Saturday, November 1, 2008

Why Can Relationship with Father God be so Hard?

Why is relationship with Father God so hard?

Often times, people will come into my office and tell me that they feel so guilty because their relationship with their Father God feels so distant. They say, If I just had enough faith or just read the bible more I could feel the presence of the Father. I love Jesus and He is everything to me, but I just feel so separated from the Father.

They believe that their Father God is a part of their spiritual life. They know He loves them and cares about them, but they just don’t seem to be able to achieve that intimate relationship with Him that they may have with Jesus. Others ask questions like My friends say they hear God talking to them, but I don’t....what is the matter with me? or If I read scripture and sing worship songs about how wonderful and how loving God is, if I worship Him on Sunday and feel His presence, why can’t I feel that all the time?

Is it possible we know many things about Father God in our mind, but our heart has a different perspective? Perhaps our heart-view of Father God isn’t based on His true nature. The truth is: we really are run by our heart, not our mind. We like to think we can figure it all out with our brain and then make decisions about life accordingly. Our decisions as an adult are often made at a heart level based on hurts in our past. We don’t get wounded in our mind, but in our heart. Even though it may be something we are not aware of, most of us transfer our view of our father – the man who raised us – to our Heavenly Father. If you question that statement, ask yourself just three things about your father:

Was your father for you?
In other words, was your relationship focused on his needs or your needs? When your dad disciplined you, was it for your benefit with love in his heart or did you perceive an angry Father whose punishment was scary or overly harsh. Did you ever receive the unspoken message that you weren’t good enough or couldn’t live up to Dad’s expectations? Did he teach you about life so you could have a better life or to make sure you wouldn’t be a burden to him later?

Was your father safe?
Could you speak to him without fear of rejection? Could you run to him when you were in trouble and be safe in his arms no matter what you did? Were you free to make a mistake and not be shamed? Lack of these things in our life will make us fearful, untrusting, and withdrawn. We can also feel as though we can’t do anything good enough so we give up, or do the opposite, strive to perform.

Did your father love you unconditionally?
Did you know in your heart that you could never do anything to cause your dad to turn from you or shame you? Did he always show more mercy and grace than judgment? Was your dad always there when you needed him? Did you feel close to Dad and trust him enough to share your heart with him? If you can’t say yes, then you are like many of us who find it hard to connect or trust or risk in a relationship. We hold our heart closed, even with God. Underneath our closed heart may lie a fear that if we risk running to God and He’s not there, then we’ll have no one else to turn to for help or salvation. My Dad wasn’t there and I could see can I trust someone I can’t see?

Now that you’ve had a chance to reflect on these concepts, how do these feelings and beliefs coincide with what you believe about Father God?

Father God is our ultimate authority figure. It is not a great stretch to see that if our relationship with our dad was distant, unsafe, or shaming it becomes real easy to see God as an unsafe, uncaring, and harsh Father as well. Although this is a false belief, our hearts tell us differently!

As we look at our relationship with our parents, the goal is not to blame them for their shortcomings. Realistically, there are few parents who get up in the morning and say I’m intentionally going to mess up my kid’s life today! However, to the child who is at the receiving end of a parent’s woundedness, the hurt may seem very intentional. Those broken parts of our heart often prevent us from being the person we really want to be with our kids, family, friends and our Heavenly Father.

As children, we don’t have the perspective to understand the motives behind the actions which hurt us, so we judge the people and the circumstances by what we do understand - he is mean, he doesn’t care about me, he doesn’t love me, he can’t take care of me so I have to do it myself. We carry these judgments into adulthood and that becomes the grid we see others through...including our Father God. In those wounded parts of our adult heart, we are unable to see our earthly parents from an adult perspective and we continue to see them through the eyes of the child who was so hurt by neglect or abuse. When we see through the eyes of truth, our parents become responsible to the Lord for their sins and we are then free to be responsible for how our hearts responded to the ways they sinned against us.

Because of this, our first task is to challenge the lies we have believed and let go of unmet expectations from our relationship with our earthly parents. For us to be set free of the bondage to past hurts and wounds, we must take advantage of the gifts of forgiveness and repentance that the Lord has so mercifully given us. When we forgive those who have hurt us and repent for how we have judged them, we can experience the true love and healing of our Father God and come to see Him in a way we have not been able to before. The love of God never fails (1 Cor. 13:8)!

