Spouses suffering abuse find empowerment to leave destructive marriages in secret online groups

Emotionally abused spouses say they struggle to find help in their churches, told God will be angry with them if they consider divorce

Credit :

A burgeoning cadre of secret online groups are educating and empowering emotionally abused spouses within the Christian community about their options to help them escape destructive relationships. 

According to authors Gretchen Baskerville and Cindy Burrell, along with a woman who recently escaped an abusive marriage and spoke with The Christian Post on condition of anonymity, these online communities are providing a vital lifeline to spouses who are suffering in agony. Many have been taught in churches that the only grounds for divorce are adultery or physical abuse. 

The women (and a few men) who are in these destructive relationships are often suffering from a variety of chronic health problems, and their lives and physical well-being almost universally improve once they're able to leave. Most unfortunately, however, far too many churches that claim to hold high a view of marriage have failed to grasp the devastating impact of abuse that's neither physical nor sexual. 

Get Our Latest News for FREE

Subscribe to get daily/weekly email with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

Emotionally abused spouses, these women say, largely consider pastors and other church leaders to be the least trustworthy people in their lives because they don't understand the abuse dynamics that psychologically entrap victims. They strongly believe that many pastors and leaders have also been blinded by certain theological paradigms that prioritize keeping marriages together at all costs and that abused wives must stay married "as long as he's not hitting you or cheating on you."

Baskerville, the author of The Life-Saving Divorce: Hope for People Leaving Destructive Relationships, says many Christians are confused about what the Bible says about divorce.

To clarify what the Bible says and help those suffering in silence, she started an online group for abused spouses last year and it already has over 2,000 members, all of whom have been screened.  

In an interview with The Christian Post, she explained that she and most women who run these online groups are strong believers in the sanctity of marriage, and it was God's intention for it to be loving, undefiled and lifelong. When these women got married they fully intended to honor their vows and very much wanted a God-honoring covenant.

Gretchen Baskerville, author of 'The Life-Saving Divorce: Hope for People Leaving Destructive Relationships.'
Gretchen Baskerville, author of "The Life-Saving Divorce: Hope for People Leaving Destructive Relationships." | Courtesy of Gretchen Baskerville

"So what happens when it's the opposite? What happens when it's not just unloving but it's destructive or even dangerous? Abuse does defile; it's not loving or respectful," Baskerville said. 

And the failures to understand this are compounded further by certain dynamics present in U.S. politics over hot-button social issues. For socially conservative, small-o orthodox evangelical Christians to admit that there is abuse within Christian marriages is particularly humiliating and a struggle because it wrenches their general outlook on life and theological worldview.  

"We're supposed to have great marriages because we have Jesus. And we're supposed to have emotional closeness, godly love, and amazing sex because we did everything right," Baskerville said of this mindset. 

But many women never got that, despite their best efforts to live in accordance with Christian teaching on the subject, she maintains. The reductionist formula of husband + wife + God = great marriage does not prove true for everyone. Complicating matters further for abuse victims is the belief that God can and does work miracles and, therefore, He can and will restore struggling marriages. Divorce, then, is viewed as largely unthinkable.

"They'll say, just try harder, or pray more, or fast more, or be more agreeable or sexually enthusiastic. And as to why your husband isn't changing or your wife isn't changing ... many pastors just can't deal with that reality, so they end up blaming the victim," she says of what happens all too often when women dare to approach church leaders and explain how they're being mistreated in their marriages.

"But God doesn't change people against their will and if God can't change them how in the world can we?" Baskerville asks.

Cindy Burrell, the author of Why Is He So Mean to Me?, had no idea there were so many women just like her: Women enduring abuse in their “Christian” marriages. 

Seeking validation that what they were enduring was real while failing to find support in most churches, in 2009 Cindy started a website ministry, Almost immediately, women began contacting her who had discovered her website and read articles she posted, many of whom described her own journey. The experiences of the women who reached out closely mirrored hers. 

Burrell told CP that she was married for 20 years to an abusive man, and he never hit her.  Though her ex-husband professed to be Christian, looking back, Burrell doesn't believe he was a believer at all. It was only after she was able to escape the marriage and began reviewing her journals that she was able to see with clarity the patterns of abuse she endured for all those years. As more and more women started contacting her she knew that her personal situation was not a random one-off. 

"The abuse dynamic is so consistent it's almost shocking," Burrell explained.   

