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.

 

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A Case Against Abused Women: Part 1

I’ve wanted to address teachings sometimes heard in the church regarding marital abuse because it is this type of teaching that kept me and countless other Christian sisters in abusive marriages. I didn’t know if I would make it out alive, but did. Some women and children haven’t made it out alive.Be a conqueror

This week John Piper once again made the news for his views on women, and why some men abuse women; doctrinal differences. He addresses reasons for cases of widespread abuse being reported in the news.

Cases that have recently been in the headlines include, but unfortunately are not limited to:

  • Bill Cosby sexual assault and rape law suits include 58 alleged victims, 19 of which will be testifying against him in court. Jury selection for the Cosby trial is set to begin March 29 at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa. The trial is scheduled for April 2.
  • Harvey Weinstein is an American film producer and executive who is currently under investigation for multiple sexual assaults of at least 80 women which spanned 30 years. This scandal triggered similar allegations against powerful men around the world. It spurred the #MeToo movement.
  • Sovereign Grace Ministries had multiple recorded cover-ups of sexual assault and rapes committed against children in their care.
  • Saeed Abidni whose wife, Naghmeh Panahi, left him for proven allegations of domestic abuse, and unfaithfulness was recently arrested for violating a no-contact order.
  • Andy Savage who is the teaching pastor at Highpoint Church in Memphis, TN sexually assaulted a girl in his youth group when he was a youth pastor 20 years ago. The staff at Highpoint supports and is attempting to save Savage’s ministry.
  • Cases against Bill Gothard (and his board), founder of the Institute in Basic Life Principles. This was a ministry where teens left their homes to live at headquarters to help with ministry opportunities. With my background, I still find it disturbing that an unmarried single man ran a ministry where he had constant unsupervised time alone with individual students. This is child safety and ministry safety 101 at any Christian based institution and has been for decades: For the students’ protection they are to NEVER be left alone with one person. There is safety in numbers. (Unfortunately many pastors, staff, and teachers don’t adhere to this safety measure).
  • The Catholic Church has been plagued with child sexual abuse cases for decades.
  • Josh Duggar: Ashley Madison scandal and reports of child sexual molestation.
  • The wife of Pastor Greg Locke of Global Vision Bible Church in Mount Juliet, Tennessee left him and is living in a shelter for safety and provisions. Although Greg Locke denies any wrong doing on his part I’ve read the hateful, scathing text messages he sent his wife about her weight, her looks, his disdain for her, and in which he used profane language against her. He was having a reported, emotional if not physical, relationship with his wife’s best friend who is also his secretary.
  • Ravi Zacharias sexual grooming relationship with a woman not his wife. This case was settled out of court and neither side can legally speak about it. This is convenient for Ravi because I was sent some of the text messages/emails and there is no way he can conveniently talk his way out of his wrong doing. I won’t ever be able to listen to him teach again knowing what he wrote. Some of it was sinful and some of it was weird, but all of it was an abuse of his ministry position.
  • Doug Wilson: I could write a book on the wrong theology of Doug Wilson and his wrongly placed allegiance to pedophiles who have attended his church. A 13 year old girl congregant was groomed, assaulted, and raped by a man from the church. Doug placed blame on the child because she was tall for her age, well developed for her age, and mature for her age. Doug Wilson preformed a wedding ceremony so a known pedophile at the church could marry a young woman from the church. It didn’t end well.
  • I receive correspondence from pastor’s wives and missionary’s wives around the world who tell of abuse they suffer from their husbands.
  • I minister to around 25 women in my area, the Christian homeschool community, who are living through or leaving severe abuse from their husbands.
  • Rachael Denhollander was the first woman to publicly accuse USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar (associated with Michigan State University) of sexually abusing her as a teenager, a case that led to more than 250 other victims coming forward for their day in court.

Rachael is a Christian who received her law degree from the Christian Oak Brook College of Law. This makes her the best credentialed child sexual abuse survivor to lead the charge in ridding our churches and institutions of predators, and teaching the public to always: believe the children first, contact the authorities second, and allow the law to sort it out.

 

Let me begin by stating my disagreement with Piper’s recent teaching in his article: Sex abuse allegations and the egalitarian myth. Piper’s argument is that the egalitarian doctrine, which teaches all people are equal in fundamental worth and social status and deserve equal rights and opportunities, has led to men becoming abusers since he doesn’t believe this is the way God intended men and women to function.

I highly disagree with his reasoning. Abuse is not a theological/doctrinal or marriage problem. It is an abuse problem. I find absolutely no scripture to back Piper’s claim. Jesus calls sin; sin.

Dear beloved church,

We must do better.

Marriage is

 

To be continued…

Afer all if we buy into, “Boys will be boys” we are reinforceing “Girls have no humanity; they’re just objects.”

Listen…to her objectified heart

“That’s not really abuse.”

Yes, I’ve heard this statement many times in regards to emotional abuse and I vehemently disagree with it.  The Bible has much to say about abusive people and how we are allowed to deal with them.

See: Do you have biblical permission to leave a toxic spouse?  
#1 Sign of Emotional Abuse
Recognize and Prevent Emotional Abuse
The Emotionally Destructive Marriage

 

Don Hennessy, Director of the National Domestic Violence Intervention Center, uses the term ‘psychephiles’ when referring to men who befriend women and then abuse them in long-term relationships.

“Skilled offenders are clever enough to be ahead of all of us and to be able to orchestrate our responses at every turn.”  (How He Gets Into Her Head by Don Hennessy, p 100)

Here’s a word straight from our sponsor: God…

Scoundrels use wicked methods,
they make up evil schemes
to destroy the poor with lies,
even when the plea of the needy is just. (Isaiah 32:7 NIV)

…they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage. (Jude 16b NIV)

Don Hennessy says:

“We [counselors and other professionals] have all failed our clients to the extent that we have failed to understand what is really going on. (How He Gets Into Her Head, 83)

The process of being groomed by a skilled offender will begin as soon as we meet him or take a phone call from him. (157) 

As a society we have already been groomed into an attitude of tolerance and this tolerance is used by the abuser to justify his continued abuse. … His experience of us is such that he believes he can manipulate any agency or individual into accepting his position. (120) 

He knows above all else that we as a community will accept part if not all of his explanation.” (158) From Don Hennessy’s book How He Gets Into Her Head: The Mind of the Male Intimate Abuser

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.

Many of the stories are close to identical. It saddens and frustrates me to know that most of the stories I’ll be posting take place inside the church body. These men wear a mask to church that is worthy of an Academy Award. Almost all abusers wear masks.

