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November 21, 2016

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November 21, 2016

What Mary Doesn’t Tell

November 21, 2016
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Today’s post is from Rosanna Brubacker, who blogs at Thyme On My Path:

“Mary!” Ben yelled.  “Get downstairs and check your soup!  It’s boiling over!  How dumb can you be?  Don’t you know that you just don’t walk off when you’re cooking?  Hurry!”

“I’m coming.”  Mary called back.  Quickly she scooped little Jerry from the changing table and grabbed his pants. She hurried down the stairs and flinched as she came around the corner.  Her husband had risen from his seat at the head of the table and was standing at the bottom of the stairs.  His face was red and his eyes narrowed.

“You crazy woman!  What were you thinking?” he roared.  He shoved her towards the stove where the water was hissing up and over onto the stove top.  “How can you be so stupid!  Is this how you’re going to teach Angela to act?” He gestured toward the living room doorway where their eleven-year-old daughter was doing her homework.

“You were down here, Ben.” Mary answered shifting the baby to her hip opposite Jerry and the stove.  She tilted the kettle lid.  “Why didn’t you turn the stove down?”

“Quit back talking!” Ben shot back.  “I was working all day. There’s no reason I need to be doing your work, too!”

Mary and Ben are Mennonite.  Every Sunday they drive to church and listen to solid Biblical teaching.  Then they come home.  Sometimes someone makes a comment about Ben’s irritability on the job. Occasionally you hear a rumor about Mary and Ben’s marriage problems.  No one from church actually hears what goes on in their home day by day.  Maybe someone has heard Ben drop a critical comment about his wife’s laziness or disrespect toward him, but Mary never mentioned anything.

The inside story is what I am going to tell you about. Ben is an abuser.  Abuse happens in Christian families.  Abuse happens in Mennonite families. Abuse happens to Mary but Mary will probably never tell you.  She believes myths.  She believes that:

  1. Mennonite men do not abuse.
  2. She is not submissive enough.
  3. She is not competent.
  4. She is powerless.
  5. She must not tell anyone what Ben is like because it would be complaining.
  6. If she does tell people no one will believe her.  Ben is really a wonderful man in church. He is an excellent song leader and he is a very spiritual man.
  7. If she does tell people and Ben finds out, Ben will be so angry.  The first time he hit her she told her mother and her mother told her dad.  When Ben was approached by her dad, Ben told her dad that he “just lost it because Mary was so rebellious.” He promised never to do it again.  That lasted only till Ben got home that night.  He smacked her across the face and told her that if she ever lied about him again, she would “get it” worse.

Mary just goes to church and smiles. And you do not know what goes on in your church.

How will you help Mary?  Many of us live in denial about abuse statistics.  For every Mary who gets help there are many more women who do not.  Abuse happens to one out of every four women and it happens in various ways.  Here are some forms of abuse:wheel_power_and_control4

In conservative Christian homes, these things take place.  They take place in Amish and Mennonite homes as well as in every other cultural group.  Again, what are we going to do about it?  First, let’s get rid of the myths.  We already addressed number one.

Abuse is not caused by women not being submissive enough.  Nothing any person does warrants abuse. God has given us a plan to address offenses in Matthew 18:15-17, James 5: 20, Proverbs 27:6, and Jude v. 23. God does not want violence to happen in the home.  Men are not exempt from the command to be kind simply because they are husbands. Women are not exempt from the command to warn her husband to repent from sin just because they are wives. Kindness and accountability should begin in the home because it is the place where little children learn how to treat other people, including their future spouses. Domestic violence is a choice by a man to step outside of God’s plan for relationships. In other words, abuse is sin. To read more about a man’s choice to abuse and the root of it, pride, click here.

Abuse causes people to become incompetent.  To destroy someone fast, tell them they are stupid.  After being told this often enough they will believe it.  Encouragement, kindness, and loving correction causes people to grow and become competent.

Abuse causes powerlessness.  Loving godly people empower others and lift and encourage others and esteem others.

