You Can’t Fix Your Abuser

by | Abuse Literacy, Boundaries

You Can't Fix Your Abuser

It’s a painful, difficult truth to swallow. You can’t fix your abuser.

Abusers can change, but they have to do it independent of you. All that you can and should do is seek safety through boundary-setting and self-care.

Tom Pride from Psalm 82 Initiative joins Anne on the free BTR podcast. He empowers women to make choices around their own safety, rather than hoping that their abuser will change. Listen to the free BTR podcast and read the full transcript below for more.

You Can’t Convince Your Abuser That He’s Abusive

A lot of victims go to the person they’re afraid of, rather than withdrawing. They ask for an explanation. Or they’re thinking, well, if I communicate really well what my concerns are, then they will understand what I’m saying. But that’s not what happens with abuse. When you open up like that in a vulnerable way it gets used against you.

Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

After an abusive episode, especially if abusers used gaslighting, victims feel a need to process what happened. They may believe that if they can speak rationally to the abuser and help him understand their point of view, he will apologize and truly try to change.

Unfortunately, this simply doesn’t work. It may result in short-term “good” behavior from the abuser, but this is actually just part of the abusive cycle: your abuser is most likely “love-bombing” you.

You Can’t Fix Him: His Change Must Be Independent Of You

It’s dangerous for victims to try to step in and help their abusers see reality. When victims try to explain, discuss, work-through, or process abusiveness with their abuser, they are likely to be:

  • Love-bombed
  • Gaslit
  • Lied to
  • Physically harmed
  • Sexually assaulted
  • Sexually coerced
  • Emotionally battered
  • Emotionally blackmailed

Any intervention on the abuser’s behalf must be initiated by an abuse-informed individual or community: not the victim.

When family, friends, faith-communities, colleagues, and community members stand with victims and respectfully call-out abusers, demanding respect for the victim, abusers are much more likely to change.

Find Your Own Fulfillment And Joy, Start Now!

We’ve told people before that there are abusive relationships where the abuser does change and the abuser does repent, but they are few and very, very, very far between. It does happen, but I’m giving you false hope if I tell you it’s likely.

Tom Pride, Psalm 82 Initiative

Your abuser, most likely, is not going to change.

Even if he says he wants to change. Even if he has entered a good abuse-cessation program. Even if he’s not using pornography anymore. Even if he’s made promises.

So choose you.

Choose the life you love. Love yourself! Find fulfillment today. Don’t “wait and see” what he does. Don’t center your life around the choices of a man who has repeatedly betrayed and harmed you.

Rise up and become the woman you were meant to be. If he chooses to change his ways and live amends, then perhaps down the line he will join you as the worthy, gentle, good man you deserve. But don’t wait for it.

Betrayal Trauma Recovery Is Here For You

At BTR, we understand the grief of betrayal and abuse. We also know the sorrow of years wasted, waiting for an abuser to change.

You don’t have to go through this alone.

The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group meets every day in every time zone. Join today and process your trauma, share your story, work through your emotions, and ask questions. Forge strong connections with other women who get it. You deserve support now.

Remember, you are not alone.

Full Transcript:

ANNE: Welcome to betrayal trauma recovery, this is Anne.

Last week I had Tom Pride of Psalm 82 Initiative on the podcast. He is amazing. He is back for today’s episode to continue the conversation. Before we get to Tom, so many of our listeners are experiencing extreme emotional and psychological pain due to their husband’s pornography use, infidelity, and abuse episodes related to it. The lying, the manipulation. If this is you, we would love to see you in a group today. We have multiple live groups online every single day, in every single time zone, it’s called Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group.

Okay, now we’re going to get back to the conversation with Tom. If you didn’t hear our conversation last week, please go back and listen to that first, and then join us here.

Withdrawing Protects Victims From Abuse

TOM: Intimidation, is practically what you can do about it. Intimidation is this, that you cannot participate in a relationship with someone you’re afraid of. That is where there is a fear, you need to withdraw, and if you need to withdraw, again, in as much as it is safe to do so.

ANNE: This is a really important point because a lot of women when they’re afraid instead, they go to the person they’re afraid of, rather than withdrawing. For like an explanation, or thinking, well, if I communicate really well what my concerns are, then they will understand what I’m saying. But that’s not what happens with abuse. When you open up like that in a vulnerable way it gets used against you.

