Bethlehem Baptist Church, Pastor Jason Meyer, Domestic Violence, Emotional Abuse, Spiritual Abuse
Almost 1-1/2 years ago, I wrote an article about John Piper’s former church, Bethlehem Baptist Church (BBC) regarding domestic violence, Encouraging Shift from Bethlehem Baptist Church Regarding Domestic Abuse and Care for Abused Women. Around that time, BBC pastor, Jason Meyer, preached a sermon and humbly expressed how he and his church had not handled domestic violence appropriately.
You can listen to the sermon or read the transcript here: Fooled by False Leadership
The following is the opening paragraph of the Elders’ Statement which was also released at the same time:
Elders’ Statement on Domestic Abuse
We, the council of elders at Bethlehem Baptist Church, are resolved to root out all forms of domestic abuse (mental, emotional, physical, and sexual) in our midst. This destructive way of relating to a spouse is a satanic distortion of Christ-like male leadership because it defaces the depiction of Christ’s love for his bride. The shepherds of Bethlehem stand at the ready to protect the abused, call abusers to repentance, discipline the unrepentant, and hold up high the stunning picture of how much Christ loves his church.
I was cautiously optimistic about the steps Bethlehem Baptist seemed to be taking. They brought in professionals to help them learn and understand domestic violence signs. They professed to want a heart to empathize with women who were harmed by domestic violence.
One domestic violence case was ongoing at that time. Natalie had reached out to the Bethlehem Baptist leaders for help years earlier. But now, the church leadership was doing a complete overhaul in how they were going to counsel when there was abuse involved . . . . or so they implied.
One of the most destructive forms of abuse is emotional abuse. It’s destructive because it can go on for years. A wife (or husband) can get so beaten down by emotional abuse that she minimizes her own abuse, or blames herself for the abuse. When a woman finally understands what is happening to her and eventually reaches out for help, a lot of time has gone under the bridge. The very last thing she needs is to prove to her church leadership that she is being abused. But that is exactly what happens to so many survivors. The victim has to plead her case before her church leaders and is put on trial to see if the abuse she has claimed is in fact true.
It’s important to note that the church leaders at BBC were trained to understand about emotional abuse. Here is a quote from Pastor Meyer’s sermon from 1-1/2 years ago:
Emotional abuse is a pattern in the use of words and actions to assault, reorder, and control the emotions and affective state of the other person for the achievement of selfish ends. The more intense and longstanding the pattern, the more destructive it is to people.
So now, 1-1/2 years later, where is Natalie, and how has her case been handled?
I’ll let Natalie’s words speak for herself:
Last night the elders of Bethlehem Baptist shared a few blatant lies along with some half-truths spun in context of those lies. They planted a few false ideas that never came up in my case (infidelity?) as well as left out pertinent information in order to flavor their testimony against me to the congregation. They did this publically and shamelessly. They murdered me last night in the eyes of many people who will never have access to the truth. I’ve been scared to death for years of what they could do to me. How they could ruin my life. But I’m pretty sure lying about me and shaming me is the worst they can do. What they’ve indirectly done to my children is the thing that really breaks my heart and pisses me off.
Are you my friend? You scared to stand with me? The BIG D for Divorce will be on my chest soon, and I’m the one who initiated it! Sinner Woman. Jezebel. The unforgiveable sin. I’m a pariah now. An outcast. All because I couldn’t gut out the hell of being married to my Ex for another 25 years.
I’m sick to death of living in fear of destructive men and organizations who control other people by using THE BIBLE. By claiming they have the radar on God while others don’t. They say I was not emotionally abused by my Ex for 24 years. Like they know. They call my story a “biased narrative” so they can minimize and dismiss it. They say I have no right to divorce him. They dismiss the 23 years I worked my butt off trying to fix my marriage, cooperate with all the men-leaders, be respectful, be vulnerable, grovel in sorrow and repentance, and obey – and when I finally say I can’t do it anymore – my kids need me, I need to heal, to focus on God, to move forward, they call me “resistant.” I needed and asked for friendship and love. They betrayed me with a smile on their face and a Bible verse on their lips. They use spiritual abuse to control women and children and even other men. This is reprehensible, and I will spend the rest of my life exposing it wherever I see it.
Call me angry. Call me rebellious. Call me a lunatic. Call me a bitch. Call me whatever you want. Spew out your venomous lies to serve your misogynistic agendas. My Creator calls me Beloved. He calls me Daughter, and I choose to believe and obey Him. No more groveling. No more apologies. I wanted to keep this private and protect my Ex and my church. But Bethlehem is just chomping at the bit to excommunicate me publically [sic]. Fine. You want to bring this to the public square? (And don’t drivel about how it’s “private” within the church. That’s a silly notion rooted in unreality.)
I dare you to show support. And if you can’t – you’re no real friend of mine and no real friend of women and children, in general. You’re only a cog in the well-oiled system of abuse. Be gone from me.
Yes. There’s a big, fat, deep line in the sand, and it’s time to rock and roll.
I think BBC leadership has forgotten what they were committed to do 1-1/2 years ago:
Remember the point of these passages in 2 Corinthians and the emphasis on deceit, disguise, and cunning. Abusers are not walking around wearing wife-beater shirts any more than Satan’s servants are going to carry pitchforks or have 666 tattooed on their foreheads. Abusers can be so charming around other people—that is part of the deception. Do you think they will really show their true colors in public? Don’t judge by appearances and discount what a woman says with flippant incredulity. Think about how much she is risking by saying anything at all. Take it seriously. Tell her that you believe her, that God hates abuse, and that you are committed to help her.
Yesterday, after reading Natalie’s post, I was angry about Bethlehem Baptist Church’s response to Natalie, and the many other cases of domestic violence I have heard and read. I tweeted the following:
Bethlehem Baptist Church, will never walk in Natalie’s shoes. They will never experience what she has experienced. They are re-victimizing again when they put blame on a survivor.
BBC, please stop the facade of helping domestic violence survivors. If a woman contacts you about domestic violence, tell her to notify authorities, refer her to outside domestic violence resources and outside counselors, and come alongside her in practical ways as she negotiates her new life away from her abusive husband. Let her call the shots on whether she wants to stay separated or divorce. If she divorces her abuser, support that decision. She is protecting her life and her children’s lives. Be the church that defends and protects the weak and oppressed.
