatch.  After reading Lynn’s husband’s Find Lynn Messer Facebook page for two years, and noting my numerous suspicions and concerns I decided to publicly write about Lynn. I shared my opinions and concerns regarding this Christian, homeschool mom who has been missing for two years.

I had a different perspective on the subject than many friends, the homeschool community, and the Christian community at large. I wondered if I would take a large dose of criticism; I took a small dose, and was surprised that the majority of people took issue with Kerry Messer’s Find Lynn Messer Facebook page. In fact, it was the main factor that caused people to think he was possibly guilty of wrong doing in Lynn’s disappearance.

The husband’s writings reminded me too much of my former husband. Not fair, I’m sure, but I’m being honest about my gut feelings. The posts Kerry Messer wrote about his bride on Facebook were like reading ponderings, convincing arguments, and outright lies that my former husband would have written about me; to make people believe and understand how much he loved me, needed me, and could never go on without me.  Non-truths; in the case of my former husband. I don’t know Lynn’s husband; I’m just saying there are oddities in this case.

I prayed numerous times for Lynn Messer while she was ‘missing.’  I questioned if she was dead when she first ‘disappeared’ but after reading the first few Find Lynn Messer Facebook posts, I thought she was dead.Find Lynn Messer

Husband, Kerry Messer, Missouri State Lobbyist in Jefferson City. Photo credit: Public Find Lynn Messer Facebook page.

Shortly after Lynn’s disappearance I received a financial support letter in the mail asking for local Christian, homeschooling families to send financial gifts to help the man, as a state lobbyist for the homeschooling community, during his time of difficulty. I tossed the letter in the trash and told my husband, “I’m not helping a man who I suspect holds guilt in the disappearance of his wife.”

I’m basing opinions off my background of studying a specific personality disorder. You see, people with narcissistic personality disorder, or tendencies toward it, have the same order of operations. What I read on Facebook reminded me of  narcissistic supply. Local friends and fellow Christians could have unknowingly been giving narcissistic supply. People were providing love, financial gifts, meals, written encouragement,  man-hours searching the 250 acre property for the wife, praise for the man’s character and marital devotion, prayers, and help around the farm. Maybe the support was correctly administered. I don’t know.

I’m not saying the man has been diagnosed with a personality disorder; I’m stating parallels I saw, which concerned me.

I figured that no one knew the hundreds of acres as well as him and, if a possibility existed that Lynn was dead and her husband was involved, he would know where the body was located.

Domestic abuse is not a respecter of age, gender, socio-economic background, nationality, or religion. I homeschool my children so I’ve had several Christian, homeschooling moms referred to me in my little corner of the world; St. Charles County, Missouri. All of the women I minister to report living with abusive husbands. The following are a handful of ways some of the more subtle abuse happens: The man keeps her living like she’s dirt poor while he enjoys a higher social standing. She eats simple and cheap meals while he eats the finest of food. She wears the same old clothes for years or decades while he wears new clothes. He travels and goes on expensive trips while she stays home to keep the house. He has control of the finances and often the transportation. He keeps tabs on what she eats and makes fun of her weight. He enjoys friendships with other women away from the home while she is expected not to talk to men without her husband present. He withholds relationship as a means of attempting to correct her thinking or behavior.

I hear from women who live in defeat and depression while believing the lies their husbands tell them. Lies such as all his problems are her fault, she isn’t talented enough, doesn’t make enough money, isn’t pretty, is boring, isn’t a good mother, isn’t a good wife, should me more like a woman the husband holds in high esteem. So many women in these relationships live in despair.

One concern all of these women want someone to know is…if they turn up dead or missing, please know their husband did it. Most of these women have been threatened by their husband and they think he’s capable of following through on the terrorizing warning. 

Many counselors don’t get it. The man seems so put-together at counseling sessions and many Christian counselors will not reprimand a man in the presence of the wife. Read more about problems with the false sense of male entitlement here. These women can end up suicidal when they fail to find understanding or help, or they can end up dead because the husband doesn’t want anyone to find out the truth she knows about him.