You Cannot Reason With An Abuser

TOM: Right, and we can talk about that particular idea as it pertains to the four tools as well. Says one is, it’s not actually a true statement because you cannot talk to an abuser in order to reason with them to get them to behave differently. Why? Because that puts the responsibility on yourself. If I could say the right words, they would understand. If I could say the right words, they would get it and they would respond right. That accepts responsibility in your mind for their bad thing. If you’re going to communicate with them, you don’t communicate with them to get them to see it your way, you communicate them to let them know what you think about this, and what you intend to do about it.

That changes the dynamic entirely when I refused to accept responsibility for the other person’s reactions.

ANNE: Right.

What Does A Healthy Relationship Look Like?

TOM: That covers the four tools and then we have the four elements. Entitlement, I refuse to accept that someone else gets some characteristic of this relationship. That if it’s not equal, then I’m not involved. In other words, if you can tell me that I’m wrong, then I can tell you you’re wrong and we both should respond fine, equally. A relationship that is unbalanced in that way is not a healthy relationship. And so what do I do? Well, I balance it out. So, look, I’m not going to allow you to do that because you’re not going to allow me to do that and that’s okay. Or, I’m going to do this, and you don’t have to like it, but this is what I’m going to do.

Safe Help Is Not Forceful

Now, that is not a safe thing to do if you’re in an abusive relationship. So, in all of this, I keep talking about this. It’s not safe to do this. The reason why we need an abuse victim to withdraw from the abuser is that in order for the abuse victim to take these actions necessary they have to have a position of relative safety. I’m not in the business of telling a woman she’s safe or not safe. I might say here are some things statistically that if these things are true, then the statistics say you’re not safe. But if she says no, I’m safe, I can manage it, then I’m going to then help her manage it in the way she wants to manage it. My job is not to make her do anything. Otherwise, I’d become an abuser, albeit, a nice one.

ANNE: Right.

“Dealing With Abuse Is Not Inherently Safe”

TOM: My job is to help them do what they believe is right in the way that is the safest for them. That changes things. So, the advice that I’m going to give someone who intends to stay is different than the advice I’m going to give somebody who intends to leave. But in any case, in all of this, the advice given this has to happen, you’ll notice there’s a lot of these that were taking off that say, safety. The lesson in that is this because dealing with abuse is not inherently safe. The idea that you can fix abuse from the inside is a pipe dream because you can’t do this safely. You can’t confront entitlement safely. That would take control. I refuse to be controlled by you. Boy do you want to see the bombs bursting in the air, that’s going to go crazy. You can’t refuse without first refusing to be present and participate in the relationship.

“You Can’t Fix Abuse From The Inside”

It’s the same thing with coercion. I will not be forced. I am not going to respond well to you trying to force me into anything that’s not safe. It’s not safe at all.

ANNE: Right, so for abuse victims who are desperate for the abuse to stop and they’re not, let’s say ready yet to detach and move away from the abuse. In trying to stop the abuse, they end up trying to say like, I demand that you do not use pornography. I demand that you don’t leave the house after eight, because maybe he’s going to solicit prostitutes or something. They’re trying to demand this and that and then they get accused of being the abuser rather than recognizing that their motivation is for truth and safety and appreciation.

Safety-Seeking Behaviors

When victims end up doing these things that can be perceived as controlling or abuse when really, they’re just looking for safety. We don’t recommend that here and we say that’s not going to get you the safety that you want. The only thing that will get you safety is by detaching and moving away from that. Can you talk about that accusatory part right for a minute and how that kind of plays in with clergy and other people third party who started thinking maybe she is an abuser?

“They’ll Always Believe That They Are The Abuse Victim”

TOM: Well, so the first part of this is that you have to understand is that you are going to be accused of abuse, and the reason is because of entitlement. So, the abuser believes they have a right to coerce and control. So, because of that, any refusal to allow for that entitlement to control and coerce you is going to be considered abusive to the abuser and we’ve never had a single case where the abuser did not consider themselves to be the one who was harmed by the relationship. They’ll always believe that they are the abuse victim. So, every abuser presents as a victim, which by the way, is one of the reasons why the four tools are important because sometimes you actually get approached by the abuser claiming to be a victim. My wife won’t this, my wife won’t that. Especially as a pastor and when you’re dealing with subclinical abuse cases.