175 thoughts on “1-1/2 years Later, Bethlehem Baptist Church Doesn’t Seem to get Domestic Violence: A Personal Story”
I am so glad you are here. First of all, you don’t have to “prove” it to anyone. That is one of my biggest pet peeve’s with the whole patriarchal/comp church movement. They have you believing you have to prove wrong treatment? Well, abusers are really clever like that. They are rarely abusive in public or around other people. Most are charming.
I wish there were a strategy to deal with BBC to minimize the pain but based on my experience it doesn’t work that way in that patriarchal environment. I have seen these type dangle women for years with commands to pray harder, submit more, be more joyful while being verbally abused etc. etc. They tend to view women in these situations as redeemers. You are responsible for him changing? What a load to carry. That is his job. Not yours.
You don’t sound ready yet but I want to put the idea out there for when you are: officially resign your membership in writing, certified mail. At that point they have no right to deal with you at all. If your BBC friends are real friends and not just church friends, they will support you. Don’t count on it at all. Church People tend to have allegiance to the church and its leaders. Not individuals in the church. It can be a rude awakening. Start widening your circle now outside church. Church can become a sort of bubble world.
Like any abused woman, get an exit plan in place first, quietly. You don’t say if you are married or have children.
Btw, verbal abuse is not ok. It is a big deal and will wear you down to a pulp. It becomes your normal. Don’t let it. You are a valuable daughter of a King. You deserve to be treated with basic respect. Your personal life should be a sanctuary of sorts. Not a minefield.
My rule is I will only put up with it if I am paid well in a contractual situation and the client is a jerk. :o) but even that is short term.
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I switched devices and my name changed! Again! Sorry for confusion.
For the new Lydia (with the blue and white avatar by her name) who posted above who said she is being verbally abused by her husband. I am sorry your husband is abusing you.
I was slightly verbally abused by my ex fiance’ during the last year or so of our relationship, but I have been verbally abused on a consistent by my older sister in a more harsh way for years, going back to my childhood (my sister is way more verbally abusive than my ex ever was).
This book by Evans helped me make sense of the verbal abuse; it might help you too:
The Verbally Abusive Relationship, by Patricia Evans
– (Google books, free preview of several book chapters)
I had friends years ago who, after I described to them how my sister treated me, they told me that my sister’s behavior towards me was verbal or emotional abuse, but I was sort of in denial about it at that time.
It took me a long time to accept that yes, the constant criticism, put downs, attributing motives to me (she acted like she could read my mind), threatening me, and the on and off screaming of profanities at me, etc, was indeed abuse.
This book by Evans also drove home that my sister’s behavior was abuse.
Unfortunately, a lot of Christians out there don’t consider verbal or emotional abuse to be serious – not as serious as physical abuse – so they act like it’s no big deal.
Some of my family members are like this – when I described to my father a year or so ago (who happens to be Christian) how my sister verbally abuses me in private, he acts like I should just let it slide off my back like water off a duck. He seems to think I am too sensitive or thin-skinned (he doesn’t get it).
A lot of Christians don’t understand how painful and psychologically damaging it is for a person to be on the receiving end of verbal abuse on a regular basis.
It’s not a matter of developing thicker skin or reciting “sticks and stones may break my bones….” It’s not that easy getting over or ignoring consistent verbal abuse.
Julie Anne: Is Piper worshipped by his congregants over God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit? Haven’t read all the comments. Was thinking of Ted Haggard’s wife where was she going to go with the lifestyle home she had and monies, perks and five children and if she left splitting of attests, struggling and poverty; he was making $10,000 a month salary and how much in bonuses and perks with being a Pastor; heard there was an $80,000 year end bonus and wonder what all the other perks were given being a Pastor. Be interesting to see what his and all their assests, lifestyles, salaries are and perks, cars, houses, vacation homes, planes etc., in entirety own.
Headless Unicorn Guy: Like your comment about thinking with the wrong kind of head=too funny. 11/2 at 10:13 a.m.
Lydia: Will pray for you and that you will find a safe place and church. Sometimes you have to leave it all behind and start a new and that’s NOT a bad thing/item=new family, friends and HEALTHY=LIFE GIVING! Joy Unspeakable!
“I wish there were a strategy to deal with BBC to minimize the pain ”
Perhaps a bus load of assertive (non comp) women accompanying these women who want out could be a winner.
Seems like an Eldership vs one abused party isn’t fair game.
Maybe they need a taste of their own gang mentality.
Nothing is more threatening than a bunch of angry women who love Jesus and know their Bibles.
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To the BBC Lydia:
Don’t approach the elders. Listen, because of the publicity concerning current affairs, they’d be phoney to you (more fake and insincere than usual; and they are not qualified or equipped to deal with cases like yours; that is so evident). Take Lydia’s advice (NOVEMBER 3, 2016 @ 8:11 PM) and get the heck out of that church, ASADP.
Remember, you’re not leaving Christ, and stay away from “counselors” in any shape or form, no matter the pressure, and whether these so-called counselors are “certified” or not, it does not matter! True friends will understand; if they don’t, well remove them from your life like as you would bubblegum from a shoe.
I can guarantee you that once you’re free from that “church’s” shackles, things will look so much brighter because they will be so much brighter.
And contact Julie Anne too, as she has suggested. SSB is a smorgasbord of hit-and-runs, hit-and-stays, black-and-blues, touch-and-go’s (you know?), etc. But we are here to encourage and help. We’ve been through it, some are going through it, and some will still go through it.
Lots of love, and don’t be afraid. Jesus is with you always.
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My typeo was kind of funny, yes? Sect to sext; before long readers will think that I might need some Freudian pils. 😉
I just want to add my voice to the supportive people on this thread. Avid Reader is correct – if your gut feeling is that something is wrong, heed it. You know you better than anyone. You are not the problem, no matter how many people are pressuring you to believe that. Verbal abuse is every bit as serious as physical abuse; it’s all about power – the goal is to make you feel powerless, which is what you are indicating has happened, in your comment. The effects of verbal abuse are every bit as devastating to the person on the receiving end.
You are worthy of respect and genuine affection and you are deserving of same. I hope you can get out of the situation and make a new life for yourself.