Domestic abuse is not a respecter of age, gender, socio-economic background, nationality, or religion.

This writing is from Melissa. Melissa has been to college, worked in corporate America, considers herself to be a strong woman, and is outgoing and friendly; so to meet her you would never guess this is her home life, or her struggle.

 

God, I don’t understand…

 

He spends hours reading his bible and praying.

He tells counselors I’m the Proverbs 31 woman

While the emotional trauma at home continues.

I cry myself to sleep more nights than not.

 

A child has anxiety attacks when they hear his voice or see him.

A child wishes he would move away.

A child wishes he were dead.

A child wishes he would get professional help.

A child wishes he would take meds.

Children want to have friends over to their house, but…

Children wish he would work more hours.

He exasperates his children.

The children’s bodies aren’t handling the stress well…even with counseling.

 

I would like to entertain guests in our home…but I would have to wear a mask.

He doesn’t understand other’s needs, not even emergencies.

The children and I live with continual traumatic stress disorder.

I asked God to take our lives and end our suffering.

My sanity is a battle .  

Spending daily time with Jesus—studying and praying is the only way

I keep my mind sound.

 

I need an on/off switch.

This would make it easier to understand when my husband considers me

Worthy of relationship or worthy of alienation.

 

He tried to isolate me

Take away finances

Keep me off the phone

Keep me from friends and family

Keep me from outside commitments.

 

Many relational commitments were made before marriage but

At the marriage ceremony vows were one-sided…

For me to keep, for him…optional.

Love, cherish and  honor… he’s not capable.

Forsaking all others, me yes; him no.

I’m nothing more than an object he owns.

You do not love, cherish, and honor your kitchen blender.

 

He cannot love that which needs his time, space, energy, emotion, or money.

 

Boundaries have helped…some.

Grateful lists have been beneficial to see the good God has brought through the pain.

 

Conversation…I listen; he speaks; after all a kitchen blender should not speak.

I have talent, accomplishments, and stimulating conversation…not in his eyes .

He doesn’t recognize much of what I do beyond providing meals.

No encouragement, no affirmation.

To him I’m a mom, cook and housekeeper.

 

I’m a human with worth, dignity, talents, and relational needs.

 

I often live with avoidance, neglect, and withheld relationship; emotionally, spiritually, sexually.

Who knew a man wouldn’t want to have sex with a spontaneous, fun, attractive, fit, creative spouse?

A wife who doesn’t use headaches or anything else to ever be a reason for ‘not tonight’.

A man who cannot deal with being pursued by his lover. Total turnoff.

 

I’ve lost my health, energy, creativity, zeal, hospitality, spirit.

It’s been years since I’ve had a normal night of sleep. Insomnia, night mares, restlessness.

I used to enjoy life, find purpose, make decisions, feel secure, speak freely, and feel capable.

I used to think I did a good job at whatever I set my hands to do. 

Now I feel like a failure.

My mind can’t stay focused.

His rejection of me changed how I think God feels about me.

A difficult lie to see through.

You couldn’t understand unless you’ve lived it.

 

SARA GROVES: Cave of Adullam lyrics

Speak to me, speak to me in my cave of Adullam.
Reach to me, reach to me.
No one cares for my soul.
I thought I saw your kingdom,
But it’s not going to happen like I thought it would happen.
Remind me, remind me of the vision you gave me.
Remind me, remind me what anointing oil is for.
I need to know you’re near me.
I need to know you are holding me just as closely

Chorus: as the day you took my life and gave me a vision,
As the day you poured the oil and gave me a dream.
I can’t believe this is happening.
How does a shepherd become a king?

 

Listen…to her weary 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.

weary 4

This friend suffered the breakup of her marriage after finding out her husband had molested a child. Her disappointing and destructive marriage led to divorce. Fortunately her husband admitted to the behavior, a crime against a young adolescent, and now he sits in jail. I am thankful for her that she didn’t have to wait years or decades for justice to be served. 

Krissy had been a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom since starting her family thirteen years earlier. She is living any woman’s worst nightmare while having the sole responsibility of meeting her children’s emotional, physical, financial and spiritual needs. Krissy and her children had to leave their home. The kids not only had their family dynamics change, they have also enrolled in public school so Krissy can go back to work full-time. You may be thinking, “Great, she was able to get a full-time job and take care of her kids.” If only it were that simple. Krissy didn’t have the necessary skills to find a job to cover the bare minimum of expenses. You may remember around two and a half years ago I published a GoFundMe account fundraiser for Krissy.  She had no money and needed financial help to get her family settled and on the road to recovery. She needed moving expenses, food, school supplies, clothes, Christian counseling, gas, utilities, insurance…

What you may not realize is that when the main financial provider goes to prison the spouse and children receive no alimony or child support payments. 

These have been Krissy’s toughest years and she has felt like she’s almost drowning in the difficulties and loneliness of single parenting and singleness. 

Here are her raw emotions she recently cried out to the Lord.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

 

I have come to the place where you last met me..

I have come hoping it is now holy ground…

I have come before you naked and weary…

I have come to see you face to face..

I have come to feel the light of your glory..

I have come to seek you in this place…

And I know… With all that I have in me…

That I am yours to treasure or dispose of…

I am yours to comfort or to tear down…

I am yours to lift up or lay lowly…

I am yours to do with as you want to…

But, Lord just please don’t leave me here…

Used with permission/2018

14 points the church needs to hear in the wake of the Andy Savage sexual assault case

In case you haven’t seen the headline I’ll fill you in on yet another spiritual battle takingAnn Voskamp quote place in the church.

I‘m referring to the applause of a crowd that was unfortunately heard around the globe, and no one was listening more intently than abuse survivors and non-Christians.  It was sad, it was wrong, and as an abuse survivor I can tell you; in a way it revictimized many souls.

It involves Andy Savage, the teaching pastor at Highpoint Church in Memphis, TN. According to the church website “Andy’s personal mission statement is, ‘Making God make sense, starting at home then everywhere else.’ Whether Andy is teaching, writing, or relationship coaching, Andy strives to live out his life’s passion of creatively communicating God’s truth in a way that connects with people where they are. Andy teaches every Sunday at one of three Highpoint campuses and is the lead visionary for marriage, parenting, and family life ministry. He is also a national speaker, the author of multiple books, and host of the Andy Savage Radio Show and podcast.”

I understand mistakes and the folly of youth. Seriously, I regretfully took many field trips dedicated to the foolishness of youth. This sexual assault case goes beyond a youthful mistake. Even if it were consensual, which it wasn’t according to the victim and the church in Texas, Texas law considered the age difference and the act a felony, and the Bible considers it sin.