Love is honest.  Love does not lie by covering up wickedness.  If one approaches an offender with truth and kindness and honesty and humility and the offender chooses to hate, then the Bible gives clear direction not to fellowship with that person. Avoid picking up the habits of that person.  Remember, love is kind, but love does not lie.  Love brings into relationship with God, if the person is willing.  If the person is not willing, be polite like God has taught you, but do not enter into sin with that person by covering it up.  Stay out of their sin.

Sadly, number six is all too true in our conservative Anabaptist churches.  We do not believe people who complain of abuse.  Think about this:  For a conservative Anabaptist lady to admit that she is being abused is very painful and humiliating.  That the man who vowed to love and cherish her until death has betrayed her is a horrible thing.  That she believed him and now must admit that she has no faith in him, no confidence that he will not hurt her is humiliating.  That she cannot be loved like the other women in her life are loved by their spouses is deeply painful.  When a woman in our circles admits abuse and asks for help, believe her!  She is far more likely not to tell you of the depravity into which her husband has fallen than she is to exaggerate.  Take her words to heart and believe her.

Lastly, protect her.  Do not confront her husband until she is safely away from him.  A man who is abusive will lie to you and then punish his wife for talking.  A man whose shame is exposed will do anything to keep it hidden. In most cases when a man beats or murders his wife, it is because she told the truth.  The most dangerous period of time in a domestic violence case is when a woman separates to keep herself and her children safe.  Be prepared to protect her and the children.  To learn more about safety planning, click here.  Please do not underestimate this detail.

Most men who abuse try to isolate a woman.  A husband will try to limit his wife’s contact with others including her family.  He might disconnect the telephone or hide her cell phone after abuse incidents.  He might tell her that she cannot visit her family until she jumps through hoops to make him happy.  He tells her that her friends do not like the way she dresses or how she acts in order to limit her ability to tell the truth to them.  He might control all the finances or give her an allowance because he wants to limit her ability to get help and possibly survive apart from him.

I am an abuse survivor myself.  I have talked with many Mennonite and Amish women (we are not exempt) who have survived domestic violence.  The story I told you is only a mild glimpse into what occurred in some of their lives.  A few of the woman I personally know have horror stories.  Stories of being raped, choked, beaten, stalked, threatened, having children who were molested by their husbands…  the list goes on.

A woman who has survived abuse may appear weak.  She may have children who bounce off the walls and seem uncontrollable to you.  They are reacting to trauma.  Help her to get counseling to deal with them.  Do not treat them differently then you expect to be treated.  They will survive.  They have already survived far worse. Do not make decisions for a woman who is recovering from domestic violence.  She has had choices taken away from her long enough.  She may make poor choices at first, but she will learn.  She will grow and she will blossom into a confident happy lady in a few years.  It takes time to recover and to grow into the woman God meant for her to become.  Do the opposite thing an abuser would do.  Give her choices. Let her make the decisions involving herself and her children.  Encourage her and love her.  If you have any questions about what love looks like, read I Corinthians 13.

Emotional abuse and verbal abuse are far more insidious and frightening then physical abuse.  I hear of those who say, “Was he physically abusive?  Well, if not…”  No!  The emotional abuse and verbal abuse is what damages a woman far worse than physical abuse.  Physical abuse can wound, but wounds heal.  The fear, self-hatred, doubt, pain and sadness that psychological abuse inflicts on the lives of women and children who survive it are barriers that stand in the way of healthy relationships.  They also stand in the way of relationship with God.  “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (II Timothy 1:7).”

***

Rosanna BrubackerMy name is Rosanna.  I am a member of a conservative Mennonite church in Lancaster County, PA.  I am a working mom of three wonderful children.  My daughter and son are teenagers and my youngest son is not quite a teenager. I enjoy my friends and family and warm sunny days.  When the days are not warm and sunny I enjoy listening to the elements snug in a blanket with a cup of coffee in hand.  I am a domestic violence survivor.  God doesn’t allow us to stay in victim mode.  He’s bigger than that!  I am so grateful to Him whom I love and live for and Who has blessed me abundantly!

