Even when clergy counsels you to stay.
Even when family sides with the abuser.
Even when friends refuse to validate and support your truth.
You deserve safety. Now.
Regardless of what anyone else may tell you – your safety and your happiness are far more important than maintaining your marriage.
Rachel is back on the BTR.ORG podcast, sharing her heartfelt story and beautiful poetry. Listen to the BTR.ORG podcast and read the full transcript below for more.
Even When They Don’t Believe You, You Deserve Safety
If you try to tell people they don’t understand and you get invalidated so frequently that it’s just terrorizing to think about trying to get help or they just flat out just don’t believe you. And they believe your abuser.Anne Blythe, founder of BTR.ORG
Many members of the BTR.ORG community have had traumatizing experiences when they’ve tried to share their story or process their trauma outside of our community. Whether it’s with friends, family, clergy, therapists, or others, they have experienced invalidation and even further abuse.
Regardless of whether or not others believe and/or validate you, you still deserve safety.
Your Safety Is More Important Than Your Marriage
In faith communities especially, it’s common for the sanctity of the marriage covenant to be prioritized over the victim’s safety.
However, it’s important to understand that abuse and betrayal violate and destroy marriage.
Your decision to seek safety is NOT ending or destroying your marriage. His decision to abuse and betray you ended the marriage.
How Do I Seek Safety?
Here at BTR.ORG, safety is more than just a physical condition.
We believe that women deserve emotional, psychological, spiritual, financial, and sexual safety – meaning that you feel free to be yourself, to make autonomous decisions about your body and sexuality, and to know that your needs will be met.
Seeking safety involves:
- Separating yourself from harm both physically and emotionally
- Surrounding yourself with as much support as possible
- Practicing self-care, including nutrition, hydration, and rest
- Becoming educated about abuse and trauma
BTR.ORG Is Here For You
At BTR.ORG, we know how difficult it can be to identify abuse and then take steps toward safety.
We are here for you as you begin your journey toward healing.
Join our Group Sessions today. We love you.
Welcome to BTR. This is Anne.
We have Rachel, back on today’s episode, I have been talking with her for the past two weeks. So if you didn’t hear the introduction to her story and then the middle part last week, go back two weeks, listen to that first and then join us here.
We’re starting with talking about how religious women have a difficult time getting to safety and why that is. So we’re just gonna jump right in. Why do you think so many religious women just cannot wrap their heads around it, even if they know it’s abuse? Most of them don’t. Most of them don’t know it’s abuse and they’re trying to hold their families together. But some, me included, knew it was abuse and still did not wanna take action to really get myself, well, actually that’s not true. I did take action to get myself safe. I was just very miserable about it and that makes sense that we would do it, but still be sad about it. Right? I mean, that’s okay. But why do you think, um, so many Christian women have a difficult time seeing that it is abuse.
Why Do Religious Women Struggle To Identify Abuse?
They are afraid of the backlash. They’re afraid. People are not gonna understand, and they’re not gonna be able to explain it in a way where they are gonna get the support that they need in order to get out. And we become afraid of doing the wrong thing. In my experience, it was my job to make sure that his world was perfect. The house, the kids, everything, so that he did not have to have self-control because he trained me to control his world so that he could just function in it without having to have any self control. But then inadvertently, because he trained me to do that would then back splash into my face of that. I was very controlling when he had taught me that, you know, how he wanted things to be.
So I think that we are afraid of not having the support that we need.
And I think that we’re afraid of people not understanding and being condemned for doing the right thing, because I know that in my world, the people that have supported me and been there for me, even my parents, they, they agree that I should be away. Of course. And that has made a difference for me to not only be able to feel supported in that, but be able to do it. And that is a huge thing is the support. So when you see someone that you think is hurting and God brought another new friend my direction, and for me to just listen to her story the other day and, and be there for her was huge because she felt like she was capable of getting away.
Support Helps Women Identify Abuse & Seek Safety
Yeah. It means a lot to have somebody validate what you’re going through. And I, I think that’s probably the main thing is even if you try to tell people, they don’t understand and you, you get invalidated so frequently that it’s just terrorizing to think about trying to get help.
My good friend was told that she was a husband basher. She was a husband basher because she was speaking the truth. And I thought, no, she’s not. That was what she was told by their mutual friends, because they were not willing to listen. And sometimes it’s the ones that do the most damage and they’re not willing to see the truth of your situation or telling you, well, I don’t wanna hear that.
Mm-hmm, or they just flat out just don’t believe you. And they believe your abuser.
Creativity Helps Victims Identify & Heal From Abuse
So part of your healing process has been writing poetry, which is awesome. And you’ve written a poem called, “Unsafe Arms”. I’m gonna have you share this poem if that’s okay with you, with our audience. And then I actually wrote a poem about my custody case, which I’m going to read after you. We’re gonna do an open mic here for a second. So can you read that poem to us unsafe arms?