Couple with this a wife reconciling in her heart and mind a public man who boldly teaches the word of God and prays, with the private man who secretly treats his wife in the home with ridicule, resentment, the silent treatment, physical, emotional, psychological, and/or sexual abuse due to his addiction to pornography. This may leave a woman unable to grasp reality because she has been fed a constant stream of lies.

These women can’t give enough praise to make their man feel as special as he deems himself.  The man in return doesn’t have kind works of affirmation or appreciation for who she is, nor does he recognize anything of value she provides. See: To Live But Not Exist.

These women may feel like they are crazy, will never be able to please their man, are only making life worse, and would be better off dead; or they may fear for their life like I did once upon a time.

If this was Lynn’s life I wish I could have talked to her. I would have embraced her, cried with her, prayed over her and told her, “It’s not your fault. Don’t believe it. You’re beautiful, capable, talented, sweet, fun, caring and needed. You are lovable.”  Lynn 2

I wondered what their kids knew and thought; opinions, facts or questions that hadn’t made it to the media. They are grown adults and I couldn’t imagine how they endured through the two years of not knowing where their mom was or what happened to her. They are who my heart went out to; and the grandchildren.

My prayer was for closure to come to those who loved and valued Lynn.

As someone who had to learn to look for the thread of truth woven in a story or statement there were a few comments made on the Find Lynn Messer Facebook page, early in the investigation, that made me pause and wonder. These statements stood out to me and didn’t leave my memory. Maybe I have an over active imagination but I truly had to learn to read my ex-husband in this way in an attempt to keep myself and my daughter safe.

Located in a July 12, 2014, Find Lynn Messer Facebook post:  “In closing: For those of you who know Lynn best – you understand when I say that she is the strongest work horse on our farm. And, for those of you who know me best – you understand from Luke 14:5 that I only paraphrase Jesus’ figurative teaching, when I say that the only reason I am not with you in worship this morning is because ‘my ox is in a ditch.'”  I wondered if she was literally in a ditch or hole somewhere on the property! Where were the animals placed when they died? To me, it sounded like he knew where she was located.

Located in a July 12, 2015, Facebook post: “…to be honest, I am torn between two opposites. First is that I have to admit not being able to focus due to so many stresses, and the conviction to be transparent about it when I don’t want to be.” About what did he not want to be truthfully transparent; despite the conviction that he should be transparent?

Located in a July 12, 2015, Facebook post: “I am at a loss as to how to interact with our family members and even my own grandchildren.” Was there a sense of guilt keeping him from fully engaging and bonding with his precious family?

There were literally dozens, if not hundreds, of more glaring comments that were alarming to me. Some where I wondered if he was admitting to the crime. My former husband was exhilarated by dropping clues because he knew he was far more intelligent than people around him and it gave him a kick to think he outsmarted them right in front of their face. I’m sure he was astonished at how easily I was deceived and manipulated by his deceptions and sins against our marriage covenant. You may think this is sensationalism…but women who have survived abusive men know this is all in the realm of possibility. I hope the parallels surrounding Lynn’s case are simply coincidental.

If you disappeared or had mysterious circumstances surrounding your death, wouldn’t you want someone to persist until an answer was found and/or justice was served? This is another reason I continue to write about Lynn Messer.

 

The writer of the Find Lynn Messer Facebook page allows me opportunity to educate my readers on how there are multiple ways to look at a person. For teaching purposes the page can be taken at face value (true), or as an alternate reality (made up stories) or possibly coming from an unstable and/or criminal mind. Kerry Messer is a public figure which makes this a public interest case since he fund raises from the citizens of Missouri to provide for his professional and personal finances through his organization Missouri Family Network. People want to make informed decisions on how and where to spend their money. Lynn Messer’s sons and extended family continue to point out what they think are moral and ethical issues which they have witnessed by Kerry Messer. I do not write these posts or publish letters as a professional in any field of expertise, but rather to educate my readers from the life experiences through which I have lived. See the disclaimer in the side margin. I simply raise questions so we can consider different viewpoints. Opinions are solely mine.