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For New Lydia,
You’re probably up against a double-whammy (as I was) in that these types of churches are usually spiritually abusive. One of the best things I did was to educate myself!! It helped remove the haze and lift the fog. I would recommend The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderan. It helped me immensely!!! You need some help getting out of there so you can deal with life without the extra pressure of the church putting the heavy load on you. Praying for you! This group has been very good for me. I don’t comment much, but I read a lot and have been building my own strength. These things take time. ((Hugs))
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Seconded! Just remember you know the truth, you don’t have to prove it to anyone else.
I would prepare for the worst as far as church goes. If you ask them to approve your divorce they will stall and be difficult. If you go ahead and do it and even resign they can’t do anything about it but be angry.
You may find out who are your true friends.
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You must understand that just as an abusive spouse will tearfully apologize, feigning regret (which only serves the abuser, who perceives that they might truly lose the victim if they don’t do something fast to show they’re empathetic, and the one thing above all that terrifies an abuser is losing the one they so love to terrorize and hurt), that unless there’s a true change of heart, which is sadly so rare with abusive personalities, they’ll go right back to abusing, because abusers abuse, it’s like oxygen to them.
And so it is with institutions set up by fundamentally abusive people, they take on the heart and soul of the abusers who run them and become a reflection. Perhaps a year or so ago was Bethlehem Baptist’s “tearful apology” (when the leaders perhaps rightly perceived they might be in danger of losing members whom they love to lord it over), and now, they reveal their true hearts.
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Truth detector, I was alluding to the same thing in my previous comment. Eventually, these fakes’ true colors show…it’s all about them, always about them and no one else. Their crocodile tears fool only some; they feel nothing for the victim.
You call this “church” an “institution(s) set up by fundamentally abusive people.” So right you are.
But how many more lives are these spiritual fakes going to destroy? One’s too many. Someone else has said it: “Vote with your feet.” Get out of there, and let their money bags run dry; the sooner, the better…for everyone concerned.
“Nothing is more threatening than a bunch of angry women who love Jesus and know their Bibles.”
These guys are utterly TERRIFIED of the primal power of women period.
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I just wanted to echo Truth Detector and Boston Lady’s observations above.
I know from dealing with my verbally abusive sister and in reading books about verbal (and domestic) abuse by experts, abusers usually respond one of the same several ways.
Don’t fall for the abuser’s excuses and cop outs, and don’t allow church elders, family members, or anyone else, make you feel as though you need to accept your abuser’s excuses or rationales and keep putting up with the abuse. You have a right to be treated with respect, no matter what.
In the Evans book about Verbal Abuse I mentioned earlier, she said it’s futile to tell a verbal abuser that he (or she) is a verbal abuser, because they will almost always flip the script and scream at you that YOU are the verbal abuser, not them (even though this is not true at all).
As far as my sister goes, she has one of two standard reactions when I call her out on her abuse (I only started standing up to her a few years ago after a life time of taking verbal abuse off her), and I think this is somewhat common with other abusers:
When I stand up to my sister when she gets into her verbal abuse tirades, she either-
1.- Gets even more angry and starts screaming at me even louder and insulting me more, and she has the nerve to act INDIGNANT that I have the audacity to stand up for myself (rather than sit there in silence like I used to and be a doormat)
2.- She paints HERSELF as a victim.
She will tell me, “Pity me, feel sorry for me because I am only being nasty and hateful to you because my life is SO, SO very hard! My boss yells at me, my boyfriend cheats on me, my health is poor, my insurance won’t cover my medical bills” -(and on and on with a list of complaints)
As for point 2, I used to buy that as my sister’s excuse.
My parents raised me to think my feelings do not matter, but the feelings of other people do matter, even if that person is a bully who is picking on me. My mother taught me to be pathologically nice, pathologically understanding and empathetic.
So, what happened in the past, on the rare occasions I stood up to my sister or left the room in one of her tirades, and she’d be like, “Don’t get mad or hurt with me. I cannot help being mean to you. It’s not my fault. You see, I scream at you because my life is so hard.”
-and my mother taught me that someone saying THEY are hurting or stressed out like that is a valid reason for them to mistreat me.
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One thing I learned from reading books like the one by Evans is that there is NO EXCUSE for someone abusing someone else.
I’m not talking about an average (non abusive) person having a bad day. Even non-abusers have a rotten day at work, and yes, they might come home and snipe at a spouse or friend once in a blue moon – but this is not consistent behavior, and they usually feel remorse and apologize for it later.
Verbal abusers however, it is a consistent habit with them.
Verbal abusers choose to deal with their anger by lashing out (in private) at one or two targets.
I seldom deal with my anger by taking it out on an innocent party. I had a job once where I was harassed by a total jerk for a few years.
However, at no time did I take my work frustrations out on my sister or other people. I dealt with my work abuse by coming home and crying about it, going on bike rides, etc.
It dawned on me that since I am able to deal with work stress in ways that don’t hurt someone else, my sister dang well could also do the same, but she makes a choice to phone me and scream bad names at me and insult me.
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Many abusers (whether they are verbal abusers or physical ones) will always try to make the victim feel as though the abuse is her fault, or else they might do something like say THEY are a victim, so they should not be held accountable for dealing with their pain in life by abusing someone else.
That is bunk. They are totally responsible for how they choose to deal with their anger or stress (even when they are under job stress or whatever other trial in life they are under going) and they do NOT have the right to take anger, marital stress, or job stress whatever, out on YOU because they are having a bad day or bad month.
(Not only do books and blogs by psychologists confirm what I am saying in this post, but I’ve seen it in action with my sister and a few other verbal abusers and bullies I’ve had to deal with in my own life.)
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Don’t let anyone convince you – the abuser himself, friends, pastors, church elders – convince you that it’s compassionate, biblical, God’s intent, or your Christian wifely duty (or however they frame it) that you need to be this endlessly patient, understanding, sweet, ever- loving doormat who should stick around and endure verbal abuse off some guy, because that poor, poor guy is under so much stress, he’s so sad, his job is so tough, etc.
There is NO EXCUSE for this guy (or anyone else) to verbally abuse you, no matter how difficult his (or their) life is. You don’t deserve the abuse and shouldn’t have to put up with it.
It’s not up to you to change the abuser (you cannot do so anyhow), though goodness knows most preachers will try to convince you that you can change your abuser by submitting more, praying about it, being really, really nice to him, etc.