Author Cindy Burrell, founder of the website Hurt By Love.
Author Cindy Burrell, founder of the website Hurt By Love. | Courtesy of Cindy Burrell

She self-published Why Is He So Mean to Me? because she couldn't find a Christian publisher to carry it, and when she started she knew of no other websites addressing these issues. But her ministry has grown since then. Earlier this year, Burrell has released a new book, Reformulating the Christian Marriage Counseling Model Where Abuse Is Involved.

The most powerful aspect of the group she proctors on her site is being able to assure other victims that they're not crazy and build them up in the truth of God's Word about who they are in Christ and God’s heart for marriage.

Abuse survivors who are trying to exit a destructive relationship "live in a constant state of fear and confusion, and they're often isolated from any kind of support. So to be able to come alongside them and say, 'Let's bring it down. Give me the specifics; let me validate you.  What you're experiencing is not normal. It's not healthy; it's not biblical, and you don't have to live this way,'" are important words to hear.  

Yet it's an uphill battle because almost every abused wife has heard that "if he isn't hitting you, you have to stay," or that if they have faith "God can move mountains." 

"But we don't have control over another person's will," Burrell said, echoing Baskerville. 

Life with an abuser

After fleeing her abusive marriage, a woman we'll refer to as "Katie" in this article to protect her identity, stressed to CP that Christian women are not required by God or His Word to suffer year after year in an abusive marriage. An abusive marriage, she maintains, is distinctively different from a difficult one. 

Katie said she first met her now ex-husband "Rick" (also not his real name) at church. It seemed like he had his act together and he appeared to love God, just as she did. She saw no relational red flags but noticed that he was especially meticulous, something that she didn't consider a negative trait at the time. She was married to Rick for 33 years and he never once hit her. But he was very intimidating and controlling. He'd block her in rooms, was verbally abusive, and would sometimes embarrass her and shout at her in public places. 

"Life with an abuser," as she calls it, is “living at DefCon1 all the time."

"I was willing to let him be him. But what I found out pretty quickly was that he was not willing to let me be me. He was interested in molding me and forcing me to be the version he thought I should be," she explained. 

Years of this mistreatment precipitated both mental and physical deterioration.

"I just could not get un-tired," she said, realizing how the ever-present anxiety she was enduring in the relationship was causing her body to break down physically. 

She remembers awakening to the fact that the persistent fatigue she felt was more than the demands of her job as a teacher or as a mom to young children should normally yield. 

"I know it's abusive; I know it's destroying me, but I don't want God to be mad at me," she said of her thinking when she pondered separating from her husband. 

Yet upon reading about how stress affects the body, particularly how it impacts the bones — she discovered she was pre-osteoporosis in her 40s — she knew something had to give. With cortisol flooding her system from the near-constant tension and stress, she wound up not caring what God was going to think of her because her body and mind were disintegrating. 

"I felt at the time that I couldn't have God and save myself at the same time. So I let God go. He's just going to have to be mad at me," she said of her frame of mind in 2013, "because I can't do this anymore."

What mentally freed her up to finally take steps to start leaving was realizing that what was happening to her was not just bad behavior but all part of an entitled, abusive mindset. She realized she was powerless to stop it and the only workable option was to distance herself as much as possible. 

"It's not like I was done with God, but I put up a wall there. I said: 'I can't afford to try to please you [by staying married] and survive. So I'll survive and I'll worry about that later,'" Katie said. 

"I didn't know how to reconcile those two things while everybody in the church was telling me that if you do or consider this, or even talk badly about him, that God is going to be mad at you."

The arbitrarily drawn lines in churches

What, then, is the difference between a difficult marriage where couples have issues — often painful ones that they can work through — and an abusive one?  And when does a difficult marriage cross the line into abuse territory where the relationship becomes destructive and irreconcilable? 

Burrell believes it all comes down to the issue of the heart. 

"And that's between us and God," she said, adding, "if you have a lackadaisical view of your marriage you're going to find an excuse to leave. But I've never dealt with one of those people.

"All the people who have managed to find me are heartbroken and desperate and have done everything they know to do. And they've busted their butts, they've jumped through every hoop, prayed their knees raw, and wept an ocean of tears, and [Christian] people are still saying, 'Well, you know, if he's not hitting you,'" she reiterated.

One woman whom Burrell ministered to had a teenage son who approached her about his dad, her husband, who was abusive. The teenager told his mother: "I don't understand why you don't divorce my dad."

The woman told him that she thought God would be disappointed in her if she divorced him. 

Her son replied: "I don't think I want to believe in a God who would make us live this way."