 

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Top photo credit: Find Lynn Messer Facebook profile picture

Further reading on the disappearance of Lynn Messer:

St. Louis Post Dispatch, July 17, 2016,: Missing woman case tears apart Jefferson City lobbying team

Facebook: Find Lynn Messer

Domestic Abuse: 5 Biblical principles & 5 guidelines

October is Domestic Violence awareness month. I’m aware that DM is alive and well; which includes in the church.

I currently have 30 Christian women in my county who I advocate for in person and/or Toxic Tuesday biochem hazard smallon the phone, and for whom I pray. Many times they just need to be listened to and validated.  I can report that only 2 of these women have churches who believe them and stand by them. Most churches want the couple to come in and meet with the pastor so he can get a feel for what is going on and if abuse is truly taking place. Couples counseling DOES NOT WORK for a destructive, abusive marriage. The abuser will sit and lie his way through the session; denying or justifying the problems while acting the part of a loving, tender, and godly husband.  This is why the woman is not believed. (I also know abused men who have gone to their church leadership, but were not believed. Since I minister mainly to women I state women throughout my blog.)

Leslie Vernick is a Christian and biblical counselor who has spent years in the trenches teaching women in destructive and abusive marriages how to reclaim their voice and strength. Now she is helping first responders (church leadership) so they can correctly apply scripture when a woman in an abusive relationship approaches them for help. To do this, church leadership needs to respond to the abused and the abuser. How? It’s not difficult if you have the proper training, but sadly most pastors, church leadership, and even Christian counselors do not have a background in spotting and dealing with domestic abuse. Leslie provides the opportunity for church leadership to fill this void and provide hope and help those seeking it.

Please remember; abuse is not a marriage problem—it is an abuse problem. The abuser needs private counseling and serious, firm accountability

 

What Does The Bible Say About Destructive And Abusive Relationships?

 

Leslie Vernick receives frantic calls and e-mails each week from Christian women (and some men) who feel scared, trapped, hopeless and helpless because their most intimate relationship is abusive; verbally, physically, economically, sexually, spiritually or all of the above. The Bible has something to say about the way we treat people and as Christians we should all strive to be Biblically wise in how we handle these difficult and painful family issues.

Below are five Biblical principles that will guide your thinking about this topic.

Leslie Vernick, Author

1. Abuse is always sin. The scriptures are clear. Abuse of authority or power (even legitimate God given authority) is always sin. Abusive speech and/or behavior is never an acceptable way to communicate with someone. (Malachi 2:16-17; Psalm 11:5; Colossians 3:8,19).

2. Abuse is never an appropriate response to being provoked. In working with abusive individuals they often blame the other person. This can be especially tricky when trying to counsel couples. There is no perfect person and victims of abuse aren’t sinless. However, we must be very clear-minded that abusive behavior and/or speech is never justified, even when provoked. People provoke us all the time but we are still responsible for our response (Ephesians 4:26; Luke 6:45)

3. Biblical headship does not entitle a husband to get his own way, make all the family decisions, or to remove his wife’s right to choose. At the heart of most domestic abuse is the sinful use of power to gain control over another individual. Biblical headship is described as sacrificial servanthood, not unlimited authority and/or power. (Mark 10:42-45). Let’s not confuse terms. When a husband demands his own way or tries to dominate his wife, it’s not called biblical headship, its called selfishness, and abuse of power. (See, for example, Deuteronomy 13; Jeremiah 23:1-4; Ezekiel 34:2-4 for God’s rebuke of the leaders of Israel for their self-centered and abusive shepherding of God’s flock.)