27 comments

  1. I’m not so insulated as to not know these things go on, even close to home. Nevertheless, I simply cannot wrap my mind around men (especially Christians) treating women (even their wives) in such ways. Oh, I know the root cause, alright. But my mind just won’t wrap around the reality. Thank you for this post.

    1. I feel the same way! I grew up with a loving and godly father, and it is hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that loving and godly isn’t the norm for every man who claims Christianity. I asked Rosanna to share because this is a subject I know little about, but know that many women from many backgrounds deal with abuse issues. We, in the Christian church especially, should be first and best in supporting and nurturing our women. We need to know about the issues, not just brush wrong under the carpet or assume that it’s not really a problem in our circles. Along with you, I thank Rosanna for sharing this post.

  2. I know this stuff goes on and is very real. All the more reason to be thankful that not all men treat their wives like that and also am so very thankful that I have a husband that is so loving and caring. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I’m thankful for the loving and caring men in my life as well. There are many of them! And they inspire me to want to be a good woman, even if they’re my brothers and my dad, and not actually my husband. 🙂 Thanks for commenting.

  3. Thank you for this post… As an older person , I still see this in our Anabaptist Churches today. Very sad indeed.
    Here is another question : What would you say if the women is guilty of being abusive to our husband to the extend where she has distroyed him ?

    1. This is a question that came to my mind as well. You don’t hear as often about women being abusive to men, but it does happen. Or abusive to the children while the husband looks on. I’m wondering if Rosanna or others have any thoughts on how to deal with those situations? What constitutes abuse if it is the woman who is the aggressor?

    2. I do not have experience with this. The cases that I hear of are women. In our plain circles men are recognized as the leaders in the homes so it seems that if abuse occurs toward men, it is very likely more verbal or emotional abuse. As a woman in our culture, I do know that we women are quicker to call out a fellow woman who abuses her husband in this way. Statistically, I’ve found some US information from the state of New York that sheds some light on reported domestic violence by gender. http://www.opdv.ny.gov/professionals/abusers/genderandipv.html I don’t have any information to offer on this subject, personally. A man who is abused has a pretty strong patriarchal system set in place to back him up if he goes to the leaders of the church for help. Unfortunately, the only ones that I know of who claimed abuse by their spouses were actually discovered to be the abusers. I hope that the husband of an abusive wife would find a counselor who would offer them help.

      1. Quote: “Unfortunately, the only ones that I know of who claimed abuse by their spouses were actually discovered to be the abusers.” I find this quote contradictive: If the wife complains of being abused she is to be believed , not so the husband. Hmmmmm. In any case I have a mother who was verbally, emotionally abusive. – she is an angry woman, is narcissitic. Preachers have confronted her but she knows the language of maniplation and uses it skillfully. She is a liar….How does one deal with such a person? I have decided to keep my distance hoping others who believe her will become aware of the depth of depravity that resides there. In the meantime her husband has died and I grieve over the pain she inflicted upon him….

  4. Very well written. It is a sad situation that this can happen in any relationship…even more so in a church setting…and even more so in a Mennonite/Anabaptist setting which tends to be steeped in sound doctrine. One thing I thought would be a nice addition to this is that there is a danger which comes in the passage in Ephesians 5:22 which says “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” I believe this verse is taught FAR too often without proper context or explanation. A few verses after we find (vv 25-28) “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.”

    I mention that passage because I believe the church makes a mistake when they teach the submission of wives but fail to teach that husbands are to lay down their own lives like Christ did for the church. The section on submission does not grant husbands the right to lord over their wives and mistreat them. In context we see that the relationship should be one of equal love and respect for one another (v 33 even points directly to that). A man would not abuse himself and thus, as they are both one flesh (v. 31) he should not be abusing his wife. Even more so, in the grander picture, the context does not end in chapter 5 but carries into chapter 6 in dealing with children and even bondservants. Ultimately it comes down to being a passage on maintaining order, not creating fear.