It feels as though the walls,
are closing in;
Being hurt like this, by a supposed
I gave so much
and cared even more;
But now at last,
what was it all for?
To be burned and thrown aside,
without a fleeting thought!
How was I to know,
it was doomed from the start?
For you put on the best con,
and played your part well;
Believing your own lies,
so that no one could tell.
You made me believe,
that I mattered to you;
That there was no one else,
just us two.
You let me believe,
that you were my dream;
And that I was “perfect for you”,
is how you made it seem.
You were selfish and cruel,
when you didn’t get your way;
And if I didn’t agree with you,
you made me pay.
You did this in small ways at first,
so others wouldn’t see;
You used words to put me
down to others,
so you could get sympathy.
You were jealous of anything
good in my life;
Trying to make me feel like nothing,
but still calling me your wife.
You told me that you loved me,
but only to take from me more;
You always spent money on yourself,
but then got mad, that we were poor.
You found fault with everyone,
because they didn’t do it “your way”,
You were mean and disrespectful,
and didn’t care who you ripped down,
along the way.
You used your own parents,
and were jealous of your children;
You told stories to get sympathy,
from unknowing friends.
You used our families,
in any way that you could;
You pretended to be a godly man,
and faked a christian brotherhood.
The bad behavior and abuse,
grew so slowly, you hoped
I would not see;
How you are nothing,
that you were pretending to be.
You blamed me for everything,
and then refused to talk;
You didn’t want other christians to see,
that you don’t walk the walk.
And when things got so bad,
you would throw a love-bomb my way;
Expecting me just to forgive again,
and believe what you say.
And if I didn’t move on,
like you wanted me to;
Then you would throw my faults
in my face,
when it most benefited you.
You used scriptures to try and hold me,
in bondage to your will;
And manipulated me with chaos,
just for a thrill.
Our children were never people to you,
only mere pawns in your games;
Your anger would enrage, when I would
stand up to you, for abusing them
and calling them names.
You hated that I love them,
and care for them so well;
You didn’t want them to see
your true colors, and be able to tell;
That your love and care for them,
is conditional and only benefits you;
That who they are and what they need,
doesn’t matter to you.
That they were only to make you look good,
and help you play your acting part;
You never loved them,
like you should have from the start.
You got mad when I chose them
over you, because of all the abuse;
You just didn’t like it, that we were
no longer there, for you to use.
You hit them and me, with hands and words,
and did not care;
You ruled me with threats
of breaking things, and constant fear.
And now that I’m here, I wish I had
gotten them out sooner than I did;
That I had “listened” more
to your actions, than what you said.
For once upon a time,
I thought your arms, were safe and true;
But that is what you led me to believe,
to get me to trust you.
So what has happened now, is that
not even your kids want you near;
And we have to fight a battle every day,
And with these extreme limits
and boundaries, that had to be enforced;
We pray that they will keep you at bay,
and us on the road, to a healing course.
For many of your threats before,
and you telling me to die;
Or threatening to off yourself,
and then saying it was a lie;
All of this makes me not trust,
anything you will ever say again;
So the safety of our kids,
and myself have to come first,
on this I will not bend.
For they deserve a happy life,
that is safe and free;
So they can have a chance to grow,
into who each of them,
were meant to be.
And they cannot do that,
with your control, and abuse in the way;
So for their own safety and well-being,
far away, I pray you stay.
Thank you. I’m sure. So many of our listeners are like me and it felt like you were not just sharing from your own heart, but from all of our hearts. Um, I really appreciate that. Okay. I’m gonna share mine. Now, mine was in response to when he just showed up amazing in court and was able to get more custody. I prayed and prayed and fasted and had everybody prayed for me. And then it was just, you know, didn’t go the way I wanted it to. And it made me think of during our marriage where every time I would just pray and fast and hope that the right thing would happen. And it felt like with him always the wrong thing would happen. like it would never go. So this is called, “I’ve Been Here Before.”
I’ve Been Here Before
Smells like evaporated tears, like carpet.
Peaceful and happy for a weekend on the couch, reading,
only to find more pit in my stomach.
Can God hear me?
Before, I cried, I kneeled, I flailed around.
I called people and told them the harrowing story.
And then, I finally got married.
The house sold.
Then finally divorced.
It remodeled itself.
How could I doubt?
I had seen it with my own eyes.
The parting of my sea.
Manna from Heaven.
I can still taste it.
I’m here again.
A dark, dead end.
Where I seem to make things worse just by breathing.
Just by thinking.
I’m here again.
I flailed around. I tried to prove.
I printed every email. Made every argument.
Called my people. Told them the harrowing story.
And I’m here again.
And so I wait?
Let The Lord Prevail, I guess?
I don’t like it here. The cold wind
blowing, and I’m drenched and I have no towel.