It’s up to the abuser to change himself, which he has to want to do himself. (That may involve him doing things such as getting into competent (probably secular) therapy or programs specifically to treat abusive husbands.) I would NOT rely on church counseling, biblical counseling, pastoral counseling, etc, for that.
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If you get the chance, I’d also encourage you to read Why Does He Do That? By Lundy Bancroft.
Right now you need as much support and strength as possible. Taking some time to study what your gut feeling is telling you could make the difference later in keeping you strong later when your friends don’t understand the reality that you live with everyday.
The other books suggested by everyone are also really good too. But I’d suggest starting with Bancrofts book.
what if I record what he is saying to me on my phone? will that hold up in an elder discussion? I’m terrified of going through what original poster went through. I am able to record him on my phone and get some doozies that they can’t deny. Or am I just fooling myself? honestly, I have no self esteem left to really deal with all of this.
and thanks for the support 🙂
Other Lydia, stand back and think clearly. Have a plan. Contact Julie Anne by mail; she’ll guide you in the do’s and dont’s. No one is going to hurt you; they don’t dare.
Always a good idea to let the cellphone roll while the action is on, but have a plan, okay? Get witnesses, etc. My advice? Speak to Julie Anne; she is a fantastic generous helper and assistant…she WILL help you the right way.
Have no fear, Other Lydia. Please don’t, okay? A brighter tomorrow is waiting. You are already very much loved here, can’t you tell? So, there, take comfort in that, and always take comfort in Jesus. Have peace, Other Lydia. 0)
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Other Lydia, es, I don’t like the idea of you meeting with the elders of BBC. They are not to be trusted. Please speak with Julie Anne. Please.
Daisy — our abusers sound so much the same. It’s taken a long time for me to verbalize it but my abusers have become deceitful ‘compulsive liars’ … one lie must be covered with another.
I am saddened that so many professing Christians will not come to the aid of the victim and then wonder why we walk away from the assembly. I have never forfeited my devotion to Jesus Christ, however I am convicted to NOT give financially to the assembling together of those who profess to be Christians but their obedience to the ‘full counsel’ of God’s Word is negligent.
The more evidence you have the better your chances are in a real court of law. However, you might want to ask an attorney if its legal to record someone in your state.
Keep in mind that even if you had a recording of what’s happening and played it for the leadership—if this is John Piper’s church—what are the odds that they believe the teachings of Piper? Stuff like every woman has to submit to every man in every situation even down to the housewife having to focus on being submissive when giving directions to a complete stranger. That’s an impossible standard.
If that’s what you’re facing right now—then we are all really worried for your emotional health. No matter how much evidence you have, it sounds like you’re in an environment that doesn’t want to hear your side of the story.
If anyone doesn’t believe that Piper actually said stuff like that—here’s the actual quotes
I’ve just read your cool piece on Amazon. The pied piper is…I don’t know how to put it, honestly…well,..a few donuts short of a bakery, sandwiches short of a picnic, six beers short of a six-pack? The clock is not ticking in there, is it? It never did, mind you.
And he has followers who worship him, and THAT is the scary part. It’s a nightmare. And he has like-minded amigos who have followers and worshipers. The nightmare is growing.
Watch Piper praying before his ‘sermon’.
Then compare it to Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:5.
The ultimate Matthew 23 profile.
You are an inspiration today. Thank you (on latest Phillips’ post too).
Come, Lord Jesus.
Thanks I sent an email to the site owner. I am scared and frustrated that life can be so hard. I have 3 kids and being a single mom scares me a lot because my family lives far away. I won’t approach the elders but I hope that Jason Meyer is better with this stuff than Piper.
Lydia, I’ve been traveling home all day today. I did get your email. I’ll respond soon! Sorry for the delay.
Let JA guide you further. I pray you ladies well! (I am not comfortable in my mind with this Meyer guy, cut from same cloth, sad but true).
Anyway, God be with you both! (and with your kids; remember; Jesus is with you).
“what if I record what he is saying to me on my phone? will that hold up in an elder discussion? I’m terrified of going through what original poster went through. I am able to record him on my phone and get some doozies that they can’t deny. Or am I just fooling myself? honestly, I have no self esteem left to really deal with all of this.”
Ask yourself why it is so important to you they believe you? To what end?
Do you really think they have the power and Authority to change your husband? They will most likely chide you for covertly recording your husband. How can you be trusted if you would do that, they will probably ask. This is how they think. They might even come off as fake sympathetic. That is how you get sucked into their discipline. They “care” about your marriage.
Remember, the goal is saving the marriage. Not you.
You have to take into consideration that doing this could actually make your day to day life worse. Now he knows you recorded him. So do the authoritarian elders.. It will just make him more vigilant to abuse.
Save it for a judge and if he is threateningly abusive in front of the kids, call CPS.
This stuff is hard to wrap your head around. Patriarchy talks a good game about protecting women but it is all talk. They view you as lesser, easily decieved and rebellious if you cause trouble. You are characterized before you even begin. You have not seen it in action. They are not who you think they are.
You need a well thought out exit plan. Many here know what that is.
Indeed many know the exit plan, Lydia; sadly, there is no winning with this cult, is there? Well, not immediately…
“They are not who you think they are.” There it is: the key to the whole thing.
Really great points. The only thing I could add for OtherLydia is another word of caution. It sounds like you’re in the type of environment that sees women as children and doesn’t understand your ability as an adult to make the changes you feel are necessary for the safety of you and your children. Chances are even if you could walk on water they’d still find something to criticize. But the good news is that you don’t need their permission or approval to follow your own conscience.
The ‘other Lydia’…
You do not need to say anything at all to ‘the elders’ nor to a man who like the title of ‘pastor’.
You answer to the Lord.
You have my full blessing as a self titled servant of Christ to get the hell out of that dung pile wrongly calling itself the Church and find a safe place for your sweet kids.
Don’t answer anyone’s questions.
It will not profit you a thing.
No one will hear you. They will just wait to load you with bible verses to guilt you into conforming with their religion.
You don’t need to stay with an abuser.
I grew up in an abusive house. It damaged me in many ways but I’m still standing because Christ is stronger.
You will be OK.
Lean on Jesus.
If you need to move to be close to family… do whatever it takes to get away from the danger.
