So why is it then that we keep hearing things from churches such as “the abuser must be held accountable and taken under the care and discipline of his church. He must be informed that there are going to be consequences if he continues to abuse.” What?
You will notice in such an approach that the abuser actually is still being considered a Christian, still a member of the church, even though now busted with his guilty hand in the cookie jar (a pretty rare event in itself in most churches) he is going to be forced to put the cookie back and stop raiding it anymore.
That is to say, this “Christian” is having external pressures put upon him to force him to live like a Christian! Of course we all know where such an approach is going to end. He isn’t going to change, except perhaps for the worse.
…Why in the world churches and pastors and elders and church members persist in treating the abuser as if he were a Christian just boggles my mind. Why will they not, for the glory of God and for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, openly announce the truth of the matter? “This man is no Christian and he is to be put out from among us. Do not even eat with such a one.”
Why? Why is that so hard? What is “in it” for a local church keeping such a wicked person in their midst? I can think of a number of answers to that question. None of them are good reasons. Every one of them involves disobeying our Lord.
One practice, now widely discredited because it easily becomes spiritually abusive, was often used in the 60s and 70s: shepherding.
It’s giving yourself over to someone else, your “covering,” who makes all your decisions for you–even who to date or marry, how often to have sex, or what music to listen to.
If you disagree with your shepherd or suggest changes to the group rules, you just might find yourself out of the group, since the leadership makes all the decisions. Congregations may find themselves with no vote or voice.
In groups which decided the “shepherds” must be the opposite sex, shepherding has also led to adultery.
It has also led to broken people.
Unfortunately, shepherding seems to have re-emerged in many churches and Christian groups–ones which seem orthodox on the outside, so you must watch out for it.
I’ve heard of accountability groups, which seem to have come from this practice; take care that it does not match characteristics of shepherding.
I’ve also noted that talks about wifely submission sometimes use the same terms used in shepherding: i.e., the husband is the “covering” for the wife and she “submits to his decisions” no matter what.
Webpages on shepherding, what it is, how it’s abused:
The Shepherding Movement Comes of Age by Lynn and Sarah Leslie describes the practice of signing covenants, which exists in many groups and churches. It also implicates the Purpose-Driven Church model.
Willow Creek charges Promise Keepers and Willow Creek Church with shepherding. The writers are rather fundamentalist and I disagree with them on many points, but they still make interesting charges. Whether the charges are true or not, you be the judge.
Here and here, you can investigate whether Willow Creek practices shepherding. And here, you can check out Saddleback’s FAQ. Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot on these sites. I’ve heard of restrictive covenants and the like, but don’t have proof of them.
Nowadays, you can also find blogs about spiritual abuse, on which you can share stories, find comfort and validation, and learn which churches to avoid. My favorites:
Back in May 2012, my abusers, Richard and Tracy, discovered this blog, then threatened and began to stalk me. You can read their e-mail below.
Especially note that whichever of them wrote the e-mail (it “sounded” like Tracy’s “voice”), accused me of making things up and accusing Tracy falsely, downplayed Richard’s criminal conviction of choking his daughter, warned me not to go to the priest/church, and threatened to sue.
And yet–Through our own local version of a “police beat,” Crime Reports, published for all to see on the Fond du Lac city website, I have discovered that a domestic dispute occurred in May.
The report points to Richard and Tracy’s last-known address, at least according to Google Earth, which is used by the website to locate each crime event. A follow-up occurred about a week later, so it appears that an investigation was begun into the incident, beyond the initial police report.
No charges have been filed as of yet, so I don’t know what happened, who was involved, or if charges ever will be filed.
But it–along with Richard’s conviction of choking his daughter–supports my statements that Richard and Tracy are abusive, and that I am not making up “false facts” out of a “not-all-there” brain.
And gives more strength to my mind to resist their attempts to gaslight me, and attempts to intimidate me into silence through constant surveillance of this blog. This discovery has even more emboldened me to not be silent–and to laugh at their attempts to scare me.
It gets easier all the time, when reading old posts or remembering things that my abusers said or did, to laugh it off.
Yes, laugh it off. I see how ridiculous it all is, and see right through it all.
Not only does it help pull me out of the pit and back where life is beautiful again, and I am no longer a “victim,” but it should help me identify such behavior in others, before I get pulled in again.
