Sexual Abuse In Marriage – My Real Life Experience
I used to think sexual abuse and assault took place in abductions, dates gone bad, times of war, or in cases of incest; I never considered it in marriage until it happened to me, in my marriage. I associated marriage with safety; the mere idea of sexual abuse/assault in marriage was unthinkable, not possible. But, as the truth about my abusive marriage came to light, so did the role sex played in the context of such a marriage.
The days I began facing the truth of my abuse, I felt incomprehensible fear at the realization that not only was my husband abusing me, but he had sexually abused me as well. I ignored the sexual abuse as the other forms took center stage. But, God, in His loving kindness, slowly showed me the whole awful truth. He helped me gain the courage to stand against my husband’s wicked attitudes and behavior; He gave me the safety, sanity and restoration I so desperately needed.
I do not want to make you uncomfortable with unnecessary details on sexual abuse, nor do I want heap on cynicism about the church. I will, however, speak honestly and hopefully about the painful, but necessary role a church played in my story.
My husband’s abuse had isolated us beyond description. I had no trustworthy friends to call on and so I went to the safest place I knew – the church. I may have expected the church to be safe, but they also proclaimed that they wanted to be a safe place for sinners. And so, I expected them to understand this form of evil, to know how to help me fight it and how to spiritually heal from its bad affects. But, they were like me, uninformed about abusive behavior and the heart attitudes behind it.
As the church could not help me, I began a rabid search for information on abuse, much like any person does after receiving a life-threatening diagnosis. I gathered articles and spoke with men and women who knew abuse. In His word, the Holy Spirit instructed me on evil hearts and the kinds of behaviors that stem from them, “reviling” (aka. abuse) being one of them. He taught me how God deals with evil as exemplified in the Israelites, Pharisees, and the early Church.
I also received intense counseling from someone trained in abuse, sex addiction and trauma. She helped me understand the evil of abuse by unpacking its lies, its deceitful patterns, how to confront it, and how to begin healing my shattered view of self. In essence, God matured me by training my senses to know the difference between good and evil (Hebrews 5:14).
I took all this information to my church leadership. But, they willfully chose not to read. This compounded feelings of fear as I realized just how alone I was in this fight against evil. My church had never appeared more irrelevant, cowardly, unsafe and disappointing than during those days of battle.
My church refused to confront my husband. Instead, they listened to and believed his version of reality. (Tweet this)
They told me they believed me and instructed me to accept my husband’s apologies (which were far from repentant, nor trustworthy in any way). They said they needed specific examples so they could present these to my husband. They asked me to give details of his sexual abuse. Sadly, I did.
Not only did they, then, refuse to confront my husband, (even in my presence), they continued allowing him to worship and take communion. There is only one other place where I had felt this shamed and rejected and that was in my home after my husband would abuse me. The feelings of betrayal went deep. I could no longer worship there because so many of the senior leadership now knew details of my most private wounds and yet continued to do nothing. My church inadvertently became a safe place for the abuser when they refused to take me seriously.
Just as fear, denial, naiveté and lies had kept me from facing the truth of my marriage, my church also feared what they did not know. They denied that such evil could exist within the church. They chose to remain naïve to abuse. They held to a twisted version of the scripture on women being the weaker vessel. And so, when I came to them emotional, desperate, angry, and scared, they patronized me and doubted whether I was a discontented wife looking for a way out of her unhappy marriage.
Sexual addiction often accompanies abuse. Pornography had a tremendous hold. My husband did not act outside of the marriage, but took what he was looking at and brought it to the bedroom – the attitudes and subsequent behavior resulted in sexual abuse. My church spoke out against pornography, much like one might warn another about the dangers of daily sugar consumption. And so, when this evil came to light, it challenged every warning they had ever given. It posed an unimaginable, and yet too real a threat to the marriages (perhaps even their own marriages) within the church.
I had dreams about what marriage, and the church, should be – all pulled from scripture. They were not foolish dreams. But, the greatest dream, and safest, most secure relationship I will ever have is with Jesus. The Bible says, “They (the soldiers) stripped Him” (Matthew 27:28). Jesus was stripped naked, mocked, and crucified naked. Jesus knows how I felt before my husband. Church leaders murdered Jesus; none of them took Him seriously. Jesus knows how I felt before my church leaders.
Jesus also did what no man who had tried to control him unto death could do –overcome the evil of death. Abuse and divorce are not untouchable subjects for Jesus, who was abused unto death and divorced from His father. As Jesus suffered, His Father condemned Him as though He had committed every sinful thought, word and deed by every person in history. Jesus endured this, and would not be rescued by angels, to secure our present and future safety. If we believe in His love, accept it, let Him inside us, then nothing our spouse says, does or doesn’t do to condemn us will ever stand before God. We are safe. Their judgment is null and void.
To the extent that we let Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice touch our hearts, the more love we will have for His body, the Church, which will one day be perfect. One day, churches will no longer fail us. Still, because of Jesus’ present and future victory over sin, we can hold our churches to the calling that God has placed upon them. Nothing is impossible with God, who is able to do more than all we ask or imagine through Christ Jesus.
People, myself included, often wonder at my ongoing healing. It should not be a surprise considering the depths of God’s love and what He did to secure my salvation from evil within me and evil around me. For the moments I doubt or fear love in this life, I ask God to help me, to help us all, be able to grasp the might, transformative, faithful, safe and pure love of God.
Friend, thank you for your vulnerability and courage in sharing your story.
Friends, has sexual abuse been a part of the abuse cycle in your marriage?