Awakened in the middle of the night by screams of terror, I ran to my bedroom window and knelt down and began praying in earnest. I was pleading with God to intervene, to stop the terror, the terror that was going on right across the hall. I had done this many times before after awakening to the screams of my mother, begging for my father to stop hitting her. Each time I would get on my knees, asking God to please stop him somehow.
I was only a young teenager when all the terror started. I was able to escape such violence when I was a small child because I was raised in foster care. I had never experienced such violence until I was returned back to my real parents at age 14.
It did not start out that way though. I can still remember the thrill of seeing my father for the very first time after being away so very long. How proud I was that this was my dad, my real dad that I had longed for all my childhood. He would protect me now, and I would never have to leave again. I felt safe in his arms when he reached out to hug me for the very first time, but the joy of that first meeting was not to last.
After a few short weeks of great joy and security, this man, my dad, changed. Who was this man who replaced my dad? My dad was no longer my protector but turned out to be a raging volcano. This was not the man I dreamed of all my childhood, who would love me, take care of me and keep me safe. We never knew when the rage within him would erupt, and someone in our family would be at the other end of that eruption. I could relate to children who live in a country during wartime—the fear they must feel, waiting for the next bomb to go off around them. That is how I felt, not knowing when the next bomb would explode in our home. The difference between the children of war and me was that the enemy was my father.
I prayed every day and asked God for protection, asking God to help our family and intervene, to somehow change my father, make him loving and kind so that he would not hurt us anymore. But the violence continued on for several more years. Many times I was the victim of his violence, and I thought many times that I would not live through the beatings. I wondered many times why God did not intervene and stop all of this terror? Perhaps it was my fault that God did not intervene and answer my prayers. Why wouldn't God answer my plea for help?
I felt trapped, very alone and had even given up at one point in my life. I thought I would die in this situation and even wanted to at times. I just simply gave up and felt that this could not be solved.
Have you ever been in a situation where you felt your problems could not be solved, that God was not hearing your prayers?
All of us face trials in our lives that really make us feel that they are not solvable. We may feel God is not hearing us and that we will stay in this trial forever. But does God require more out of us than just prayer? Or do we look at God as a Superman, coming on the scene to intervene and save us. If He doesn't, we feel forgotten and forsaken. Does God forget you and turn His back? Did God forget me?
My prayers did get answered several years later. The answer came when I stepped out and took action.
My father was in one of his rages and this time I knew I was in grave danger, with my very life being threatened by his explosive anger. If I were to save my life, I realized that I must act—and act quickly.
One morning while my mother and dad were asleep, I packed a few clothes and fled my home. By this time I was legally an adult, but it was like I was in an trap, and I was unprepared to leave. I ended up at a bus station. There was a minister I had once talked to who lived in Chattanooga. I thought if I could get there, then perhaps he could help me.
I went to the ladies room and poured my heart out to God. I told God that I was trying, that I took the step to leave, but I could not do it on my own. I didn't have the money for the ticket, and the people I had asked for help at the bus station had said no. I had to have His help!
Thankfully God protected me from the predators who often lurk in such places, ready to prey on helpless teens. When I left the restroom, there stood waiting for me a man who handed me the money I needed to get to Chattanooga. Then more people began to give me money. Answered prayer! You bet! God heard my plea and intervened.
I purchased my ticket and got on the bus headed for Chattanooga. I should have been terrified of getting on that bus, but I only felt an overwhelming sense of peace for the first time since I was 14. All the fear that I lived with for so long was gone. I had no idea what lay ahead for me, no home to call my own, and I was going into a strange city, but I knew God was helping me, and it gave me peace. I was on my way to freedom.
I called the pastor when I arrived. He sent a family to pick me up and take me into their home until I could get on my feet. God gave me a fresh start and brought me out of a terrible situation. That day will always be etched into my mind as the day God parted my Red Sea.
Why did God wait so long to answer my prayer? Four years was a long time to endure such violence! Why did He allow me to go through so much before helping me? I asked myself this over and over again.
Then years later I understood it. He did not intervene until I took action! Sometimes we have to take action, then God will help us. It takes faith and courage on our part to take that first step in solving our problems. Once we take it, God is there to help us through the problem.
Abuse Can Lead to Death!
It is sad to know that one quarter of all murders in the United States take place within the family. Surveys of American couples show that 20 to 50 percent have suffered violence regularly in their marriages. The records indicate that between 2 and 4 million incidents of domestic violence occur every single year. Wife abuse is one kind of family violence that probably occurs far more often than most people imagine. The tragedy is that many women suffer this abuse for years without getting help.
Most injuries occur to the head and neck, in addition to bruises, strangle marks, black eyes and split lips. The results include eye damage, fractured jaws, broken noses and permanent hearing loss. Assaults to the trunk of the body are almost as common and produce broken collarbones, bruised and broken ribs, fractured tailbones, internal hemorrhaging and lacerated livers.
Once wife beating occurs, it is likely to happen again and again, with the violence getting worse over time. Children are abused as well. My mother and I would receive beatings at least once a week. I lived in fear every day. I feared for my mother; I feared for my own life.
If you are in this situation, you do not have to stay trapped like I did. Why did we stay? Why do countless women continue to suffer abuse at the hands of a man?
Why Do Women Stay in an Abusive Situation?
