Saddleback Church Backpeddles on Domestic Violence Divorce Quotes

In an article in which he interviews Saddleback teaching pastor Tom Holladay, Bob Allen of the Associated Baptist Press reveals that Saddleback has removed the audio clips which raised so much stink earlier this year. Holladay insists that the audio clips are taken out of context and do not reflect what the church teaches or believes, leaving the mistaken impression that the church will not support divorce for abuse under any circumstances. The original clips have been transcribed and can be read here:

Transcript of Saddleback Abuse Audio Clip
Transcript of Saddleback Church Teaching on Divorce
Transcript of Saddleback Church Teaching on Miserable Marriage

In the audio clips, Holladay stated (among other things), “I wish there were a third [reason for divorce] in Scripture, having been involved as a pastor with situations of abuse… There is something in me that wishes there were a Bible verse that says, ‘If they abuse you in this-and-such kind of way, then you have a right to leave them.'”

It is difficult for me to understand how Holladay’s comments could be misinterpreted, but to give him his due, he states for the record in this article that Saddleback does not teach or support the idea that someone must linger in an unrepentant abusive marriage. The linked article says, “What the clip didn’t make clear, Holladay said recently, is the question he was answering had to do with abusive language and not physical abuse. The way it was edited, Holladay said, gave the impression that a chronically violent and abusive situation is the only just cause for separation.”

This is something that touches right on a sensitive spot because then we have to address the question of what qualifies as “abusive language,” and more importantly, what happens when you have a non-physically violent, unrepentantly verbally abusive spouse. Words can literally kill and are just as deadly as physical violence. Not only does the Word clearly state this, but scientific research has affirmed it as well. The Word says that the mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart and words are the first expression of a heart of abuse. There should be no need to wait for fists. The mouth is fruit of the heart’s reality and can give us all we need to know and act — and prevent physical violence, or physical death and disease by the tongue.

At any rate, I’m reporting this development on this issue in the interests of being even-handed. I do not know what was originally meant since what was published were the audio clips – which seem very clear – so I cannot make a judgment about that. All I know otherwise is what I have heard in talking with some individuals who experienced Saddleback’s counseling. The church does seem to have a much more supportive attitude than most churches, but I also have heard of some very serious failures and profoundly bad, even dangerous, counsel as well. So, I can’t make a concrete statement one way or the other about the original intention of the clips.

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How To Spot an Abuser On the First Date

This post is in response to a question asked in the comments of one of the articles on this site.

Right up front, let me clarify that this is by no means a comprehensive answer! And as I said in my comments, I don’t think it will be possible to always spot an abuser on the first date. So the title of this piece relates to the question asked, not the answer given.

I have replied with some things that would have applied to my own situation with an abuser. I am quite sure there are more red flags which would apply with other abusers. I hope that others who read this will chime in with other red flags they have seen.

The original question was this:

If you were going on a date, now, with the same man, what would have given you a clue of your future? how would you know if it is real gold, or “gold” that doesn’t exist?

This was my response (somewhat amplified):

A single date could very likely be hard to see through. Someone can put on a perfect front for a brief period of time. With a skillful abuser, you have to put the pieces together over a period of time, though there are generally subtle clues that will peek through even on short association.

For me, with the specific man I married, there were some indications before hand that I didn’t understand.

1. He never quite managed to tell the truth. Everything he said was either over-exaggerated or under-stated, whichever would put him in the best light. I frankly suspected him of lying with all of his self-glorifying stories, but then I did find out at least one of them was true so I thought I must be wrong.

Later, this issue of him recreating reality was HUGE – he used it all the time when talking about me to others, especially pastors, counselors and his family. For many abusers, (I don’t know if it is universal but I’ve seen it in several) their reality is self-customized to their specifications – whatever meets their perceived need at the moment. So dialog becomes virtually impossible since they turn everything that actually happened around, even taking incidents that happened and recreating or even repositioning them in time/space to suit their purposes – generally to the disadvantage of the one they are abusing.

2. There was an incident where he punched a fellow student. I didn’t see it happen so all I knew was his own story, which was that the other student persistently provoked him, telling him over and over, over a period of many weeks, to punch him. So finally he did. I wish I had known to ask other students who knew both of them and would have seen these interactions, what really happened. After experiencing his violence first-hand, I know his version of this event was not true.

