Gary Thomas and Debra Fileta’s book, Married Sex, has raised some serious concerns in the world of domestic abuse. Trauma victims seeking counsel from the Christian community may feel confused by the damaging messages purported by this and other Evangelical marriage and sex books. At BTR, we want to make it clear that you are NOT your husband’s object: you are a human being.
Any book, sermon, or website that counsels you to submit yourself sexually to another person in order to protect yourself from betrayal is abusive.
You Are Not Responsible For Your Husband’s Fidelity
Are you responsible for your husband’s fidelity?
If your husband has told you or implied that if you do not have sex with him, then he will cheat on you – whether with another person or with pornography – you are being sexually abused.
Sexual coercion is sexual abuse.
Too many women are coerced into sex because they are afraid that their partner will betray them if they don’t comply.
When Church Leaders & Authors Tell You That You Are Your Husband’s Object
When this dangerous threat is condoned by religious leaders and authors, like Gary Thomas, women are severely traumatized and more likely to comply with their husband’s demands because they feel unsupported by their faith communities. They may experience:
- Sexual pain
- Illness, including STDs and STIs
- CPTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
- Rape Trauma Syndrome
- Suicidal ideation
Have You Been Told You Are Your Husband’s Object? You Are Not Alone
The devastation that women feel when they seek help from an organization, religious leader, or marriage book – and find only blame, traumatizing advice, and excuses for the abuser – is overwhelming and confusing.
And tragically, it’s all too common.
You are not alone if you have come across some truly despicable counsel in your journey seeking help and peace.
An Army Of Advocates
At BTR, we stand beside the brave voices (including Sheila Gregoire, Sarah McDugal, MaryEllen Bream, Patrick Weaver, and Andrea Aleksandrova) that declare that sexual betrayal is not your fault.
You are not your husband’s object.
Your body is yours.
Your body, heart, and mind are yours – Ralynne Riggs bears her soul about the heartbreak of trauma and coercion in the following interview with Anne. Please tune in to the BTR.ORG podcast and read the full transcript below for more.
Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.
Before we get to today’s guests, if you do not follow us on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook you need to go there now. We have just posted an amazing music video by our guest, Ralynne Riggs.
I’m actually interviewing Ralynne Riggs, who created this music video for BTR and for victims of abuse. Please go to our YouTube channel, Betrayal Trauma Recovery, and subscribe there. Many women are finding so much validation from this video. We are so thrilled. It really captures the emotions that victims go through when they realize that their partners have abused and betrayed them.
Listen To Ralynne’s Powerful Song Today
Ralynne is the singer, producer and director, and we’re going to talk to her today. You may want to pause and go to our YouTube channel right now and watch this video first before you listen to the rest of this podcast.
Once you see it, we really encourage you to share it, like it, subscribe to our channel. We really want to get this video out there. We have so many women that listen to this podcast and follow our social media platforms. Let’s see if we can get this video to go viral. Please, please, please help up out with this. Comment, subscribe, anything you can do to share this video would be really helpful.
I’m going to introduce Ralynne right now. Ralynne Riggs was born and raised in Chandler, Arizona. Her passions include singing, dancing, acting, horseback riding, baking, making movies—as you will see when you go to our YouTube channel to see this—and being the favorite aunt to her 14 beautiful nieces and nephews.
Since she was young, her greatest passion has been the stage. She received her bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from Brigham Young University and has performed as a leading soprano throughout the U.S., China, and Austria. After graduation, she became a lead singer for Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL.
“You Can Do Anything, If You Just Do It”
She was then able to fulfill another dream and severed an 18-month mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in San Diego, CA at the Mormon Battalion Historic Site. For the past three years, Ralynne has been sharing her talents with families from all over the world as a lead singer on a Disney Cruise Line.
Ralynne has learned the importance of hard work, confidence, self-worth, and perseverance in bringing one’s dreams to life. Her mantra is: You can do anything, if you just do it.
Ralynne: Thank you so much, Anne.
Anne: I’m hoping by this time people have paused this podcast, they have gone to our YouTube channel, and they have seen this amazing music video that you made. I’m hoping they have shared it. I’m hoping they commented. I’m hoping that they are letting their friends and family know about this incredible video, and also that they’re understating that this can help their friends, family, and other people understand the pain that victims go through.