What concerns me about the Andy Savage situation is that over the years he has so easily disassociated from his deception. These types of people are the ones who can be the most spiritually, physically, and sexually dangerous.

I can’t imagine how difficult this is for Mr. Savage’s wife. From past experience I can make an educated guess and deduct that if she had heard anything about it; it didn’t begin to resemble the truth.

Here are 14 points the church needs to understand:

 

1)       Most churches error on this: The church body tends to value the institution (church) above the safety and health of the one who is/was being abused. Most of all, the church is valuing the institution over Jesus.

2)       “She said that a pastor of the church, The Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church, urged her to stay quiet when she told him what had happened. Instead of telling her to inform the authorities, he told her that the church would address the episode internally.”  This is typical. The church believes they need to protect the reputation of the church and of Jesus. They often use the scripture from 1 Corinthians 6 about not taking a believer to court. This amounts to incorrectly applying scripture. The church’s responsibility was to call law enforcement and allow them to investigate. It was also the church’s job to remove Andy Savage from ministry and follow-up on any new ministry Andy Savage attempted to gain.

3)       There is a huge difference between forgiveness and restoration of relationship; personally or professionally.

4)       Any church leader or staff, regardless of age, who sexually victimizes another person, should never again be in a position of leadership. (I Timothy 3 & Ephesians 5:3)

5)       If you are informed about a past sexual ‘incident’ or abuse by a church leader it is NOT appropriate to give the said church leader a standing ovation. For any reason…ever!

6)      If you are informed about a past sexual ‘incident’ or abuse by a church leader it is ALSO NOT appropriate to justify or make minimizing statements about the victim.

7)      Andy Savage went against scripture and went against church policy yet the church partially blamed her. No! He was her youth leader. He committed a crime.

8)       “When a person tells factually true things to cast an impression that they know to be false, they’re lying even though everything they’ve said is true. And they KNOW they are lying.” Dr. George Simon Jr., PhD. clinical psychologist with decades of experience working w/ abusers.

9)      After Andy finished addressing the congregation, church members stood and applauded him for about 20 seconds. The lead pastor at Highpoint, Chris Conlee, told the congregation that he supported Mr. Savage, who he said was one of the people “hurt by the ripple effect of the consequences of that sin.” I wonder if Pastor Conlee understands the depth of the problem? He should be supporting Andy Savage in resigning from the ministry and directing him and his wife to excellent counseling. For Mrs. Savage, I highly recommend Christ centered counselor Leslie Vernick who is accessible on the internet, and/or Patrick Doyle who can be found on YouTube.

10)   Church, I understand that you may have been replying, “We love you too” when you gave the standing ovation. Andy closed with, “I love you all very much,”  at which point, you, the congregation rose to applaud. I imagine you didn’t mean to applaud a sexual crime. But it still gave painful implications. When is the church going to stop with harsh judgments and quick grace at the wrong time and places? This deeply wounds victims of sexual abuse, marital unfaithfulness, and domestic violence.

11)   If Andy Savage were truly repentant he would stop defending himself. His goal would be to cause no further harm to the victim.

12)  I often see defendants in abuse cases use spiritual language as a powerful weapon of deception.

13)   After watching the church service and comparing it to his radio interview, I don’t think he fully acknowledges his actions, plus he admitted to lying. It sounds like he is grasping to hold on to his position at this mega church and the prestige that comes with the position.

14)   Church, we need to avoid cliché sayings like, ‘it was a long time ago.’ We need to support the victim and hold the defendant responsible. We must be better at handling abuse allegations and admissions.

 

The below video shows the conversation I’m referring to in minutes 12:00 – 22:45

 

12:00 – 22:45

The pastor tearfully informs his congregation that what they “witness today will give you incredible confidence in what love is all about. I pray that what you witness today will give you hope that healing is available for every single person.” The pastor then goes on to implore people to listen to everything before they evaluate what they hear because it will touch emotions, feelings, and the heart strongly.

I disagree.

This isn’t about processing emotions or working through phases of the issue. It was wrong. It was unlawful. Andy Savage should not be in the ministry. I highly question the leadership of anyone who handles sexual misconduct by saying we can find ways to agree and work this out. There is room to disagree? Why does anyone need to respect Andy Savage and welcome him on the church staff? I know I’ve walked this road longer than most people, but I’m exhausted from the church not recognizing the sin while making excuses for it. Church, we must do better! I don’t believe in a pastor using their power to encourage the congregation to ignore scripture and gloss over felony law breaking, sin, and abuse of leadership power. Yes, the church wants to facilitate the  healing of brokenness in people’s lives. But…healing and restoration do not equal restored relationship with a person or with their place of employment/ministry. Yes, Pastor Conlee, love does cover a multitude of sins but it is wrongly applied to illegal sexual conduct by church staff against a student. Love does not equal acceptance of the abuser in a continued ministry position, or the acceptance of the abuse!

I could go on for pages about the gross misapplication of scriptures in this case. I could commentate for hours on the discrepancies found by comparing the recorded church service to the interview of Andy Savage conducted by Ben Ferguson. Why? For starters Mr. Savage originally lied to his church staff and lied to the girl’s parents. His story changed as the progression of facts were revealed. His interviews from Sunday and The Ben Ferguson Radio Show don’t add up to truth. We go back to a foundational fact: When we tell the truth we can remember what we said. When we lie…well…we can’t remember what we said and therefore get caught up in deceit, explanations, word spinning, justifying, spiritualizing, and denial.

I love the church. God can truly use the church to encourage us, grow us, and shape us—but I hate it when God’s children are abused by church people. I will never defend a man who has abused his leadership position of power to harm a girl or woman’s heart, soul, mind, or strength.

Our loyalty to church leadership is good and noble and true. But when loyalty to an institution’s structure allows evil to continue, or hide, it is loyalty wrongly placed—a false loyalty.  netgrace

“In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. Secrecy and silence are the perpetrator’s first line of defense. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure that no one listens. To this end, he marshals an impressive array of arguments, from the most blatant denial to the most sophisticated and elegant rationalization. After every atrocity one can expect to hear the same predictable apologies: it never happened; the victim lies; the victim exaggerates; the victim brought it upon herself; and in any case it is time to forget the past and move on. The more powerful the perpetrator, the greater is his prerogative to name and define reality, and the more completely his arguments prevail.”

Trauma and Recovery, by Judith Herman Photo credit to Sarah Faith Hodges

 

Skin is the outer layer of the soul — and touching someone’s skin is touching someone’s soul.”

