Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

Imagine you are getting ready for bed and your husband comes home drunk.  He starts beating you until blood covers the floor.  After the physical abuse he then rapes you.  Traumatised by what has happened you dutifully comply when the man you committed to share your life with announces that tonight you will sleep downstairs on the hard floor – no sleeping on the couch allowed – whilst he enjoys the comfort of the mattress.  As you prepare for a night of discomfort he brings the rubbish bin in from outside. He knows that where the food has lain rotting in the base of the bin there are maggots, so they are left to run on the floor.  Sweet dreams are impossible tonight.

The woman who went through that ordeal told me that she was raped nearly every night by her husband in the height of her 10 years of abuse. Although it is upsetting for her to relive the stories this Christian woman is adamant that now she is free from the clutches of her abuser she will share her story as much as possible in order to help other women.  Her experiences are horrifiying, ranging from having a milk bottle smashed over her head, a pine table thrown at her and a knife put in her stomach.  So why did it take so long for her to get out of the situation?  She was scared.  Her abuser had threatened her, so she put up with the violence out of fear – fear that no one would believe her if she told them and fear of the consequences if he found out that she had spoken about it to someone.  At Church she didn’t tell anyone but a few years ago she started to get some help and began to realise that it is ok to talk about it, that there is no shame.  She has been on a journey of recovery and believes that there can be life after abuse.

Many of the Christian women I have spoken to about this issue have explained that those who punch, hit or beat someone often do it in areas which will not be noticeable, for example a kick in the stomach or the head, rather than on the face.  The abusers are clever.  What is perhaps not always acknowledged is that domestic violence is not just physical or sexual in nature, it can take the form of emotional manipulation too.

Andrea told me of the emotional control her ex partner made her endure when they were going out.  “He would make me walk behind him at all times”, she said, “and he would not allow me to speak to any other man as I would be accused of cheating, yet when I first met him he was so charming”.  She says that over time she became “like a recluse”.  With an unpredicable man breathing down her neck over every decision she made, this lady lived in a culture of fear.  For some women it can start off subtly with the man in their life controlling what they are allowed to wear when they go out.  So subtle is the start of the situation that some women don’t even realise that anything is wrong.

Jemima can now see that she was in an abusive relationship for 4 years but didn’t tell anyone at the start because initially she didn’t realise she was being treated badly.  Her abuser started to show signs of violence when he would punch the wall if she disagreed with him.  She twigged quite quickly that the punches in the wall could end up on her and it wasn’t long before that happened.  He didn’t like her attending church and one time things got bad – her partner punched her repeatedly in the ribs.  She recalls that her young daughter witnessed the beating and was screaming, however ”somehow was able to call the police” meaning that the situation got exposed.

Andrea says there is a fear of being judged if you tell someone.  “You lose your self value and worth, so you don’t think others will want to help you”.  She is one of a number of women who have been brave enough to speak out about what they have been through but there are many who have not yet reached that point.  So what about the person you might sit next to at church, or the woman you scowl at in the prayer meeting because her child misbehaves?  She could be going through trauma everyday but is too afraid to tell those around her in Church of the torment she suffers behind closed doors.

Next time someone in your homegroup appears grumpy or disinterested, remember that they could be the victim of violence at home.  Next time someone gets angry with you in the supermarket, remember that their irrational behaviour could be the result of the abuse they suffer in private.

“I will restore to you for the years the locusts have eaten.” Joel 2:25

Healing is possible.  Recovery is possible.  There is life after abuse – it might take time to recover, but you are not alone!

If you are suffering and have told no one, please get help. Sometimes it is necessary to call the police to protect yourself, but if you just want someone to confide in you can contact the following organisations:

PHONENational Domestic Violence Helpline FREE to talk to someone in confidence on 0808 2000 247.

WEBSITE – There is also a Christian organisation called Restored you may wish to contact: http://www.restoredrelationships.org

p.s. This post deals with domestic abuse when women are the victims, however men also suffer at the hands of abusive women, but that would require a dedicated post of its own.

© Maria Rodrigues-Toth

*Since writing this post an article has been published by the BBC which details a large scale series of arrests of offenders of domestic abuse. Apparently Scotland Yard says 10 per cent of the two million calls to police in London each year are related to domestic violence!

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A group of teenage boys were shocked when they viewed the before and after shot of the girl at the top of this post – they couldn’t believe the impact that some make-up and hair straighteners could have on someone!

It is encouraging that young girls are increasingly becoming aware that the images they see on billboards, in newspapers or on magazine covers are vastly different from how the subjects look when they get out of bed in the morning, but I am concerned that the focus of our attention has been exclusively on girls to the neglect of how our airbrushing culture is impacting young men.  Youth-workers, teachers, parents and campaigners on self esteem issues are to be applauded for the roles they have all played in getting the message of body image out into the public arena but I believe another step needs to be taken.

Not all the young men growing up in today’s world are ignorant of the transformation tools available to women, but I think we owe it to them to ensure that these husbands and fathers of the future are made aware that the models they see (or avert their eyes from) on the side of buses are largely computer generated.  Why?  a) so that when a wife begins to sag, increase in wrinkles and lose her natural hair colour the husband is still content in his marriage because he loves his wife for who she is inside, b) so that when a man is looking for a wife he doesn’t have the unrealistic physical expectations of an airbrushed woman and c) finally, because a woman wants to be loved for who she is when she gets out of bed in the morning, not just for who she can become after a highly skilled make-up artist has done their work or the computer has airbrushed out any perceived ‘imperfections’.

The Dove Campaign* went a long way to explain the message of how a woman can be turned into a supermodel with a few studio lights, some foundation, blusher and eye shadow, thrown in with a bit of airbrushing, but once again the target audience was predominantly women.  Whilst the slogans such as, ‘talk to your daughter before the beauty industy does’ are important, where are the campaigns which say ‘a woman is for life not just for the Christmas party’ or ‘a woman is beautiful even when she wears no make up’ which are targeted at boys?

If we care about the next generation of men let’s inform them that while a girl may look beautiful on the outside, if you marry her she won’t always look glamourous.  While physical attraction is important, what will last for a lifetime is a woman’s character.

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised..” -Proverbs 31:30

p.s. A mother contacted me after reading this to share that she has now shown the image at the top of this post to her sons who are 12 yrs and 15 yrs old.  They have chatted about the two photographs, serving as a reminder that education begins in the home. Thank you for reading.

©Maria Rodrigues-Toth

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