We begin the process by asking the Lord to show us what beliefs we are holding in our heart towards our earthly father that aren’t true? What core beliefs do we hold in our hearts with fear or bitterness that color the truth? (Hebrews 12:15) For example, the truth about a neglectful or uninvolved parent may be that they are wounded too and have decided to shield their heart from more hurt. The problem may not be that our father didn’t love us, it may be that he didn’t have enough access to his heart to understand that he was wounding us with his actions. When we sincerely ask the Lord to let us see our earthly father with truth and help us find a way to change our heart attitude towards him, our heavenly Father answers faithfully. (1 John 5:14-15) We can then respond by forgiving our parents for what they did that was hurtful, as well as for what they didn’t do. Many times it helps to grieve the loss of what we didn’t get, like acceptance, affirmation, protection, or provision. We ask forgiveness for judging our fathers, God, and any others who we felt failed us. When we forgive we let go of the hurt, anger, resentment we have in our heart and are set free to respond with the heart of the Father towards those who have hurt us. Just as a note, forgiveness does not mean re-establishing relationship with an abusive parent. It simply means we release them from any debt they owe us, emotional or physical.

Second, by faith we grab hold of the truth - understanding in our hearts that our Father God is totally for us. He sent His Son so we could be free from our sin, for salvation, and to daily live free from our past wounds and hurts. (John 3:16) He gave us His word as a guide to life. (John 1:14) If we follow His principles from the Bible, we can have the best life possible. We begin to understand how all things can work together for good and that our Heavenly Father is grieved when sin distances us.

He is completely safe! You can go to God without fear of rejection or condemnation. (Romans 8:1) He will always listen and not turn away. His arms are always open to receive us; we can always run to Him. We can make mistakes and not be judged for it.

He loves us unconditionally. We cannot do anything to cause Him to turn on us or shame us. He always has more mercy and grace than we can ever need. He is always there regardless of where we are or what we have done. We know these truths in our minds, and now we can move them to our hearts.

Third, we step out and invite God in. We can say God, I allow you to love me and to be a part of my life. More than anything, our God wants to have relationship with us, to love us, to daily be a part of our lives. (John 14:17) Scripture says there will come a day when we can worship Him in Spirit and in Truth – the truth of who He really is, aside from the ways we have learned to see him through our woundedness. (John 4:23-24) Once we receive this truth in the heart, it can bring us to our knees in awe and love for a caring, saving and loving Father.

It is good to process through these long held beliefs with a trusted friend, counselor or pastor. It is hard to heal ourselves, which is why scripture says in James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (NAS)

Emotional Abuse

Emotional Abuse
By Kriss Mitchell, M.Ed, LPC, CRC, CNHP

Anyone tackling the subject of emotional abuse has their job cut out for them. It is a subject that has as many facets as a 50 carat diamond and its victims range from children to adults. It is also one of the most difficult forms of abuse to identify and can be one of the hardest to escape from; it can feel like emotional blackmail or is so shocking it paralyzes the will.

If a person encounters physical abuse, the signs are usually much easier to see. However emotional abuse is a punch to the inner man, and often takes time to manifest in signs of insecurity, uncertainty, heartache, low self esteem and withdrawal. It is a slow, wearing down of healthy boundaries, emotional resources, trust in personal perceptions and self concept. Abuse originates within the motive of the abuser which is often very hard to prove or detect, so victims resort to blaming themselves, judging themselves as weak or unable to cope. This type of wounding is deep and takes far longer to heal.

A simple definition of a common type of emotional abuse is: “Emotionally wounding another person and then demeaning them for feeling that pain.” With children this can look like a parent calling their child ‘stupid’, or cursing at them and then calling them a baby when they cry. Other examples can be consistently invalidating the child’s feelings by telling them they have no reason to, or shouldn’t feel the way they feel, i.e. the child has lost a meaningful possession and the parent says, “it’s just a toy, you’re just being too sensitive.”

In adults, this kind of invalidation can take the form of insults which come in the guise of “teasing”. When the recipient of this kind of teasing is wounded by it, the most common retort might be, “I was just teasing…can’t you take a joke?” In this situation, the perpetrator has disguised a hurtful remark with humor and it may look very innocent to outsiders. If the victim is able to say they have been hurt, their feelings should be acknowledged. Remarking that the person can’t take a joke relieves the perpetrator of responsibility for their actions and transfers responsibility to the wounded one, questioning their emotional strength, mental health and personal discernment as to what has transpired. The more healthy response would be to apologize and ask for forgiveness.