  “When someone gropes your body, they grab a bit of your soul, the part of you that speaks, and it can take years, decades, for you to gather up the pieces of your voice and slice the silence with truth.”

From: Dear Predators Who Don’t Know (Or Maybe Do) That They are Predators: (And How to Not Raise Another Generation of Predators), by Ann Voskamp

Lastly, if you want to be better trained in how to handle situations like these I highly recommend Christ centered counselor Leslie Vernick who trains church leaders and counselors to recognize and respond to abusive behaviors. She also helps you minister to those who have been traumatized by abusers. An organization that will come in to churches and train staff and lay leaders is G.R.A.C.E. Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment.

 

Click here for the full account as told by the victim: Jules Woodson

 

Click here: Leslie Vernick- Christ-Centered Counseling

Leslie Vernick: Facebook Enriching Relationships that Matter Most

 

Memphis Pastor Admits ‘Sexual Incident’ With High School Student 20 Years Ago 

Andy Savage Twitter public profile picture
Andy Savage Twitter public profile picture

Memphis pastor Andy Savage sees publisher cancel book, petition calling for resignation over sex assault 

Toxic Tuesday: The Great Porn Experiment

Porn alters the brain: Bad news

If/when you stop using porn the brain can heal over time: Good news.

I’ve seen this TEDx lecture by Gary Wilson circulating over the last month and every time I think, “I’ll post this on my blog”. Today is the day.

When discussing sensitive topics I like to give a warning: This could be a trigger for different people in different ways. For the abused it could trigger painful thoughts or body memories. For the porn user it could trigger temptation.

There is a brief picture of women in bikinis at one point in the lecture/video.

I hope that every person who has access to the internet watches this video because Toxic Tuesday biochem hazard smallsooner or later porn will likely rock your world. Porn is everywhere; especially soft-core, and it’s impossible to not have it turn up somewhere before your eyes. It’s not impossible to look away. Watch this video for clarification as to why we must look away and teach our children the importance in doing the same.

 

Toxic Tuesday: Lysa TerKeurst’s Betrayal

My heart aches for Lysa.Toxic Tuesday biochem hazard small

I suspected this for several months. The  times I listened to Lysa in Bible studies or on pod casts over the last year I wondered if this was the difficult circumstance she was living in of which she couldn’t speak. There are some things so profoundly deep and traumatic that when you hear someone else speaking with such words…your betrayed heart reaches through multi-media and feels their secret soul-hurt.

I realize publication dates precede the release of her letter. I don’t know when it happened or when she made it public, but I’m grateful she was obedient in her calling to write a book and Bible study that would help her, and help others who would go through similar circumstances.

Rejection, Heartache, and a Faithful God

No person’s rejection of me can ever exempt me from God’s love for me.

“A Gut-Honest Look at Love.” That was the title of my first blog post of this year. Based on 1 Corinthians 13, I wrote, “Love isn’t what I have the opportunity to get from this world, love is what I have the opportunity to give.

This perspective on love has been a lifeline during the most painful season and decision of my adult life. I so wish we were sitting face-to-face so you could see my tears and hear the deep grief in my voice as I share this with you. My husband, life partner and father of my children, Art TerKeurst, has been repeatedly unfaithful to me with a woman he met online, bringing an end to our marriage of almost 25 years. For the past couple of years, his life has sadly been defined by his affection for this other woman and substance abuse. I don’t share this to harm or embarrass him, but to help explain why I have decided to separate from him and pursue a divorce. God has now revealed to me that I have done all I can do and I must release him to the Savior.

Continue reading the continuation of Lisa’s letter here….

 

If you find yourself in a season traveling the same road as Lysa you may find her book “Uninvited” at Amazon or Christian Book Distributors (Book, study guide, DVD study, or Audio book)

Uninvited…

The enemy wants us to feel rejected . . . left out, lonely, and less than. When we allow him to speak lies through our rejection, he pickpockets our purpose. Cripples our courage. Dismantles our dreams. And blinds us to the beauty of Christ’s powerful love.

In Uninvited, Lysa shares her own deeply personal experiences with rejection—from the incredibly painful childhood abandonment by her father to the perceived judgment of the perfectly toned woman one elliptical over.

With biblical depth, gut-honest vulnerability, and refreshing wit, Lysa helps readers:

    • Release the desire to fall apart or control the actions of others by embracing God-honoring ways to process their hurt.
    • Know exactly what to pray for the next ten days to steady their soul and restore their confidence.
    • Overcome the two core fears that feed our insecurities by understanding the secret of belonging.
    • Stop feeling left out and start believing that “set apart” does not mean “set aside.”
  • End the cycle of perceived rejection by refusing to turn a small incident into a full blown issue.

 

Continue reading the continuation of Lisa’s letter here….

Personality Disorders in Prominent Positions

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Do you suspect someone you work with, or know, has a personality disorder? Has the leadership of your company, organization, or church been attempting to remove, dismiss, or terminate the person or their position?

Today I want to show you, with video, what someone with Narcissistic personality disorder Abuse supportersmay look like. While watching this short video, replace the character of Facebook co-founder, Mark Zuckerberg, with a dynamic speaker who has a witty sense of humor and is a leader in the Christian community. Keep in mind that narcissistic personalities can still appear different; some are charismatic—some boring, humorous vs.serious, highly intelligent vs. below average intelligence, well spoken vs. inarticulate, life of the party vs. quiet. Regardless of their differences they have many characteristics in common.

Consider a person who intertwines scripture as a means for emotional control and twists verses to support their dominance over co-workers. A specialist who tries to tell others who they are with no regard to reality.

A person who uses their title or place of leadership as a cover for control, dominance, or even abuse is not only not a leader in the way the Bible sets forth but is instead a moral and spiritual failure. Let me make this clear: When it comes to leadership, domination is never a teaching of the Bible. But servant leadership is.

 

 Now add in a spiritual leader who is hired for being a biblically accurate communicator. Only to later find the person is aggressive and manipulative in the process of gaining control over an organization, church, corporation, committee, or an individual. When confronted about their behavior they insist that their underlying brilliance be seen, acknowledged and praised; not criticized. They are correct; explaining away and justifying their motive, words, or actions.
If you attempt to speak truth into this person’s life; you will not be given opportunity to complete your thoughts and you will not be understood.

When truth is revealed against the backdrop of their deception, sin, or crime they play the “I am special” card and, “This isn’t the way it appears” line. In classic narcissistic fashion they hold up a mirror and reflect the accusation being made against them back at the plaintiff. You will NEVER win an argument with a narcissist or point out their error since they are perfect and do no wrong. Remember the rules and laws do not apply to them: For more on this topic see previous Toxic Tuesday posts about Narcissism.