(Not that it is in any way a character failing to be a victim of someone abusing you. Victim-blaming and -shaming is a huge problem these days. The only one who should be ashamed of how the victim is affected by the abuse, is the abuser.)
Nowadays, when I remember what happened, it no longer affects me, just as it no longer affects me to remember what Phil, Peter or Shawn did back in college. It’s become a story I revise for the masses to read, which may inspire a brief burst of anger, but then I forget about it again.
I see right through the things my various abusers did, and no longer let it worry and oppress me the way it used to for years.
Yes, it took me years to get past what those guys did, just as it has taken years to deal with what Richard and Tracy did. But eventually I got through. As Trent Reznor titled a song, The way out is through.
Because of this, and the discovery above which provides even more evidence that my abusers were full of bullsh**, I am now ready to turn my abusers’ threatening e-mail to me in May of 2012, into a piece of high comedy, by running it through my own brand-new narc decoder.
Blogger Tina Swithin has popularized the idea of a “narc decoder,” through which you run messages from your abuser. This handy little “machine” translates those messages which fill you with fear, dread, anger, and the like, into what they really mean.
First, read the e-mail from Richard and Tracy:
We read this in amusement. It gave us a good laugh to find that almost 2 years later you are still fixated on something that we forgot about a long time ago. As for your threats, promises whatever to expose us you can take out a law book and read about defamation laws. Richards’s court case may be public access and you are free to speculate all you want without having all the information and facts. However the rest of your writings about how horrible a person Tracy is and abusive mentally deranged etc. have gone beyond statements of opinion. You have represented in your writings false facts, not just opinions, about Tracy that constitutes an actionable lawsuit. You are free to have your opinion and feelings however the minute you go public to the members of the church or community as you have threatened to do we will exercise our rights to sue you for defamation against Tracy’s character.
You talk about threats and bullies yet what are you doing? You are threating to falsely accuse and expose lies about an innocent person if they do not concede to your demands. We will not be threatened or intimidated. We are free to go to church to worship our Lord God without fear of retaliation from someone we see as not all there. You want closure here it is. We are not sorry. We did nothing wrong. You will never get what you want from us because we do not feel we owe you anything. We will continue to be active in our church our community and our town; if you cannot handle that then that us your problem not ours. We will not move or change our faith to make you happy and comfortable. As for the local parish being ‘your’ church. I think the archdiocese would have a thing to say about that. The church is for everyone. We have stayed away out of respect to give you time. We have gone to other churches in town outside of our faith when gas prices or work schedules prevented us from driving 40+ miles one way to church. However we miss going to a church of our faith, participating in the mysteries having that commune with our Lord, so we decided that when we can’t drive out of town we will go to the local parish. We will not be pushed out of the church by you, two years is enough time. So as fair warning for the perceivable future our work schedules make long distance an issue as the other parish is moving to summer hours and Divine Liturgy starts early. So we will be attending locally A LOT this summer, we will even show up on Saturday nights.
And now I run the e-mail from Richard and Tracy through the narc decoder…..
Snap, crackle, pop….
And here it is, all decoded:
How dare you ever speak a word to anyone about how we bullied, abused and gaslit you for years? How dare you ever speak a word about Tracy’s abuses of Richard, the children, and others?
Tracy tried her hardest to shut you up so that only you knew what was happening, so we could keep you under our control and even your husband wouldn’t know the truth. We wanted even him to think you were crazy. We wanted you to think you imagined it all.
How dare you break out of our control and think for yourself? How dare you tell your husband and all your friends and family what we did? How dare you have a mind and will much stronger than we gave you credit for?
You were so nice and easily intimidated that we thought for sure we could twist you every which way we wanted to, and continue to use you and get money/stuff/living space out of you.
It scared us when you showed signs of wanting to kick us out of your house years ago for bullying you and being generally abusive, so we had to re-assert our control and make you think you were in the wrong. We had to make you think YOU were the one with the problem, so we could stay put till we were good and ready to leave.
Now, a few days ago, you actually stood up for yourself and told us to stay away from you. But we don’t want to leave you alone.
We’ve always hated your church, and barely stepped foot in it even while we still pretended to be friends with you. But we want to guilt you into thinking we’re pious Christians who long for the Mysteries, even though we have never lifted a finger to resolve this like Christians, have never behaved like Christians.
We have no interest in actually behaving like Christians, or in getting the Mysteries out of any sense of longing for Christ. No, this is only so we can harass you and pretend to be pious, by making big shows of making the sign of the Cross, just like Pharisees!
