Why Did You Have So Many Children With An Abuser?

We are beginning a new series, as per a reader’s request. Sometimes, we victims forget that people who have never been touched by abuse have a difficult time fathoming what has happened. They ask reasonable questions like, “Why did you stay so long? Why did you make it look like you had a perfect marriage? Why didn’t you tell anyone about the abuse?” So . . . we will begin a question and answer format that will, helpfully, educate others about what is happening to a victim’s psyche when he or she is in an abusive relationship. 

I (Megan) have asked a dear friend and survivor, Katy, to tackle the first question: Why did you bring so many children into an abusive marriage? 

Katy is an accomplished writer and a beautiful, successful single mom of three. Read her post and be edified.

PS . . . Feel free to write in with questions and we will do our best to answer them. And now . . . Katy:

This is a question that survivors of domestic abuse face from incredulous outsiders, who haven’t experienced abuse. People who have not experienced this themselves can’t understand why a woman would #1 stay in an abusive relationship, or #2 have children once they realize that their spouse is cruel.

There are many different aspects of this question and many different answers depending on the scenario, so this will just hit the high points (if any of this could be called a “high point”).First: an excellent video TED talk given by a survivor of domestic violence on “why victims don’t leave” :
http://www.ted.com/talks/leslie_morgan_steiner_why_domestic_violence_victims_don_t_leave.html

(her talk is given from a secular perspective, to a secular audience. It’s not a faith-centric answer but it is still very true and accurate.)

Leslie is an educated and “accomplished” woman who was able to escape before having children with her abuser, but this is not the case with many. For those of us who escaped after having children, our situations are all varied. For some of us, we were so terrified of leaving that we wouldn’t dare. For others, who grew up in abusive homes, we may not know any better. And then there is the religious aspect. Those of us who come from strong faith backgrounds will have the hardest time leaving, especially if the violence isn’t extreme (or the threats are not followed through), because we are taught that God hates divorce and we are extremely committed to following our God.

I personally tried to escape after my first child was born but I had no where to run, and no one to support me. I was trapped. I had to go back. I had two more children after that before I finally was set free for good. I also happen to be a mechanical engineer with a great deal of common sense. But when I was trapped in the abuse, I was lied to every day about my worth, my intelligence, my ability to “survive without him”, and I had no one to counter those lies.
I am a different person now that I have been free for 4 years. I am the person that I was supposed to become, before my Abuser got his filthy hands around my neck. My in-laws were atheists, and when they found out about the divorce and the reasons behind it my former sister-in-law demanded to know why I hadn’t aborted my children. How dare I bring children into that relationship if it was so bad, right?
Here are some things that people need to keep in mind when questioning a survivor about her situation:
#1. Don’t assume that the woman is a fool who couldn’t figure out how to use birth control, or that she even had regular access to birth control without interference from her abuser.
#2. Don’t assume that a pregnant woman can easily throw herself up on the abortionist’s table, no matter how mean her husband has been to her.
#3. Recognize that you don’t understand what she’s just survived, and you should not insult her by implying she is stupid for having given birth to her children.  Remember that she loves her children more than her own life, just as you love yours, and that she has likely fought a hellish battle to protect them. She does not deserve scorn.
#4. Above all, when you are genuinely trying to understand a victim’s situation, recognize the great evil that was done to her, and don’t lay the responsibility for it at her feet.

There are many scenarios and circumstances that will affect someone’s ability to leave their Abuser, not the least of which are finances, family support, and cultural baggage. No one is perfect, or immune from bad decisions, or immune from being tricked by an Abuser. Everyone is vulnerable to some degree; and it is the most vulnerable that Jesus was particularly concerned for. Those that call Jesus their King will rightly concern themselves with comforting and encouraging the downtrodden, rather than condemning them for not being smart enough to avoid a wolf. (Remember that you may get trapped by a wolf at some point, too, and desperately need someone to come to your aid.)

Katy

July Fundraising Update

With two days left to go, the cash donation goal has been exceeded! Even though our goal has been met, cash donations are never wasted.  If you still want to give, your donation will be rolled over into the next fundraiser.

