I’m Still Here: On Leaving Abuse and Being Ignored in the Grocery Store

 

A Letter to Christian Women From a Domestic Abuse Survivor

Do you remember me?

We knew each other a few years ago; but just now, on a crisp Wednesday morning near the carts in the grocery store, you looked right at me and kept walking–as if I were a complete stranger.

Now we’ve all been there. We’re distracted, texting someone, deep in thought–it happens. I’m sure I’ve done it. And if it were just an occasional occurrence, it would be easy to shrug off.

But this is my new reality as an evangelical Christian woman who has left her abusive husband.

Be it the grocery store, a women’s Bible study, a school event, a restaurant or the playground, I now face this all over my city. Christians I once knew continually pretend they don’t know me.

I know this can surprise me at any time (and render me breathless and shaky), so I try to prepare myself for this phenomenon before I go places. Before I get out of my car, I pray for strength: I recount to myself how I never wanted to be divorced, how I never would have chosen to break up my family, how I did everything I could to preserve a safe home, how I chose to walk away because I believed God was calling me to protect my children’s bodies and hearts, as well as my own.

I left because it seemed, actually, the most God-honoring thing to do.

He who did not condemn David for escaping into the wilderness to preserve his life; He who tells us, “The prudent sees danger and takes refuge”– surely He cares for the safety and sanity of a mother with her young children? But even two years later, Christian women in my community continue to shun me.

I feel almost like I’ve died; as if my life has ended, and yet somehow I’m still here, a ghost–lingering around the city while former friends look through me, not seeing I’m here. Only this death was a death without a funeral, some kind of unspoken understanding that I am no longer worthy of a hello, a wave, or a phone call.

So, friend at the grocery store, please know this: I’m still His. We are still (I think) in the same camp.

In fact, God had to drag me kicking and screaming out of the marriage: I was terrified that to leave would be sinful, and terrified that I would lose everything and everyone. I had to finally come to grips with the fact that if I stayed, I would be complicit in further damage to our children, further damage to my health, and further damage to the true gospel of Jesus Christ in front of a world that desperately needs Him.

It might have appeared to you that everything was normal and fine until one day I just “snapped” and left my marriage. But if you look more closely into your memories of me, if you dig a bit, maybe you’ll remember the signs.

Remember that time I suddenly dropped a massive amount of weight? Or when I started sobbing every Sunday at church? And stopped talking much? Or when I had to start sitting down all the time or holding onto things because I couldn’t stand much anymore? That’s when I was seeing my little ones hurt; when I was being threatened; when I was wishing for death.

That’s when I was also coming to grips with the fact that God does not condone abuse. I believed God was calling me to leave, but knew that leaving would come with some larger-than-life trade-offs.

I was afraid people wouldn’t believe me. I was afraid of having a scarlet letter.

So, please. Next time a woman from your church or Bible study or other Christian circle suddenly “disappears,” and you hear rumors of divorce — don’t treat her like she’s invisible when you run into her. You have no idea what, perhaps, she and her children have been through. Maybe she and her kids need clothes, or warmer comforters. Maybe she skipped a meal to stretch her grocery budget this week.  Maybe she had to call the authorities again about more bruises found on her kids when they returned to her. Maybe no one has hugged her in a long time. Maybe she still starts shaking sometimes, and a warm hug and “hello” from you could go a long way.

Because even though we know God sees us, sometimes it doesn’t feel like it; and when you ignore us, it feels like God Himself has passed us by. But when you embrace us, it’s a tangible reminder that He sees us, knows us, and accepts us.

Do you remember me? I’m still here.

18 Replies to “I’m Still Here: On Leaving Abuse and Being Ignored in the Grocery Store”

  1. Hi,
    I feel such agony in my heart in reading your words. Many of them are identical to words I have thought or stated. I, too, am one of the invisible. I lost what seemed to be everything when I agreed to be part of an abuse investigation. My view of church and christianity was drastically shaken.
    Then, I lost my husband. My children lost their father. Most of the supports that were in place disappeared and I have been left alone by the church that had previously “claimed” me. I am coming to the conclusion that church is just a building where a lot of people come together who share similar interests in music and dress styles, etc. They may reach out to the “untouchables” of other countries. Those are pretty cool projects to get involved in. I am VERY glad that people get involved in those projects!!! However, like you, I wonder how hard it is to simply stop for a moment and demonstrate some sort of caring.
    For me, I don’t want it anymore, at least not from a church. It is too confusing. It just feels like a game where I don’t understand the rules.
    As for you, please know that if I saw you in a grocery store and knew of your story, I would embrace you. I would want to listen to your heart as a grieving wife, your heart as a mom who is trying to help your children navigate things they shouldn’t have to suffer. I would want to know if you have enough food, a safe place to live, friends for you, friends for your children, a place where all of you are loved and treated with respect, a place where people honor your courage instead of beating you down with lies. There are MANY who would respond this way. I’m just not sure how many of them can be found in churches??
    Please know that I hear your cry and wish I could add my cry to yours in hopes that you will be heard.