Another form, which can be far more insidious, is when the perpetrator insults, threatens or demeans the victim and then denies their actions. In this form of abuse, the strategy can be direct or implied and is most effective when there is dependency in the relationship, either real or perceived. One common misconception about these forms of abuse is they take the form of yelling, criticizing or other stereotypical perceptions of negative communication between people. However, other forms of emotional abuse can be just as damaging, and far less overt. They can include patterns of being disrespectful, discourteous, rude, condescending, patronizing, critical, judgmental, lying, repeatedly "forgetting" promises and agreements, betrayal of trust, "setting you up", unreasonable expectations and "revising" history. As described before, this form of behavior is often paired with a denial of the behavior which can sound like, “Why are you reacting like that, I was just trying to be honest?” or “I thought you were mature enough to hear what I had to say” or even “you just don’t have the experience to understand what I’m trying to tell you.”

As I have counseled victims of abuse and done research on the subject, I came across a victim’s testimonial which summed up the experience of emotional abuse quite well in the following statement: “One of the most difficult things about identifying someone who is a psychological and emotional abuser is that the REALLY successful abusers are highly intelligent and hide their abuse incredibly well. They may have shelves filled with psychology books; many are well-read and very well spoken. They know how to twist and manipulate language and people. They present an exterior of calm, rational self-control, when in reality, they have no internal control of their own pain, so they try to control others, and drive them to LOSE control. If an abuser can cause their victim to lose control, it proves how healthy THEY are, so they can say, explicitly, or implicitly (it's amazing how sighs, and rolling of the eyes can accomplish as much as words), "There you go again, losing it, crying and yelling. I'm not the one who needs therapy, *you* are." Unfortunately, if an outsider sees the abuse at all, all they see is an outburst from the victim, NOT the abuse that triggered it. It may make the victim feel as if they have had all their lifelines withdrawn, as if they are going crazy, because nobody believes that this charming, "nice", helpful, successful person could be so incredibly psychologically cruel and deliberately hurtful.”

Although all emotional abusers do not have libraries filled with psychology books or are well read, the common denominator with emotional abusers is the ability to twist and manipulate language. If the abuser can convince the victim that their response to the abuse is somehow a personal weakness or deficiency, the abuser retains control. This usually works best with children or victims who have not been able to develop a solid identity. Adults whose personal value is dependent on external evaluators, such as how well they performed a project, other’s opinions or even their own comparisons to an unattainable standard of perfection can be most susceptible to emotional abuse. Some of the worst scenarios take place with elderly, dependent adults who often have little control over their circumstances because of age or health issues. It should be noted here that emotional abuse differs from hurting others by mistake when it becomes a pattern.

The reasons for inability to remove oneself from emotional abuse can be unique to each victim; however it usually has to do with the two things; 1) the victim’s need for love and acceptance and 2) the victim’s susceptibility to addictive processes. The need for love is basic to the human condition and it has been proven that we are unable to live without it. When basic human needs such as love are given and taken away, over time it becomes torturous to the victim, breaking down their defenses and strength of will. Ask any prisoner of war. However, that pattern of giving and taking plays on one of the strongest addictive patterns known; incremental gain at variable times. This can be seen best in the addiction to gambling. Slot machines, lotteries, card games etc., pay off in amounts that are sometimes large and sometimes small, being paired with the pay off coming at different times. Using slot machines as an example, a person may get many quarters on their first payoff, and then 30 seconds later a few more quarters drop down. 90 seconds later a few more quarters drop but after a few more minutes there is a much larger payoff. This pattern will keep the person sitting there for a long time with the thought that the next big payoff is just around the corner.

Emotional abuse is very similar. Love is the payoff and in the beginning stages of the relationship, whether its marriage or friendship, the amount of love and/or acceptance and approval comes in large quantities. When the abuse starts to happen, it may be a large dose and then there are two or three weeks or more of relatively good relationship before the next event happens. Perhaps after that one large dose of abuse, all it takes is a few smaller insults, or devaluing episodes for the abuser to regain control. Then a larger episode happens again. In this type of scenario, the victim is living for the payoff of love and often, the payoff comes in smaller and smaller increments over the lifetime of the relationship. By that time, the victim has become worn down, has fewer personal resources to counter the abuse and finds themselves caught in the never ending cycle, believing the next big payoff is just at hand and then everything will be alright, like it was in the beginning.