Cash donations $1630.25, Necklaces sold 42

We have 8 more necklaces to go to buy the minimum for the price we were quoted.  If you haven’t purchased yet, it’s not too late!  We’re also still asking for someone to purchase a necklace to give to “Embraced”, one of the mothers GHW helped in a previous month.  Just note it in the message part of your purchase.  We’re also asking that you share this post to help us get the word out.  (There’s a pin-it button at the bottom of the post for Pinterest users – please choose the necklace photo)

Give Her Wings Limited Edition Necklace.  Fundraiser through July 31, 2013.  $39.99

We are so thankful for each of you who has given, purchased, prayed and encouraged throughout this month!

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

For those of you that don’t know me, I’m a photographer. Photography is not my profession, but it is one of my greatest joys. It gives me a chance to capture the world as I see it. It gives me a chance to share my artist’s heart and mind that work in pictures much better than in words.

Every photograph has a purpose. It may just be that it’s fun to look at. It may capture an otherwise unnoticed detail. It may be to freeze a moment in time. Any viewer of the photograph can take a guess as to what the purpose is. But, as the photograph’s creator, I know that purpose better than any other.

Almost anyone would be able to figure out the purpose of this picture.

orchidThe flower is beautiful in its dew-kissed perfection. It’s pretty obvious that the purpose here is to capture that beauty.

But what about this one? shoes

Do you have any idea what the purpose of this is?  I’m guessing that you don’t.  But I do.  This photo captured a very special memory for me.  After spending two months in a walking boot, I was finally released to do something!  These shoes went with me up the stairs to the top of two lighthouses and a sand dune.  In that moment, they represented new found freedom and ability.  They also represented protection from that hot sand.  I didn’t know it at the time, but this photo has also come to preserve a special memory from the last trip I would ever take with my Daddy before he died.

Without the viewpoint of the creator, you would probably never have seen that simple photograph for what it really is.  If you ever came across it and you didn’t know to whom it belonged, it would have been ignored, disregarded, thrown away or destroyed.  Even knowing the story behind it, some people might still do that.  But it holds a very special place in my heart.

God is the most remarkable artist.  We are His creation.  Each of us has a purpose that sometimes only He can see and tell.  No one has the right to disregard or destroy us based on his/her judgment call of our worth.  But it happens.  Every day.  We are making decisions on how to treat others based on our own view.  It’s wrong.  We should make every effort to treat each person with the care that their Creator does.  It’s not easy. I’ll admit, I’m not always good at it.   But it’s the right thing to do.

I’m just the maker of photographs that are replaceable.  God is the maker of every person: each  is unique and completely irreplaceable. I know how sad and angry I would feel if someone destroyed or defaced one of my photographs on display.  Even knowing that, I can hardly fathom how God must feel when one of his precious creations is put down or damaged.

When a woman (or man, or child) is abused, often times she even forgets herself that she has value. She is full of a purpose that God himself has ordained from her beginning.  That is one of the reasons I’m a part of Give Her Wings.   Anything that we can do to remind one of God’s precious creations that she is valuable to Him is worth our time, effort and money.  She doesn’t belong stuffed in an album, marked up by a pen, disregarded or destroyed.  She needs to be restored, framed, and out in the world showing off the purpose with which she was created.

*************************************

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
–Psalm 139:14

Lifting Up “Lifted by Love”

We are about halfway through the month . . . and, as far as I can tell, about a third of the way toward reaching our goal of $1500 for “Lifted by Love”. This is when I start to pray . . . a lot. I am afraid of letting down our friend. I know that she is counting on this money. But, even more, it seems she is counting on receiving the love from the Body of Christ that she has been missing. Like so many others who are in her shoes or have been through her shoes, “Lifted” was not supported by her church family. Her ex has money. And clout. And equally moneyed and clouty parents who are prominent members of her former church. Our friend, Lifted, has been suppressed for such a long time that she did not develop any sort of fame in circles. She carried on through life . . . trying not to upset her husband. Tiptoeing around the eggshells in her home . . . expending all her energy in protecting her children and begging her husband for counseling.

When the ‘c’hurch lets you down . . . and you are trudging through trauma and tragedy, you are at risk of forgetting that Jesus cares very much about where you are.