Change —I thought I could change him. I thought if I tried harder, my father would not go into his rage, and he would not hurt my mother or me. I tried very hard to please him by good behavior. I thought that he might love me. It did not work.
Isolation —I felt alone and trapped and that there was no one to help me. I was too fearful to talk to anyone. I felt if my father found out, he would kill me. He even took me out of school in ninth grade, which only isolated me more. Most abusers will isolate their victims.
Guilt —I felt that perhaps I deserved it, that it was my fault. Abusers will lay the guilt on others to keep from facing their own guilt.
Fear —I was fearful for my life. If I ran away, he would find me and kill me.
Support —I had no money or means of caring for myself. I was only a teenager. Many women in that same situation feel trapped for lack of funds or marketable skills.
Shame —I was ashamed that this was happening to me.
Love —I still loved my father and needed his love.
I learned many years later that women in abusive situations generally experience similar feelings. Their self-esteem is totally shattered as mine was. It would take years to restore a proper respect for myself through the power of God's healing.
My mother reasoned that she should never divorce, and my father convinced her that she was to submit. My mother also reasoned that as long as my father was "pleased to dwell" with her, she should not leave.
"Pleased to dwell"—what does it mean? Does God require a woman to submit to continuous beatings? Not the loving God I have come to know. (See the sidebar, "Pleased to Dwell," below.)
Christ Took Abuse for You So You Can Live for Eternity!
Christ humbled Himself, came to this earth to give His life for you and me. He took blows and beatings that we might live! He shed His blood for you and me that we might have eternal life. My mother and I did not understand that God did not wish us to be punching bags. We did not know what it meant to be cherished and loved, loved in the way that God loves us. So then, why would God expect any woman to stay in a situation like that when He so willingly gave His life for us so we might live? Christ can relate to our suffering. He took the abuse for us!
There are countless women living with an abusive man today who do not understand what true love is. Did my father love me like God does? Did my father love my mother? Did my father protect her, cherish her and, if necessary, would he have given his life for her and me as God did? Would your abuser be willing to take the blows the way that Christ did for you? Does God understand what you are going through? You bet He does because He has been there!
Satan Works Through Inaction!
Satan works through inaction, whether it is through neglect of prayer and Bible study or avoiding solving our problems. We give Satan greater power to destroy us through inaction. Satan gets a stronghold on our lives and takes us captive when we are inactive. We fall into a state of despair, feeling hopeless and abandoned by God. This is how Satan wants us to feel—to give up and lose hope! I lost hope through inaction.
One of my greatest heroes in the Bible is King David. He also had to take action. He prayed and with courage fought lions, bears and the giant, Goliath. Everyone else was too afraid to take action and fight this giant. David may have felt that same fear, but to end the trial, he had to do more than pray about it. He had to take action! I, like David, had to take action. My situation was not solved as long as I was inactive.
When I took that first step to solve my problem, then God held out His hand, took mine in His, and helped me along the way. Everything began to fall into place. Now, years later, my father has since died, but I am still very thankful that I escaped when I did.
Too many women give up and suffer needlessly. This brings trauma upon the children as well. Women need the courage to take the first step and the faith to know that God will help them.
If you are in an abusive situation, you have to pray about it, and then you have to take action! The abuse generally doesn't gets better. It only gets worse with time. You must realize that your children are in danger emotionally as well as physically. They will have scars they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Do not convince yourself that you are staying for the children's sake.
Violence against women, children and even men presents a real danger in many homes. All writers and authorities advise those in abusive relationships to take whatever steps are necessary to protect their own safety along with that of their children. Trust your instincts and avoid dangerous situations.
For advice on where to obtain legal or other professional services in your area, contact your minister or local women's shelters, law enforcement agencies or other suitable agencies or professionals. Women's shelters and other professionals can also give advice for specific cases and information regarding local laws to people helping those who are abused.
Steps That Can Save Your Life
Here are some steps you can take to free yourself and your children from abuse.
Ask God for help. Psalm 9:9 says, "The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed. A refuge in times of trouble." Refuge means protection or shelter, sanctuary, anything to which one may turn for help. God, our refuge, helped me, and He will help you.
Seek wise counsel. What you need to do and the action you need to take are some of the most important decisions you will ever make. God's ministers are available to help you make wise decisions. Proverbs 2:10-12 reminds us, "When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you, to deliver you from the way of evil."
Talk to a friend, minister or family member who can help. Do not be ashamed! It is not your fault that your spouse cannot control his anger!
Leave! There are emergency shelters in all major cities that will take you and your children. Search on the Internet for resources.
Call the police.
If you are a child or teen, and a parent is abusing you, talk to someone. It is not your fault! The abuse will not stop until you get help. No one has a right to touch you where you are uncomfortable or beat you. Parents who love you and want the best for you will correct you out of love, not out of rage. Correction from a loving parent should not leave you ashamed or in constant fear.
Remember, God will see you through and help you every step of the way. So take action, get help! Your life and your children's lives may depend on it. Mine did!
The hotline for domestic violence in the United States is 1-800-799-7233. They can refer you to women's shelters and other services in your area.
Use the Internet and search on "violence against women" in the various search engines to find information in the United States and other countries.
(This article was first published in the February 2004 issue of United News.)
This article appears in the following topics:
Abuse - Mental/Physical/Sexual