ANNE: What does that mean?

TOM: Nothing obvious.

ANNE: Nothing obvious. Okay.

Victims Can Tell The Truth To Safe People

TOM: It’s like okay, who’s telling me the truth. And so sometimes pastors are kind of left in the dark. This is important for an abuse victim to know. Is that when you first come to clergy, you’re going to tell a story but you’re not going to tell the whole story you’re going to give them a little teeny bit that little teeny bit is not going to be enough. What they need to know is, they need to know as much of that as you’re willing to tell. Clergy then needs to understand that no matter what that is, there’s more. Even when you’re totally safe, you’re not going to get the whole story, part of that is because the victim doesn’t always even understand that abuse has happened in their life. For instance, it’s very common for people to say, I have not been physically abused, but when you start talking to it. Yes, he pushes her. Yes, he puts his hands around her throat. Yes, he’s thrown things at her. Yes, he slapped her, but he didn’t use a fist. All of a sudden, you’re like, well, wait a minute, that is physical abuse. So, you get that kind of layering that ends up happening, but if the victim understands this when they come into that situation to say here’s what’s going on. To be able to say, the reality is now instead of he’s the problem or I’m the problem, I can speak the truth to myself. Say my husband believes he has a right to make me do what he wants. Regardless of how it affects me.

How Does Porn Fit In?

ANNE: Or that he has a right to do what he wants, regardless of how it affects me. For example, he’s not making you solicit prostitutes. Right, but he is going to solicit prostitutes and he doesn’t want you to complain about it.

TOM: Now what I would say is, that that’s his business. You’ve got to be truthful with yourself. You have a husband who is willing to see prostitutes. The question is not how do you get him to stop seeing prostitutes. The question is, are you willing to continue to have a relationship with a husband who wants to go see prostitutes.

ANNE: Right, and also recognizing that this is abusive to you. It’s not just that he’s seeing prostitutes. It hurts you, right, and you don’t deserve to be treated like that. You don’t. You don’t have to put up with that.

TOM: Yeah, but when I talk about it, I’m talking about it in relation to myself. I am not willing to continue in a relationship where my husband wants to see prostitutes.

ANNE: Right. Or use pornography.

Know Your Personal Boundaries

TOM: Whatever fills in the blank. And the reason why, because now when I take that kind of truth to the clergy, they’re going to be like, well, naturally. Why would anybody want that? Instead of bringing it to you and saying well maybe you need to be forgiving, maybe you need to be this, is not that. It’s just straight up, this is the truth. I am unwilling to continue this relationship under these circumstances. Now I don’t have to argue about it. They can say well, why are you unwilling? It’s like, um, because that hurts me. Would you want your daughter living with a man who was seeing prostitutes? No, of course not.

ANNE: See, but you need to forgive. Tom, you need to forgive and be like Jesus and turn the other cheek. Come on, we get that.

“Forgiveness Doesn’t Mean That You Fix The Relationship”

TOM: I will forgive and be unwilling to participate in a relationship where someone is seeing prostitutes. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you fix the relationship.

ANNE: Exactly.

“God’s Requirements Are Never That You Must Submit To Abuse”

TOM: There are a couple of lies that get perpetrated and put on to abuse victims in a religious environment-related to forgiveness and submission, those kinds of things. But that would be a whole other podcast just to deal with those. But that’s a lot of times what we find ourselves doing is undermining the lies that have been told with respect to what God’s requirements are. God’s requirements are never that you must submit to abuse. God does allow that you might want to, for one reason or another, submit to abuse. That’s the reality of it. You might want to put up with this amount of trouble as long as you don’t get that amount of trouble. That’s just a reality. That’s a truth. Whether you should or not is a different question. So if a woman says I am willing to put up with this abuse, well, that is not my place to say no. But well if you’re willing to have that abuse in your life then let me help you manage the fallout of that or this but you’re never going to fix that if you’re willing to accept it.