I remember how I felt. My faith was hanging by a thread. I tried to go to other churches. Sometimes it was OK and other times it was not. I had been unloved for so so long. And I had been receiving letters from ‘c’hurch members who told me that I was wrong to leave an abusive husband . . . or that they did not believe me (he was charming and talented). They told me I was disrespectful . . . they told me that they were doubting my salvation. They even told me that God is no longer with me. In those moments, God always saved my faith, again and again. Sometimes, it was simply an act of kindness from someone who went out of their way to do something small for me. Other times, it was Scripture. I never gave up on what God says. I held onto truth . . . even if it seemed like so many around me did not believe that I walked with the Lord. I could not accept that.

I want desperately to give Lifted the sense that we . . . we who know her story and know her . . . will do something for her to remind her that God cares very deeply for her. That He will not leave her destitute.

Crying now, as I write this. Remembering . . .

At the same time, I know that I am not really the One in charge of this at all. That I take too much on my shoulders. So, I please with Jesus on Lifted’s behalf. I believe that God is moved by our genuine pleas. And that He is just as touched by my tears as I am my little child’s. Pray with me for Lifted. Let our cries reach His ears.

Our New Video

This will be somewhat vulnerable . . .

I admit that at the beginning of every month since we started Give Her Wings, I have panicked a little bit in my heart. Our entire team knows it. I struggle with doubt. So far, I have been the one on the team to connect with the ladies we are helping. I see their struggles . . . their doubts . . . they helplessness  . . . And I am so afraid that we will not pull through for them. How could I get their hopes up and then we offer them nothing? Nothing?? What if that happens? These women have been broken enough already . . . what if we tell them we will raise money for them and can only offer something small? I would be heart-broken. I would feel like I let my sisters down. I grow anxious.

And, every time, without fail . . . God pulls it all through. By the end of each month, we have raised more than we hoped for or imagined. And I cry a lot . . . and I rejoice at getting to tell the lady we are helping . . . she feels loved, treasured (sometimes for the first time in years) . . . and I thank God, tearfully. I thank Him tearfully because I doubted He would come through for us. I believe . . . I still have a bit of a broken spirit. Just a bit. I still have a hard time believing that God is listening because I felt He was so far away from my cries for such . . a long time. I really think Jesus loves to delight His children. And, He delights me by coming through for each lady we sponsor (sometimes, in the nick of time). And it never gets old. And He never says to me, “MEGAN. Have I not shown you enough??? When will your faith grow strong??” He just doesn’t seem to talk to me that way. He is patient . . . long-suffering . . . and He is good with my faith growing a tiny tick at a time.

When we first started our July campaign, we had a facebook page and a (somewhat lame) Paypal link for donations. We had our necklace designed . . . but we were lacking. However, the team (that is, Dawn, Jeff, Bethany & Kelley) saw my frustration and they got on the ball (ON THE BALL, PEOPLE). Without complaining, while encouraging me in my weakness, they created. And, now, just a few days later, we have this beautiful website (thank you, Dawn), we have a real Paypal account (correct settings) and now . . . this. This beautiful video which gives understanding to what we do here. Set to a song by Jeff S. Perfection.

I wish my faith were greater. I wish I could just be a greater overcomer. Tiny steps . . . with the help of my friends . . . Now, presenting this . . .

Clueless

By David C.
A reprint from A Cry for Justice

I reckon I will never forget how I found Megan (now my lovely wife) and her children (now my sweet children, too) about a year ago when I went to Nebraska to fetch them. The year prior, Megan had fled an abusive husband who managed to suck all the hope, health, esteem, life and peace out of her life and the lives of the four little children she led in tow.

Some of what I would discover about their lives I think I truly understood. But I was clueless regarding most of it.  Though I had pastored for 25 years and had counseled hundreds of troubled couples, single mothers, and broken kids, I didn’t have — and don’t think I could have had — a real idea of what she had experienced.

Megan had lived with an abuser for more than a decade, and the kids had grown up with a father who had abused and manipulated them in a multitude of ways. Though hers (and theirs) is only one story, it seems like the themes and experiences of thousands of others are exceedingly similar.  Here are just three of the many life-lessons that I have learned in the past year regarding women and children from abused marriages/homes.