“Jesus…is the Lion of Judah (Rev. 5:5) and the Lamb of God (Rev. 5:6) – He was lionhearted and lamb like, strong and meek, tough and tender, aggressive and responsive, bold and brokenhearted. He sets the pattern for manhood.” -John Piper

Narcissists like to explain why your accomplishments are of little importance and possibly not true accomplishments. They do not know how to encourage others and be genuinely happy for other’s successes. The only time you are praise worthy is when they can use your achievement to make themselves look better to someone else; or make it seem like your triumph was due to their input in your life.

You will not gain a narcissist’s understanding. You will be ignored, dismissed, and belittled Toxic Tuesday biochem hazard smallwhile the narcissist manipulates behind the scenes with no remorse or twinge of conscience toward the path of destruction they leave behind.

Narcissists are entitled to treat people however they feel with no regard to the other person’s feeling, needs, or input. They make executive decisions for everyone involved without allowing feedback, questions, or creative involvement. They are a god unto themselves and they like to surround themselves with people who believe everything they say without asking questions.

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Narcissists have no boundaries with other people’s feelings, ideas, and needs. When dealing with this personality there are phrases that you need to memorize and keep in your mental pocket.

  1. That’s not what I was thinking; or had in mind.

  2. That’s your opinion.

  3. My decision is final.

  4. I’m not discussing this.

You need to know what you are going to say before confronting someone like this and stick with your script. Most importantly you don’t want to show any emotion. Positive or negative emotion only feeds the narcissist; known as narcissistic supply. You must starve them of the reaction they desire.

It doesn’t matter if you see this type of person committing a crime, yelling at someone, or telling a lie; they will deny it. Worse yet, because they are grand actors and liars it is easy to believe their cover story. I’ve been through this time and time again and I believed the actor/liar on every occasion…they were that good…until I understood I was dealing with a personality disorder. Before that I truly believed they were misunderstood, set-up, manipulated, not at fault, lied about, and…that I was the problem.

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To be clinically diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder a person must exhibit five of nine criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 

Imagine being in a relationship with someone who meets all nine of the criteria. Once upon a time I lived with such a person. Now imagine the narcissism is the easiest part of the toxic relationship because underneath this surface lurks a tormented dark soul disguised as light.

One does not have to imagine long on this concept of darkness disguised as light since Satan has masqueraded in a cloak of light through the centuries.

Satan is not creative; just a good copycat who counterfeits everything he sees the Heavenly Father do. Satan produces many fake replicas; evil beautifully gift-wrapped with a forged logo or brand name.  As with counterfeit consumer products, Satan’s imitations are of a lower quality, sometimes not working at all, and often have toxic elements; producing toxic people—resulting in a lesser quality of life for God’s beloved children. Satan’s bogus plans, interjected into the lives of humans, have resulted in physical and spiritual deaths. Fatal poison has been packaged as the healing balm of Christ.

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1
Scripture cannot necessarily help you discern a narcissist, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, because they are some of the best actors you will ever see. Dealing with this personality disorder is outside the box for Christians and even for many psychologists. It takes a long-term relationship to identify if a person suffers from narcissistic personality disorder; meeting the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

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The complexity of a narcissist makes them interesting to study, infuriating to live with, frustrating to work with, and the subject of psychological and spiritual scrutiny.

People can suffer from more than one personality disorder, or have what is called mixed personality disorder where the person meets criteria from several disorders, but not enough in any one of them to make a formal and supportable diagnosis in that area, the appropriate diagnosis is Personality Disorder NOS (not otherwise specified) with X, Y, and Z (or whatever) traits).

One of several overlapping disorders that can co-exist with narcissistic tendencies is obsessive compulsive personality disorder (completely different from obsessive compulsive disorder); characterized by a preoccupation of concern with excessive attention to details, mental and interpersonal control, and a need for control over one’s environment, at the expense of flexibility (everything is black and white to them). Money is viewed as something to be hoarded. Read about the entire criteria of this disorder at PhychCentral. If you question if someone you know has a personality disorder you should research disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders – DSM-IV.

Allow me to introduce you to Mr. Fatal Self-Love:

Toxic Tuesday: Unsafe Relationships

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Are you confused by a relationship?

Does the person you love seem not to appreciate, or to like little, or to like nothing about you?

Do you feel mildly harmed?

Do you ever think about the other person, “Oh, that wasn’t very nice. Or…Oh, they didn’t mean it”?

Do you justify the words and actions of this person?

Do you find yourself denying your instincts?

Are you the person responsible for making everything in the relationship okay?

Or worse…

Do you feel greatly  harmed?

Do you feel like you’re losing your mind?

Do you feel like you can’t do anything right?

Do you feel manipulated?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions—the below video may be the best invested 22 minutes of your week.

Gain strength, become educated, increase clarity, seek help. For me, Patrick Doyle is the best of the best for sorting out relational questions and difficulties.

 

 

 

Recognize and Prevent Emotional Abuse

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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.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

 

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.

 

 

Toxic Tuesday: Do You Have Biblical Permission to Leave a Toxic Spouse?

Today I’m sharing the blog post that has daily, for 3 1/2 years, remained the most read article I’ve written. I’m not an expert in the field, but rather a survivor of a student field trip. I’m passing on lessons learned that took me years of relational toil, prayer, counseling, Bible study and research. Later in the article, and in the margin, I link to Leslie Vernick who is a godly professional on this topic. I cannot say enough good about Leslie. I wish she had been around 19 years ago when I was in the middle of dealing with my toxic husband who was a n angry and controlling pastor, abuser, and pedophile who suffered from mental illness and had a personality disorder.

(*Disclaimer: Mental illness does not make one an abuser, pedophile or criminal, nor does is diagnose one with a personality disorder. Most sufferers of mental illness live a normal, productive and fulfilling life with the help of therapy, dietary lifestyle changes, and/or medications.)

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Do You Have Biblical Permission to Leave a Toxic Spouse?

 

No matter how they treat me; I will choose agape love.

No matter what they do; I will forgive. Over and over.

No matter how messed up they are; I will be their helpmate.

No matter the mental illness or personality disorder; I will love in sickness and in health.

No matter the inability to parent; I’ll keep the children safe and sheltered.

No matter the addictions; I will pray for healing and restoration to come.

No matter the anger; I’ll wait for the therapy to work. I know they will get better with the help of a godly professional.