That was her wake-up call and she divorced him, realizing the mistreatment they were enduring had nothing to do with honoring God, that it was a sham and a mockery of His design for marriage, Burrell explained.

Baskerville is of the persuasion that divorce can be scripturally justified for the four A's: adultery, abuse, abandonment, and addiction. Though positions vary and nuances abound, many evangelical Protestant churches and denominations draw theological lines permitting divorce only for adultery and abandonment. 

"You can imagine that if people being told that they are going to displease God, that they are sinning if they divorce for physical or emotional abuse, then they're going to, probably, if they need to save their life and their sanity and their children, they're going to have to walk away from the church," Baskerville said. 

"A few churches will accept them, and I have some stories about pastors who did a wonderful job in supporting and encouraging people who were victims of emotional abuse, and sadly, many stories of pastoral counselors who didn’t."

In her own Christian Facebook group, Baskerville posted a poll asking everyone who it is that they go to for support, and the result was that their pastor was the last person they trusted to help on the matter. 

"Our church leaders have made a horrible mistake. They treat all marriage problems as mere normal ups and downs. They assume conflict is due to soft reasons like childcare issues and poor communication and household chores and growing apart, falling out of love, rather than accepting the truth that half the divorces are for hard reasons like domestic violence and repeated sexual immorality, drug and alcohol addiction, and coercive control," she added. 

"What makes a pastor think that invested spouse — the one who is willing to buy all the marriage books, find a marriage counselor, the one who is willing to go to all the marriage retreats, the one who is willing to turn themselves inside out to be more agreeable, more submissive, more sexually available — can single-handedly fix the marriage? What makes the pastor think that the invested spouse has any more power than God does? Even Jesus didn’t change everyone He met. Judas, the rich young ruler, the religious leaders … they all made their own decisions."

Emotional abuse from narcissists and others with destructive character problems is often so insidious and it grows so gradually over time that it often takes a while for the abused party to realize that what they are enduring is indeed abuse. For many, the light bulb goes off in their heads when they see the Duluth Wheel of Power and Control, a tool often used by social workers that helps explain the different ways an abusive partner can use power and control in order to manipulate a relationship.

Unfortunately, some Christian pre-marriage resources don’t warn couples about problems that could in fact ruin the marriage and might be so serious they might want to call off the engagement.

Over 35 years ago, Baskerville and her ex-husband went through the premarital workbook Before you Say I Do by Norm Wright.

"It assumed that two people who identify as Christians will never have any serious issues because they'll always care for each other's best interests. It's incredibly naive," Baskerville said. 

The words "adultery," "lying," "cheating," "betrayal," "gambling," "pornography" and "addiction" never appear in the book, she said. 

Surely today, given how American culture has changed in recent decades, the book would have been updated to address these issues, Baskerville thought. But no, she found that the most current version of that same workbook still contains no mention of those words, nor are there any references to abuse. 

"Any behaviors that would destroy the trust in a marriage and jeopardize its future? They aren't there. There was absolutely no instruction in this entire book to break your engagement or even to get counseling. It was as if these marriage-destroying behaviors didn't even exist in anyone you might meet at church," she said. 

"And if these undesirable behaviors did crop up, the readers were actually told they could 'learn to adjust.' That's an actual quote. It's shocking. No wonder emotional abuse victims don't feel seen or heard because even the bestselling Christian authors pretend they don't exist."

In addition to pretending abuse doesn't exist, at least in some premarital resources, many pastors have all too often elevated the institution of marriage over the heart of God for victims and have enabled further harm, according to Neil Schori, who pastors at The Edge Church in Aurora, Illinois, and has worked extensively with domestic abuse survivors. 

"Jesus always valued individuals over institutions, but pastors tend to get stuck in the weeds and fail to see the heart that God has for his people. Because of this, pastors will be hesitant to call abusive behaviors, 'abusive,'" Schori said in an email to The Christian Post.

"Until we, as pastors, grasp the heart of Jesus for His sons and daughters, we'll do what the religious leaders of Jesus' own time on Earth did: Place burdens on the wrong people and in the process, further victimize the abused parties in marriages. Why did we ever think that pastors got to determine whether something was or was not abusive?"

Pastor Neil Schori of Edge Church in Aurora, Illinois.
Pastor Neil Schori of Edge Church in Aurora, Illinois. | Courtesy of Neil Schori

Asked why it is that some pastors and counselors are wedded to efforts to preserve a destructive marriage at all costs when it's apparent that one spouse is a hardened narcissist — the offender in the relationship who is unwilling to change — Schori explained that Scripture is often misused, especially Malachi 2:16, to accomplish this end.  