4. Unrepentant sin always damages relationships and sometimes people. Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2-5) and from one another (Proverbs 17:9). It is unrealistic and unbiblical to believe that you can continue healthy fellowship with someone who repeatedly sins against you when there is no repentance and no change. We are impacted in every way. (See Proverbs 1:15; 14:7; 21:28; 22:24; 1 Corinthians 15:33).

5. God’s purpose is to deliver the abused. We are to be champions of the oppressed and abused. God hates the abuse of power and the sin of injustice. (Psalm 5,7,10,140; 2 Corinthians 11:20; Acts 14:5-6.

What’s next? How should we respond when we know abuse is happening to someone?

We must never close our eyes to the sin of injustice or the abuse of power, whether it is in a home, a church, a work setting or a community or country (Micah 6:8). The apostle Paul encountered some spiritually abusive leaders and did not put up with it. (2 Corinthians 11:20). Please don’t be passive when you encounter abuse.

However, because we too are sinners, we are all tempted to react to abusive behavior with a sinful response of our own. The apostle Paul cautions us not to be overcome with evil, but to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

Below are five (5) biblical guidelines that will help you respond to the evil of abuse with good.

1. It is good to protect yourself from violent people. David fled King Saul when he was violent toward him. The angel of the Lord warned Joseph to flee to Egypt with Jesus because Herod was trying to kill him. Paul escaped from those who sought to stone him. We must help people to get safe and stay safe when they are in abusive relationships. This is not only good for her and her children, it is good for her abusive partner. If you are not experienced in developing a safety plan and assessing for lethality (often women are more at risk when they leave an abusive partner), refer or consult with someone who is knowledgeable in this area (Proverbs 27:12).

2. It is good to expose the abuser. Secrets are deadly, especially when there is abuse in a home. Bringing the deeds of darkness to light is the only way to get help for both the victim and the abuser. If you are working with a couple and notice that the woman defers to her husband, regularly looks to him before she answers, blames herself for all their conflicts, speak with them separately. (Proverbs 29:1; Galatians 6:1; James 5:19-20). If you are a victim of an abusive relationship, it is not sinful to tell, it is good to expose the hidden deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). Biblical love is always action directed towards the best interest of the beloved, even when it is difficult or involves sacrifice (1 Thessalonians 5:14; Hebrews 3:13).

3. It is good not to allow someone to continue to sin against you. It is not only good for the abused person to stop being a victim, it is good for the abuser to stop being a victimizer. It is it is in the abuser’s best interests to repent and to change. (Matthew 18:15-17; James 5:19-20).

4. It is good to stop enabling and to let the violent person experience the consequences of his/her sinful behavior. One of life’s greatest teachers is consequences. God says what we sow, we reap (Galatians 6:7) A person who repeatedly uses violence at home does so because he gets away with it. Don’t allow that to continue. (Proverbs 19:19). God has put civil authorities in place to protect victims of abuse. (Romans 13:1-5) The apostle Paul appealed to the Roman government when he was being mistreated. (Acts 22:24-29). We should encourage victims to do likewise.

5. It is good to wait and see the fruits of repentance before initiating reconciliation. Sin damages relationships. Repeated sin separates people. Although we are called to unconditional forgiveness, the bible does not teach unconditional relationship with everyone nor unconditional reconciliation with a person who continues to mistreat us.

Although Joseph forgave his brothers, he did not initiate a reconciliation of the relationships until he saw that they had a heart change. (See Genesis 42-45.)

Biblical repentance is not simply feeling sorry (2 Corinthians 7:8-12). Repentance requires a change in direction. When we pressure someone to reconcile a marital relationship with an abusive partner before they have seen some significant change in behavior and attitude we can put them in harm’s way. We have sometimes valued the sanctity of marriage over the emotional, physical, and spiritual safety of the individuals in it.

The apostle Paul encourages us to distance ourselves from other believers who are sinning and refuse correction. (See 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14-15).

