Breaking the Circle of Pain

I was married not quite a year when the yelling, profanity and demeaning started. Then he started to accentuate what he was yelling with a slap or kick. I was in shock at first. He was usually such a sweet guy and all of my friends would tell me how lucky I was to have him.

It would sometimes be six months or more between abusive times. During this time he would promise that he would never hit me again. Then I could feel the tension building and know that another nightmare was just around the corner. I would try to keep everything just perfect and keep the kids quieter so he wouldn't have an excuse to blow. I would pray and cry out to God but I felt my prayers were falling to the ground all around me. No matter what I did he would eventually lose it, and my kids and I would suffer again.

My 9-year-old daughter called the police one night when she heard the screaming and crying. They hauled him away, and I filed a report. But he was back with all of the same old promises and a new threat. He told my daughter and me that if we ever went to the police again he would commit suicide. He had a lot of guns in the house, and he was always waving them in my face when he was trying to intimidate me. I didn't know if he would actually follow through on this threat but I was afraid it would be my fault if he did. (I have since learned that it would not have been my fault.)

I used to believe that as long as my kids didn't see the abuse they weren't affected. Boy, was I ever wrong. I know now that they would sit in their rooms or huddle together in a closet and wonder if I was going to be alive in the morning. They were also very afraid that he would turn on them as well.

While all of this was going on we wore our masks very well in public. We were the happy, wealthy, perfect little family at our jobs and church. No one ever suspected anything. I was very good at covering up the bruises or lying about how they happened.

One night I heard about Cookie's Retreat Center at a presentation at our church. I finally felt like maybe God had heard all of my frantic prayers. I soon found the strength to take my kids and run to Cookie's.

My kids and I spent almost three months at Cookie's Retreat Center. Our lives will never be the same. I have learned so much and the staff at Cookie's has helped me with so many challenges that I was afraid to face on my own. The Christian atmosphere with morning and evening worships, counseling, group therapy, life skill classes and lots of free meditation time were just what I needed to heal. I will never be able to thank all of you who give so generously to keep this program open but I pray that God will bless you as much as you have blessed my children and me.

Cookie's Retreat Center has had the privilege of working with more than 200 women and children just like this precious family since opening in December of 2002. We have seen the miracle of God's healing touch melt the walls of fear and pain.

Contrary to popular belief the families affected by abuse come from all walks of life. We have worked with women whose educational backgrounds range from sixth grade to Ph.D. Their ages range from 18 to 84 years, and they represent almost all socio-economic levels and religious faiths. More than 70 percent of them have come from Seventh-day Adventist homes.

While these numbers are difficult to accept, we as a church need to open our eyes to the pain sitting next to us in the pews. The national average is that one in three of us have experienced abuse in our lives. Let's stop pretending and start reaching out to those around us who need to feel the touch of Christ's healing love.

It is estimated that less then 25 percent of abuse victims seek professional intervention. Most of them will turn to their own circle of friends and family. This is why we each need to educate ourselves on the signs of abuse and the resources available in our communities. (See the warning signs sidebar.) It is also extremely important to remember that if your friend is truly in a dangerous situation, taking her into your own home for shelter is putting you and your family at risk. It is best to help her access trained professionals. (See crisis line numbers.)

It is easy for us who are not in an abusive situation to be tempted to judge or blame the victim. Why doesn't she just leave? It is her own fault if she stays. She must do something to make him mad because he is a very nice man and is very helpful in his duties at church... This is destructive behavior that shows only ignorance and serves to make the victim feel more hopeless and trapped.

Today, education is only a mouse click away. Just enter "domestic violence" in your search engine, and you will find many exceptional Web sites with facts that will help you be a part of the solution to this ever-increasing problem. Or visit Cookie's Retreat Center online at ppmin.org.

August 01, 2007 / Feature