"Does He give grace to the hardened narcissistic abuser? He undoubtedly offers it. But for many abusers, it remains an unopened gift. To open the gift of God's grace, the abuser would have to acknowledge wrongdoing and actually change," Schori said. 

"The crux of what drives the narcissistic abuser is the belief that they are largely without fault."

Schori now equips pastors and church leaders to make their congregations a safe place for victims and works with, an organization that helps victims tell their stories safely and cathartically.  

What emotional abuse does to the body

The line that is drawn between physical abuse and emotional abuse in some churches fails to take into consideration how emotional abuse affects people physically. Many emotional abuse victims have PTSD symptoms, Baskerville says. 

Widely considered the preeminent expert on traumatic stress is Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, a Dutch psychiatrist now based in Boston, Massachusetts, who grew up in a religious fundamentalist household. Van der Kolk interviewed Vietnam War combat soldiers who had never been injured but were experiencing terrible nightmares. 

"After trauma, the world for the victim is experienced with a different nervous system. The survivor's energy now becomes focused on suppressing inner chaos," Baskerville quoted van der Kolk as saying. 

For emotional abuse victims, all the attempts to maintain control over unbearable physiological reactions can result in a whole range of physical symptoms including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and autoimmune diseases. We know that the body keeps the score, van der Kolk explains.

Baskerville added: "The landmark book, Trauma and Recovery, reported that World War II military doctors who worked with soldiers with stress-induced combat reactions after the war concluded that ‘200 to 240 days in combat would suffice to break even the strongest soldier.’ So how does that apply to emotional abuse victims? A 20-year marriage might be 7,000 days of combat. For many spouses who walk on eggshells that long, their health is destroyed."

She estimates that of the survivors in the private Facebook group she oversees, 8 in 10 divorcees say their health improved after separation or divorce from an abusive spouse. 

What the Church needs is a more nuanced view of just versus unjust divorce, she stressed, noting that divorce itself might not be an indication of moral decay. By contrast, tolerating abusive marriages is indeed evidence of such breakdown. 

"I'm 100% against frivolous divorce," she emphasized, adding that a huge chasm exists between divorce to escape abuse and "I'm bored divorces" or "I feel unfulfilled divorces" or "I miss the party-life divorce."

"But once one person no longer cares about the well-being of the other, their ‘conscience is seared,’ as the Bible says. They cheat, deceive, abuse, and care only about themselves. They no longer have the best interests of the other person at heart, only their own interests. If they continue with their marriage-destroying sin it's pretty much game over. This is the hardhearted spouse," she said soberly. 

The mother of all misused scriptures: 'God hates divorce' Malachi 2:16

Although the Bible can be and has been used in a variety of ways to entrap victims of spousal abuse in a destructive marriage, without question the most oft-quoted verse is Malachi 2:16.

The book of Malachi was written more than 2,400 years ago, nearly 500 years before Jesus. The entire book condemns deceivers and hypocrites who pretend to be devout but treat God with contempt and provide cover for their cheating, lying friends.

The focus of Malachi is not divorce, it’s about these treacherous people who break their covenant with God, take advantage of laborers, widows, orphans, and especially their wives. For the first 2,100 years of major Bible translations, Malachi 2:16 was always translated as an anti-abuse verse or anti-treachery verse, not an anti-divorce verse, Baskerville explained.

The verse in the 2011 update of the New International Version was changed to read: "'The man who hates and divorces his wife,' says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'does violence to the one he should protect,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.'" 

Why this change? The 1984 version of the NIV and other versions translate it as God saying "I hate divorce."

“The oldest copy of Malachi we have is a Dead Sea scroll fragment that does not say ‘God hates divorce’ or ‘I hate divorce,’” Baskerville said. 

"That’s why the NIV, ESV, and CSB [translations of the] Bible don’t say that. For example, when the NIV updated their translation in 2011, they changed Malachi 2:16 back to the earlier interpretation. In the first 2,100 years, no major Bible translation said, ‘God hates divorce.’ Not Jerome, not John Wycliffe, not Martin Luther, not John Calvin. Then King James’ translators in 1611 went rogue and changed the verse and that became the default for 385 years.”

From 1611 to 1996, nearly all major Bible translations used “God hates divorce.” As of 1996, the English Standard Version, the Christian Standard Bible, and the 2011 update of New International Version reverted back to the original interpretation — that it is an anti-abuse, an anti-treachery verse, not an anti-divorce scripture, she added. 