A person cannot discern whether a heart change has taken place without adequate time. Words don’t demonstrate repentance, changed behaviors over time does. (Matthew 7:20; 1 Corinthians 4:20)

As Christians we have the mandate and the responsibility to be champions of peace. Dr. Martin Luther King said “In the end what hurt the most was not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

In honor of victims of domestic abuse who need wise help, please forward this article to other Christian leaders who may need to learn how to see domestic abuse through the lens of the Scripture.

 

Many Christian counselors, pastors, and lay leaders are still woefully ill-equipped to handle this very important issue despite 1 in 4 Christian women reporting being in a destructive marriage. Leslie Vernick invites you to visit her new website that she designed to educate and equip pastors, counselors and church leaders on this very important topic.

 

Recognize and Prevent Emotional Abuse

psy-abuse

This is for those of you who don’t have time to watch the almost hour long video attached at the end of this article. If you are in an abusive relationship and you do have time to watch; you will be greatly validated and encouraged. You’re not crazy…it’s really happening…you’re living through untold trauma, and you are incredibly strong to have endured for so long. My prayers are for you.

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I present to you, Patrick Doyle, counselor at Veritas Counseling and theDOVE.us

Recognize and Prevent Emotional Abuse

The core of marital counseling revolves around emotional abuse.

I was aware of a situation involving a woman in another state. Her husband was a very well respected man who early in the marriage; and thereafter, was abusive.  He was a stalwart member of the church who was well respected. The abuse kept going on until finally the woman realized through some counseling, and finding out her husband had a longtime porn addiction, that she needed to speak up. Well, her church didn’t really get it; they didn’t understand what she was trying to say. They genuinely wanted to help but they thought maybe she was making this stuff up…how could this be; we all think this guy’s great. As time goes on and she becomes more and more bold about revealing the truth to the pastor of her large mega church, he finally gets it. She actually went in the pastor’s office and had him watch my (Patrick Doyle) video on emotional abuse. Here are some excerpts from a letter that he wrote to his leadership after watching the video and ‘getting it’… about what the church is going to do to deal with this issue because he’s starting to see that they’ve missed the boat on this.

I am disturbed by the fact that women are coming forward telling me sad stories of long-term calculated abuse by their husbands. I’m aware of 6 or 7 cases that are current. These are good women who have experienced long term, 10-25 years, of abuse to varying degrees.  In some cases the abuse has been physical leading to domestic assault charges and imprisonment. In other cases the abuse is more subversive yet no less damaging. Emotional abuse, verbal abuse, psychological abuse, roll abuse, financial abuse, and sexual abuse.  Sometimes I wish they would all just walk into my office with a black eye so I could see the indisputable evidence and call the police. Instead they tend to walk in with blackened and bruised hearts that bleed pain. It is more difficult to discern the extent of non-physical abuse but I am becoming more attuned to the signs of an emotionally and psychologically battered woman. These are not crazy women who are trying to find some sinister way to get out of a marriage; thus, submitting false charges against their husbands. I’m talking about good and godly women who over time have lost hope that they will ever be treated with honor as a wife, a woman, or a fellow heir of the grace of life. I am typically taken off guard thinking that their husbands were charming, gentlemen of God. Oh, what a false front an abuser is able to display.

We all know there is a difference between a difficult marriage and a destructive marriage.  We all have difficult marriages to some extent. There’s no such thing as a pain-free, argument free marriage. There is anger in every marriage leading to disputes, hurt feelings, and the need for healing. I have not called this meeting to discuss difficult marriages, but I am talking today about destructive relationships where one person is being systematically and consistently broken down by the other.

I am most deeply disturbed by the fact that in several of these cases these men are protecting their place within our church while the abused is made to feel like an outcast. The abuser sings in the choir, sits in the front row, leads in the men’s’ ministry, carries the friendship or support of a pastor or an elder, serves on some ministry team, plays in the band while the wife is made to feel like an unforgiving, un-submissive, self-willed, hardened sinner. The wife feels embarrassed around our church people while the abusive husband smiles and drinks coffee with his boys (church members).

