One of the survivors in REACH’s Survivor Speakers’ Bureau recently shared her experience with domestic violence and how it impacted her faith. Here is an excerpt from the story she shared.
I want to share with you about my experience with domestic violence and how it has affected my faith in God.
As a young adult, I moved to Boston to go to graduate school. I attended a wonderful church. I organized singles events, and I met this really charming guy. Everyone at church seemed to like him. We became good friends. I always hoped he would come to events that I planned, because he was good at putting people at ease. After about three years, he proposed to me. With the blessing and encouragement of everyone close to me, we were married less than a year later.
My husband was Prince Charming before we got married, but after our wedding, everything was about control. He kicked me in the leg or pinched my arms hard so that I got used to studying bruises as they turned from black to purple to green. He told me my friends were too nosy, and he isolated me from almost everyone who was important to me. He told me I was stupid. He did anything he could to control me. He punished me constantly for things like letting the door close too loud or interrupting him while he was watching television. I was afraid of my husband, but he didn’t break any bones or give me a black eye. It didn’t occur to me that I was the victim of domestic abuse.
I suggested to my husband that we go to our pastor for counseling. He said that if I ever went to our pastor for help, he would divorce me. Divorce? That’s not what I wanted. It seemed that my only other choice was to do everything I could to make things better. I applied the principles I learned in church about good communication skills, turning the other cheek and taking responsibility for my own faults before pointing fingers at him. I was hopeful that our relationship would eventually improve. I didn’t like the way my husband treated me, but maybe God was using him to make me a better person. I chose to be silent about how I was suffering.
Eventually, I was getting to the end of my rope, and I cried out to God for answers. Did He really want me to live out the rest of my days like this? I was so fearful that my whole personality changed. Was that His will for me? I was on the way to getting an answer, but for now, God seemed to be silent.
My husband moved away for his medical residency. With him away, I felt safer getting help. I’ll never forget the day I called my brother and sister-in-law to help me figure out what to do. My sister-in-law said, “Isn’t it interesting that you are telling us this now, and it is Domestic Violence Month?” I didn’t understand what she was talking about. I didn’t say anything about domestic violence. I only said I needed help with my marriage.
Over time, I started to learn about domestic violence, and I wanted to know if that was what I was experiencing. I found a pamphlet at the public library about REACH Beyond Domestic Violence. I joined a support group at REACH that met every Monday night. For the first time, I was among women who really understood what I was going through. Their stories were my story, too. I learned about the predictable patterns of domestic violence. It became obvious to me that I was in an abusive relationship. Many of the women had already left their partners , and I leaned into their wisdom. They didn’t tell me what to do. They didn’t judge me. They told me I was strong. They gave me courage. There was no agenda but to support me. I was gaining strength, and I began to hope that my life could be different.
I learned that my husband punished me because he wanted to control me, not because of anything I had done wrong. Once I realized that I was the victim of domestic abuse, I gave myself permission to protect myself. Protection. That’s what I needed. My experience at REACH helped me to leave my husband in order to escape a lifetime of domestic abuse.
I still believe in God, now more than ever. I had to stand on my head and shake up everything I believed. Ultimately, I discovered that God is so much bigger than I thought. He is not only the God of love. He is also the God of justice. He hates violence, and He doesn’t expect me to put up with abuse
Since the time I left my abusive husband, God brought a new and wonderful man into my life who soon became my husband. I thank God that I am free from a life of domestic abuse. I thank God for the staff at REACH Beyond Domestic Violence and the women in my support group who helped me get to where I am today. I am free to fulfill God’s purposes for my life, and my heart is overflowing with joy.