“Tell Yourself The Truth About It”

That’s then the fourth part of that. So, we have entitlement, coercion, control in terms of how a victim deals with it. The last one in terms of compliance is, you either comply or you don’t based upon your own safety. But when you comply, you comply understanding what you’re doing. Telling yourself the truth about it. I’m complying, and it will not change the situation. So, you have to be able to tell yourself the truth. So, if you’re going to comply, understand that that doesn’t fix it. So, there may be reasons to comply. So, we’ve had cases where a wife is abused and willing to put up with that abuse because the courts have told her that kids are going to stay with him, or you’re going to leave. Take your pick. So, she’s making the choice. I’m going to put up with him being abusive because I’m going to stay and protect my kids. And that is an awful, awful, awful choice for someone to have to make, but we’ve got to be able to say, okay, let’s find a way to help you be safe while you do that, or as safe as possible. So, there’s no easy answer to some of these situations. There’s no simple way. There’s no magic wand. This is a hard road that has to be walked in order to see the end of it. It’s always hard, and when you try to deal with the abuse it’s going to get harder before it gets easier.

Abuse Doesn’t Stop With Divorce

ANNE: Yeah, the general population who think that they understand abuse, who think that, oh, it’s going be so easy, you just have to leave him. That’s the answer. They don’t realize post-separation abuse, they don’t realize that this abuse continues after divorce through the children, and there are all these other factors. The situations are so complex and difficult for victims to navigate. Having an organization like yours, I’ll repeat the name, it’s Psalm 82 Initiative, and other resources to help navigate this long-term difficult trial are really important. Especially support, you know, like our support groups and other things.

Create A Safety Plan Before You Leave Your Abuser

TOM: I would say this on that note, about half of our cases end up being so tangled and so mangled up by the time they get to us. So, we end up dealing with cases that kind of get referred to us because it’s really super complicated. A lot of the reasons that those cases are so complicated is because at the beginning they were given bad advice. Somebody who believes themselves to be an advocate and a defender of abuse victims said you just need to leave the bum but gave no guidance as to the implications of that. So now a year, two years later, the fallout of that has been so profoundly destructive that they’re in a worse situation than they would have been if they had just stayed.

ANNE: You mean like had they had a plan to leave, or a plan to do it safely or good legal advice, etc. They would be in much better shape?

Seek Solid Legal Advice Before Divorcing Your Abuser

TOM: A plan, good legal advice, understanding what is going to happen. This is one of the difficult things because most of us who do advocacy work are empathetic people by nature. My wife and I are a team. She’s the more empathetic of the two of us. I do most of the talking because she’s shy, but I like to joke she’s the one that you go to if you need a hug. I’m the one that you go to if you need somebody to tell you the truth. I don’t mean that she doesn’t tell you the truth. It’s just that, I’m going to be honest with you about what happens at the other end of this because I believe the most loving thing that I can do is tell you that you’re going to leave him and it’s going to get harder, and if you are not prepared to pay that price, and if you are not prepared for what’s coming, then your risk of going back is dramatically higher. So, until you’re willing; for instance, one of the main questions I ask is, are you willing to deal with this problem, even if it means the destruction of your relationship. If the answer is no, then you’re on a very different track of how to deal with this than you are if you’re ready to take action with that level of commitment.

Abusers Have To “Fix” Themselves: You Can’t Fix Him

ANNE: Wouldn’t everyone assume that it would ruin their relationship with the abuser or are you telling me some victims think, oh, we can remain friends, or something?

TOM: Yes. So, most of the time when we get a case at the beginning, there is this desire and hope that the relationship would be fixed, that the abuser would somehow come to his senses and be repaired.

ANNE: Right, and that the marriage could stay together.

TOM: That the marriage could stay together.

ANNE: Right. I think every victim wants that because the destruction of the family is like the last thing that she’s going to want.

Sadly, Abusers Rarely Choose To Change

TOM: Right, well because she’s been fighting for this for so long. She’s literally put up with misery in the hopes that that would happen. So, she’s invested in it heavily. So of course, she’d like some professional to come in wave a magic wand and fix it. But that’s not how it works. We’ve told people before that there are abusive relationships where the abuser does change and the abuser does repent, but they are few and very, very, very far between. It does happen, but I’m giving you false hope if I tell you it’s likely.

ANNE: Right, or just do this and this, and it will happen to you, right. No.