3. His mother asked me before we were married whether I thought I could handle his temper. Well, she never explained exactly what she meant by that or told me of any history or examples. And I had literally never seen an adult with a “temper.” In my family, everything was always handled very civilized. That didn’t mean that people didn’t disagree, but no one ever got nasty or yelled and screamed, or called names, or used profanity. And certainly, there was never any violence, not even throwing things, punching walls or furniture, slamming things, etc. So I was completely clueless about what she meant. And I thought that if we truly loved each other we could certainly work out any disagreements. After all, that was what I had seen modeled all my life.

4. I didn’t realize that he was utterly self-absorbed before well into our marriage. Before our marriage, he attempted to engage me in conversation (scripted, no less, with 3×5 cards with questions on them) to try to “find out about me” – but even these were about him. He was trying to find out whether I matched his purposes – not wanting to get to know me because of me. Years later I realized some of those question were designed to make sure I was the type of person who wouldn’t catch on to him or stand up against him – though he may not even have been consciously aware of that fact. I don’t know whether that would have been more obvious to me unless/until I had a clue about abuse, however.

This is something I have seen other abusers do, to a greater or lesser degree. Their conversation, even about you, is always really about them. And they will use flattery, gifts, and constant statements of deep attraction, love, need, “you are more than life to me” yada, yada to win you over. But this is really not about adoration – it is about obsession and desire to “have” you like a possession. And that turns deadly once the “I do’s” are said (or when they feel confident they “have” you).

5. He didn’t really listen to the things about me — he recreated his understanding of me to match his desires and expectations. This was demonstrated in things like the gifts he purchased for me which were things he liked and I didn’t (after his persistent probings to find out what I liked). Also it was revealed in his choice of activities for us – which were always things he wanted to do and not things I would have enjoyed.

Later in our marriage, he went through several months of again probing to find out what I liked to do. He gave me lists to fill out and questionaires to complete. I resisted at first, because by then I knew what would happen. But, of course, he insisted under the banner that my resistance said I didn’t care about him or our marriage. So I filled out his forms.

He didn’t say anything about them at first, but then weeks later he again accused me of not liking to do anything, having no interests, etc., etc. My reply was that I like a lot of things and I had even filled out his forms telling him all of them. His response — none of those are any fun. My response — so, in other words, if I don’t like what you like, I have no interests and don’t like to do anything “fun.” He didn’t reply – but that didn’t mean he changed his mind. He said the same thing again to me and to others about me multiple times after that.

6. Things always had to be done his way. Even if I had another way or another preference, he would pick at it and pick at it, and “reason” and cajole until I gave in to his way. This was vividly apparent (but I didn’t see it at the time) over our wedding plans. I planned that wedding for 18 months, during which we were separated for the most part. I had to pay for all of it, so it had to be on a very strict budget. When he came back from overseas and out of state 3 months before the wedding, he managed to get me to change almost everything. This wedding was “his” day, not the bride’s day. Boy, should that have been a clue!

7. Another indication, which seriously bothered me at the time, but I didn’t understand it’s significance, was in our physical relationship. Now, you have to understand that we were in a very strict environment. We were taught that men and women were not even to touch until after the wedding, period. We had both come to realize that was not only ridiculous, but unhealthy. Well, I thought that was we. Perhaps it was me and he was just glad to agree. But still, it was not to go beyond normal and healthy demonstrations of affection. No petting, etc.

In spite of our agreed boundaries, the first time he kissed me he attempted to french kiss me. I was appalled (understand, I had never done anything of the sort – I know most people would think I was nuts). And personally, I think I was rightly appalled. The boundaries of our physical relationship were to be completely non-sexual and french kissing is symbolic of the sex act – deliberately. But I figured I was being a ridiculous prude, so I gave in to him from the second kiss onward.

Now, here’s the serious part. Every single time he kissed me from that day until after our wedding, it had to be a french kiss. Never a simple kiss of affection. Not only that, he would hold me very tight, push my head as far back as it would go so I was overbalanced, and would prolong each kiss for minutes at a time. I literally couldn’t breathe. It took me many, many years (he still did this after we were married, just not every single time he got near me) to realize this was physical domination and control.