No matter the grounds for divorce; I will pray for forgiveness, restoration and family unity. After all, as Christians with God on our side, we can do the hard thing and make it through.

But what happens when you are the only one practicing these principles and actions?

Have you been to counseling, done the homework, practiced the applications, prayed and fasted but you are the only person in the equation who participated in all the above? This is the point where putting all the marriage and Christian help books away is beneficial. These books are for people in a relationship with a mentally healthy spouse. We all have issues. We all sin. But living with a toxic person is not the subject of these books. They are terrific books—wrong subject.

Did you attempt an intervention with the goal of leading your spouse to repentance, restoring the relationship, and providing emotional healing only to be told, “It’s all you. You’re the one with the problems. There’s nothing wrong with what I do or how I treat you”?

Did you serve them therapeutic separation papers to show how serious you were about saving your marriage and saving your family? Have they shown no serious action to remedy the situation? Or have they shown minimal—surface only, “Is this enough to satisfy you?” action. Yet there is no change in heart, attitude, addictions, words or actions.

If you feel led by God through much prayer; keep going: Agape, forgive, help, remain true to the covenant, protect, seek professional help, pray, fast and pray some more. Over and over. If this is your decision I highly recommend you visit Leslie Vernick’s website.

 Here is where the strategy must change:

Are you concerned for your safety and/or and the safety of your children due to abuse?

I want you to hear this in the sweetest most tender voice as I envelope you in a hug and gently declare, “God does not expect you to live like this.”

Are you concerned you will not be alive come tomorrow morning due to an angry and/or violent spouse?

Imagine I have my hands on your shoulders, as we look at each other tear-stained face to tear-stained face, “God does not want or require you to live under such conditions.”

Many theologians, pastors and Christians with the best intentions have written on this subject.  I am in no way an expert or professional and this is why I always reiterate the importance of praying, fasting and seeking godly professional counsel.

I grew up believing divorce was wrong. Period. Christians work it out.

It took years of experience and additional years of biblical counsel, Bible study, prayer and fasting to realize there were biblical grounds to leave a toxic relationship.

For more background information on toxic relationships, toxic people, boundaries, intervention, and therapeutic separation please read past ‘Toxic Tuesday’ posts.

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God states that He hates divorce; not the divorced. God has experienced what it feels like to have someone leave Him. He knows the heartbreak His loved ones will endure and He understands the generational stronghold Satan will attempt to wield over the family members. He desires to protect us from the hurt, pain, consequences and future oppression of divorce.

Scripture does not clearly address divorce due to  the circumstance of being married to an abusive; toxic spouse but we know, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” 2 Timothy 3:16.  If we have a question about life we know we can find applicable help in God’s word.  Here are some verses to consider when in an abusive relationship:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,  and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church.” Ephesians 5: 25-29

 “The same goes for you husbands: Be good husbands to your wives. Honor them, delight in them. As women they lack some of your advantages. But in the new life of God’s grace, you’re equals. Treat your wives, then, as equals so your prayers don’t run aground.” I Peter 3:7

But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.” I Corinthians 5:11

 “Do not speak to fools, for they will scorn your prudent words.” Proverbs 23:9

 “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.” Proverbs 26:11

“Stone is heavy and sand a burden, but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both.” Proverbs 27:3

“Though you grind a fool in a mortar, grinding them like grain with a pestle, you will not remove their folly from them.” Proverbs 27:22

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Matthew 18:6

 “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.” Philippians 3:2 

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20

 “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.” Titus 3:10

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Matthew 18: 15-17

 “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Ephesians 5:11

Stay away from a fool, for you will not find knowledge on their lips.” Proverbs 14:7

Our nation and our individual states have laws regarding abuse. If  something below is taking place in your home it needs to be reported to a law official immediately and you need to take safety.

  •          It is against the law to abuse another person.
  •          Physical and sexual abuse against children is against the law.

Also report it to the social welfare/department of family or child services office, a doctor of psychology, a local child advocacy center and possibly the Victim Witness Advocate at your local District Attorney’s office. You can call the Victim Witness Advocate at the state Attorney General’s office if you need help locating an advocate in your area.

Yes, your spouse may be arrested, but maybe this will make him/her realize the seriousness of how out-of-control they have become; possibly leading to real help, true repentance and possible restoration; although statistics backing this up are slim. You have every legal right to defend and protect your children and yourself. God does not expect you or want you to endure such abuse.

To say your abusive husband cannot change would be to deny the power of Christ. The flip side of praying, waiting and hoping for an abusive or severely mentally ill husband, or a husband with a personality disorder, to change is this: They have free choice and God will not make them do what they do not ask for or want.

The Bible gives two reasons for divorce; adultery and abandonment. Theologically many argue abandonment strictly means the physical state. I submit, in the case of abuse they have  emotionally and physically abandoned you through; abdication, blocked intimacy, isolation, loneliness, neglect, rejection and lack of protection. They have also; most likely, physically abandoned  a sexually monogamous relationship with you. I mention infidelity because I am yet to hear of abuse that did not include unfaithfulness; it’s possible but rare. They have left you with permanent psychological scars, often financially restricted or stranded you, verbally destroyed you (at this point many women wish they had the bruises and broken bones to prove the abuse) or; physical and/or sexual abuse of you and/or your children.

I view abuse as abandonment for these reasons: When the marriage covenant is made on your wedding day your husband promises, (the wife’s covenant is the same to her husband) “To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, honor, cherish and protect her, forsaking all others for as long as we both shall live.” When a husband is verbally and emotionally assaulting, beating/abusing his wife and/or children (I am not talking about thoughtful and lovingly administered spankings to teach your children right from wrong and to keep them safe from danger) he abandons the vows he made to his bride on their wedding day. Women who have suffered through a sexually unfaithful husband and an abusive husband can testify that the abuse is worse than the sexual infidelity. When her husband beats her, verbally shreds her, emotionally rejects her, or sexually assaults her, he has abandoned their vows and his relationship with her.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Do you feel trapped, despairing, brokenhearted, hopeless, devastated, betrayed, frightened or dead due to abuse?

Christ came to set the captive free as prophesied in Isaiah 61.

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,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.  Isaiah 61:1-3

Freedom is found in Jesus.

Boundaries are necessary.

Safety is essential.

Healing is possible.

Tomorrow will come with ‘the oil of joy instead of mourning.’ It takes time; time does not heal. God heals—in time—even though scars remain.

My Reversal of Destiny and His

 

As this new year begins I remember back on monumental life changing events. This life event comes to mind because I was recently reminded that these are they types of changes our Lord takes pleasure in setting in place. In the days to come I will be asking my readers to pray for a reversal of destiny regarding a woman whose family longs for answers and justice over a traumatic event through which they are currently living.