The Agony Of Lies
You were prompted to create this video to help educate people about betrayal trauma, but before we get to that and what happened with that, let’s start with your own personal story. Did you know about your husband’s pornography addiction before you were married?
Ralynne: I did know a little bit about his addiction before we were married. There was one night when, after things had gotten more serious in our dating, that he approached me and said there were some things in his past that he wanted to make me aware of so that I really knew everything about him. He shared with me that he struggled with pornography throughout his teenage years.
But I was naive to the problem and to how serious a porn addiction could be and what that all entailed, and I didn’t know the right questions to ask. I was just thinking, “Well, no one is perfect,” and I asked him if he had struggled with it since?
The Agony of Betrayal
He said he had cleaned up and was able to serve a two-year mission and didn’t struggle with it at all and hadn’t struggled since he’d been home. To me, I thought, “Well, that was brave of him to bring that up with me and share it with me,” and I believed him. I didn’t know what else to ask about it.
Anne: Because we know that pornography users often lie about their porn use or abusive men often lie and manipulate, even if you had known the right questions to ask that likely would not have actually helped you. What we find helps women more, and you know this now, is what behaviors to look for. You also didn’t know that at the time, right?
What was your reaction to finding out about his viewing and acting out with porn, after you were married? What action steps were taken after you discovered that he was still using porn?
The Agony of Gaslighting
Ralynne: Well, it was about five months into our marriage that he called me very distraught and crying and telling me that I needed to come home because he needed me. I didn’t know what was going on. Then, when I got home, he shared with me that he had viewed and acted out to porn.
In my mind I was thinking, “Okay, so all of a sudden after four or five years of not viewing porn you’ve gone back to it, why?” As a new bride, I, of course, was sitting there in utter shock and immediately feeling like it had something to do with me. “Was I not enough? Why would he go back to this now?”
Mostly, I was just in shock and didn’t believe it, but he also seemed so sorry when he told me that my immediate reaction was, “Well, I love you. Thank you for being honest with me and telling me about it. Let’s go meet with our bishop and get a therapist and start working through this together.”
The Agony of Marital Sexual Abuse
I literally told him, “Use me when you need to use me. Let’s be open and get through this together. Use me as far as, if you’re feeling tempted, talk to me. Tell me when you’ve done it. Let’s be open and honest.”
I think a part of me was like, “Hey, if you’re feeling the urge, hello, we are married, let me know. Like, why would you turn to that instead of turning to me, your wife?” I know now, down the road, that those were a lot of the wrong things to do.
Anne: Yeah, I’m guessing you didn’t understand the emotional abuse that you had been subjected to?
Ralynne: Not at all.
The Agonizing Pain Of Trying To “Fix” Him But Losing Her
Anne: You also didn’t understand, I’m guessing, boundaries or keeping yourself safe?
Ralynne: I knew nothing about that because it did not register in my mind that anything had been done to me, at that point.
Anne: Yeah, you’re just thinking, “Oh, this is too bad for him, but I can help him through it.” Kind of like he got a broken finger or something.
Describe what happened in your personal life during this time? What were your days like as you tried to “help” your husband work through his addiction?
Ralynne: They were pretty awful. For me, long story short, I took on the problem. I’m a go-getter in everything I do in life, so it’s not surprising to me that I took everything on my shoulders.
The Agony Of Believing It’s An Addiction Problem
I became very worried about doing check-ins with him. I was even worried when I talked to him, whether he was telling me the truth or not, setting up appointments for therapy. We went together and we went separately. Then I was told about addiction recovery programs and started going to those.
But, as we went, there was no real desire or effort coming from him to want to go. It was like I was dragging him along, which made things worse because then I felt like I was fighting harder for something that really wasn’t even my issue, to begin with. It was becoming my issue and it was consuming my days and I was actually fired from my job.
I was let go from my job at a meeting with my boss and my office manager. My boss said, ultimately, he was very sorry, but I was just so sad all the time and he had to let me go. That was a huge wakeup call for me because that is not a way I’ve ever been described in my life.
Usually, people associate me with words like “You’re so bubbly and so happy and so outgoing.” To see that I had become this sad person that couldn’t even hide my sadness. Everything was spiraling the other way and affecting my life in a very negative way was a huge wakeup call for me.