I am wondering what exactly Jesus/God is supposed to DO. It seems to me that people would be of greater service to Lydia at this point. I am hoping that JA can offer some tangible suggestions as to real HELP for Lydia. All the best to you, Lydia,and I think you will find that you’ve got reserves of strength that you can rely on – and real people in your life – to help you out of the toxic situation you have found yourself in. Hard work and helping hands can achieve much.
Yes, real help from people is needed, that’s why we’re all here.
You’re lucky to not have been raised in an oppressive religious environment. Please understand that the necessary steps for women to break free from these groups may seem strange to people who were raised in healthy environments but are still very important stepping stones to freedom for those who were raised in damaging environments.
One of the first steps in breaking free from an oppressive religious environment is untangling ones self from years of being taught to follow the leader. For us who still want to believe in God, the easiest way to do this is recognizing that they can trust God without having to trust people. That they can hear God directly without assistance from any human mediator. That’s the really important point Salty was making because one of the deepest fears we’ve all had (we meaning people of faith) is that disobeying the group leader is the same as disobeying God.
For those of us who still believe in God, we have learned to see the difference between the God that loved us enough to sacrifice for us and a religious leader that demands we do all the sacrificing for him, opening our eyes involves realizing that we can let go of this group without letting go of God.
Please respect the fact that many of us want the comfort of knowing that the atonement of Christ covers our sins so we don’t have worry about being good enough to get into heaven. Yes, we respect your belief that heaven doesn’t exist but for us it’s a comfort knowing that all the good we’ve done in this life that was ignored or forgotten will be rewarded in the next life and all the really evil people who got away with hurting others in this life will face justice in the next.
So what does God do?
That gut feeling that warns us of danger and points us in the right direction to find help, we believe is God speaking to us.
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“I am wondering what exactly Jesus/God is supposed to DO. It seems to me that people would be of greater service to Lydia at this point. I am hoping that JA can offer some tangible suggestions as to real HELP for Lydia. All the best to you, Lydia,and I think you will find that you’ve got reserves of strength that you can rely on – and real people in your life – to help you out of the toxic situation you have found yourself in. Hard work and helping hands can achieve much.”
I actually agree with you. That is how it is supposed to work. Even for Christians. This idea that God forcibly changes people because they prayed for them more is hurting so many. The person has to want to change.
And tangible help comes from other people. All kinds of people.
Very sensible, Lydia. Good for you! My wish is that you’ve got many good and helpful people in your life. You sound to me like a wonderful person whose pragmatism will help you help YOU. Concentrating on THIS life and discarding the notion that you are somehow unworthy and sinful is a healthy start. We make mistakes – it’s the human condition; it’s how we learn. Onwards and upwards! 🙂
I know someone who has donated thousands & thousands of dollars quietly behind the scenes here on this blog and others. He doesn’t blow any trumpets about his giving, that is one way, of many ways, that Christians are being the body of Christ, being his hands and feet to the hurting. Lots of things go on behind the scenes that people are not aware of, my hope is that some will offer tangible help to the other Lydia. I know you don’t believe in God and I have no problem with that, IMO HE/SHE believes in you. When I was in one of the darkest nights of the soul & I reached out to others for prayer, I was comforted by the Holy Spirits presence, not every time, because I was in this very scary, anxious, depressed place for years. There are no words to describe it when you are in agony & people pray for you & a pin prick of light gets into your soul. So, I encourage people to continue to pray for the other Lydia and remember God works through his children. Christ has no body except for ours, we, those of us who believe, listen to His voice & care for the poor, needy, widow & victims of all kinds.
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He sounds like a wonderfully generous human being – a genuine humanitarian. 🙂
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I love you.
Jesus told us to give in secret and not toot our own horns for man’s praise.
I like His advice.
Far better to get his praise at a later time.
He loves you Carmen. 😚😚😚😚
My heart goes out to you and your children. I am so sorry that you have been subjected to such spiritual tyranny. Jesus would never do that. Others have given you excellent advice about how to withdraw your church membership in writing. Please do it, if you haven’t already done so.
Don’t give up on the institution of the Church, though. If you want an evangelical denomination, try the Evangelical Covenant Church. Their local governing body, a church council can (and usually does) include women. About 15% of their ministers are women.
If you want a Biblibically-based liturgical church, try the Anglican Church of North America. Their local governing bodies, vestries, also almost always include women, too. This denomination has a diocese-by-diocese option about women’s ordination. I think the diocese that includes Minnesota allows for female deacons, but not priests.
I’ll be praying for you. Your courage is an example for many women in situations like yours.
Your sister in Christ,
Update: BBC is hosting training THIS week. Darby Strickland in fact. She’s coming to speak to elders and pastors from BBC and TCT churches on recognizing and preventing abuse. If this isn’t a step in the right direction, I don’t know what is. #sanctificationtakestime #grace
Evenso, they’ve had training before and still have thrown domestic violence victims under the bus. I will believe they are “sanctified” when I hear it from survivors themselves, not them tooting their horn via training conferences. I wish I could be positive, and my long-time followers know that I posted about Bethlehem Baptist making changes in how they respond to domestic violence. But I haven’t seen it.
What confuses me about a victims right to determine their status as an abused victim is this: Are not both mates allowed equal rights? If victim status is solely up to the victim, then who is to correct anyone? As it has been routinely noted in these comments, the kettle is always calling the pot black, that is broken human nature.
To be honest we must let everyone be a victim or no one be a victim. When emotional abuse is the issue, who get’s to be the judge? The victim? The first to claim it? A certain gender?
When a spouse rants and raves, it feels awful. When a mate withdraws in silence for days, it feels awful. Now each will seek victim status. If we allow the rule of “only the victim get’s to determine their own abuse and no one else” then what stops both spouses from being victims?
To be clear, this is about emotional abuse, yelling and the silent treatment, not battery and murder.
In the end we have a divorce, both mates claiming abuse. But the only real victims are the children, no matter if they are young or old. Spouses have famlies to retreat to, children loose their famlies.
To be clear, the only real victims I see in our present emotional abuse/victim culture is our childern. Let’s not steal this honor from them, that would be abusive!
Calvin, it seems that you are trying to dismiss real emotional abuse. It also sounds like you really don’t understand how damaging it is.
Calvin is confused about a lot of things, I think. For instance:
Is the withdrawal here meant to be a reaction to the ranting and raving?