During our marriage, he started griping when I would push him off so I could catch a breath, and he told many, many people that I “wouldn’t let him kiss me.” In fact, this was one of his favorite gripes, along with accusing me of refusing him sex. That got the pastors, counselors and his family every time. What no one ever paused to find out was that I only refused him abusive sex – and he knew that. He also knew that he was welcome to intimacy that wasn’t abusive.

In fact, a year before our marriage ended, he got up in front of an entire church and “testified” that his life had been changed that week because his wife of 19 years had finally let him kiss her for the first time. I was completely humiliated and there was nothing I could do to defend myself. But I did wonder if anyone took a second to wonder how this man had managed to acquire 3 children without ever kissing. That would be really weird.

Going a bit off topic, this habit of humiliating me in front of others was also a consistent issue throughout our marriage. I don’t remember him ever doing that before we were married, but then we also were not together very much before we were married. Strange environment, long story.

But he did this often during our marriage, lying to people about me or telling them twisted things about me. I eventually observed that he did this, not only randomly, but also any time he felt that other people might be viewing me in a complementary way, if he felt I was getting too much attention, or if he felt that others might see him as “less” than me in some way.

But the result of this habitual behavior was that I was even more isolated than I was just by his refusal to let me do things, see family, go out with friends, etc. (And to be completely clear, he even accomplished this by manipulation and pushing, pushing, pushing me until I gave in and did what he wanted. He rarely just flat said, “No you can’t.” Instead he guilt-tripped, manipulated, etc. to get me to agree with him about me “needing” to stay at home.)

As a result, I never knew what people really thought of me because I knew he had lied about me to various people, but I never knew who, or what he had said to them. So I always kept myself reserved to a greater or lesser degree around people who knew both of us. Invariably, the things he had said about me would end up jumping out and slapping me in the face at odd times when people would accuse me of things, or decide to no longer associate with me, or whatever. This was especially true with his family, with the church, and with the pastors/counselors we saw.

Back to the issue of point 7, this behavior of pushing in the arena of physical relationship is common with abusers. They want whatever they can get, and they will flatter, cajole, manipulate, and flat-out push past boundaries to get it. Then if you feel guilty or want them to quit, it is you who are at fault, never them.

These are a few I can think of off the top. As a general rule, I think a single date would be difficult to know (though, not always; sometimes it’s really obvious if you know the signs) but over time it is not hidden.

What makes it most difficult, actually, is that if you have come from an abusive background (and unfortunately, a lot of people do not even realize their background was abusive since it was their “normal”) these behaviors will not seem abnormal to you. You may even feel flattered by the persistent attention and apparent adoration. So the very best way to learn to spot an abuser is to get healthy yourself first. In fact, I would go so far as to say, this is the only way to really protect yourself from an abuser.

The Link Between Illness and Abuse

This post was written by a friend of mine and she communicates it so well, I am copying the post in its entirety.

This is such a huge issue, which is still almost completely unnoticed in the church’s ignorance of abuse. And it is affecting many, many people sitting in our pews.

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ILLNESS AND ABUSE: My Doctors Said…

By Sharon Merhalski

I am a survivor of childhood abuse: every kind of abuse from my mother (22% of pedophiles are women) and sexual abuse from my brother. As an abused child I experienced a childhood of illnesses. I now understand illness is an expected scenario given the constant internal and external stress an abused child (and children raised in domestic violence) carries. And I now understand until abuse issues are dealt with and healed, that internal stress cannot be alleviated, resulting in continued illness in the adult years.

I believe the Bible gives plain affirmation on this subject (words inside parenthesis are definitions for the previous word from the Strong’s Concordance).

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire (longing) cometh, it is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

A victim living in an abusive situation constantly hopes the abuse will end. When they are separated from the abuse by age or living situation there is usually an internal longing (especially with child abuse)–hope for a healthy relationship with the abusive parent. When hope longed for doesn’t happen the Bible says it makes their heart (feelings, the will and even the intellect) sick (be weak, sick, afflicted, cause to grieve, diseased, put in pain, be wounded) If our feelings, will and intellect are sick we are under extreme stress and on our way to physical illness.

In spring of 1984 I was 35 years old. I had severe allergies requiring weekly allergy injections and a lot of allergy medication. I was always fatigued, in bed a lot of the time, fought sinus and bronchial infections and yeast infections constantly and was an overall miserable mess.

