EMN Mailbag: A domestic violence survivor writes

UPDATE: Please be sure to read the comment posted by my sister Kathy, who is herself a domestic violence survivor. I don’t often refer to her by name, but since she does so in the comments I wanted to mention, publicly, that Kathy has given me an invaluable education about the dynamics of domestic violence. The article she mentions in her comments may be found here: “The War at Home”

I received this note from a woman who had just read my article “Is Domestic Violence Grounds for Divorce?” at “Streams of Mercy”. She writes:

I appreciate your suggestion that domestic violence victims try everything they can to make the marriage “work” before leaving–yet emphasize safety while doing so. Not only does that offer the abuser a chance to improve and give the marriage a chance–it also helps the victim have strength in her conviction to seek divorce knowing she has tried everything within her power to salvage the marriage and give it opportunity to prosper. Sadly, abusers are extremely hard to rehabilitate due to their own resistance and often an underlying psychiatric condition (such as bi-polar, depression, a personality disorder, or addiction).

After 14 years of marriage, I had exhausted my resources and in the process had become stronger and more independent–which led to my spouse feeling more insecure and escalating the abuse into physical violence. My priest had warned me years before, that although I was obligated (and felt that heavily) to do all I could to preserve my marriage, if my spouse chose to not seek help I would have to pray with an open heart to know at what point my obligation to continue the marriage ended and my obligation to protect my children (and myself) was greater.

Through prayer, one thing I realized was that in my attempts to shield the children as much as possible (provide them with stability/safety by covering up and minimizing the abuse) I wound up facilitating the abuse by shielding my spouse from natural consequences.

Two months ago I left, and it has been hell. Although I understand I am well within my rights (according to the priests/therapists/friends) the decision was still incredibly painful and sad. It is the loss of a dream.
My spouse has loudly and publicly proclaimed he is rehabilitated YET still speaks cruelly to me in private and has changed control tactics by seeking full custody of our children and withholding financial support. It’s a mess, and it will be for a while.

The upside? I am stronger: spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. I am doing all I can to protect my children. The support I am receiving from my church, family, friends, and strangers has been stunning, humbling, and fortifying. The best way to end this is simply by saying that in the midst of this upheaval, I am grateful for and held up by the mercy of our Lord.

Dear Anonymous:  May God send an extra flurry of angels to guard and protect you and your children. I commend you for your willingness to reach out to others. One day very likely you will have an opportunity to be the loving support to other women who find themselves in the same situation you now are in yourself. Until that time, know that you are not alone … and that God is giving you the grace even now to be strong and make good choices for you and your family. God bless you!