What is ‘victim status’? I think this is a huge issue, the idea that people this is a ‘status’ that one ‘obtains’. We don’t think this way about, say, robbery. A person stole from you, that is simply fact. A assaulted you, fact.
I know I did not initially understand emotional abuse at all, from the lists I read of behaviors. They sound often like things anyone can do. It is only through reading much more on this topic that I began to see it in terms of patterns and control.
Calvin, if he is at all sincere, should do much more reading on the topic. The idea that only children can be victims is just silly.
Calvin, Jesus yelled at the Pharisees and the Pharisees yelled at Jesus. Are you saying that Jesus was an abuser?
You need to frame the entire discussion in that way. It is indeed possible that with two people, one is the abuser and one is the victim. Yet, because of broken theology in the church, like what you espouse, we say “it takes two to break a marriage”. So, when the victimized wife comes to the church, the church seeks to raise her sin to the level of her abusive husband. Again, returning to the framing, it is as if we look Jesus in the face and turn his yelling at the Pharisees into a sin that is of the level of the abuse he received. Did Jesus really die as a martyr, or did Jesus die because he was an insubordinate rejecter of legitimate church and civil authority? In the same sense, did the wife get hit/yelled at because she stood up for herself, or did it happen because she was insubordinate to her “godly authority” husband.
Julie Anne, thank you for your work on this site and your desire to help us care for the abused. If I may, I would like to respond:
“… dismiss real emotional abuse. … don’t understand how damaging it is.”
It is my desire to join with you and many others to address abuse in our families and everywhere it occurs. I am sorry to have used words so easily misunderstood. I care deeply about the issue and hope to learn much about abuse through your Spiritual Sounding Board.
Lea, thank you for considering what I said. I think we are misunderstanding one another.
“Is the withdrawal here meant to be a reaction to the ranting and raving?”
The sequence of the behaviors become impossible to determine over the years marital abuse occurs. Both spouses seek the status (advantage) of being hurt first, since this defines the other as a perpetrator, allowing license to what otherwise would be abusive behavior. Not only is the victim awarded a license to withdraw or rant, they also reap the social benefit of being looked upon sympathetically, while the perpetrator is condemned.
“A assaulted you, fact.”
One tenant of understanding emotional abuse, as I have understood from researching Barbara Roberts blogs, is that a victim must be believed and others should not judge or investigate the validity of their complaints. This rules out the collection of data by a third party. Abuses like “bank robbery” or “assault” are evident to all, where as emotional abuse as I described above, is hard to detect, especially in the fog of each spouse blaming the other. If abuse victims, as described above, allowed third party accountability, then perhaps “facts” would be more relevant. I approach this matter in the context of highly valuing the feelings and experiences of both spouses. In fact, perceptions are often more important than facts. How one feels is most important- as long as everyone is allowed to feel without being disregarded.
“… I began to see it in terms of patterns and control.”
Both the silent treatment and yelling become long term patterns perpetuated to control or exert power over the other mate. I see no abuse as justified. Being shut out or yelled at hurts whether you are labeled as an abuser or a victim.
“The idea that only children can be victims is just silly.”
What I am trying to suggest here, is parents have a choice when they rant or withdraw, where as children are truly innocent victims of their parents behavior.
Finally, to restate. If we want to address one sided abuse, then we must be willing to talk about mutual abuse as well. If mutual abuse is not a thing, then ranting or withdrawal must be condoned as justified responses in the above scenarios. At this point genuine abuse loses because too often it looks a lot like the justified response.
Mark, thank you for reading my post and replying.
I like the way you frame the conversation. Jesus is a bit of a paradox. In Isaiah, he does not open his mouth and is a lamb to the slaughter (Is 53.7). In Matthew he is flipping tables over and using pejoratives (Mt 21.12). If we look at the overall context of the gospels, Jesus is mostly asking us to reconsider how we think (Mk 1.15), by forgiving much and loving much (Lk 7.47).
“…raise her sin to the level of her abusive husband.”
I apologize for not conveying my thoughts clearly. I think all must be responsible for their own sin. Each one must give an account and each should reap as they have sown. No one’s’ sins should “rise” or fall based on the actions of another.
“…did the wife get hit/yelled at because she stood up for herself…”
In the scenario I painted, there were two mates, one ranted and the other was silent. I did not intend this to be interpreted as a wife standing up for herself. I tried to illustrate a marital conflict rooted in mutual abuse.
My original post was seeking a deeper understanding on the concept of one sided abuse and the right of a victim to accuse their mate without any legitimate oversight. I am confused regarding who to blame if both claim abuse. If our rules protect the victim from accountability, then what rationale sustains denying this status to all who claim it?
I disagree. I think in most cases it is quite clear. You don’t see it because you seem to want to make some sort of point about ‘mutual’ abuse, which is why you now have the children as the only victims.
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Lea, I appreciate your insight here.
Abuse is real, both emotional and physical. My question remains, is there such a thing as mutual abuse?
My question remains, what is your purpose in asking?
Thought it might be helpful to add to the discussion this definition. This is from the blog Crying Out For Justice:
The definition of abuse: 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 (or her) 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.
The definition of domestic abuser: a family member or dating partner (current or ex) who has a profound mentality of entitlement to the possession of power and control over the one s/he chooses to mistreat. This mentality of entitlement defines the very essence of the abuser. The abuser believes he is justified in using evil tactics to obtain and maintain that power and control.
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Lea, I have two friends, whom I love dearly, both of their stories sound so similar. I am having difficulty determining who the real abuser is. They both feel hurt by the actions of the other and have now separated. They have a beautiful family and it is heart breaking to watch them go through this difficult period. They both tell me they have been emotionally abused. My purpose is to learn about “real emotional abuse” as Julie Anne mentioned so I can help my friends.
Incidentally, how do you get those marvelous italics in your post?
Thanks for your interest.
Avid Reader, I appreciate the definitions. I see one mate using intimidation by admitting to outbursts and I see the other controlling the relationship through days of withdrawal and silence. They both seem to be coercing the other to submit to their will. Their issues are over what appears to be minor grievances like who watches the kids, how the house work is done, and who works hardest to pay the bills. There is no physical abuse, no immorality, and both are hard workers. I just don’t know who to blame. I want to blame them both, but I don’t want to invalidate or minimize the real hurts they have experienced.
jc, I think there are situations like that, but they are very rare. I read an article that defined different types of narcissists and then talked about how they would interact on a first date. I’m sure in marriage, the gloves could come off.
