There was one point that I considered you my family. I thought you were a safe place full of friends that cared about me, with leadership that would protect me, but most of all I thought you would encourage my violent spouse to get professional help for our marriage to be saved and hold him accountable. Boy was I wrong.
The first time he beat me up, I was terrified. I was terrified to call the police. To me, that would instantly mean both monetary repercussions that we couldn’t handle financially, and the end of my marriage. I wasn’t sure I was ready for that. I wanted to hope that there would be a different ending. I felt like if I got the police involved it was over. I was still in shock, I was reeling, I never expected him to hit me. So, what I did instead was reach out to some of your leadership that I felt close to. In my mind, if I told some of you loving responsible people, he wouldn’t hurt me again because you wouldn’t let him. But again, I was wrong.
I was wrong to think you were anything except a group of ill-equipped people who were not ready to handle any sort of crisis. What I encountered was a group that stumbled through our crisis, only making it worse for several years. Then, when I needed love and support to get through finally leaving the man who assaulted me multiple times all on your “watch”, was beginning to harm and terrorize my small children, and refused to get professional help; you decided I was the monster and you loved and stood by him instead. Boy was I wrong to trust in the relationships I had dedicated so much time to build with you.
As I confronted my soon to be ex, in front of your pastor, to let him know that I would be filing for divorce if he refused to move out and get help for his violence, your pastor turned on me. He accused me of being in the wrong because I didn’t call the police during the years of abuse. I thought, Actually pastor, after the two most serious assaults I called your leadership and they notified you. You didn’t once talk to me. You didn’t once offer to call the police with me. You didn’t once encourage me to contact a Domestic Violence Hotline to find out what I needed to do after being beaten by a loved one. You put me in “marriage mentoring” with a couple in the church that knew nothing about Domestic Violence or professional counseling of any kind. And now you are faulting me for not being an appropriate victim. Boy was I wrong to think he could help me.
I believed all the times your pastor and other leadership said from the pulpit that we were family. That no matter what we were going through, that the congregation there would support and love us. I was told to trust that the people sitting next to me would be there for me during a crisis. Now that I was in the worst crisis, and scariest time of my life, none of you were around. Your pastor told me in the meeting with my abuser, that if it was his daughter experiencing what I was, he would bring her to live with him and protect her. But for me, I must have been exaggerating my fear since I was going home with my abuser. I must have been exaggerating even though I would be locking myself and kids in a bedroom together that night; even though we had a safety plan established with our counselor for a quick escape if needed. The problem was, we didn’t have somewhere safe to go, and your pastor didn’t treat me like the family he preached I was and help us get safe. Boy was I wrong to believe what he preached.
After that fateful meeting, I left devastated and utterly heartbroken. Of course, I couldn’t go back after the pastor declared my husband not guilty of beating me 4 times and hurting our children, by just asking him if he was sorry. That night was the last time I stepped foot in the church that I had called my home for over 6 years. I gave so much to you. I was in small groups, volunteered regularly, went to services and women’s groups and activities. I was a leader at retreats, made you all my family by inviting you to my home more times than I can count. I loved and served and cared for you, even through my own years of pain. When I left, none of you contacted me to see if I was ok. None of you called or emailed or texted or messaged me. Even those of you who knew he had been beating me. Did you even know if I was alive? Some of you hugged my abuser encouraged him and welcomed him to church with open arms after I left, never once suggesting or asking him to get help for his violence. Boy was I wrong to think you were a safe place.
The worst part is, I know there are other women like me sitting in your seats every Sunday. I pray for them often. I pray that they will be as strong as I was and leave their abuser even if you won’t love and support them through it. I pray that you won’t harm any more women and children that are victims of abuse in their own homes. I pray you won’t break the hearts of any more who sit in your seats trusting and believing what you are telling them. I pray you won’t support and empower any more abusers perpetuating what they are doing to their families. I pray you will learn to stand up for social justice and hold abusers accountable while supporting their victims. Boy was I wrong to think you were any of those things already.
I have grieved the loss of my perceived family for nearly two years. I have been afraid to join another church “family” for fear they would be like you. My children went through this traumatic time without the comfort of any of the “friends” they grew up with. I have allowed the salve and oil of the Holy Spirit to help me heal, as it was Him all along that I needed, not you. I have learned to look to Him always and not rely on people, not even His people, for the things I need. I will move forward and allow myself to love others again. I will seek out the downtrodden in the next church I attend, and support and encourage and love as many of them as I can. I will continue to hope and pray you to open your eyes to the role God has called you to, loving and protecting “the least of these” as Jesus commanded. Boy was I wrong to believe you were something different than you were.
I am pushing past my pain to live in the purpose God has created me to live in. I won’t let what I have experienced hold me back any longer. Boy am I right to not allow the pain I experienced from you to weigh me down or hold me back.
If you are reading this and have experienced ANY violence by the hands of a so-called loved one. Please seek help today. Do not delay for even one minute! If you are unsure if you are being abused, download my Is It Abuse Checklist in my Resource Library.
If it was recent, file a police report and document any injuries with a doctor.
No matter when it was, get yourself to a safe location and call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. They can guide you through the next steps.
Join our Facebook group and we will do our best to love, support, and encourage you as you walk through the entire process.
If you are a church leader and your church needs a new guideline for crisis intervention, so you are equipped to handle a situation like this, here is a good resource for you to learn more. https://leslievernick.com/counselors/ Or Contact me by email email@example.com for questions or to share your story.