Here is a transition: This man wants to do the right thing, but it’s hard because people come in and you don’t know if they’re trying to work you, manipulate you, or what.

Listen, someone who is in an abusive relationship…one thing abusers do is they never take responsibility.

Abusers never take responsibility. This is a key to recognizing one. As Christians we should be leading the way in taking responsibility. With abusers you can never get a clear answer in a question, or there is a constant blame shift, avoidance, minimization, justification, and spiritualization. They shift blame and everything becomes your fault.You start to feel crazy and doubt yourself which empowers the abuser all the more.

In the church what is said is, “If you’ll just love them more, if you just cook them the right meal, if you just have more sex with them, if you’ll just be patient then this will clear up.”

Listen, if you allow an abuser an inch they will take a mile. The more you submit to their abuse the more they are going to abuse because every abuser I’ve worked with is in abject denial. The abuser believes their own rhetoric. They will stand in front of you, look you dead in the eyes and believe what they are saying. When this happens; listen to your spirit!

For outsiders who wonder if someone is in an abusive relationship; listen to your spirit. You may want to ask the woman or her children, in a safe setting, if there is abuse in their home and ask if they need help.

When someone says they are a believer but they have no conviction or comfort—they don’t have the Spirit. I don’t care what they say, how many church services they go to, how much Bible they know—the evidence is in whether or not they are convicted. The conviction will lead to the fruit of the spirit. Right? You can feign the fruit of the spirit for moments at church, in front of your pastor, in Sunday School, at a pot-luck dinner—but behind closed doors with the person who knows you the best…if they aren’t the ones seeing it, then I’m really concerned.

If your wife (and kids) are feeling abused (and I don’t care if you’re an abuser or not)—that’s real—and we have to deal with that. If the wife, or kids, are misinterpreting something it will be easy to fix, but if they’re not then maybe we can heal the marriage before it absolutely is destroyed.

Sometimes they do this sham of responsibility taking…”I’m sorry. I know I did that.” Then they just keep on doing it. Listen, the evidence of conviction is a change in your behavior not just words. God does not convict in general; He convicts specifically. So when the abuser comes to you they need to confess specifically the sinful words, thoughts and actions (to God and to their spouse). Changed behavior is the evidence of conviction. Conviction, repentance and changed action all have to take place.

Are  you abused and feeling trapped (which is part of the abusers arsenal) but you’re at a point where something has to break, something has to stop; you recognize that it’s coming to a head?

I say this with all due respect. Don’t call the church. (Yours may be the exception, but there are tragic stories about women who went to their church and were placed under church discipline for talking poorly of their husband, and/or removed from the church for separating from or divorcing their abuser.) I don’t know if the church is prepared for this; you’ll have to make that assessment. Somebody has to know what they are doing and someone has to be willing to get involved. If somebody comes to counseling he can get involved in a certain degree, but really where the church has the ability to be transformational is to get involved in a big way on a day-to-day basis. That’s how we can really help these people. In my church we’ve set up funds to support women temporarily; to give them money so the abusive husband can’t control them financially. I’ve seen it a thousand times if I’ve seen it once. They start controlling the money. How’s the woman going to live? Those are real questions. That’s where we can come (help) balance the power.

If you think you are, or might be, in an abusive relationship talk to somebody who knows what they’re talking about. If you’re going to go to someone who gets involved and then they back away; that is way worse. In that case, don’t even broach the subject until you know you have support that’s going to stay. This is where the church has done a lot of damage. They get involved and then they back out because they get uncomfortable, in over their head, or whatever.

Do your research, ask around the community, take the knowledge you’ve learned to find long-term support because I’ve never seen an abuser who has gone that far and said, “Oh, you’re right. I’m going to quit being abusive.”

It’s possible churches get it and they do want to help; such as the pastor who wrote the email read at the beginning; earlier. They recognized it and set up something in the church to address abusers and the abused. The pastor; along with church staff and leadership took training for it because they care about the people.

Much of this teaching can also apply to parent/child relationships.