Abusers Must Change On Their Own

TOM: Because the only way that happens is if independent from you, they realize that they’re a mess and that they have a problem. But the reason most abusers don’t is that they’re never willing to give up entitlement. Entitlement is the first domino that has to fall for an abuser. All of the other ones are easy to deal with once entitlement dies, but as long as entitlement is present, as long as they believe they have a right to expect, as long as they believe they have a right to act, and a right to demand, as long as that belief is present, the abuse will continue.

ANNE: Yeah.

Most Abuser Programs Don’t Work

TOM: We can, by the way, we can help abusers be better abusers. That’s what most domestic violence, what most battering programs really do. They take an abuser and they make them less dangerous. They make them more skilled at other forms of abuse.

ANNE: So, they’re not going to hit their victim anymore because that leaves a bruise, but now they’re going to continue to enact their entitlements through secretive means.

TOM: Yeah, emotional manipulations, covert abuse. So, the problem with a lot of battering programs is really what you were trying to achieve. You just don’t want to get hit anymore?

“They’re Just Putting Better Sheep Wool On The Outside”

ANNE: Right, well, as a pseudo-safer husband I would call it. That’s the case, I think, with a lot of pornography addiction recovery things as well. I want to bring that up because you have someone who’s maybe lying to you better or they’re not engaging in some of these things that give you clues that there’s some compulsive sexual behavior going on and they know how to like talk the talk while they’re still viewing pornography secretly or still is soliciting prostitutes or something like that right. I mean we’ve got that going on too where any sort of program can teach someone how to act the part but there’s still a wolf in sheep’s clothing. They’re just putting better sheep wool on the outside.

TOM: Yeah, an abuser cares about their reputation.

ANNE: Right, and their image.

Abusers Are Master Manipulators

TOM: Right, and their image. If they’re in an environment where a humble bearing of the soul will give them kudos, then they will humble and bare their soul. That doesn’t make them better humans. It just makes them another kind of manipulator because they’re showing what they have to show in order for people to give them the credit they want. This is one of the things we talked about that we call the legend, which is where the abuser likes to craft an image that will gain them the kind of respect, authority position in a social group or in a subculture. They will craft an image, and then present that as if that’s their true self. They also then incorporate their victim into that image so that the victim has to live up to this legend that the abuser creates for the victim. And whenever the victim falls out of line to the legend, that’s when abuse happens, and as long as they act within the legend then they’re helping the abuser have their image, and it’ll be good. But inside of that relationship is a complete lie. It’s different than what is seen on the outside

“The Clergy Has only Ever Seen The ‘Legend'”

It’s one of the things that makes seeing abuse for clergy so hard is that both the abuser and the victim are invested in the legend, and the clergy has only ever seen the legend. Because of that, once the truth begins coming out, it’s very hard for people to believe that this legend that they fell in love with is really a lie. This is one of the reasons why when a member of the clergy is the abuser, very often the victim loses all of their support networks. Because they would rather believe the lie that the abuser is telling than to believe that the legend that they’ve been supporting and giving money to and looking up to, is a complete fabrication. So, the idea that the legend is a complete fabrication ends up being one of the barriers to really adequately dealing with abuse from the outside, as a church.

ANNE: Yeah.

It’s Okay If You’re Not Ready To Leave

ANNE: Many women, even if they’re being abused, they don’t want their family to fall apart. So, in that case, it might be confusing to people because they might be like, well, she really doesn’t want to get a divorce so how can she be the victim? Do you know what I mean?

TOM: Well, so, just because you’re not ready to deal with it doesn’t mean you’re not being abused. So yes, the family if you take a leaving action is the family going to fall apart. The chances are very, very high that yes, if you leave, then the family unit is going to be mangled. By the way, part of the fallout of that is, you’re going to share custody of any children with an abuser. This means, if you’re a mom, you have to make the choice that 50% with me and not dad, and 50% with dad and not me, is better than 100% with an abuser. Does the combination of you and your children have to be better off 50% apart than 100% together? That’s just a cold heart calculus that you have to be willing to think through.