In September of 1984 I came to a crossroad in my spiritual and emotional life that ended in my allowing God to take my very damaged heart and emotions and heal them with His Word. About six months into this lengthy process my allergies were so minimal that I no longer required allergy shots and I seldom took allergy medications. By mid-1985 the sinus infections and yeast infections were few and far between. The bronchial infections maybe happened once a year.

At this time I began to see a licensed physician who is a dear Christian man. He was the first doctor I asked about the ‘coincidence’ of my emotional healing and healing from allergies and infections. I remember clearly his saying to me it was no ‘coincidence’ and then teaching me about inner stress. He assured me what I experienced was a normal reaction to my internal healing. Since then I have asked two other physicians the same question and received the same answers.

In the last twenty-plus years I have been entrusted by God to both counsel and work with many women who are survivors of abuse…child abuse and/or domestic violence. The pattern I have observed is almost all of the women with unresolved/unhealed issues have been physically ill in some way…from allergies to cancer. And, those women whom I have observed through their personal spiritual and emotional healing process have experienced a lessening, if not total healing of their physical illnesses, i.e. arthritis, allergies, repeated infections, stomach and/or bowel problems, Candida/yeast infections, etc. I have always been very thankful I can share with each woman why their health was improving…using the words of my physicians—my Heavenly physician/Jehovah-Rapha and my earthly physicans–spoken to me. (The Bible has much to say on this subject.)

A few years ago I began to find research on this perceived ‘phenomenon’ of relieved stress and healing. Recently there has been much research done on this subject. I now understand fully the reasons for an increase in health when there is a decrease in stress…internal stress and external stress.

If you are a survivor or victim of abuse, or know a survivor or victim of abuse, I hope you will assimilate this information for yourself and/or pass it along to others.

Links to articles:

Physical Abuse Raises Women’s Health Costs Over 40 Percent The implication of this is that there are all these women suffering long-term health problems as a result of abuse.

possible link between sex abuse and Interstitial Cystitis

Child abuse ‘impacts stress gene’

Facial Fractures Speak Volumes

Childhood Abuse Raises Psychosis Risk in Women

Teenage Stress Has Implications on Adult Health

In this search page there are a couple posts about studies on domestic violence and ill health.

The Nature of Manipulation

I found this article at rumination2.blogspot.com. Another great post from a great site.

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In relationships, manipulation can be defined as:

any attempt to control, through coercion (overt or covert),another person’s thoughts, feelings or behaviors.

From this definition, manipulation would seem to have no advantages. However, if you are codependent and defined by others, there can be many advantages. When you allow others to control your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and make decisions for you,

— you do not have to think for yourself;

— you can avoid taking risks and making difficult decision;

— you can avoid taking a stand on controversial issues;

— you can avoid feeling responsible for negative outcomes;

— you get to blame others when things go wrong;

— you can believe, when others tell you how to behave, what to think, how to feel and what to decide, that you are “being loved” because they “want what is best for you”;

— you can avoid feeling separate and alone by avoiding conflict;

— you can avoid the hard work of emotional growth and development.

Appreciating the advantages of not being manipulated is to accept the hard work of living and interacting with others. It is about being willing to grow and develop emotionally.

These advantages can be that,

— you learn to know who you are, what you like, what you think, and how you feel;


— you learn to make difficult decisions;

— you get to take credit for your decisions;

— you learn to handle risks and uncertainty;

— you learn to handle differences and conflicts;

— you get to be in control of your life and know the freedom of personal self-reliance;

— you get to have an increased sense of self worth by feeling competent and capable of taking responsibility for your life and personal happiness.

Manipulation is usually attempted using power, unsolicited helping, rescuing, guilt, weakness, and/or dependence, in order to achieve a desired outcome. For example,

1) Power – physical, verbal, intellectual intimidation or threats, put-downs, belittling, withholding of things needed or wanted. The goal is to be in a “one up, I am right and you are wrong” position;

2) Unsolicited helping/rescuing – doing things for others when they do not request it, want it, or need it; helping others so they become indebted, obligated, and owe you. The goal is to be in the “after all I have done for you, and now you owe me” position;

3) Guilt – shaming, scolding, blaming others, attempting to make others responsible, trying to collect for past favors. The goal is to be in the “it is all your fault,” or “after all I have done for you and now you treat me like this” position;

4) Weakness/dependence – being (or threatening to become) helpless, needy, fearful, sick, depressed, incompetent, suicidal. The goal is to confuse want with need, with the message “if you do not take care of me, something bad is going to happen and it will be all your fault” position.