I am going to share excerpts of my personal journal from almost five years ago. This entry begins with a Bible study invitation of which I had no idea would bring about an answer to a long prayed over request. For the record: It was the longest petition, to date, that I had ever prayed over a matter with such intensity. This was not my first choice of a Bible study, due to the heavy dysfunctional life experiences it was geared toward, but it was the Bible study my daughter and her side kick wanted to do. As it turned out the videos for my choice of study were not available at the time through our church so I borrowed the videos the girls favored. I had been through this same study twelve years ago and I knew, back then, that one day I would take my daughter through it. I was so certain of this that I bought the study book for her twelve years ago. As I prayed over leading the study for our mother/daughter group I sensed God was up to something; something big.

On December 18, 2011 I sent this email to my Bible study group consisting of eight moms and our combined ten teen daughters:

Breaking Free: Making Liberty in Christ a Reality in Life will be our next study and I am really looking forward to it. 

 Please email me your prayer requests that day if possible and I will print them out ahead of time to save some precious time on this first night.  I will attempt to send a courtesy reminder about this.

 I am excited about this study in a way I have not been for previous studies.  Can’t wait to see what God is up to!

 Blessings and Merry Christmas,

Carolyn

March 7, 2012

While viewing the week 4 video of Breaking Free: Rebuilding the Ancient Ruins by Beth Moore, I had something replay in my memory from an earlier study on Esther also by Beth Moore.  It was about a reversal of sorts called a chiastic structure. Think of it as a reversal of destiny or a reversal of fortunes.  Since doing the ‘Breaking Free’ study twelve years ago I Chiastic Structurehave been delivered from the chains and bars of Steve.  Now I will pray that to the chains and bars of prison, Steve, will be delivered.  I’m reminded that my Jesus can do it! I will daily ask for it and not take no for an answer regarding the safety of my family, children, and children of other families.  Steve made war on us and many others through the years and I am declaring our victory over Steve.  I will pray it into existence beginning with God’s word which is alive and active and sharper than any two edge sword. And I will pray it out loud of course because scripture sets the precedence that there is power in the spoken word.

Psalm 107:17 (NIV)

Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.

Proverbs 13:16 (NIV)

All who are prudent act with knowledge, but fools expose their folly.

Proverbs 16:22 (NIV)

Prudence is a fountain of life to the prudent, but folly brings punishment to fools.

Proverbs 18:6 (NIV) – The lips of fools bring them strife, and their mouths invite a beating.

Proverbs 18:7 (NIV) – The mouths of fools are their undoing, and their lips are a snare to their very lives.

Ecclesiastes 4:5 (NIV) – Fools fold their hands and ruin themselves.

Psalm 52 (NIV)

Why do you boast of evil, you mighty hero?
Why do you boast all day long,
you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?
You who practice deceit,
your tongue plots destruction;
it is like a sharpened razor.
You love evil rather than good,
falsehood rather than speaking the truth.
You love every harmful word,
you deceitful tongue!

Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin:
He will snatch you up and pluck you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living.
The righteous will see and fear;
they will laugh at you, saying,
“Here now is the man
who did not make God his stronghold
but trusted in his great wealth
and grew strong by destroying others!”

But I am like an olive tree
flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love
for ever and ever.
For what you have done I will always praise you
in the presence of your faithful people.
And I will hope in your name,
for your name is good.

April 19, 2012

Early morning – Working on my Breaking Free bible study this morning, Week 9 The Steadfast Mind, Day 1 –“A View from the Old.”  “God will never send us into the valley and ask us to bow to His authority there without sooner or later bringing a harvest from the ground watered by our sweat and tears.”  The personal discussion question is, “By any chance, are you still waiting to see the first signs of fruit from a previous valley?  If so, can you think of ways God could use the lapse of time to bring forth an even greater harvest?”

I decided to see what my answers were twelve years ago when I did this study for the first time.

#1. Riley’s protection from Steve. #2. My deliverance from Steve . # 3. Steve being permanently removed from the ministry.  As for the lapse of time I will wait, trust and obey.  God is so much smarter and more creative than me which once again makes me glad He’s my God.  I know He’s working it out; I just have no idea how.

Now I’m praising God for #1. Done! #2.  Done! God provided for our protection.  #3. I know God is communicating to my heart, soul, mind and strength at this very moment; depositing knowledge that did not originate from my own thinking or from my own mind.  “Child, I’m bringing you full circle this week; week nine, day one from the time you wrote these words twelve years ago.”

I now have chills all over me and I’m laughing, crying and thanking God. Weeping. Tears of joy. Tears of awe. “I am overwhelmed at Your goodness.” Hot tears falling down my face. “Who I am I that you allow me this piece of information? This peace? It has been such a long wait but I’ve always known you were working it out. Oh my…this week?  It’s going to happen this week. You are so good, God. You are so good.  This is so like You!” I felt like God lifted me up from the depths of years of toiling through heartache and allowed me to reach the top of the mountain that I had been telling, “Move, in the name of Jesus.” God was allowing me to see that the time had come. The mountain had moved.

Unbeknownst and unseen by me God was using the lapse of time to bring, not just temporary protection and deliverance but, permanent protection and deliverance.  Protection and deliverance I could not provide.  How can He love us this much? He is such a magnificent mystery to me and His word is a stunning tapestry of which I never tire of finding beautiful new threads woven throughout the pages.  The Bible is like buried treasure and the more I study it the more wealth I find.  Wealth of who He is and there is always more of Him to find.

3:00 p.m.—Chasady, my sister, just called to tell me she googled Steve’s name and found a forum post saying he had been arrested and was sitting in jail. (We new of an ongoing investigation and we’re hopeful an arrest would be made.) By the time I got off of the phone I wanted to find a place to just go have a good cry; however, I was in a doctor’s office sitting with my boys and didn’t have the liberty to ‘take 5’ for a very needed cry of relief and thanksgiving.  I did have my time alone with God after we arrived home.

I thought God meant He would be placing in motion this week the harvest of fruit from our sweat, tears and prayers, but no He meant: Today!   “Child, I’m bringing you full circle this week; week nine, day one from the time you wrote these words twelve years ago.”

I’ll never get over God! Ever. Not on earth. Not in heaven. I will declare His goodness, faithfulness, protection, provision and love all the days of my life. Then I will transfer to eternal praises! The best part of that is I will finally have a beautiful voice; pitch perfect praise.