    1. Praying you will find Christ in some real people in your town! ~ Matthew 11:28-30
      Love from Fredericksburg, VA

    2. Yeah, people would rather give money to help people across the world than to help someone in their own backyard. Some will even take a week or two and go on mission trips to help total strangers but will ignore the people right in front of them. Helping people in your own backyard can get messy and be long term. Mission trips are temporary and therefore easier to pretend to care.
      I’m divorced and lost the support from my supposed church friends. They all took his side and told me to be submissive, to pray for my husband, and to have faith. Being submissive is a two way street and it isn’t being a doormat. BIG difference. I have a difficult time believing that someone can be a true Jesus follower and still support abuse. Course, they wouldn’t call it abuse, but it’s what it is.

  2. What an incredible blog! Thank you for sharing your heart and being vulnerable to the terrific battle do you have fought over the last two years. Sadly, it is all too common! But that did not nor does not make it any easier for you right now. I’m not sure why the Christian community shuns those who have been divorced… But it does happen in many Christian “cultures.” Thank you for saving your life, and thank you for saving the lives of your children! Please forgive those of us who have overlooked you or turned the other way. Though a man, I had so many similar experiences. It was like some of the people I have known my whole life suddenly had amnesia and couldn’t remember me. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your pain. I hope and trust many who read this will take note and decide to remember who you are. And remember others-just like you- just like I was. You are a pearl and a treasure in the kingdom of God ! d.

    1. Thank you for reminding us that there are supportive people in the church. Being in the dredges at the moment has me scared of what is going to happen when people find out.

  3. Thisis heart-wrenching. Thank you for telling your story, as heart-breaking as it is, and please know that there are those of us, here and there, who truly care, and care deeply. Sending love from South Carolina.

  4. Wow, I feel this too.

    Yes, when they ignore you, treat you like you don’t exist, it feels as if God has passed you by too, because why don’t His people care??

    I have to continually remind myself, they aren’t acting like Gods people, and there is a very good possibility they may not even be Gods people. Gods people have love in their hearts for the oppressed and forsaken and abused. Where is theirs?

  5. To Domestic Abuse Survivor:

    I think you are brave. Well done for getting yourself and your children out. The way you have been treated by women in the church is so wrong. I am sure it must hurt God too. One day they will have to give account to him.

    It hurts me too to hear of it. I have prayed that God will give you all the wisdom, strength and courage that you need, will provide for all your needs (physical, emotional and spiritual) and will give you supportive friends. ((Hugs))

  6. I wish I could give you a hug and take you out for lunch with your children and love on you all. You are brave and so loved by our Heavenly Father!

  7. Thank you for putting into words those interactions we as abuse victims try to ignore, but they are crushing and cruel.

    The sad thing is that, once you’ve been labeled (me included), those types of encounters and the sideways glances of judgment from people who claim to be our brothers and sisters in Christ happen over and over again. And they wonder why we stay away from church.

    This is a powerful piece. I pray it is read far and wide.

  8. if those Christian ladies treat you like that they should not only be ashamed but begging your forgiveness. Don’t judge a person til you have walked a mile in his shoes. I believe God will protect you and it is possible that you didn’t seek his guidance while you were planning to marry this abuser. If we really want to do what he wants us to do we will listen and he will direct our paths. I do not believe He would want you to continue in that situation not only putting your self in danger but the lives of your little ones .If they are still being returned to you with bruises they are still being abused and hurt by that person they say they will stop but unfortunately most do not/ I applaud you for the courage to get out of a bad situation to protect your family. God is a loving God and he is also a personal entity in your life . So just keep praying and trusting Him. Ignore the ones who are causing you this anguish they will be held accountible for their actions.I wish I could put my arms around you and give you a big hug and tell you to keep going.God bless you and your children.

  9. One of the challenges I faced in leaving my husband was that it was emotional abuse. No visible marks left. But after over twenty years of his crazy (yep – gave it a good try, like a “good Christian wife”), I left. The reality is that people will judge, and Christians are no different in this. They are often even worse. Your decision is between you and God, who sees and knows, and from my perspective on this side, you did the right thing. Guilt is for the guilty. You are not guilty for acting out of self preservation. And to those who judge: how bad does it have to be before it is ok to leave? Verbal abuse? Threats?
    One bruise? Two? Broken jaw?

  10. I could have written this, verbatim. It’s the truth, and does feel like a death. You lose the “community” you’ve invested your entire married life in–and it seems so sudden, like you never mattered to them, otherwise how could they just pretend you never existed? It adds to the pain, and I consider it to be a form of cruelty. CHRISTIANS, please wake up!

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