Today, those new major versions now all say something along the lines of: "He who hates and divorces his wife covers his clothing with violence."

"John Calvin actually believed that to abuse a wife was worse than armed robbery and murder because it was done under a cloak, in secret, behind the closed doors of her own home. Calvin said, ‘God is not deceived,’" Baskerville said. 

The way Calvin interpreted that verse was: "If you hate her, divorce her."  

But abuse survivors do not know this. 

The contemporary church has also not sufficiently examined Exodus 21:10-11, the cornerstone of Jewish divorce law, Baskerville maintains, which specifically reveals how God set forth a minimum requirement for even the lowest-ranking wives, including slaves' wives and wives of prisoners of war in ancient Israel. Their husbands were required to meet the basic standards for food, clothing, and marital rights (love). The rabbis determined that if God wanted these low-ranking wives and indentured servants treated well, then how much more so an Israelite wife?

In that Exodus passage, for example, this might happen if a man acquired a slave wife as a debt payment. Later, when the man found a woman that he actually did want to marry, he couldn’t be miserly to the first woman. The law of Moses effectively said: "Hey, wait a second, you have to give her [the slave wife] full marital rights, meaning food, clothing, and love. And if you try to reduce her level of care, you must let her go," Baskerville stressed. 

The same is true in Deuteronomy 21:10-14 for the wife of a POW. If the husband no longer likes her, he cannot demote her to slave status and treat her any way he likes. He must let her go free to anywhere she wishes.

To the perpetual frustration of abuse victims today, while the Exodus and Deuteronomy passages are dismissed as irrelevant Old Testament verses for New Testament believers, somehow Malachi 2:16, also in the Old Testament, still seems to apply and for all intents and purposes is wielded authoritatively to discourage them from divorcing. 

The pain of being misunderstood; unmasking abuse tactics

When Burrell and her husband visited a church for the first time and told the pastor that both of them had been divorced and they have a ministry to women in abusive relationships, his countenance fell immediately.

"He could not extricate himself from my presence fast enough," she recalled.

"That's what we get. We're like the third-class Christians," she said. "The assumption is, 'Well, you must have done something wrong. You really didn't care or work that hard.'"

As brutal as it is for women, and they comprise the vast majority of participants in Burrell's and other online support groups, in some ways men who have been abused by women have it even harder. Those cases do, in fact, exist. 

What abused husbands routinely face, Burrell explains, is: "You're being abused? What are you, a weenie?"

"So they have an even more uphill battle when they are legitimately being abused by their wives," she said.

Burrell once worked with a gentleman who joined her website, and she kept a cautious eye on him at first because she has had other "posers" try to invade the group and play games with the women. But after she vetted him and got to know him over time, she knew for sure that he was sincere and that he was not the offender in the marriage.

"His wife was absolutely toxic. She was a liar, a manipulator, and a crazy-maker," Burrell recounted. 

When abuse victims first arrive in these online forums they're dazed and confused, often ashamed. But when they start to divulge the specifics of their stories, particularly the verbal messages from the abusive spouse, it opens the door for others to walk them through a process of helping them understand just what it is that has been happening.  

"It's a matter of leading them gently to a place where they can see the dynamic. They're so used to taking it all in and taking responsibility, feeling like there must be something they're not doing, or that they're inadequate, or lazy, or selfish," Burrell said. 

"It's a slow-burn walking them through 'What is he really saying, why is he saying it, and what does he mean?'" 

When women start to realize the mental games abusers have been playing and finally get the courage to say 'No,' what often happens is that the proverbial mask comes off and the abuser explodes in a raging fury. The alternative is that he suddenly becomes Mr. Wonderful, and the victim is tempted to see his behavior as change. But it rarely lasts.

Speaking to Christians who have believed and denominations that have held that the only permissible grounds for divorce are physical abuse or sexual infidelity, Burrell urges them to consider the myriad ways abusers can exhibit cruelty while hiding behind an image of faith.

She recounted her own ex-husband, a professing Christian, once telling her: "Just so you know, I can treat you any way I want, and as long as you don't catch me in the act of adultery there's nothing you can do about it."

Another woman Burrell knows and describes as the "dearest, kind-hearted person you could ever meet," was married to an abusive husband who was also a Christian missionary. He was uncannily skilled at unleashing a wicked torrent of verbal abuse, but his "trump card" was God, as he could manipulatively mix seemingly righteous spirituality with isolating cult-leader-like tactics. 