Emotional abuse almost always boils down to a lack of honor and respect for others; where one person perceives that another’s autonomy will encroach on their well being. As Christians, our goal is to be constantly transformed into the image of Jesus. Jesus gave honor and respect to those he related to regardless of age, so therefore it is our goal to submit to whatever healing we need in order to become more like Him. Each time someone is emotionally victimized, the perpetrator has made a choice to continue in their unhealed state rather than pursuing the lie in their heart that generates their desire to control others. In Gethsemane, Jesus personally identified with the hurts and wounds of mankind. To the degree perpetrators cannot identify with the pain of their victims is the degree that wounding in their lives has eroded their ability to be connected to their own heart and emotions. This is a place of healing that must be addressed in the lives of abusers.

Working with victims is a journey to find those core beliefs that have limited the person’s ability to believe they are worthy, valuable and deserving of respect. It is a journey to re-establish their God given identity. A victim is severely limited in their ability to deal with the abuse in their lives while laboring without these vital ingredients. Confronting the addictive pattern directly often causes severe distress since the victim has so few resources to successfully negotiate that path. As counselors and friends, we can bring truth, pray for healing of the wounds of worthlessness and ask the Lord to build a capacity within the heart to say no to the abuse, either by words or deeds. Once a victim understands how much the Lord loves them and is strengthened in their identity as a unique and valuable human being they will seldom stay in an abusive relationship.