 

This is Carolyn speaking: There aren’t many Christian counselors out there who know how to handle abuse in the Christian home. Most will want the abused wife to attend counseling with her abuser. THIS SHOULD NOT BE. When calling a counselor’s office ask them what their policy is for helping abuse victims and their abusive spouse. Separate counseling is best. I’ll give you three recommendations for the St. Louis area at the bottom of this post. They do not take insurance; so you have to file ‘out of network.’ If you’re local and have an excellent referral please comment with contact information at the top of this post. There is also a link in the margin for Focus on the Family: Counseling service and one time free referral.

 

Counselors in the greater St. Louis area:

Terri Dempsey – (West county & Farmington) Encouragement, validation, and practical application for setting boundaries…with humor.  Double majored in Psychology and Theology receiving a Bachelor of Arts from Blue Mountain College.  Received  Master of Arts degree in Psychological Counseling from Southeast Missouri State University in May 1991.  The combination of a Christian and secular education allows her to understand and fit into both worlds.  Scripture tells us to be in the world but not of the world.

She treats most mental health issues and specializes in trauma, personality disorders, and difficult cases in adults, adolescents, and children.  She is certified in EMDR. In treating anxiety and depression whether in adults, adolescents, or children, there is often a common thread – trauma.  Trauma can be the basis of eating disorders, anger management issues, and severe stress as well as identity issues in children and adolescents.  If your spouse suffers from a personality disorder you will find help for staying, or leaving.

(314) 983-9300, by text at (314) 960-7589 and by email at hopecrossingcc@gmail.com

St. Louis Office
Castlewood Baptist Church
1220 Kiefer Creek Rd. Ballwin, 63021

Farmington Office
#7 South Jefferson
Farmington, MO 63640

Dr. Clay Coffee (St. Louis County) received his Ph.D. in Family Therapy from Saint Louis University and his Master of Arts in Counseling and Masters of Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary.  He is a Counselor in Training working with couples, families, and individuals.  For typical marital issues he does couples counseling. For family issues he does group family therapy. He has served as a pastor and counselor in church-based settings for over fifteen years: working with couples and families in conflict

providing premarital education and counseling

caring for individuals and families walking through divorce and remarriage.   His additional areas of clinical interests and experience include working with adults experiencing grief and loss

anxiety and depression

the trauma of emotional, physical, and spiritual abuse

spiritual transformation and relational distress

parenting issues and season of life transitions.

Clay has also taught graduate courses on ethics and counseling and presented at national conferences on topics such as addressing family violence in the church and coordinating care between counselors and churches for the well-being of clients. His dissertation explored the influence of at least one partner’s religious conversion on the marital relationship and developed a tentative theory for helping both partners navigate potential loyalty conflicts.

Clay has a wife, 3 children and a black lab named Pepper.  He enjoys playing tennis & golf with his wife, co-managing a fantasy football team with his sons, watching and discussing movies with his daughter, and playing his guitar. (314)720-2710 ext 5  clay@killeencounseling.com 

 

Christy Brimm (St. Charles county) at Kaleo Counseling: kaleostl.com – Her bio states she works mostly with kids, but I’ve been told she is terrific, due to her passion and personality, for women who are in extremely difficult and abusive relationships.
Christy received her Master of Arts in Counseling from Missouri Baptist University and her Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Covenant Theological Seminary. She has gained extensive experience working with children, adolescents, women, and families via her 20+years serving in the Church. Her ministry experience has come in the form of working in children’s ministry, youth ministry, leading a life group for young families, and through leadership in Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS). Christy has training in both school and clinical settings and is interested in offering gospel-centered counseling to youth and adults who find themselves in need of healing and wholeness. She also has a special interest in doing play therapy with children and working with families on parenting and relational issues. Christy is a Provisional Licensed Professional Counselor and is supervised by Martha Ankney, LPC. She sees clients at the St. Charles office and is an out-of-network provider. You may email Christy at cbrimm@kaleostl.com.