And the memory of a thousand unwanted hollow pats on the back – “Wait for a towel” they said.
But there is no one for thousands of miles.
I know this.
No one is coming.
The heat from my body can’t thaw the frost forming on my skin.
And then I think, “I’ll get my own towel.”
But Walmart is closed. The sheep dead.
The cotton fields decimated.
I stand in the mess and pray for righteous judgment. For something to break open. Something to go away.
I pray to my Grandma instead –
thinking that maybe she can do something God won’t.
Maybe she has the answers.
Maybe she’s the warrior I need right now.
But she, too, is silent. Or perhaps she’s constructing
something better than a towel.
I’m here again.
My shoulders ache. My stomach is tight.
My throat might implode from holding back my screaming.
The pressure is like an icy, invisible
blanket from hell. Weighted.
I’m here again.
I weight on the Lord. I lean. I wonder.
“How can this be?’
But I’ve been here before.
with nothing to rescue me.
And I know what comes next.
Something worth the weight.
And so I will,
because I have no other choice,
Wow. I knew you were gonna cry. That’s deep. Thank you for sharing that with me.
“Standing on the Shoulders of Women Who Have Gone Before Us”
Ah, we heal and we find ourselves not being triggered as much or laughing or seeing the sun or feeling the sun on our face, but there’s always something that takes us back to these hardest moments we’ve ever had. And um, I’m actually grateful for that. I’m grateful that I can still recall that. Um, maybe there’ll be a day where I can’t, I can recall it from hearing stories like yours and other women, especially women who are right in the thick of it. The righteous desire to have a peaceful home is something that women have longed for for thousands of years. And um, I’ve just been thinking about like the Bible and the stories in the Old Testament and how we are standing on the shoulders of so many women who have gone before us. And we have the opportunity now to do what they never were able to do.
I mean, they were enslaved essentially to their husbands. You know, when Jacob waited for seven years for Rachel and Leah, he was just working to buy them. I mean they were slaves essentially. And I think now we actually have the opportunity to be free from an abusive man. We can work, we can have custody of our own children. We’re entitled to our own wages. You know, that, that stuff like that didn’t even come about until the late 1800’s. I know God is working and works in us and I’m grateful that we are here and we are able to stand on these women’s shoulders. But I also think they’re looking down on us from heaven and being like, we have sacrificed so much so that you could be delivered: be delivered already. You know, I think they want to see us make our way to safety.
When Men Use Faith Communities To “Hide” Their Abusiveness
I think that my goal is to help women not turn away from God because these Christian men are being allowed or enabled or honestly just hiding at church and using the church in a way that the church doesn’t know if they’re using them a lot of times to continue to do what they do. So I would say that my reaction was to run even closer to God and something amazing happened. And I couldn’t figure it out for the duration of my marriage. I always felt split because this poem is not, it’s not my first, it, I just, God gave me the words to, to put my pain into, into verse. And um, it’s not my only one about this topic and it’s definitely not the shortest one but is that we no longer have to serve two masters because we can see the spy in our midst and separate ourselves from him or in some men’s cases from her.
Because I believe it happens on occasion the other direction and allowing ourselves to have one master, which is Jesus Christ and allowing for our to not feel torn and split on the inside.
That is what happened for me is that it was always this, am I gonna serve God? Or am I gonna serve be united with my husband? And what I couldn’t see for the longest time is why I was having so much turmoil is because he wasn’t going toward God. He is not of God, nothing that he does is of God. You will know them by their fruits, watch his actions more than his words. So is that now I can serve God truly and a hundred percent and I will never allow anyone. It doesn’t matter who it is to derail me from going toward God and being on that path with him ever again for women inside your heart is ask yourself, are you having turmoil?
“Get Yourself a Community”
Are you feeling like you cannot serve God because you have to keep trying to be United with your husband. And that was one of the biggest telltale signs for me to know what was going on inside me. And I feel like I should say that divorce process is long. It’s tiresome. It’s hard. Get yourself a community. Um, know it’s going to take a while. Plan for it, build yourself up in the midst of it because when court happens, which you know yourself, it takes you back to a dark place. If you can plan for that, if you can at least have a thought process toward it, it helps immensely to know you’re gonna have to go back there. Not in the same sense, but you just reliving anything is traumatic, but take care of yourself and get yourself in a better place so that it does not break you down like it did before and give yourself some grace.
Support the BTR.ORG Podcast
Well, Rachel, thank you so much. I appreciate you sharing your story and your insights and your beautiful poem and so grateful that you are now sharing your experience with other women to bring them hope.
Well, thank you for having me. It was my privilege. And the only thing I can say is, don’t think that this is the end of your life. Your life is far from over.
Yeah. And it’s beautiful. There’s beautiful, wonderful things in store for all of us, even when it gets hard. So thank you again.
If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. And until next week stay safe out there.