"He would call her up and say, 'I've been praying about this and the Spirit told me to tell you this.' And with the tenderness of her heart and the depth of her faith, she felt she had to listen to his directives," Burrell said. 

But what he was actually doing was separating her from her family and other supportive connections.

"God told me you need to stop talking to this person; this person is not your friend," he would tell her. "I'm the authority, I'm the head, you are obligated to trust me."

This woman has been divorced for about a year. She is reportedly free and happy now.

Burrell also recounted the story of a supposedly Christian man who would gather his wife and children in the family room where they were ordered to watch him beat their dog. Although he was never physically violent to his wife and children, he was an animal abuser and intimidated his family. 

Leading survivors back to Jesus, setting captives free

For Burrell, the bottom line in her ministry for marital abuse survivors is leading them back to the Lord who loves them. 

"Peel away the layers and take everything else out of the picture and let this be between you and God first," she tells them. "Go to Him, pray for wisdom, wait for peace and let Him validate and lead you in this dark time and let His light shine in.

"I believe very powerfully that God intervenes and speaks to people when they come alongside and say: 'You are not alone; it’s not your fault, and you’re not crazy.'"

When asked about where churches might improve in their approach, she reiterated that it's vital that they realize abuse can take so many forms and to limit abuse to sexual immorality and physical assault doesn't take into account the entire witness of Scripture. 

"Even just words. Words are crippling. In Matthew 5, Jesus makes it clear that we can murder someone's heart with words. And I don't think people understand that keeping people in toxic, ungodly marriages doesn't make them any less toxic or ungodly," Burrell said.

"When it comes down to it, God is not a legalist. He is a relational-ist. Everything with Him always comes back to relationship — first with Him and then with others. And it has to be based on righteousness and truth," she said, noting that the goal of an abuser is not to solve the problems or disagreements that arise within most healthy relationships. With personality-disordered abusive people, the peccadilloes that normally come about are always a huge ordeal. 

As Katie was desperate to find resources to navigate the abuse dynamics in her own marriage, she happened to stumble upon the blog, A Cry for Justice. Then in 2014, in a terribly troubled state of mind, she found Burrell's articles and the online Facebook groups of survivors. 

"Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of women, many more all the time, are joining these groups," Katie told CP.

One group called Confusion to Clarity helps women in covert relationships where their husbands operate under the radar insidiously and the women are so psychologically manipulated that they can hardly tell what is happening to them. 

Katie said she's a part of five online groups, co-moderates one group with a few other members, and is actively involved on a daily basis in three of them, including the one she helps moderate.

Burrell's six-part abuse primer and her articles on the six words that keep every abusive trapped and what survivors of abuse can do when they let go of hope that their marriages can be saved, were especially helpful in cutting through the fog of her own confusion. 

Katie thinks that one of the most damaging lies that is communicated to women in many evangelical churches is that most if not all of their feelings are superficial emotions and are therefore not trustworthy, even when it might be the Holy Spirit who is alerting them in their gut, to the point where they feel it physically, indicating that something is amiss or wrong.

When abuse survivors dare to voice their complaints of spousal abuse to leaders in the church and are told that they cannot make decisions based on emotions, "it's like being stabbed," Katie says.

As she started separating herself from her husband and began relaying her pain to church counselors operating with the biblical "nouthetic" counseling model, she soon learned that they were not trained in how abusers think. Such counselors could not fathom that they did not quite know what to tell her, especially since they believed the advice they were giving was supposedly “biblical.” 

"I've never once heard anybody say something like that because they have set themselves up on a pedestal, and they are set up on that pedestal by others, that if they have that title in any church then they are to be believed and honored and trusted," she said, reiterating that this is reinforced by the belief that if the advice they are giving is rooted in God’s Word and thus it cannot possibly be unwise or wrong. 

"God has given His Word authority but when spoken from a mouth of a man who wants a certain outcome to happen [a preserved marriage, even if it's abusive] is control. Then it becomes control, and not of God," Katie added. 

"When someone divorces you it's like getting your arm cut off. When you're the one that is forced to divorce another person because there are no more boundaries left, you're cutting off your own arm. It's 100 times worse," she said. 

But the beauty of the divorce in order to escape an abuser "is that the arm grows back stronger and more beautiful," she said. 

"And you don't have to worry about the gangrene setting in anymore."

Send news tips to: Listen to Brandon Showalter's Life in the Kingdom podcast at The Christian Post and edifi app Follow Brandon Showalter on Facebook: BrandonMarkShowalter Follow on Twitter: @BrandonMShow

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.

Most Popular

More Articles