There were some happy (and teary) moms and daughters celebrating and bragging on the goodness of our God for the answer of our group’s prayer over the last year. We had committed this request to God; asking Him what His heart and will was for this situation. We then asked Him for it; in the name of Jesus!

MOSAIC: Threat Assessment for Abused Women

domestic-stats

Do you realize something isn’t right in your relationship or marriage? Not just inconvenient or annoying, but seriously wrong…hurtful, mean or controlling? Or are you aware that you’re already in an abusive relationship? Do you have friends, who have witnessed what they consider possible abuse, ask you if you are abused? Do you have family members who are concerned for your safety?

A caring childhood friend of mine, who also has a heart for people in abusive relationships, brought a new method of measuring abuse and safety, the MOSAIC method, to my attention. Thanks, Michele!

MOSIAC, created by Gavin de Becker,  is fascinating and helpful in that it “looks at the key elements of domestic violence and all the factors relevant to safety and puts them in context with each other. In the process, it helps filter out personal bias and denial.”¹

“Much like de Becker’s book Gift of Fear stresses the importance of listening to one’s intuition when fear signals arise in the body, in order to avoid dangerous people and situations, “MOSAIC is artificial intuition,’ says de Becker in one of his online videos. He says the test takes all the pieces of a potentially dangerous situation and puts them together, like a mosaic, to see what image emerges.'”²

“MOSAIC an ‘eye-opener’ in that it can help survivors more clearly see the reality of their circumstances, and helps advocates come up with the best safety plan for each survivor.”³

 

Watch this 7 minute video: Gavin de Becker on Mosaic – Assessment of Domestic Violence

 

 

To take the assessment test click here:  MOSAIC Threat Assessment Method

A situation might call for assessment as the result of someone’s intuitive feeling of risk, maybe because of threats or other sinister expressions, maybe because of verbal or emotional abuse, maybe because of violence, or maybe because friends or family are concerned about risk or danger.

The MOSAIC assessment needs to be taken on a computer that cannot be compromised—hacked. One thing most abusers have in common, which most victims or wives aren’t unaware of, is that abusers regularly hack into your emails, social media accounts, and phones. As of right now, every abused woman I’m in contact with shares story after story of her abuser hacking/spyng through avenues of technology.

Be safe!

Consider using a friend’s computer or go to the public library to use a computer. Use a safe password that nobody could know or figure out. And lastly, don’t tell your abuser or difficult person that you are taking the assessment; not for any reason! You don’t know the immediate or long-term reaction you might receive. Also, allow at least 30 minutes for the questionnaire.

The Mosaic treat assessment covers several types of threats and violence.

  • Domestic Violence (male offender)
  • Domestic Violence (female offender)
  • Workplace Violence (concerning a male)
  • Workplace Violence (concerning a female)
  • Threat by student (school)
  • Threat by student (university)
  • Threats (against public figures)
  • Threats (against judicial officials)

If you or someone else is currently in danger; leave and/or seek help immediately and call the police.

To take the assessment test click here:  MOSAIC Threat Assessment Method

mosiac-threat-assessment

 

¹,²,³https://www.domesticshelters.org/domestic-violence-articles-information/threat-assessment-tool-created-by-em-gift-of-fear-em-author#.WE-AerIrLIV

Difficult, Disappointing, or Destructive Marriage?

Listen to Leslie Vernick’s 4 1/2 minute video to find out the difference between a difficult, disappointing, and destructive marriage.

Talking about destructive marriages, I want to submit to my readers that the patriarchal movement qualifies as destructive. I have heard of, and read of, leader after leader in the patriarchal movement falling to significant sexual sin. Of course, this is not universally true, but it seems to be a breeding ground for men with ulterior motives for engaging in this movement. I have received numerous communications from women who are, or were, caught up in the movement. In these cases; men were given authority over all areas of the wife’s life and it led to situations of unrighteous domination and huge sexual addictions, sin and abuse by the husband.

Hopefully you’re in a terrific marriage! If so, you can watch the video to better understand what a friend or relative may be suffering through in their marriage.

A past contributor to my blog, Joy S, who wrote on the subject of, “Narcissistic Parents: Parts 1,2,3 & 4” reminded me of the following quote for this specific topic:

“The Woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.” Matthew Henry

The Emotionally Destructive Marriage

If  you wonder if you are in a destructive marriage, or if you know a friend or family member who is in a destructive marriage and you want to support them, this post will help you.

Last week a dear friend reminded me about Leslie Vernick, and her Christ-centered counseling. It’s perfect timing considering the content of some of my recent articles. I often blog to validate women who are living in abusive marriages, or who have left abusive marriages; specifically those who endured someone with narcissistic personality disorder.

Leslie Vernick picks up where  most counselors leave off. It’s rare to find a counselor who fully understands the dynamics of living with an emotionally abusive husband; Leslie does.

If you don’t know who Leslie is, and you’re living in a difficult marriage, consider Leslie your life line…the key to your sanity…a gift from God. She will teach you how to thrive in difficult circumstance and how to set boundaries.

I will post a series of  short videos over the next few weeks. If this is your first time to stumble across Leslie Vernick, and you realize you need her help now, and quickly, then you can find her on Youtube and binge watch all day long. It’s good stuff! You can also locate her books the Emotionally Destructive Relationship and The Emotionally Destructive Marriage at your local library, bookstore, or on Amazon.

“They’ve diagnosed cancer of the marriage as a common cold.”

~Leslie Vernick on the state of counsel abused women receive from pastors, teachers, lay people, counselors and authors. 

Watch this 3 minute introduction video:

Follow Leslie on Twitter

On Facebook

For women who are still struggling with what is required regarding submission in your marriage,  I beg you to watch this 8 minute video, by Leslie Vernick, at Visionary Womanhood.

Do You Think You Might Be in an Emotionally Destructive “Christian” Marriage?

“This is a serious problem in the Church. There are many women married to “Christian” men who only see their wives as objects to be used, mocked, and criticized rather than valuable co-heirs of the grace of life. (It can be the other way around too, but this blog is written for women.) These women are encouraged by their church to submit, overlook, forgive, and shut up. If they try to get help, they are told they are angry (as abused people often are), whiny, and ruining their husband’s reputation. What they really are is confused, brainwashed, and gagged. Their children grow up believing that to be a “Christian” is to pretend, hide, and cover up. They end up despising Christianity and marriage, seeing these as hypocritical cesspools of evil. If you suspect you fall into this category, or you think you know someone who does, here are some places to start getting help in seeing your situation clearly:” ~Natalie at Visionary Womanhood READ MORE HERE