With manipulation, there is a physical and emotional response, such as a heightened level of anxiety or irritation, although it may not be perceived as such.

This is where boundaries differ from manipulation.

Boundaries (or limits) are statements about our values and where we stand on issues. True boundaries are not threats or about getting the other person to do what we want. True boundaries are not compromised by another’s response.

For example, you discover that your spouse has lied to you and has run up a large gambling debt. You discover the problem by chance, get financial and professional help and are back on track. However, there are new signs of trouble. It is time for some hard decisions.

– What is your bottom line?

– What will you tolerate?

– What manipulative tactics do you use to change your spouse’s behavior – check up on them constantly, bird-dog them, never let them be alone, hide the credit cards, lie to your creditors, parents, and children?

– How much rescuing, guilt, power plays, threats, and protection do you run on the gambler?

– At what point do you stop trying to change their behavior and let them know your bottom line?

You cannot make them do or not do anything. You can only let them know what your position is and what you are willing to do to protect yourself and those you are responsible for.

The problem with loud, threatening bottom lines, is that they keep getting louder, more threatening, and redrawn lower and lower.

We tend to determine what our position and action is by what the other person does, instead of voicing our true position and then responding accordingly. This is the time for tough decisions and actions.

In another example, a friend asks you for a ride to work because she is having car trouble. This is the time to establish ground rules, such as, how long will she need your help, pick up times, expense sharing, days off, etc. A boundary or limit is set when you clearly let your friend know what you are willing to do and not do.

Problems arise – she is frequently not on time morning and evening. Do you wait and be late, or do you leave her? Her car has been in the shop six weeks because she cannot afford to get it out. She has not offered to help with the expense, nor does she seem concerned about the arrangement.

Your friend is using weakness to manipulate and be dependent on you. She has transferred her problem to you and you have accepted it by rescuing and not setting boundaries or limits on your participation in her problem. If you refuse to wait when she is late and she has problems as a result, she will blame you and try to make you feel guilty. What we really want are for others to be responsible and play fair; however, when they do not, we either have to set boundaries, or feel manipulated and victimized with the accompanying advantages and disadvantages.

Lastly, often we confuse UNDERSTANDING with AGREEMENT.

This is when people confuse their decisions with wanting the recipient of a decision to like or agree with it. When we make decisions that oppose the desires of others, there is a cost. We usually attempt to minimize that cost by explaining, in exhaustive detail, our rationale for that decision, somehow thinking if they could just understand our position, they would agree.

Applying that scenario to parent and child – if a parent makes a decision based on the best interest of the child, it needs to be made separate from whether the child is going to like it.

When a child knows it is important to the parent that they be happy with a decision, then it will never be in the child’s personal interest to be happy with an unwanted decision.

If a child knows that their happiness with a parental decision is of equal importance to the decision itself, then all a child has to do is be unhappy in order to make their parent uncomfortable and doubt their decision — after all, it is always worth a try. This same dynamic can apply to interactions among adults also.

How do we manage manipulation? By becoming more aware of our interaction with others.

Is the interaction an attempt to communicate or does it feel like a contest?

Are you beginning to feel anxious or irritated?

Do you want to get out of the conversation?

Does the interaction fit into a manipulative style?

Is there an attempt to use power, service, guilt, or weakness to get your cooperation?

Are you a willing participant in your own manipulation?

Is it easier not taking responsibility?

Are you attempting to manipulate others instead of setting clear boundaries?

Are you making a distinction between a value and a preference?

Preferences can be negotiated, but values should not.

Our society does not deal well with differences in values and preference. We tend to take it as a personal affront and insult when others disagree with us. We will avoid conflicts at all costs, because it feels like rejection. What we need is to communicate to others, clearly and calmly, our values, preferences, and boundaries. We need to be respectful and dedicated to listening, hearing and appreciating, if not understanding, how we all are different.

Mary Treffert, LCSW, ACSW, is a Licensed, Clinical Social Worker, who is an individual, couple, and family therapist in Baton Rouge, LA.

www.marytreffert.com

This is one of a short series of articles from VictimBehavior.com.

You may reprint/reproduce any of these provided you include the entire copy, especially this credit.