    There are many more verses which can be found showing that marriage should not consist of fear, abuse or anything along those lines. I just felt that this was a good starting point for a conversation that needs to happen so that men can learn a little more about what being a real man means.

    God bless you and thank you for sharing!

  5. Thank you for sharing,one of my disappointments and frustrations is trying to educate conservative people on this issue.there seems to be a resistance to understanding and learning the truth about what is going on in abuse. There seems a lot of focus on the victim doing better or trying this or that rather than holding the abuser accountable.We are brought up in a culture that teaches us “do the right thing and you get the right result” which is often even how we are taught to relate to God.I have wondered if there is dark power protecting abusers from people seeing who they are.they seem to be able to confuse and hide so well.

    1. A dark power…that is something to think about and be aware of.

      Your thought about our culture teaching “do the right thing and you get the right result” struck me, because I think that is very often my own attitude. And I wouldn’t have realized there was anything inherently wrong with it. I DO know that doing everything just right doesn’t make me more “worthy” in God’s eyes. I’m not saved by good works. And obviously none of us can control other people’s choices, so even if our own are ever so right, we may still get hurt. We control our own circumstances far less than we believe we can!

      Still, doesn’t the law of sowing and reaping teach that wrong choices bring bad consequences and right choices good ones?

      1. It does. Choices have influential and far reaching effects. I can choose to do right, but that doesn’t mean someone else will do right. That is where we get confused. I think God intends for us to influence each other and be a light to others by our actions and conduct. But others have a choice to respond positively or negatively. We can’t violate freedom of choice. “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”
        We can put salt in his food, but the horse still has to be the one to drink. Excuse my crude analogy!

        1. It is an apt analogy. It is easy for me to feel guilty over others’ choices–“if only I had done or said this, they might have chosen this,” etc. And I remind myself over and over again that I am not God. And I cannot put myself in that place.

    2. I have seen the above happening and have to wondered about the devil’s role in keeping things hidden. Thanks for the article Roseanna and the comments that are being made by readers. Very enlightening.

  6. I read this and in my mind I was seeing a wife and mother being the abuser because I have witnessed it. She can be very religious, also. All I can say is that it is terrible. The hurt and pain lingers for a long time. Part of the abuse is when they apologize only to never repent and continue with their anger, strong will. In the case I am referring to it is known there is unconfessed sin and this guilt drives the anger and abuse.

  7. There is a blog “Our Stories Untold” that shares stories and lessons about abuse by leaders in Anabaptist groups, particularly churches and institutions, how the leadership covers it up and protects the abusers. It is painfully sad to learn about, far worse to experience. However, not learning about abuse leaves us all more vulnerable. I am thankful that more attention is being brought to this serious problem. Light is being shed on this.

  8. Thank you for speaking out on this subject. I am very frustrated that women and children in abusive, Mennonite homes are so unprotected. The church is seen as the only resource (not a hotline or emergency service), but the church is under-resourced. Men are given the benefit of the doubt and women and children are seen as unsubmissive. That simply feeds the common victim mindset that the victims are to blame for their own abuse, and adds shame to an already shame-inducing situation. I hope that I will live to see reform in the way abuse is handled in Mennonite churches. I’m not in a position to be a part of that movement right now, but I’m so happy to see that not everyone will be silent.

  9. So I am a little late to this conversation so am not even sure you Rosanna will even read this BUT I want to say how grateful I am that you are not only willing to post this but to publicly identify yourself ! that takes courage !! I just finished reading Luci’s book -and remember my parents talking about living in that area. . It made me wonder how many churches have split to cover up the abuse or have ostracized those who were willing to come forward and confront those who were abusing. I can remember the look on some people’s faces when I told that “If I ever heard of abuse I would have no problem calling the police” -now I understand their reaction !

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