We want to shove up against you, breathe down your neck and snarl in the Communion line. We want to pretend to everyone at your church that we’re just innocent Christians, so that no one will believe you if you try to tell them what we really are.
We want free reign, so we can control you at church, too, by forcing you to keep quiet and telling everyone you’re a nutcase and not all there.
We know it’s a lie.
We still think you’re easily manipulated through threats. The truth is that we are afraid of anyone else knowing what kind of people we really are. We don’t want your priest to know, either, especially since you spoke of showing him Richard’s criminal records. This is why we repeatedly threaten you and tell you to shut up.
We don’t want you to get help from the church. We want you to be destroyed because you know what we really are.
We are well aware that you never made threats to retaliate against us.
But just as Tracy did with Todd, when she accused him falsely and smeared him all over the game forum years ago, we will try to make you think you made threats. We will tell others that you made threats you never actually made, to get them on our side and turn them against you, make them think you’re crazy, just as we successfully got all those people thinking that Todd was crazy.
We have already done that, by telling some person Tracy goes to school with, Chia, that you did these things you never did, that you lied when you told the truth. She never even met you before. Then she changed her profile to a passive-aggressive diatribe against you, and “friended” you on Facebook. But it was only so we can peruse your Facebook for posts about us.
Of course you never threatened to push us out of the church or Fond du Lac. We just suffer from poor reading comprehension, combined with our fear of somebody exposing our real selves to the whole world.
We have worked very hard to suppress our real selves around other people in Fond du Lac, so that we can make inroads in politics and other circles, but your very knowledge of our true selves–and Richard’s conviction–threatens our feeling of security.
It is all a lie. But you’re not supposed to recognize that. You’re supposed to doubt yourself and come under our control.
The true threat is that because you know the truth about us, your very existence is a threat. We are scared that because of you, that perfect image we want to present the community, will come crashing down as the facade that it is.
You have kept careful notes of our abuses, and that frightens us. We want you to think even those records are fake. Even though everything you wrote is the truth. Even though Richard sent you an e-mail years back which proved your assertions.
This is why, years ago, we tried to make you think you were a stalker for keeping such notes, so you would stop doing that. This is why we are now trying to gaslight you into thinking that Tracy has never abused anyone and that you’re just lying.
So we will ridicule you and make you think you’re the one with the problem (even though your reactions to being abused and seeing your abuser again are all perfectly normal), because we never matured past elementary school.
We will pretend to be amused by your blog, when in truth it scares us to death–or we never would’ve threatened you. Especially your knowledge of Richard’s conviction. We read that page of your blog constantly.
Though your pain, your desperate suffering, caused by us and our actions and words, so much so that only blogging could get it out, does amuse us, because we are sociopaths.
Though we are so faulty with reading comprehension that we did not get that it’s not “closure” you need, but for us to recognize we have done wrong, and make it right, through apologies and changed behavior. This would make a Christian restoration of friendship possible.
But that won’t happen, because we are superior to all others and never do anything wrong. And because we were only pretending to be your friends to begin with.
We even laugh at the collapse of your faith, even though Richard claimed for years to want to be a priest. Which shows our own faith is actually an act put on to fool you and others, to give us an air of respectability.
We want you to think that even your perception of Richard’s conviction is wrong, even though you have official, public information saying otherwise. We want you to think Richard is innocent, even though he himself admitted to choking his daughter. All to further gaslight you into our control.
We easily got over the breakup because you were blameless, so we had nothing to be angry about. Well, other than the fact that you broke free of us before we could dump you first.
But you had been showing signs of breaking free from our control for years, which is why we let you go so easily. We knew you would be trouble, that you already saw Tracy’s true nature and were beginning to see Richard’s as well. We knew you may even report us to the police or Social Services–which you did eventually do. That scared us.
We would never admit to being to blame for the suffering you’ve gone through. It’s your fault, after all. It’s never the abuser’s fault. How dare you try to make us take responsibility for how we treat and hurt people, including our own children? We are perfect, can’t you tell? It’s never our fault when we abuse someone! It’s always the fault of the person we abuse!
It infuriates us that you are sticking up for yourself and telling about what happened! So we will make empty threats, hoping to shut you up, even though we know we could never have the legal basis to carry them through, and no lawyer would take us on because we have no case or money! We talk about Constitutional Rights, but that’s for US, not for you!