Belief is Not a Secret

Belief is Not a Secret
By Kriss Mitchell, M.Ed, LPC, CRC, CNHP
We seem to be hearing a lot about the subject of belief lately. Much of it centers around the idea that if we believe for things or resources they will come to us. Although this idea has been around for a very long time in one form or another, the difference these days is that along with the age old idea of “positive thinking”, there is an element of quantum physics that is being thrown in the mix which is offering a little more credence to the subject. The enemy often mixes the truth with error or he counterfeits something in the Kingdom of God. When it comes to belief, more often than not, these kinds of ideas are married with a spiritualistic agenda that to most Christians is distasteful. However, as truth and error are combined in the area of belief, we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Belief is foundational to the Christian walk. Scripture teaches us to “believe unto salvation”, if we “believe we will receive”. So what is it that is true and what is the error that we need to throw away? Let’s look at scripture to find out.
Mark 9:23 – And Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (NKJ) In this portion of scripture, Jesus is responding to the young boy with the deaf and dumb spirit.
“The word “possible” is the Greek word dunata….It expresses the idea of ability; power; one who is able and capable; or one who is competent. This scripture emphatically tells us that there is a power that causes one to become able, capable, or competent for any task. When this power comes on the scene and begins to operate in an individual’s life, it doesn’t matter how unfit or unqualified he was before; this power energizes him and makes him capable for the task.
But who is this person who can accomplish impossible feats? Jesus said that all things are possible to him “that believeth.” The word “believeth” is the Greek word pisteuonti, from the word pistis, the Greek word for faith. However, when pistis becomes pisteuonti, as in this verse, it pictures a person who is believing. This is not someone who once had an experience of faith in the past; rather, this is a person who is presently believing right now. His faith is actively reaching forward right now to grab hold of what God has promised.” (Taken from Sparkling Gems from the Greek by Rick Renner)
Matthew 21:22 – “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” This is the same word pisteuo which has been translated “believing”.
Mark 5:35-43 – “While He was still speaking, they came from the house of the synagogue official, saying, ‘Your daughter has died; why trouble the Teacher anymore?’ But Jesus, overhearing what was being spoken, said to the synagogue official, ‘Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.’ And He allowed no one to accompany Him, except Peter and James and John the brother of James. They came to the house of the synagogue official; and He saw a commotion, and people loudly weeping and wailing. And entering in, He said to them, ‘Why make a commotion and weep? The child has not died, but is asleep.’”
Notice that Jesus instructed the official to believe. He didn’t tell him to pray or to worship, Jesus simply wanted his heartfelt belief.
Mark 11:23 – “Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.”
Again, believes is the same word pisteuo and the word heart is kardia which is where we get the word “cardiac” referencing our heart. The Scripture not only makes reference to the heart as a physical organ, but as the center of spiritual life.
Belief is the marriage of thought and emotion; the powerful place of agreement between the brain and the heart. For example, when we simply think about something, there usually is not a feeling of power connected with it. We see a spider on the wall and think that it may be a good idea to do something to get it out of the house. We either act on it or we don’t. On the other hand, someone else could see that spider and have a panic attack because as a child they woke up one night with a large spider in their bed and that experience married the spider with the emotion of fear which has produced a belief that spiders are bad and they must get away from them. When the emotion of fear was married with the thought of the spider, there became a much more powerful reaction. This person has created a belief about spiders that is so strong that the physical body reacts violently to it. The brain and the heart have come together in a place of agreement about the spider and a powerful belief has been created.
Heart studies from many of the University hospitals around the nation have found that the heart and the brain produce electro-magnetic fields around the body. They produce measurable frequencies and vibrations which affect the world around them. According to the HeartMath Institute, the electromagnetic field of the heart is “five thousand times greater in strength than the field produced by the brain.” This field is measurable for 8-10 feet, but is thought to extend up to a mile in circumference. (The HeartMath Solution, page 33) This makes sense as we look at our example above. Thought, produced by the brain, is much less powerful than the belief produced by the heart. When the two are brought together however, the corresponding belief has much more power than the thought alone.
According to HeartMath, “An electromagnetic field is just that: magnetic…. The emotional resonance you send out from your heart rhythms is like a magnet, attracting people, situations, and opportunities. When you’re in a state of appreciation, your energy is more buoyant and spirited. You feel better mentally, emotionally, and physically.”
Scripture preceded science in Matthew 7:1-2 where it says, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” God so arranges our life that we tend to attract what our heart believes is true.
HeartMath Institute has also shown in their studies that in developing an attitude of thankfulness, appreciation and gratitude our nervous systems come into balance. That means that our hearts beat in a coherent rhythm and the two main branches of our autonomic nervous system are synchronized. It is common throughout God’s creation that anything in balance and synchronized is more efficient and more effective.
Scripture gives us at least 108 verses that mention thanks and specifically gives us things to be thankful for. Psalms has many scriptures that say things like, give thanks to the Lord, His lovingkindness extends forever or I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart! The Lord is showing us things we can be thankful for if we can’t come up with them on our own.
God is a God Who absolutely wants to bless us and within our physical bodies, He created the means by which we receive those blessings. In His word, He speaks to us about how to be in position to receive everything that He has for us:
Philippians 4:6-8 - “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses every understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts by Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
"logizomai" is the Greek word translated dwell in this verse. This word deals with reality. If I "logizomai" or reckon that my garden does not have weeds in it, when the reality is, my garden has weeds in it this is not logizomai, it is pretending or deceiving myself. This word refers to facts not suppositions.
Other places in the bible, this same word is translated thinks, reason, and suppose amongst others. We think about facts. This scripture is telling us what to do with our brains. We need to regard what is positive, dwell on the good things in life rather than what has gone wrong. This does not mean that we live in denial or become unresponsive to what is real. We grow into the maturity and likeness of Jesus, who as He faced the cross, focused on the joy set before Him. What we think about and what we attach emotion to, we will believe. Those beliefs affect the electromagnetic resonance around us.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
The word believes is again the Greek word pisteuo, however interestingly enough the words translated “take into account”, is the Greek word logizomai. We are not to meditate on and rehearse the wrongs we have suffered because those negative beliefs will be put into our heart resonance as well as have a negative impact on our physical body. This does not mean that we simply ignore abuse or deny when we hurt. Truth means we acknowledge what has happened, but we don’t have to dwell on it. We can use the experience as a teachable moment, we can choose to see it as an opportunity to explore our abilities to forgive and we can receive wisdom about the experience to apply to future experiences. Simply put, we glean what we can that is positive and move on.
Love is a strong emotion of the heart so accordingly, if we start with the truth and bring love into the equation, we will create a belief based on the marriage of truth and emotion, bringing more and more of God’s blessing into our lives.
Because negative thought, stress, anger and hatred are so destructive to our physical bodies, as well as our life in the present and our future, it is important for us to understand what the Lord is saying about belief. In our human experience, we will be hurt and we will experience those emotions that the Lord uses to highlight places in our lives that need healing. However, it is what we do with those emotions that impacts us long term. The Lord wants us to take those thoughts captive, not dwell on them, apply forgiveness and repentance where it is necessary and then move on with our lives taking the wisdom of the experience with us. Belief is not a secret, it is an attitude of the heart; not used as a tool to get things, but to be a testimony to the goodness of God in our lives.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Why She Stays

