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Divorcing Mamas: You Are Not Alone
You guys… my friends are being abused; their children are being abused. This is not a joke. This is their reality and they’re opening up to me about it. And the hesitancy and the fear these women have had in telling me and their loved ones about the abuse is palpable. And it makes me realize two things:
- Domestic abuse has got to stop. Now.
- We have to create a culture where women feel safe to tell their loved ones that they are in a toxic and/or abusive marriage and need to get out.
In the past 6 months, I have had more women come out to me about abuse and infidelity in their marriages than I can keep count. It’s heartbreaking and it’s horrifying.
The statistics are true – 1 in 3 women have been victims of physical violence by an intimate partner and nearly 1 in 2 women have been abused in one form or another (emotionally, physically, psychologically, financially, etc) by an intimate partner.
I used to read those stats and think, “No way. I know of almost no one who’s in an abusive or toxic relationship.” And then the floodgates opened. I’m not sure why all of a sudden I’m learning about my friends’ abusive marriages, but I’m incredibly grateful that my friends are telling me – telling someone.
And for mamas who are religious, this ‘coming out’ to someone tends to be even scarier as they have all heard the myths of “You must stay married at all costs” or “If you’re being abused, it’s because you’re doing something wrong.” In other words, his mistreatment and abuse of you is your fault.
And I’m here to tell you that that is not true.
And some of these women know that – they’ve been doing anything and everything to make their marriage work, to try to restore their relationship, but to no avail and oftentimes to their detriment as most women stay longer in abusive relationships than any human should. But some women believe the abuse is their fault, and this could not be further from the truth.
We live in a culture that tends to blame the woman when she leaves the abusive husband, when instead we should be seeking out ways to support her (and her children).
Leaving an abusive partner is not a decision any woman makes lightly; we need to realize that.
In fact, 1/5 of homicide victims with restraining orders are murdered within two days of obtaining the order; 1/3 are murdered within the first month. These women KNOW the dangers they face in leaving because they’ve experienced their husband’s manipulation and violence firsthand; so if and when they do decide to leave, please know this decision has been heavily, carefully and meticulously thought through.
So please don’t judge. Her body is spent. Her mind is fried. She is exhausted. And yet, late at night, her mind can’t turn off and she finds herself haunted by scary questions like:
- Who will believe me?
- Who will help me fight for my children?
- Where will I live?
- What am I going to do about money?
- Where will I go?
- What will my church people say?
- How will I provide for my children as a single mom?
- Who can I turn to?
These are but a few of the questions swirling through her head.
A friend recently reached out to me telling me of the horrific situation her husband has put her in and how alone she feels but that she knows she must fight to keep herself and her children safe, even if that means divorce. And the reason she reached out to me is because she saw that I “liked” a specific article on Facebook that was titled To Choose to Divorce is Not To Choose Failure. If I hadn’t “liked” that article or if she hadn’t seen my “like”, she would likely not have reached out to me to tell me her story. She felt relief that there was one person who wouldn’t judge her if she chose to file for divorce. And I was so grateful. But I was also sad.
Sad that a woman has to feel so alone, so afraid of what others will think and will say to her. She’s afraid for her life, for her children’s lives, and yet even more afraid of what people will think. This has got to change.
And while I can’t change society in one fell swoop, I CAN speak up and let women know they are not alone, and I will in no way judge them. To these women I say:
I believe you. And I love you. And I am so sorry you are going through such a scary and lonely time. But please know, you are not alone. I am here, as are other women and mamas who have walked this same scary road and lived to tell it. This can be you too. You can make it, and we will support you in every way possible.
So if you need to tell someone your dark secret, I am here. And I will do everything I can to connect you to the people and resources necessary to keep you and your children safe. You have not failed. You are unbelievably strong for doing what’s best for you/and your children.
Friends and family, please hear their story out. Don’t assume; don’t go off of rumors. If you don’t have access to firsthand information, then please refrain from judging and only offer love and support.
Let’s make this world a less scary place for women to tell their truth and to find a safe place for themselves and their children.
Resources for women (and their loved ones) who are in abusive relationships:
- How I Broke Free: This article’s tagline says it all –> Even smart, strong women can become victims. Six women share how they went from feeling helpless and crazy to seeing the truth of emotional abuse.
- Abuse defined: A pattern of coercive control (ongoing actions or inactions) that proceeds from a mentality of entitlement to power, whereby, through intimidation, manipulation and isolation, the abuser keeps his* target subordinated and under his control. This pattern can be emotional, verbal, psychological, spiritual, sexual, financial, social and physical. Not all these elements need be present, e.g., physical abuse may not be part of it. *Sometimes the genders are reversed.
Crying Out For Justice – an organization that provides a safe environment for victims of domestic abuse to be encouraged, validated, and believed, and focuses on awakening the evangelical church to domestic violence and violence in its midst.
Why Does He Do That? This book is such an eye-opener and game-changer for those in abusive relationships and need help articulating everything their gut is telling them. If you’re a friend or family member of a loved one in an abusive relationship, please read this book.
- To Choose Divorce Is Not To Choose Failure – All I can say is yes, yes, yes to what this author wrote.
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
[Image: siti fatimah]
I am so happy they have you to talk to.
I came out of a marriage where my husband was an abuser and addicted to porn. As a Christian I felt I had to do everything possible to save my marriage. To stand before God and know He was OK with my leaving. I now know He never wanted me to stay. He was crying with and for me.
God doesn’t want anyone to stay in an abusive relationship! I was letting other people’s opinions influence my perception of God.
Oh Anita, thank you for sharing part of your story with me. Yes, God is never okay with abuse! I’m so proud of you for taking such a hard step in divorcing and doing what was best for you. Thank you for being brave and for showing other women that they too can be free from abuse. Abuse is never, ever okay. Lots of love to you.