They often have few or no anchors in their lives.  They are vulnerable and, in many ways, helpless.  Scared.  Unsure. Uncertain.  What will happen to us tomorrow?  Where will we get the money for food to sustain us? Where will we be living next month at this time? What’s going to happen to us? Megan and her kids were asking themselves these questions daily. They loved the Lord, of course.  And it was obvious to me that their faith was very much intact.  But there just wasn’t anything visible, guaranteed, rock-solid-for-sure to cling to except that they knew God loved them.  Us church folks may say, “Well, that’s all they need.”

Get real. When you don’t have money for food tomorrow, and the heat bill in that tiny, freezing house is almost 30 days overdue, and the gas tank in the old and very unreliable car is running on E, sometimes God doesn’t seem near. They need people . . . people sent by God to help them. People to anchor their faith, steady their hearts, and reassure them that they are not alone and that they are going to “make it” through this frozen winter season in their hearts. What they don’t need is religious people condemning them for breaking a covenant marriage and “disappointing God”.  (Tell that to a little child whose father beats and bruises him on a regular basis and see what his concept of God is when he is fifteen.)  No, women and children who have found themselves in this life-and-emotional-death predicament need others to anchor them, not judge them for doing the only thing they had left to do.

They have little-to-no resources. Megan’s story is not unlike many others. The wife spends her time homemaking and taking care of the children.  Though she is highly educated, she had spent her life investing in the children.  Now, as a means to survive and give her kids a chance to be healthy and safe, she is on her own…with almost nothing to live on.  Little money.  Little food.  Inadequate clothing.  When I arrived to pick up Megan and the kids in the tiny, run-down house (though grateful she was for it), all four kids were sleeping on mattresses crammed into one room. No beds. I am aware of a formerly abused wife and mother who tonight is sleeping on the floor of a home-with her children- fighting off the rats with whom they share their house. It sounds unthinkable.  But when you have so little resources, sometimes it is the only way to survive. It’s better than sleeping under a bridge, but it just shouldn’t be this way.

What abused women and children (who have fled their abuser and have little or no income) need is practical help. Coats if it is winter. Gas if there is a car.  Blankets if they are cold. Food that is edible.  And dignity in it all.  So many are reduced to near-beggars, never having imagined that their lives could have ever gotten out of hand like this, but also having never imagined they would have to go to such extremes to just save themselves and their children.

They have little or no boundaries around them to protect them.  Like a medieval city with broken down walls, a woman-turned-refugee is exposed to many dangers . . . most of them people. Many assume she is easy and open prey.  She may be hit-on by men hoping for an easy target.  She is haunted by the ex-husband who won’t leave her alone.  He calls her, texts her, and tells her how horrid her heart is for “breaking the convenant marriage” and that God cannot be with her any longer. This is manipulation, of course, but it confuses her momentarily and potentially drives her into deeper despair. She is often guilted by friends who have no concept of abuse.  Even some in her original family blame her for leaving her “Christian” husband.  Worse, they say she made up the whole idea of being abused. In short, she is unprotected.

Megan had no parents as both are deceased.  She did have some friends who did what they could to pitch in  from afar.  Most didn’t realize what she had been living through for 11 years, nor did they know the height of the daily challenges she was facing once she left.

In many cases, she is even blamed by the church and treated as unfaithful. She is blamed by the church…because her husband abused her.

I used to preach on all the false, bad religion in our world today. Turns out that not all religion is bad, afterall. Though the word religion is scoffed in the circles which I ran for 30 years, there is such a thing as real religion . . . In fact, the Bible explains what this not-at-all-fake and unpolluted religion is: “Pure and undefiled religion is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)

I have come to understand in this latest season of my life that many women abused by their husband (or young children abused by their father) are spiritual widows and spiritual orphans in a very real sense of the word. They are on their own. Not all of them are, of course.  Some of them have parents, pastors, siblings, friends, or others who rescue them right away and help them.  But this isn’t the case all the time.

What is your religion?  There is so much to be done in the Kingdom of God.  This . . . THIS is real religion.  With eyes to see and ears to hear, I would challenge you to lift up your head . . . and refuse to be clueless.