Throughout the month of October I wanted to be sure and give a VOICE to survivors of Domestic Violence. I believe by sharing our stories we help give encouragement and hope to others who might be in the very same predicament.
Here is one such story that proves the healing power of the WORD of God:
“Giving the Burden to Jehovah”
I was never the girl who claimed to have faith in anything. Faith was a hard concept for me to wrap my head around. It was next to impossible for me offer up trust to anyone, much less leave myself vulnerable by having faith that they wouldn’t abuse it. I learned growing up that those closest to you were going to harm you. That is just how it was, and if I couldn’t stop it from happening. The least I could do in my own interest was to put up some walls and fortify them from being breached.
It wasn’t until someone came along and mystifyingly was able to lay the walls to waste, seemingly without effort, that I realized how much this vulnerability born of trust and faith was worth to my peace and fulfillment as a woman. Until him, it was this abstract idea that I could never achieve. All at once, I was shown everything I had been missing out on and I felt foolish for the joy I caused myself to be a stranger to.
The person who followed was the one who almost succeeded in destroying me. It only took two months after moving in for him to begin physically abusing me. He was extremely controlling and violent and I faced several situations where he was so blinded by his rage that I could have been killed. Truthfully, with him it would have only been a matter of not “if” but “when.” Surviving day to day with his temper became impossibly perilous after only a few months. Increasingly, he turned to extreme physical measures in an attempt to control and dehumanize me: repeatedly punching my head or hitting it against the door frames, dragging me into a corner by my hair and beating me, breaking a board on me, and using a metal bar to repeatedly strike me on the legs, causing me to walk with a cane for two years.
Throughout this chaos that finally ended in December 2012, my forced isolation and ensuing limited contact with the outside world left me in a challenging position: How do I endure? Where do I go for support when I have no one? Ah, but I wasn’t alone. When I left with no connections to the outside world, I still had Jehovah. Initially, building a relationship with my Creator was difficult, because I already had a history of trust issues. Add the abuse, and I was wary of trusting or putting faith in anything or anyone.
Being able to trust is a key factor in beginning the healing process, as it is necessary on so many levels for past and present victims of abuse to become whole again. However, even in the every-day world around us, we are bombarded with messages to our subconscious that trust is perilous: those you think are friends betray or take advantage of you, marriages end, we see corruption in business and government, and we are sometimes targets of acts driven by dishonesty and greed. All these and more have happened us and to some degree handicapped our ability to take anything at face value. Many times when we offer up this vulnerable part of ourselves, we do so with an acknowledged risk that we could feel the sting of being deceived.
Once you factor in the amount of suffering, trauma, and psychological damage sustained during and immediately after leaving a relationship rife with any form of abuse, we as victims and survivors are initially left exposed and stripped bare of hope, confidence, security, and value for ourselves. We feel defeated, ashamed, and blame ourselves for what was done to us insidiously against our will. After being harmed and violated so severely by the one person in our lives who should have protected us, this trust seems like an impossible thought, both intangible and distressing to our hearts.
How does one overcome this wall obstructing the path to healing and rebuilding our lives after domestic violence? Specifically, what did I do that enabled me to overcome this obstruction so I could move forward with healing?
The first thing I did was seek out encouragement from the Scriptures (Psa. 1:1-3). Even before I was able to leave the abusive relationship I had become trapped in, I created a bank of scriptures I could refer to and meditate on when I was emotionally distressed and incapable of regulating my own thoughts. Throughout the Bible that Jehovah lovingly provided for us, many times we are invited to call upon Him (Psa. 4:3, Lam 3:33-57, Rom. 10:13) and approach him in prayer (Mark 11:24, Rom. 12:12, Eph. 6:18, 1 Thess. 5:17).
Therefore, many times, in urgent, heartfelt desperation much like Hannah displayed when she prayed for a son before Jehovah so intensely from her heart that she was in tears and quivering (1 Sam. 1:9-18), I prayed feverishly, desperately, as though my life depended upon it for strength, spirit, guidance, and courage. I prayed until I was emotionally spent at times, but when I was finished I always felt at peace. Jehovah sees our suffering wants us to feel comfortable in approaching him about all things. For if we throw our burdens upon Him as exhorted in Psa. 55:22, we release our grasp on the suffering and cast it away, allowing us peace of mind.
I also looked for examples in the scriptures of faithful servants of Jehovah and how they overcame their trials. With so many facing persecution, torture, imprisonment, or death, it is hard not to parallel their struggles and ability to overcome with my own as someone who has survived abuse and blossomed once I navigated the aftermath. The accounts provide much encouragement to persevere. The most recent one I find myself meditating on is the prophet Jeremiah. Despite facing physical and emotional suffering while on the assignment tasked to him by Jehovah, Jeremiah was driven to do His will. For me, enduring the abuse in exchange for nurturing my relationship with Jehovah was something I could not have prevented if I wanted to. Like Jeremiah who admitted having a boisterous heart at his assignment but also acknowledged that he could not be silent (Jer. 4:19), my love and appreciation for Jehovah lit a spark in my heart that drove me to endure what I needed to for the sake of my spiritual health.
Another key thing I did was to break the silence that had me trapped in the abuse, and I have not stopped telling my story. By continuing to speak out and share my experiences, I expose everything done to me in darkness to the light, until every last shadow is eliminated. It not only allows me time to process and reconcile what I endured, it has freed me of the guilt, shame, and humiliation I carried inside when I first left the relationship. Beyond that, with God’s love, I have been moved to reach back and provide support and encouragement to those who find themselves wandering in the damage and fallout of what was their abusive relationship. The support and encouragement we impart to each other is uplifting and has helped my heart to begin to heal (Prov. 12:18).
To have a loving, appreciated relationship with Jehovah is no small accomplishment. True worship and service of Him requires that you love Jehovah with every part of your being. However, once you learn about His qualities and feel how His love affects your life, you eagerly give copious amounts of our heart to Him. The personification of love, Jehovah has the power to move mountains and bless you beyond compare.
Amy was not always so close to Jehovah. She grew up in a family where only her father’s parents attended church every Sunday, even though they never truly committed fully to a denomination. Behind closed doors, some in the family were kind or loving to each other, to the children in particular. Her first memory is of her older sister being held over the second floor railing of their childhood home and being violently shaken and screamed at mercilessly. Over the years, all of the five children suffered varying forms of abuse at the hand of three parents. Her stepfather was an alcoholic who pulled money away from supporting the household little by little, and Amy stepped in to help provide for her younger sisters.
Never having fully healed from the abuse she endured and witnessed as a child, Amy walked in the lion’s den in 2008 by making one decision that would forever change her life. He moved in, the man who would soon verbally shred and physically abuse her for the next four years. During this time, Amy began studying the Bible and attending meetings. As she learned about what Jehovah’s standards are, she began to change to be in line with them. The abuser did everything he could to prevent her from progressing, including extreme amounts of physical punishment.
Terrorized into silence, Amy endured by Jehovah’s spirit and strength, and persevered until the opportunity for her to leave came. Once she broke free in December 2012, she resumed her studies and was baptized in July 2013. Surrounded by her loving congregation and Jehovah’s protection, Amy was finally able to begin to heal. She now reaches out to others like her through her blog, Picking Up the Pieces, and is preparing applications to volunteer for domestic violence services in her area. There are also plans to work on securing funding for a domestic violence shelter specializing in hard to place calls: men and those with disabilities. The need for services for victims of domestic violence in general is greater than ever before. Currently in her home county, there is no designated shelter. Victims fleeing abusive relationships are either temporarily put up in hotels until shelter can be arranged, or they are referred to other counties if there is no family to take them in.