Verbal Abuse and How to Recognize It

This article was pointed out by a reader and I thought it would be well worth posting here. It comes courtesy of And Then She Cried. This piece points out some elements of verbal abuse I had overlooked in my own relationship like forgetting/denial and trivializing/undermining. This is excellent.

~~~

This is from the book by Patricia Evans, The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize It and How to Respond

Verbal abuse is a kind of battering which doesn’t leave evidence like physical abuse does. However, it can be just as painful, and recovery can take much longer. The victim of abuse lives in a gradually more confusing realm. In public she is with one man, in private he becomes another.

Often, for the verbally abused woman (man), there is no witness to her reality and no one to understand her experiences. Friends and family continue to see her ex, the abuser, as a really good guy and, certainly, he agrees with them. The verbal abuser, while maintaining his charm with others, always takes his abuse behind closed doors. It is a means of holding power over his wife/partner.

Many women and some men leave a marriage and come back into the singles’ world with the diminished self-esteem that comes from a verbally abusive relationship. The fact that many of these women (men) have never even realized that they were being abused, makes it easy for them to enter another abusive relationship.

A verbal abuser is an insecure person and immature person who is looking for power and control over another. In order to help you recognize abuse, remember that all forms of verbal abuse are methods of manipulating you for the purpose of establishing power over you. The following are some of the forms of verbal abuse the author helps you recognize.

  1. Withholding: a purposeful, silent treatment.
  2. Countering: a countering of your ideas, feelings, and perceptions, even going so far as to refute what he misconstrues you to have said.
  3. Discounting: a putdown of you or something you hold dear.
  4. Blocking and diverting: this is a sneaky, covert way of violating your dignity.
  5. Accusation and blame: generally involves lies about the partner’s intentions, attitudes, and motives. The author states that accusation and blame is present in all verbally abusive relationships.
  6. Judging and criticizing: lies about your personal qualities and performance.
  7. Trivializing and undermining: abusive behavior which makes light of your work, your efforts, your interests, or your concerns. The abuser attempts to dilute meaning and value in your life. Undermining might occur when your partner laughs at you, for example, when you burn yourself cooking. It is also jokes at your expense. Undermining is occurring when you feel a “so-called joke” is mean rather than funny.
  8. Name calling: no one has a right to call you degrading names. Name calling is verbal abuse.
  9. Ordering: Telling you to do something, rather than asking, or making decisions for you or for the two of you without your input.
  10. Forgetting and denial: the trickiest form of denial is forgetting. Become aware that forgetting is a form of denial that shifts all responsibility from the abuser to some “weakness of mind.”
  11. Abusive anger: this seems to be closely linked to the need to “blow up,” to dominate, to control, to go one up, and to put down. Any time you are snapped at or yelled at, you are being abused.
  12. Threatening: Physical threats and sexual threats aside, verbal threats are an effort at manipulation. For example, a threat to leave, stay out all night, or take you home immediately is a manipulation for power. The threat of “pending disaster” is designed to shatter the partner’s serenity as well as her boundaries.

If you counter the abuser or attempt to explain yourself, you will probably be met with such statements as, “I don’t want to hear it, get out of my face” or “Woman you don’t have the brains“, “B” You shouldn’t have said that to me“.

If you are in a brand-new relationship and see warning signs of verbal abuse, the author suggests you might be wise to let the relationship go. It is not likely that a man (woman) who needs to dominate and control will change easily, if at all. It is also likely that when the newness of the relationship wears off, he will become more abusive. Verbal abuse can become physical in time and physical abuse is always preceded by verbal abuse, according to Evans. If you are in a long-term relationship, you can respond to the abuser as the book suggests and soon discover for yourself whether or not your mate is willing to change and stop his abusive behavior.

“If you have been verbally abused in your relationship, you may have discovered that explaining and trying to understand have not improved your relationship. Therefore, I recommend that you respond in a new way–a way that will make an emotional, psychological, and intellectual impact upon your mate.”

The abuser in your relationship may change when he finds that you do know when you are being abused, that you have set limits, that you mean what you say, and that you will not take behavior you don’t like.

If the man in your relationship remains abusive, it is not only not your fault, it is not even your responsibility

Verbal Abuse and Neglect More Common than Physical Abuse

This article courtesy of the Post-Bulletin.