Take “Deliberate, Thoughtful Action Based On Truth”

A lot of times we don’t want to think through it and so we hide from it. It’s so hard to think in that way, but unless you tell yourself the truth about it, you’re never actually going to be in a position to say, I need to deal with this in a calm rational way. Instead what happens, typically is we fight it. We don’t want to do it, and the pressure builds and builds and builds and builds and builds and builds and builds until something breaks. And usually, when it breaks, it breaks bad. It breaks in a way that is far more destructive than if you take a deliberate thoughtful action based upon the truth. So, I would much rather deal with it deliberately and carefully, and adequately with full preparation than waiting until you have no other choice.

ANNE: Unfortunately, that is sort of where most victims are. It’s they’re not ready to do that until they have no other choice.

Break It Down Using The Four Tools

TOM: But this is one of the reasons why we have the four tools, is because now it’s like, oh, this is developing. So, I can say these are the things that you’re looking for: Isolation, deflection, manipulation, intimidation, entitlement, coercion, control, and compliance. This is it. If you have these, you have an abusive relationship and it is only going to get worse. These things do not get better by themselves. So, if you’re okay with where it is you need to understand this is what’s coming. There’s more of this, there’s more of that. Then we’ll go through those four tools that this is what it looks like in the future. This is how those things are going to get worse. So, then the victim is given a framework that they can understand. Oh, that’s what he’s doing. That’s isolation. Oh, that’s manipulation, oh, that’s deflection, oh, that’s intimidation, and now I know how I might want to respond if I’m safe to do so. But again, that safety factor is absolutely critical. If you’re like, oh, I’m not so sure that’s a good idea to do that, don’t! Get help.

ANNE: Yes.

Psalm 82 Initiative Resources

TOM: There are a couple of things that we do, that are of benefit. The one is we have this Facebook page; we answer questions there as concisely as we can, within the Facebook framework. Those are statements or pieces of advice that come out of cases that we’re dealing with or have dealt with. Circumstances that are relevant to people that we’re talking to. So, a lot of those things are question-based so people will ask us questions, and we’ll give a private answer to someone, but then we’ll take a generic answer and give that to the group as a whole. So we have the Facebook page, we have the blog, and the blog we deal with things that we can’t quite deal with in short form. If there’s something that we’re dealing with it’s a long one, for instance, how do we understand this particular Bible passage, how do we understand the concept of forgiveness as it pertains to an abuser? So, you’ve got starting points of those discussions on the blog.

Resources For Faith-Community Leadership

One of the things that we primarily do is train people to do what we do. So, we teach the four tools framework to other advocates who then can take that and be effective with that in their circle of influence. Side note, if you are in the middle of something it is usually not a good idea to do that. There are things that we talked about in there that are going to be difficult to process. If you are in the middle of an abusive relationship or just coming out a one, and so this is primarily for those who are in a position to begin the work of an advocate, or it can be a pastor or a deacon or counselor in the church. We’ve done presentations and training for whole churches, for church staff, for church counseling departments, and it doesn’t even have to be church-related we’ll help a company do it if they want, but we want to make the world a safer place. We want to actually fulfill the purpose of Psalm 82 and do those things. So, we have that mentoring program.

Psalm 82 Initiative Can Help You Connect With Your Clergy

We do consult with churches primarily, and when a victim comes to us one of the things that we want to do is try to connect them to their church in a way that is going to be a productive and safe relationship. So, we’ll try to work with the church, alongside the victim. Some churches are open to that some are not. Some are very open, and others are very antagonistic. So, it depends upon your own religious environment whether that’s going to be effective or not, but we have found more pastors than people would think, are open to learning how to deal with it better. They really just don’t know what they don’t know and so sometimes it’s just raw ignorance, it’s not necessarily that they are evil people. Some of it’s just ignorance and some of it is they’ve been literally taught the opposite of what is the right way to do it so they’re acting on their teaching, and they don’t even realize they’re doing harm. Most people who are in a position of clergy are not there for the money. They wouldn’t be doing it if they were.