However, that is not what we’re talking about here. I think there are general principles and there are unique circumstances. The general principle that many of the people have seen is that a true victim of abuse walks into the church, and the church tends to choose one of many abusive roles. That can be sin-leveling (Yes, he beat you, but didn’t God call you to be a faithful wife, including making sure the dishes were clean?), victim blaming (Yes, he beat you, but surely you were doing something that made him angry enough to do that), reconciliation-at-all-costs (Okay, that was bad, but you’re called by God to forgive him and go back)…
I think the point is that you start by believing the person in the room. The situation is going to unfold how it is going to unfold, and if it’s the abuser trying to use the church, or a mutual situation, I would like to think that a church that is devoted to the truth is going to uncover that, and if not, maybe they need to be protected from each other.
I also want to mention co-dependency. The co-dependent person, yes, is trying to manipulate the abuser, but there is still a one-sided abuser/victim relationship. The co-dependent person does contribute to the abusive situation and could potentially appear manipulative as well.
jc, ” If we look at the overall context of the gospels, Jesus is mostly asking us to reconsider how we think (Mk 1.15), by forgiving much and loving much (Lk 7.47).”
I disagree. Jesus is not a flat character. He is a real person with real likes and dislikes and a real personality. It is the evangelical church that tries to generalize Jesus, and even worse, tries to claim that Jesus’s strong emotions were really something reserved for God and his anointed leadership(TM) – anger, weeping, etc.
Mark, I agree that Jesus was a dynamic individual. But the theme of his stories centered on asking others to change their thinking and behavior regarding forgiveness and love. He also spoke much about faith, which relates to how we think and what we hope for. He also liked to talk about sin. Sin that is present in the abused and the abuser. In fact, as you indicated, in “rare situations” mutual abuse does exist. I think my mistake here is to define sin as abuse, but it is hard not to see sin as abusive. It is also hard for me to blame one mate and shame the other.
This treatment of Natalie is horrific. BBC does not represent God. He hates abuse and mistreatment of the defenceless. A church that does not defend His heart is simply not Hix church. BBC needs to stop speaking and acting for God. I dare say, they don’t really know Him.
Just saw this older thread pop up (Hi Karee Lee, I think most of us would agree with you on your point!) and had missed jc’s post here. It seems MIND BOGGLING to me that he/anyone would see withdrawal in the face of intimidation and outbursts as an unreasonable, controlling or abusive response. FWIW.
What else is a person supposed to do? Yell back or leave maybe. I’m sure both of those would be frowned upon as well.
If the ‘will’ in question they want someone to ‘submit to’ is ‘stop being a jerk’ then I’m entirely on that persons side.
Calvin Juelfs said
How do secular workplaces determine what is and what is not sexual harassment (or racism)?
Take that and apply it to abuse in relationships.
It used to be that when a woman on a job complained that her male co-worker Joe was sexually harassing her on the job or engaging in some type of sexist behavior,
Joe would get this complaint by Mary dismissed by saying that him doing “thus and so” behavior was only offensive to Mary, but in reality, the behavior was not offensive to him nor was it considered offensive by the other men in the job, in his opinion.
And that argument worked for quite some time.
So, from what I remember reading years ago, laws and corporate policies were changed, and sensitivity training that was given to employees in workplaces that explained that behavior is in part defined and understood to be sexist, sexually harassing (or racist, or offensive), if it is perceived as such by the target of the behavior.
I remember reading about sexual harassment in the workplace in the papers in the 1980s.
So often, women back then were expected by the culture and employers to endure sexually harassing work environments because men doing things on the job such as taping and stapling photos of nude women from nudie magazines on to work place walls, (like by the company coffee pot or water cooler),
was deemed by many male bosses as being,
“Aw shucks, that’s just boys being boys, it’s harmless, women who don’t like it are just up-tight prudes who need to shut up. We are not going to force the men to remove the photos.”
Many women who work around that stuff, though, find such imagery demeaning to women, it makes them feel devalued and threatened at the job.
In one such case I read about, the woman sued the company and, IIRC, she won.
The company forced the male workers to throw away all nudie women photos at the job and to stop displaying them.
In those cases, the women who found the behavior objectionable got to define that it was harmful to them – the men did not get to define what was offensive or not to that woman (or to women generally) and say,
“Well too bad Mary finds these images or such and such behavior sexist and offensive, because I do not, Mary will just have to put up with the nudie photos.”
That attitude about sexism in the workplace kept the status quo in place for decades, until the victims of the behavior were allowed to define what they found objectionable- the ones in power no longer got to make all the definitions about this.
If you have a relationship where one partner says that being continually lashed at by her partner, or being belittled, is harmful to her and she finds it abusive, then it’s abusive to her, and that behavior needs to stop.
If you are married to a woman who tells you that your constant put downs, yelling, and/or criticism is hurting her emotionally, and that SHE finds it abusive, I would think if you truly love her and care about her, you will stop engaging in the behavior she is telling you is abusive / hurtful.
If you want to understand what emotional and verbal abuse is, and how it is defined, and what it looks like, I already recommended this book up-thread for that:
_The Verbally Abusive Relationship, by Patricia Evans_
– (Google books, free preview of several book chapters)
Also this is a good post, it’s on page two of the comments section:
_Post by Avid Reader with explanations and definitions of Abuse_
I was emotionally and verbally abused in my family from the time I was a kid into my adult years, including by my older sister.
I did not realize their behavior was abuse until later in life.
Because when you grow up in a family where you are being abused, you assume that abusive behavior is acceptable and normal behavior and all families act like that.
I don’t know about this particular relationship you are talking about – what you are describing can either be a run of the mill couples spat, or it could be abusive, depending on the dynamics.
One thing you have to be very careful of is not assuming a 50/50 share of blame or responsibility in all marriages or relationships, because it may be an abusive marriage and not a garden variety marital spat.
Books on domestic violence explain that if one partner (and it is usually the husband) is abusive, that that partner’s problem is abuse, and there is nothing the victim can do or stop doing to make the abuser stop abusing.