How dare you insist that we never contact you? Just by sending this e-mail we are violating your rights and request to be left alone! Because we don’t care about anybody but ourselves.
–Richard and Tracy Doe
Ah, that was therapeutic. This is a good way to turn the horrid e-mails/messages sent to you by your abuser, into a piece of see-through garbage that no longer bothers you.
Attempting to obtain closure with an abusive, narcissistic and/or borderline woman (i.e., Crazy) is almost always a maddening exercise in futility.
You’re not going to get closure with this kind of woman for several reasons. First, she doesn’t meet the three most important prerequisites for giving and receiving closure:
A reasonable degree of sanity
A foothold in reality
Being able to give an ex closure means you’re able to accept your share of responsibility for the demise of the relationship and when has your BPD and/or NPD ex ever taken responsibility for her behavior, especially when she was clearly in the wrong?
…I hate to break it to you, but if you’re waiting for this to happen or, heaven forbid, an apology from this woman; IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. If you try to get closure from your NPD and/or BPD ex by detailing the many ways she hurt and tortured you, she’s unlikely to acknowledge what she did. –Dr. Tara, Shrink4Men, There is No Closure with a Narcissistic or Borderline Woman
Recently, the newspaper told me Tracy graduated college, and her major. I’ve also seen her back in town recently, right in the same parking lot I pulled into.
From various IPs linked conclusively to them, it looks like one of them has been in town this whole past year, even while she went to college on the other side of the state–even though her IP location came from a city near the college for much of the year.
Her main IP address is screwy, because the locations keep changing even though the IP does not. Sometimes she’s in Eau Claire, or Madison, or Rochester MN….
And now the same IP shows up as Fond du Lac, then Madison, then Fond du Lac, then Madison…. Other local IPs from that Internet Service Provider, including mine, always show as Fond du Lac.
She recently used one other IP that showed Missouri, but it was identified by my stat trackers as her cell phone–and she used that same phone on my blog a short time later, from Fond du Lac.
And sometimes I get hits from Texas, someone who has used Richard and Tracy’s unique search terms.
I have no clue what’s going on. All I know is that now she’s graduated and was in Fond du Lac again back in June.
I’ve heard of people leaving town to get away from their abusers, but that’s not possible here: We own this house, and were in this town long before they were.
The other day, I open up the newspaper and it tells me that Tracy got some kind of honor at her college. A couple of years ago, it said she was in an honor society of some kind.
I did not want to see that. She does not deserve honors after the way she has treated so many people over the years.
But unfortunately, academic-based honors often have little to do with the kind of person you are, and are based solely on grade point averages, so even sociopaths and various forms of abusers can get degrees and honors.
Abuse victims want justice. We don’t want our abusers getting accolades. Just ask the daughter of Woody Allen what that’s like:
After a custody hearing denied my father visitation rights, my mother declined to pursue criminal charges, despite findings of probable cause by the State of Connecticut – due to, in the words of the prosecutor, the fragility of the “child victim.” Woody Allen was never convicted of any crime.
That he got away with what he did to me haunted me as I grew up. I was stricken with guilt that I had allowed him to be near other little girls. I was terrified of being touched by men. I developed an eating disorder. I began cutting myself.
That torment was made worse by Hollywood. All but a precious few (my heroes) turned a blind eye. Most found it easier to accept the ambiguity, to say, “who can say what happened,” to pretend that nothing was wrong.
Actors praised him at awards shows. Networks put him on TV. Critics put him in magazines.
Each time I saw my abuser’s face – on a poster, on a t-shirt, on television – I could only hide my panic until I found a place to be alone and fall apart.
Last week, Woody Allen was nominated for his latest Oscar. But this time, I refuse to fall apart.
For so long, Woody Allen’s acceptance silenced me. It felt like a personal rebuke, like the awards and accolades were a way to tell me to shut up and go away.
But the survivors of sexual abuse who have reached out to me – to support me and to share their fears of coming forward, of being called a liar, of being told their memories aren’t their memories – have given me a reason to not be silent, if only so others know that they don’t have to be silent either.
Just ask any girl who’s been raped in college, but her abuser went on to get a degree. Even a degree seems too good for our abusers. This does actually happen, as a victim’s concerns are minimized and the rapist is allowed to graduate:
A graduating senior at Central College who was found responsible for “non-consensual sex” with a fellow student was given a choice: be expelled a month before graduation or stay in school with the conditions that he not walk in the ceremony and allow the college to notify a future employer and other schools that he’d violated the code of conduct….