Many people who have not been abused by an intimate partner often say that if their partner ever abused them they certainly would leave. Remaining in or returning to an abusive relationship may be a rational survival mechanism. Domestic violence victims are not always passive. They may attempt to protect themselves through a variety of mechanisms short of leaving. Below are some of the reason victims choose to stay or return to an abusive relationship.
Commitment to the relationship. There are serious factors that weigh on a victim's decision to leave. The abuser is the person the victim loves. This makes leaving the abuser especially difficult where violent episodes are followed by periods of affection and positive attention. The abuser may be the father/mother of the victim's children. The victim may want to end the violence, but also preserve the family relationship.
Lack of self-confidence. Ending an intimate relationship is almost always difficult, but even more so when the victim’s self-confidence has been destroyed by abuse.
Believes the myths about domestic violence. Victims of domestic violence may assume that violence in an unavoidable part of life. Victims may also blame themselves for the violence.
No place to go. There are more animal shelters in the U.S. than shelters for battered women and children. Domestic violence is the cause of half of the homelessness in America's women and children.
Hope of change. Many abusers are remorseful after abusing the victim. This contrite behavior may include promising never to hit again, agreeing to seek counseling if the victim promises not to leave, reminding the victim of how hard the perpetrator works, pointing out the incredible stresses under which s/he is operating, acknowledging the wrongfulness of his/her violence to the children and asking their help in stopping it, and demonstrating his/her love for the victim in meaningful ways. Since victims have often built their lives around the relationship, they hope for change. When the abuser acknowledges the error of his/her ways, when s/he breaks down and cries and concedes the need for dramatic change, hope is often born anew for the victim.
Isolation. Many victims of domestic violence do not have a support system. The abuser has isolated them. For example, the abuser may prohibit the victim from using the phone, may humiliate him/her at family gatherings, may insist on transporting him/her to and from work, or may censor his/her mail. Abusers are often highly possessive and excessively jealous. They believe that they own the victim and are entitled to his/her exclusive attention and absolute obedience. The abuser knows that if the truth is known about his/her conduct, support persons will encourage the victim to leave the abuser. Therefore, abusers isolate victims in order to sustain the power of violence.
Societal denial. Victims of domestic violence fear that no one will believe that their partners abuse them. Abusers are often ingratiating and popular and keep their terrorizing and controlling behaviors within the family behind closed doors. The victim knows this and it compounds his/her fear that no one will believe them. Victims of domestic violence also discover that many people and agencies in the community trivialize the impact of domestic violence. For example, doctors may prescribe Valium for coping, ministers may recommend more accommodating behaviors, and therapists may advise better communication with the abuser. Victims conclude that if others do not understand the seriousness of the violence, they will condemn the disruption caused by leaving the relationship.
Abuser's threats. Even when the victim decides to leave, the abuser may threaten to seek custody of their children, to withhold financial support, to interfere with the victim’s employment or housing, to kill other family members, to commit retaliatory suicide, or to escalate the violence in an attempt to keep the victim in the relationship.
Dangers in leaving. Many victims believe that leaving is not going to make his/her life and their children’s lives safer. Many victims of domestic violence are killed by their partners after they have left the abuser. Leaving, itself, can be a dangerous process. Many abusers escalate their violence in order to coerce the victim into reconciliation or to retaliate for the victim’s departure. Leaving requires strategic planning and legal intervention to safeguard victims and their children.
Economic dependency. The most likely indicator of whether a victim of domestic violence will permanently separate from his/her abuser is whether s/he has the economic resources to survive without the abuser. Therefore, it is incredibly important that victims obtain support awards in protection orders and are referred to abused women’s programs where they can learn about other economic supports, job training, and employment opportunities.
Leaving is a process. Most victims of domestic violence leave and return several times before permanently separating from the abuser. The first time a victim leaves may be a test to see whether the abuser will obtain help or stop his/her abuse. The victim may leave temporarily in order to gain more information about the resources available to her before leaving the abuser permanently. Most victims of domestic violence do leave eventually. When victims stay, friends, family, and agencies in the community need to look to see what they are doing to hinder the process of leaving and make changes to facilitate leaving.
Retrieved from on June 18, 2008. provided by Living Well Counseling and Consulting, LLC