Psalm 82 Initiative Empowers Faith Communities

Not every church, in fact in the vast majority of churches, the pastors are not getting rich. Most are bi-vocational because pastoring doesn’t make enough money to pay the bills. So, pastors are often the kind of compassionate people who want to do what’s right, but they just lack the information. So, one of the things we want to do is come alongside pastors in that situation, and actually, help them and encourage them. We’ve walked with pastors. We’ve even had some who’ve said, you know, this has changed my relationship with my wife. Dealing with this horrible thing that happened to my church has made me realize that I’ve got some of these patterns in my own relationship that is there just they’re under the surface, but they’re not good and they’re not righteous for me and some marriages have gotten better. I’ve told people my marriage has gotten better because of dealing with this. That I start recognizing in my own life things as I don’t want to get anywhere near that. So even as I’ve grown older as a husband, the more I begin to deal with these things, the more I recognized ways in which I can be a better husband, even as I’m dealing with abuse. So, marriages can be helped, whether they’re abusive or not, just simply by looking at and saying, you know my responsibility is not to try to get my wife to do anything. My responsibility is to be the best man I can be in my home. So, we want to help churches, get that message to their couples in their church.

Psalm 82 Initiative: New Project

ANNE: So, Psalm 82 Initiative has some really exciting things in the works and they’re all designed to help victims understand this. So, I’m going to let Tom talk about the new project they have coming up.

TOM: So, we have a house that we’ve signed the purchase agreement on. This is a 10 bedroom house that we’re going to use kind of like a retreat center, bringing victims into us, so that we can take a two to three week time to kind of get everything squared away, straight, connected to resources in their hometown. Just to provide a safe retreat to get your footing there so you can go out and then meet up with this challenge that you’ve got ahead of you. We’ve typically flown or drove all over the country, trying to find places to help and to work with victims in various places and churches. Now we can actually bring them to us so it’s going to change our workload a little bit so we’re doing less traveling. We’ve got to raise funds to finish the purchase of the property. Everything we do is free, and so any help that people give or donate ends up going to helping victims at the house.

“Psalm 82 Initiative Can Help”

ANNE: So many of the listeners to Betrayal Trauma Recovery are having serious financial struggles, due to the abuse that they are experiencing, but if you can’t help Psalm 82 Initiative financially, then one way to help out is just letting people know. Sharing about their project, go to their Facebook page, sharing their information with other people so that other people can be made aware that there are resources available for churches trying to deal with their abuse. There is help and Psalm 82 Initiative can help. So, that’s one way and then if you can help donate to their project, then please do. I think it’s so important that we have more places that really understand the emotional and psychological abuse part of it because so many of those shelters that women go to that are state-owned or state-run, they’re good shelters for people who are physically harmed but it really is kind of difficult to navigate this when there’s no “crime” that has taken place

TOM: Right, which is one of the reasons we’re running it as a kind of a retreat center rather than using a domestic violence shelter kind of model. We’d love to have one of these kinds of refuge houses in every state across the country.

At BTR, We Support Each Other

ANNE: The cool thing about our community at Betrayal Trauma Recovery is that all of the victims are helping each other. We’re all trying to bring each other out of this together and being a victim myself, I only know what I know and I don’t know what I don’t know, and the cool thing is the more people that I have a podcast and the more stories that I hear the more informed I become and the more informed we all become together. We’re just all working through it together, step by step. It’s an amazing community to be a part of and I’m so grateful for men like you Tom who are also part of this movement to end abuse.

TOM: Sometimes I feel a bit out of place.

ANNE: Like one of these things is not like the other, kind of a thing?

Support Psalm 82 Initiative

TOM: Yeah, one of the things that we really want to do is we want to get better at reaching men with how to help and how to address these things. I do believe that there are plenty of men who are appalled at the coercive control that is so common, and plenty of men who want to defend and stand up and say no, this is wrong. They just lack the resources or the understanding to do so. You mentioned how your listeners can help. Well, social media works on an algorithm that basically the more interactions you get, the further it spreads. So, when you find someone who does something you believe in you want to share it, because that increases the profile of that thing that you believe in. It’s actually a very real tangible way to help an organization, even if you don’t have money. If people will share those things and comment, and subscribe to, and follow, all of that is a very tangible and very real way to help the organizations that you want to support.

Support Betrayal Trauma Recovery

ANNE: Absolutely, and that’s why we’re always asking here at BTR, please give us a five-star rating, review us, because every single one of those ratings helps isolated women find us. Women are searching for this stuff and all of our listeners don’t want them to find how to improve your communication. You’re thinking, well that’s a good idea in a healthy relationship, but in an abusive situation that just puts all the responsibility on the victim and does not help her understand the abuse anymore and we really want everyone to understand what abuse really is and what it really looks like.