A year-long investigation by the Center for Public Integrity found that students deemed “responsible” for sexual assaults on campus often face little or no punishment from school judicial systems, while their victims’ lives are frequently turned upside down. –Lee Rood, Central College lets rape suspect select punishment
Scott is a graduating senior, so some people may wonder why I care anymore. He’ll be gone soon enough, so what if the school didn’t do anything?
When he was first found responsible, I was told that the purpose of these sanctions was to help him learn from this. It is clear to me he hasn’t learned anything, and that scares me.
When he gets his diploma, he will officially be a representative of what Macalester stands for, and I fear that he will represent my school as a place that protects rapists at the expense of the people they victimize.
If I return to Macalester for my senior year in the fall and get my diploma next year, I will also be representative of Macalester.
For better or worse, I will be tied to Scott forever. I will also be tied to what I see as a pattern of survivors of sexual assault who are forced to watch their school choose to protect the future of criminals over their own safety.
My fear is that if I stay, I will become a silent accomplice to rape. Not just to my own rape, but to the future people I believe Scott will victimize. –Anna Binkovitz, Sharing a degree with your rapist
Just finding out that my ex Phil is a math teacher or professor, makes me cringe. Him, molding young minds? The guy who psychologically abused me and even tried to sexually assault me several times? And of course, to be a math teacher, he had to get a couple of degrees.
Years ago, I told people I hoped he would become a monk, so he could not hurt more women or, as a priest, advise married couples. Instead, he went on to marry, have two kids, and get divorced, making me wonder how that woman and her children have been abused.
And that’s despite the fact–or maybe because–Richard had been convicted of choking one of his kids, proving I wrote the truth. I kept my blog up despite all the hell they put me through, because the truth needed to be told. I told my friends and family about it, too.
The Forum we all used to belong to, was convinced of my credibility when they saw the facts of Richard’s case on the state’s and newspaper’s websites.
Yet still Richard and Tracy imagined they could somehow threaten and scare me into believing I was a liar. Apparently they were the only ones who did not see Richard’s conviction as proof I was telling the truth about domestic violence in their household.
Yet I opened up the paper yesterday and read that Tracy had received some sort of honor at college this past school year.
I previously learned that Richard, while convicted, plea-bargained and got merely a fine and year’s probation.
So he’s out walking free despite nearly killing a 9-year-old girl, and I still see the kids with them both despite Tracy’s verbal (and sometimes physical) abuse, despite my detailed report describing how Tracy had been tormenting the children and exposing them to her domestic violence against Richard.
I want these people in jail for abusing their kids and terrorizing me.
I want Richard to have gotten the sentence he deserved: many years in prison, which he would’ve received if he hadn’t plea-bargained.
I want Tracy put in jail for punching Richard.
I want them to either shape up or get their kids put with better parents.
I want them to apologize to me on their knees.
I do NOT want them moving on with life, getting honors, manipulating and abusing other people, being told how wonderful they are, continuing to physically abuse and psychologically torture and scar their children. (They have hurt a lot of other people besides me.)
One consolation is, while Richard wanted to become an Orthodox priest, my priest tells me that’s impossible because of the child abuse conviction. And a friend who sometimes has to help hire people, was directed to screen out anyone with domestic abuse on their record, because of the nature of the job.
It boggles my mind (and my husband’s) that Tracy got a degree in business management. HER, a MANAGER? She can’t even manage her own household or temper! I fear for anyone who, in the future, is put under her supervision–just as I fear for her children under her supervision. I pray for her children’s safety nearly every day.
And I’m not the only one who has to deal with this. I see the same frustrations, anger at the injustice of it all, permeating other abuse blogs. For example, this one, because this woman, a PTSD sufferer, was spiritually abused by a predatory pastor, then reported him–yet now he’s been made senior pastor at a new church:
Allison also occasionally checks up on her LinkedIn profile, which is creepy. Yes, those of us who have been abused know how creepy it is to be “checked up on” by our abusers! I get “checked up on” every week or so by mine! Keeping my blog up has required a lot of courage, and has earned me a strength I did not have before.
This kind of thing happens in our churches, and it should not. It’s not just a Catholic problem.