I became this introverted ball of depression and tears and anxiety. I began to have panic attacks, which I had never experienced before in my life. It just seemed like I could not succeed anywhere.
I couldn’t succeed at my jobs and I couldn’t succeed at home. Everything was just so dark and hopeless during that time. I really lost myself completely. I was just trying to survive each day. I became very numb through that whole process.
Anne: You did not realize at that time that you were in an abusive relationship. You didn’t realize that the reason this was happening was because you were a victim of abuse, but you did start to realize that you were suffering from betrayal trauma. How did you realize the betrayal trauma piece?
Ralynne: That became a realization as I finally sat down and spoke with someone one-on-one for myself. My ecclesiastical leader had been told by my husband that I was depressed because that’s what my husband was blaming things on. I was suffering from depression.
My ecclesiastical leader met with me and I said I’m not depressed, this is what is going on, and he referred me to meet with a mental health professional. As I sat down with her, she was the first person who mentioned the words betrayal trauma to me.
After I finished speaking to her about what was going on, she said, “Honey, you’re not depressed. You are suffering from betrayal trauma and you have signs of PTSD.” I looked at her and said what’s betrayal trauma? I had no idea what that was at the time.
She did expound further and mentioned the different types of abuse that were going on, being emotional, spiritual, mental, all of those things. I just sat and listened to her say that in disbelief but as she said it, it kind of dawned on me, “Of course, that makes complete sense,” but, like most people when I think of abuse, I don’t think of all of the emotional types of abuse that are out there.
I especially, wouldn’t associate that with my spouse. I would never think my spouse would be someone who would be emotionally, spiritually, mentally abusing me. Unfortunately, that was the reality. It wasn’t until I spoke with her that all of those lightbulbs went on and I realized how bad the situation was.
Anne: Yeah, it’s a lot worse than people imagine. I think it’s really interesting how victims don’t recognize how bad the situation is. Because everyone listening to this podcast has been through it, everyone can empathize with you and be like, “Yep, that’s exactly how it was for me.”
I think that’s one thing that we need to educate people about in regard to abuse. It’s that victims don’t always know what is happening to them. What is the most difficult thing you realized throughout this experience?
Ralynne: The most difficult thing that I realized, throughout this experience, was the fact that I could not save my husband. No matter how many times I went to therapy or how many times I prayed or how many times I took him to a recovery class. Just no matter how hard tooth and nail I clawed to try to save our marriage and help him, I was powerless.
I had to learn that his actions were separate from mine, that they did not have anything to do with me—even though that’s the hardest thing, I think, for a spouse to believe—that they didn’t have anything to do with me and that it was all his choices, his actions, and his consequences that he had to deal with, that he wasn’t, and that there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.
Anne: I think it’s interesting that when women find out they’re being abused that they only have two options. One of them is the abuse stops and the second option is that they set boundaries. But so many women, in the beginning, they think they have more options than that.
They think one of their options is to help him stop being abusive, and that is never an option because it never works. He either stops on his own somehow and then you’re safe or you have to start setting boundaries.
Speaking of boundaries, knowing what you know now, if you could go back in time and do it over again—which none of us can but we’ve all thought this—what would you have done differently? This question isn’t meant to think, “Oh, what should you have done,” but to educate women who are currently in this situation to help them know what to do now.
Ralynne: Yes. Well, first of all, I would have loved to know right away that it’s not my fault and I can’t blame myself or take it on my shoulders. Knowing that, I would definitely take that off of myself right away.
Secondly, I would have done a lot more research before finding the therapist that we met with because we just went with someone recommended to us by our ecclesiastical leader, who was not qualified in any way regarding abuse.
I also would be more vocal about it because the decision that we made, when it first happened, was that we didn’t want to share with our families what was going on because we didn’t want either person to be viewed in a bad light or gossiped about amongst our family. We decided we could get through it together on our own with each other and with our therapist.
I think that was also a huge mistake because it allowed him to continue to get away with not having to own up to his addiction and the problems that were happening within our marriage because of it. I think, if we would have involved our parents, at least, as a support group it maybe would have helped him to be more accountable right away rather than feeling like he could keep hiding it.