Such a marriage won’t be helped in traditional couples counseling because a normal counselor will assume that there is more or less “equal” blame to go round, and the therapist will assume that the targeted wife can “change” her mate’s behavior by changing hers (by being nicer to him, by avoiding doing things that trigger her mate’s anger).
In abusive relationships, whether in marriage or in families, the abusers abuse because they are entitled, not because the victim they are targeting is to blame or is doing or not doing something to “earn” that abuse or bring the abuse about.
You can learn a lot more about that in the book “Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry And Controlling Men” by author Lundy Bancroft.
Some types of verbal abusers, as described in the book “The Verbally Abusive Relationship” have different styles of verbal and emotional abuse they use to keep their partner in place, and one thing some of them do is emotionally withdraw, give the cold shoulder, go silent for days, pout, etc.
Emotional and verbal abuse is very damaging to people, not just physical abuse. From skimming over some of your posts, it appears to me that you seem to only consider physical abuse to be harmful and are more dismissive about emotional / verbal abuse don’t consider it as ‘bad’ as physical abuse (?).
I was emotionally and verbally abused by my dad and older sister from the time I was a kid into adult years (it ranged from mild to moderate, and with my sister, it can run to severe at times), and believe me, it’s just as devastating in its own way as is physical abuse.
I believe it was the Bancroft book on domestic violence where he said many of the abused wives he has spoken with over the years have said the emotional and verbal abuse was much worse, and had longer lasting effects, than any of the physical abuse their husbands dished out.
Mark said, (and I’m not sure what comment by someone else prompted this)
I was deeply codependent for many years, as was my mother. I am now a recovering codependent.
(Christian gender complementarianism teaches women that girls and women having codependent behaviors is Godly, biblical, and good, which is part of the reason my mother and I were codependent.)
When you say codependents “manipulate people,” I just wanted to clarify that if they do, it’s not a cynical thing.
Codependents (and “people pleasers”) are very conflict avoidant, they are afraid to express anger or to possess boundaries,
And they may even believe that doing either is “being selfish,” and they don’t want to be selfish, because they believe they must always put other people before themselves, even at their own expense.
Codependents believe that the best and safest route to protecting themselves in a situation where someone is getting angry or abusive with them is to not react at all – do not show anger, do not be assertive, do not yell back – say and do nothing is their creed and motto.
(However, that strategy does not work – it actually enables the abuser to keep abusing. But you don’t realize that until after you are getting out of codependency.)
So, every time my sister (unprovoked by me) began yelling and screaming at me, engaging in her usual verbal and emotional abuse, and was threatening to me harm in some fashion, was somehow my fault, due to my personal sin?
The Bible doesn’t even say that.
When people assumed other people died or were born blind due to some sin of theirs, Jesus corrected them and said “No.”
See also the book of Job in the Old Testament:
God permitted many bad things to happen to Job, not because Job sinned, but because Lucifer and God had a personal, behind- the- scenes bet going on. God even referred to Job as being a “righteous man.”
If someone is walking down the street and gets mugged at gun point, would you say they are to blame because they did some sin, and God is getting them back for their sin by sending a mugger to mug them, or allowing them to be mugged? I don’t think the Bible teaches that.
The Bancroft book on DV gets into this a bit.
He says some abusive men, after slamming their wife up against a wall and giving her black eyes, will then cause further abuse (emotional) when the wife naturally reacts to getting beaten by the man by withdrawing: she will cry often, avoid the man for days, be skittish around him after being beaten, etc (all perfectly normal and understandable reactions to being abused by one’s husband).
The abusive husband will then point to THAT BEHAVIOR – that was caused by his abuse in the first place!! – to punish and blame her further. It’s abuse on top of abuse but then the abuser gas lights the victim.
It’s very warped.
My big sister does that sort of thing, too. She will verbally abuse me but then later blame me for it, though I didn’t do anything to instigate it.
(I spent years on egg shells around her, as a matter of fact, doing all I could to AVOID triggering her out bursts at me.)
And I’m sorry, I forgot to add.. to this…
When I was younger, and even into my 30s, and my sister screamed and yelled at me as she did, and if I cried as a result, or got up to leave the room to get away from her (I would not fight back, not until a few years ago), she would then scream and yell at me even more for crying, for trying to avoid her, etc.
She did not like how I reacted towards her abusive treatment.
It’s a person abusing someone else and then lashing out again when the target as a result of the abuse, cries, acts upset, acts hurt, acts scared of the abuser, etc.
It’s blaming the victim for acting and being hurt by the abuse.
Abusers cannot even accept the consequences of their abuse, but blame the victims for that too!!
It’s going to be a tricky situation, because people who are truly abusers will always claim to be the victim.
In the book by Evans about verbal abusers, she strongly cautions readers of the book to NOT confront their abuser by telling them, “You’re an abuser,” because, she says, nine times out of ten, the abuser will claim to be a victim and tell the victim, “You are the abuser.”
Abusers love to play victim. Abusers love to paint their victims as abusers. It’s what they do.
You keep talking about a married couple you know who each claim the other is abusive. You may never know from the outside looking in.
(I know this will rankle many, but I believe most abuse in our culture is the male on female variety, so I generally tend to believe the females in these cases, especially if we are talking about marital situations or workplace harassment claims.)
People who are trained in treating Domestic Abusers could probably make an accurate call on this, to determine who, if anyone, is an abuser in the marriage.
I think “mutual abuse” is the wrong phrasing.
It sounds as though you are describing every-day disagreements. A disagreement or a heated exchange is not necessarily “abuse.”
I had co-workers on one job I could not stand, and they were rude to me, but I would not categorize all their behavior as being “abusive.”
I did have one female boss there whose behavior, however, I would categorize as “abusive,” though.
IMO, the word “abuse” can be used more accurately when describing a troubled relationship where there is some kind of power differential and that differential may be physical, financial, or something else.
My boss on my job who harassed me – that was abuse.
Not just the manner of her behaviors toward me, and not just because it was a pattern, and because I felt it was abusive, but because she was one of my supervisors and had power over me to get me fired.
In some marriages, where the man is abusive towards the woman, often, the man is several inches taller and weighs 30 or more pounds than the wife – he has more physical power.
He may have control over all the purse strings in the marriage, leaving him all financial power, so the wife is trapped and cannot leave to get in a car and spent the night at a hotel, if she does not have access to credit cards, check books, etc.