October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Today’s blog post is a survivor's story, written by a woman who experienced all forms of abuse in her marriage. It is intended to raise awareness of this pervasive problem in marriage, even in Christian marriages. Here is her story...
How It Begins
The thought rose unbidden of the night I came home from a date with a huge purple fat lip and lied to my parents about how I got it. We had been out to a movie, and on the way home, we got into an argument. He, from the driver’s seat of the car, roundhouse-punched me in the face with his right fist, swinging hard enough to knock the rear-view mirror off the windshield before making contact with my face.
I could in no way pretend that nothing had happened, so on the way home, I created an elaborate story to explain how my face got to looking the way it did. I gave my fabricated story to my shocked parents and went off to bed, wondering if they believed my lie. This was not the first or the last lie I told about my boyfriend and how he treated me.
Flowers and Promises
I dated this guy for quite a while, and frankly, no one knew why. My friends at school and work, and my family all wondered what I saw in him. At times, so did I. I broke it off with him several times, only to be wooed back by threats, flowers, and promises that things would be better. He told me we belonged together, and that I needed him. He told me I wouldn’t amount to anything, despite my success in theater and the plans I had for my life. He had several nicknames for me that I can’t repeat here, because they are too foul.
The day I married him, I was sick to my stomach before the wedding. I wanted to back out but was too afraid. I was afraid of what he would do, afraid of having to explain something I didn’t understand myself, and afraid of disappointing my parents and everyone who had come to the wedding. I hoped beyond hope that someone would object to the marriage at that point in the ceremony, but no one did.
Our seven-year marriage was stormy. During those years I was hit with lit cigarettes, ashtrays, and food; I was threatened with a hammer, and had picture frames thrown at my head. I was kicked, slapped, and abused in ways I cannot bring myself to write. The verbal and emotional abuse was a daily occurrence, and I recall lying in bed in the mornings, wondering what kind of day it was going to be. I could usually tell if he was in a good or bad mood within the first few minutes of interacting with him. I shielded our two young children from his treatment of me the best I could.
Flee to Christ
After I became a Christian, I convinced him to go to marriage counseling with me. My then-husband deflected the attention away from himself in counseling. He manipulated the pastor who was inexperienced in domestic abuse counseling. The pastor called attention to my resistance to being abused (which he called sin and a lack of submissiveness) instead of on the abuse I was enduring. My faith in Christ grew exponentially, however, as I immersed myself in God’s Word and sought to glorify God in my terrible situation. Oh, it was an enormous struggle! By God’s grace, I persevered. As I began to live out my newfound identity in Christ, he left me for someone else and filed for divorce.
His departure was not the end of my suffering. In the early
days, I struggled with feelings of depression, anger, fear and anxiety, shame, guilt,
grief, and loss. In my mind, it was my fault that he left. I wasn’t a good
enough wife, I was too strong of a woman, I didn’t meet his needs, I didn’t
need him enough. If only I was better, willing to be dominated, less
opinionated, quieter, and dozens of other things plagued my thinking. I wanted
to “be better” so he would come back. I practiced not reacting as he threatened
to take the kids away from me if I didn’t agree to his terms in the divorce, if
I didn’t agree to not getting a lawyer, and if I didn’t agree to accept a
pittance in child support outside of court. By God’s grace, I was given wise
counsel that led me to get legal advice and a restraining (protective) order.
Eyes Wide Open
As I “came to myself” in the months after he left, I began to see how he had manipulated me, gaslighted me, and controlled me by his anger and moods. I didn’t know anything about the power and control wheel then, but looking back on it now, I can see so many areas in which he abused me in our marriage. Also, by God’s grace, I didn’t become a bitter and vengeful woman in the trial. The Lord used it to break me and to begin to conform me into His image and likeness (Romans 8:29).
God's Protection/ For My Good and Yours
It has been 30 years. Only a few years after the divorce took place, the Lord removed him from our lives forever. God gave my children and I a new life entirely free from his domination. We now lived without fear of him. God also gave us a new and godly influence. This man became my husband and my children's father.
I, Julie Ganschow, am the author of this post, and it is my story. I share this part of my life with you to let those of you suffering in an abusive marriage know that you are not alone. I share this with you so that you can be confident that when you seek me out for counsel about your “marriage problems,” I am looking and listening intently to detect emotional and verbal abuse that you may be too afraid to disclose. I share this with you, so you will know there is help available from someone who has been there. Don’t suffer in silence, reach out. Tell someone. Healing is possible after such a life trauma, and there is always hope to be found in Christ.
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