Anne: Maybe, let me put your heart at ease in that regard. I told everyone. My ex didn’t want me to, but then it ended up getting used against me by my in-laws. It can go either way. I’m not saying people should or should not tell other people, but just know that both of them have risks.
But I do think victims need a safe support network and you don’t know if someone is safe if you don’t try. Even if you try and it doesn’t go so well with a particular person, like your mother-in-law, your father-in-law, even your own parents, at least, you tried to see if they were safe, which you won’t know if you don’t try. Try and then, if they are unsafe, then you can always set boundaries or pull back later, but building a really strong support network is really important.
Ralynne: Yes. With setting boundaries, again, that was a concept that I didn’t know about and was brought my knowledge way too far into this issue. If I knew about that, and went through something like this again or could do it again, I would have immediately started setting safe boundaries and sticking to them.
Because, trying to do that two years into problems already going on, just immediately turned into him feeling like, “What, you’re going to punish me now? As if I already don’t feel bad enough, you’re going to punish me now?”
He just reacted in a way that it was like he was being a child and he was being punished and how could I do that to him when he was already hurting so much. Boundaries never worked for us.
Anne: Well, they worked for you. They didn’t work for your abuser, and then he was trying to get around the abuse by saying that stuff but that was meant to manipulate you to drop your boundaries. That was a calculated way of trying to convince you, of gaslighting you, manipulate you, lie to you, so you would drop the boundaries. Did your boundaries work for you? Yes.
When people say, “Boundaries didn’t work for us,” I always want to tell women, “Oh, no, no, no. They are always going to work for you, they might not work for your abuser, but great. If they don’t work for your abuser, then yeah! If he’s mad because he can’t abuse you anymore, fantastic. You’ve done yourself a favor.”
If someone is abusive and you set a boundary, their abuse will escalate. They’ll manipulate you more, they’ll get angrier. If they’re not abusive and you set a boundary, things will slowly get better over time or if they’re not really far into the abuse. Setting a boundary is always going to help victims know their baseline safety situation, which is good.
Why Voice The Agonizing Pain Of Abuse Victims
Okay, so let’s talk about this music video. Again, I’m going to pause here one more time. If you haven’t yet, go to our YouTube channel Betrayal Trauma Recovery and watch this video. We just posted it yesterday. Please subscribe to our channel.
Share it with your friends and family. Share it on Facebook. Share it everywhere you can. We’ve also posted it on Instagram so if you’re on Instagram and you could tag us so that people could go to our Instagram account and watch it. On Facebook the same thing. Please help us get this video out so other people can understand the pain and suffering that women go through because Ralynne has done such a good job of illustrating this.
I got an email a while ago that said, “Hey, I’m Ralynne Riggs and I’m a singer and I want to create a music video.” We started talking and became friends. I was so inspired by you. That you had this prompting to create a music video and then you put your whole heart and soul into it and made this incredible illustration of pain and also hope. Please tell our audience, now that they’ve seen this amazing video, what inspired you to create it?
Ralynne: This song became a song that was very important to me as part of my survival and healing, when I was in the middle of all of this experience. It was just on my mind for a while, I’m not going to lie. It had been on my mind for about a year and a half.
I waited too long to make this, but the song gave words to my pain and exactly what I was feeling so poignantly that it was such a strength to me. Music has done that for me throughout my whole life and I just thought, “You know, I wonder if I should make a music video. To do this and just spread awareness about what happens to the spouse in this situation or to the partner in this situation.”
Because there is so much help out there and support for the addict or for the abuser and I feel like, and in my personal experience and in my experiences with other women that I met in support groups, we are often the ones who are pushed aside while we are asked to just hold on a little longer while our husband gets help and we are left with all of these emotions and this trauma and we don’t know what to do with it.
I wanted to make this video in hopes that, if there are other women out there on the other end of the computer screen going through what I was going through or who have been through it and they’re out there searching for support or help or to know what’s happening to them, I wanted to make this for them, because the faster they can know about it the sooner they can find the help and resources for healing the better.
I feel like it was way too far into my experience to find what I found. I’m grateful that I found things like btr.org—it was one that was referred to me and has been such a saving grace. I know there are thousands of women out there going through this and I don’t want them to suffer or feel hopeless any longer than they need to. That was my hope.