TOM: Absolutely. That’s basically the heart and soul of what we’re doing. We want to have as many people able to recognize and respond to abuse as possible.

ANNE: I really do think giving victims time and space to be away from their abuser, to really get out of that fog, even for a little bit can help significantly for them to understand what’s going on. So, a safe house would be amazing for victims in your area.

Psalm 82 Initiative “Safe Retreat Center”

TOM: Yeah, this isn’t just in our area. This would be, and the reason why we would do short-term, most safe houses are kind of a long-term relationship with an abuse victim and fairly local. This is actually a little bit different. This is more like come here, it’ll be kind of like a vacation but think of it like a working vacation where if you bring your kids the kids are going to go play. They’re going to go do their thing we’re going to talk about how you can start dealing with this, but it’s really more of a retreat center than a safe house. It’s probably a little closer to what’s true. It’s more like a safe retreat center.

ANNE: So, someone could go there from anywhere. They could come from New York or from Florida or something and stay for a little while to get some time away and some training and some understanding and some perspective to help them move on their way. That’s a great idea.

Abuse Is A World-Wide Problem

TOM: Because our personal clients are in almost every state at some point or another, we’ve had a client. We average between 25 and 30 at any given time, clients that were that we’re actively dealing with, and that’s all over the world. We have cases in Australia, England. We’ve even dealt with things in the Middle East, and helped churches deal with things in those kinds of cultural things. Which was one of the reasons why we came up with the four tools is because we were dealing with such a wide range of cultures that the advice you give in America is not the same advice you give in Turkey because leaving him is not an option.

ANNE: Right. You know, abuse touches every walk of life. People from diverse economic backgrounds, every race, and it’s something that we cannot be educated too much about, I think. I think everyone needs to be more educated about it.

We Can Work Together To Eradicate Abuse

TOM: I think that’s true. We’ve done a presentation for churches before and the pastor will bring us in to do the presentation because they have one case that the church is dealing with, and then I leave and there are another four or five cases. I’ve had a couple of pastors joke that they hate me because I left them with more work. The truth is, is that once you see it, and once you understand it. There’s no way to unsee it, and the church is safer and better because of it.

ANNE: Thank you so much, Tom, for coming on today’s episode.

TOM: You’re welcome. Thank you for having

ANNE: To find Psalm 82 Initiative go to Facebook and just search Psalm 82 Initiative and you will find their page. If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. Until next week, stay safe out there.

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  1. Steph Miller

    I only stumbled across your podcast a month or so ago, and I’m still playing catch-up, but I’ve already gained so much insight and understanding into what I dealt with for 34 years! Parts of this episode made me feel like y’all were talking about my experience. My ex created the ‘legend’ and I, and everyone else, bought into it. He even spoke publicly in church (in front of 500-600 people) about his porn addiction and ‘overcoming’ it. I remember feeling a bit odd about it at the time, but mostly proud of him for his courage…now I see that it was yet another way to get the affirmation he desperately craved and to get people to buy into his ‘all-American boy next door’ act. When I found out he was cheating two and a half years ago, and he finally moved out after Disclosure with our counselors, that church dropped me like a hot potato…out of all those people, 1 friend came directly to me offering love and support. I wish this podcast and your ministry had been around a decade ago – I might’ve figured some things out sooner! – but so thankful for the education I’m getting now, and for the realization that I was wrong for believing I was to blame for his issues for so many years! Thank you, Anne!

  2. Coco

    I’ll never forget the helplessness I felt when I finally realized that the problem wasn’t me. Because of that, I knew I couldn’t fix ANYTHING. And it was like my world fell out from under me. Also, to listen to these young women tell stories of their clergy at THIS POINT IN TIME is devastating to me. I thought I had helped pioneer their understanding in the early 90s. But listening now, I realize our clergy hasn’t come far. Even their responses as described by the guests are still the same. I wish I’d had this kind of support back then. But because I didn’t, I CAN testify that you’re 100% correct when you say “where people fail you, God never will.” I couldn’t believe what felt like I was receiving from GOD when my clergy was counseling the exact OPPOSITE. What a road ahead of me.. but I’ll tell ya this; I came to know God.


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