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Dodge County statistics on child abuse are a good indicator of what kinds of abuse are most prevalent. Mainly, it’s neglect and verbal abuse. Physical and sexual abuse, which get much of the media attention, are relatively rare.

The county gets about 300 reports of abuse annually, about half of which are found credible, said Nancy Reuvers, child family service supervisor.

Of 88 assessments, which don’t require court action, 68 were for neglect, such as not enough food, no supervision, educational neglect, exposing children to drug use, or parents spending money on drugs instead of food, she said.

Fourteen were for physical abuse; four were for mental or emotional injuries; one, for medical neglect; and one, for sexual abuse.

The hardest to prove is mental or emotional abuse. The only way to know that abuse is there is if the child suffers psychological problems from being belittled, sworn at or constantly being called names. The effect is cumulative over months and years, she said.

Of the 23 investigations, which often require court action, five were for neglect; nine, for physical abuse where there were marks; and nine, for sexual abuse, which could be peeping to invade privacy or showing children porn.

Sticks & Stones: Why Verbal Abuse Kills, III

Sticks and stones
May break my bones,
But words could even kill me…

What’s in a name? That nursery rhyme (original version) says “…names can never hurt me…” But I think names can do a world of damage.

While it seems fundamentally obvious, the thing about names is that a name tells who you are. A name is your identity. Whether it is the name your parents gave you or whether it is a “modifier” screamed at you in anger or calmly hurled at you in a quiet diatribe, a name is an attempt to identify who you are.

I used the word “modifier” in its English grammar meaning. A modifier is a word that describes or quantifies another word. It is a name that identifies another word specifically — for instance, the red car, the windy weather, the unsubmissive wife, the demon child son.  A modifier ascribes value to another word.

When a name is used to describe a person it strikes at that person’s very center of being.  This is why name-calling is more powerful than just words.  When a husband or father (or mother/wife) calls their spouse or child names they are ascribing value to that person – they are ascribing a lesser value to that person.   It doesn’t matter if you attempt to say the names don’t hurt, they do – especially when they are spoken by someone closest to you, who is supposed to know you best, is supposed to love and protect you, and is supposed to be “one” with you (as your spouse) or is supposed to be your primary influence (as a parent). 

It also doesn’t matter how the name-calling is phrased.  If an abuser says, in screaming rage, “you are acting like a demon child” – it is no different than saying “you are a demon child” because the spirit, the rage, the violence behind it gives it the same intention.  Splitting hairs by saying “you are acting like” does not give someone a pass on the intention. 

Words can also “call names” through strong implication without saying the actual name.  When an abuser has a pattern of the calm diatribes, carefully and constantly describing, in detail, why you are a failure, wrong, have poor judgment, etc. he is describing you – your worth, value, acceptability, etc. 

For instance, Gary frequently launched into long diatribes about all manner of things about me.  One was about me liking white rice with butter/salt/pepper as a side dish with a meal.  He wondered how I could possibly eat white rice and described in detail all the reasons why it is worthless, bad for you, tastes bad, etc., etc.  He did this everytime rice came into his sphere of reference — could be in a restaurant, could be if I fixed rice, if he fixed rice, if someone else fixed rice, if the rice came up in a casual conversation with strangers — he launched into the “how can my wife/you like white rice because…”  Yes, he did this — about me — to other people in casual conversation if rice was mentioned.  What he was communicating was that I was so stupid I couldn’t make a rational decision about my taste for rice.  I ended up being unable to eat rice for several years and I still struggle with it.  The strong negative emotional connection to rice is very powerful.  There were dozens of things like this that warranted long diatribes toward or about me.  Water temperature in the shower, the direction of washing dishes (left to right sinks vs right to left), theological or political sub-points, favorite colors, styles of clothes, preferred recreation, types of books I liked to read, types of TV programs I enjoyed — the list is practically endless.  There was always something to rant about – literally daily.

 The reason these take a toll is because they “call names” even non-specifically.  These rants quantified who I was as stupid, illogical, unreasonable, unsubmissive, rebellious, un-spiritual, non-Christian (literally), etc., etc.  They communicated that I was not worth respect, and they communicated that he did not respect me because I was not worthy of respect.  While he said he respected me if he was directly asked, his constant way of life said otherwise.

Name-calling, in any form that describes value, is powerful because it assaults who the person is at the most fundamental level.  When the person calling names is in a position of authority or in the position of protector/provider his words hold that much more power.