My simple hope in doing this is that, even if one woman out there, going through what I went through, watches this and then finds a community of love and support to help her heal it will have been worth it.
Anne: Yeah. You said something that is really interesting. You said that women are just asked to wait, just hold on a little bit longer. But what they’re not told is, you may not be safe while you are waiting. They’re not told, “During the ‘waiting process’ you may be still being abused along the way and so how can we help create a seriously safe environment for you, where you can wait from a safe distance?”
I think that is one reason why the trauma is so bad. Even with professionals or church leaders or other people we weren’t cocooned in a safe place during the waiting period. In fact, the abuse escalates and escalates and escalates and we have been encouraged to “do our part or be supportive” when, really, we’ve just been abused that whole time and it hasn’t stopped the abuse cycle.
That’s one thing I loved about this video, that it really hit home with the abuse that we experience during that time and that all of the pleading and all of the “Please stop” or “Help” or “What can I do,” that type of thing, is part of that abuse cycle for women.
To get to safety, takes an actual step towards safety, which is really hard, but I love that end where she just takes another women’s hand and that network of support is waiting for women all over the world. It doesn’t necessarily have to be BTR, it could be a local support group that someone goes to. It could be friends at work. It could be anyone who can reach out and buoy you up and help you. Your video just showed that so well.
Ralynne: Thank you so much. I 100% agree with you, but what about you, in the meantime, how do you remain safe? None of that was ever addressed with me and I remember asking the third time I was asked to hold on and keep waiting. I remember my reply was, “Why, would I keep fighting and holding on for something that makes me so miserable and is so abusive?” There was no answer really for me from that person.
Anne: You ended up getting divorced?
How Voicing Her Pain Helped Her Heal From Abuse
Anne: Do you feel like creating this video has helped you heal?
Ralynne: I do. The way I was raised, and what I’ve been taught in my faith, is that everything happens for a reason, and through all of this I’ve often struggled because I’ve sat there and gone, “What have I done to deserve this? I’ve been a loyal, faithful wife. I stayed true. I’ve tried to love unconditionally and endlessly and this is what I get for it? How is this fair?” That’s been something I’ve really struggled with, but I’ve tried to have the outlook of, “How is this making me stronger and what’s the purpose?” That’s something that I’ve been so grateful for with making this video.
Because immediately, as soon as I started taking action and making plans to have this made and reaching out to people and getting volunteers to be in it and just producing it, there were so many little miracles that immediately fell into place. I could not deny that God’s hand was in it, and I felt so happy and good knowing I was doing something that He was guiding me to do and would hopefully lead to helping a lot of women.
As we finished making the video, I just thought, “You know, I’m so grateful. This is the first time I’ve been able to make beauty out of these ashes. Make a little bit of sense or have some good come from the worst years of my life ever, and I’m so grateful.”
I’m grateful that I followed the prompting and have made it. I only hope that it does what I’ve been hoping that it would do and help so many women. It has definitely helped me heal.
Anne: Our hope, Ralynne’s and mine, is that we can get this video to go viral. The reason we want it to do that is that so many women are in this situation and they don’t understand what is happening to them.
It’s very important that we help women get educated about abuse. What it looks like, what it sounds like, what to look for if your husband says he’s in “recovery” from pornography addiction, and how to tell the difference between someone who is just grooming you and saying they’re in recovery and going through the motions and someone who is genuinely a safe person. They are two completely different things.
Again, please go to our YouTube channel if you haven’t already. Watch it. Share it. I am so grateful for Ralynne for following these promptings to help women throughout the world find peace, to help them know that they are not alone.
Even if it doesn’t go viral, if some women find out about BTR, who have not found out about it before or if some women watch this video and realize, “Wait a minute, this is what my husband has been doing to me,” then it will have been a success.
Thank you, Ralynne, for coming on today’s episode to talk about your experience.
Ralynne: Thank you so much for having me and allowing me to share my story. Thank you to everyone who has watched the video so far, and I hope it helps you.
Anne: Again, you can find this video on our YouTube channel, Betrayal Trauma Recovery. You can also follow us on Instagram and Facebook.
Sharing it would help us so much. Also, your comments help the algorithm so that more people can see it. So please, please, please comment, share, everything you can do. Let’s see if we can make this go viral.
Until next week, stay safe out there.