The Next Victim

guestabuse, marriage, Mormon 59 Comments

This post is by our guest, Leah.

He is getting his temple recommend renewed. He has his humble face on. He has paid up his financial obligations to his children. He is going through the outward steps of repentance again, assembling the props he needs to act the perfect husband. But this time it is not for me, it is for her.

He is telling her that he wants the white picket fence, the family and a dog. He couldn’t have told her how the most significant times when his abuse became physical were when I was pregnant. I don’t think he has drawn that connection, himself.

Nor could she know that after he kicked the cat into the wall in front of my child, I knew I would never own a pet again. Or how he let me believe for three months we were trying to get pregnant again, when he had obtained a vasectomy a year and a half before. Or of the last time, after his reversal surgery worked and I was pregnant again. How that time I stood my ground and refused to leave the house and my other daughter alone with him when he was angry. How I then knew I could never dare to have another baby. Nor could she know that he left me, and I, in agony, decided not to let him come back. He believes now that our divorce was entirely my decision, that the years of his threats are merely my imagination.

He has gone through his “full-disclosure” phase with her, I’m sure. She can’t know that it is a smokescreen. He uses honesty as just another tool. I wonder if he told her the same things he told me. I would guess he’s only disclosed the things that he knows I am aware of. That way, he is inoculating her against future revelations. Anything he does not think she will find out on her own is still safe behind his silence.

I’m sure he has told her that he stole from me while we were married, siphoning off marital funds towards his hobbies since he has admitted that much to me. He could not have told her the extent of it; he doesn’t know I know about the thousands of dollars over the course of just a few years. Nor could she know how often I went without because our finances were so tight, how my daughter wore ill-fitting second-hand shoes because that was what we could afford. Nor that most of my “extra” money now goes into the money pit fixer-upper house that he wanted and left me with, half undone and unsafe for children.

He has told her that I am intelligent and a great mother. He has no right to tell her that, not after the years of lies told to the people who could have been my friends. He told them then I was mentally unhinged, unsafe for my daughter, suicidal. What right does he have using me to make himself look good now? What a wonderful person he is to speak so highly of his ex-wife. Never mind my loneliness because of the picture of me he painted for the world. Forget the confusion and desperation I felt when I tried to make friends only to be treated like a nuclear bomb about to go off. Never mind the public record that shows he thinks me an adulteress, a psychopath and a lawbreaker. Now, he can use my virtues to exalt himself to her.

Should I tell her how when I dressed up and tried to make myself attractive, his Internet or movies or car were more interesting? It was when I felt my most ugly or ill that he used me. Or perhaps I could tell her how he would pressure me into doing things that made me feel dirty and cheap, how he would spend hours on the Internet researching how often sex should be done in order for me to be a good wife.

Would she want to know that if he does not get enough sex, his aggression builds up? Perhaps I should mention the unutterable pain I went through every time, until childbirth made it easier for me. The pain that he used to convince me I was an utter failure as a wife. The pain I squashed down so that I could perform the way a wife is supposed to perform.

She sits across from me, confident, smiling. To her, life is still a series of decisions that she can make. She hasn’t yet faced a life that will always be tainted, somewhat, with another person’s choice.

I used to wonder why liars were listed with murderers and adulterers. Now I know. Now I see that for him, lying is not a behavior, it is who he is. His lies penetrate so deeply under his skin that even he does not know what is truth any more. That is part of why he is so believable: he is always, utterly sincere.

I look at her and my heart tears. One part wants to scream at her to run away while she still can. The other part, rational, knows that she will never believe what I have to say, and sees that she will make about as good of a stepmother for my girls as can be hoped for. That part also reasons with my emotions, pointing out that by telling her what I have lived through, I weaken the shield I have carefully built out of his ignorance. If he begins to see how much I know, he will realize he can no longer lie to me, and my children and I will be in danger again. For now, while he is pursuing her, he is satiated and happy, and has no reason to attack me and mine. For now, there is some level of peace.

The rational part wins. It wins a lot lately, despite the rampant strength of my feeling side. As she hints around aspects of my relationship with him, I tell her that before I talk about it to her, I want her to go and pray and find out by the Spirit if she really wants to know.

She wants to get to know me, to offer the olive branch because, as she says, we are sisters in Zion. After she leaves, I begin to realize that by making the first move to build the bridge between us, she can know what a wonderful person she is. She and he are the magnanimous couple, having used the Atonement to wash away their sins, benevolent in their cleanliness, bestowing blessings on the poor, foolish, damaged ex-wife. She does not know the raw pain of the Atonement for me, or the hard lessons the Lord has been teaching me as He helps me put my life and myself back together. She doesn’t know how much happier, stronger I am now, and wiser, though I have so much more to learn. She doesn’t realize that I always intended friendship with whatever girl he ends up snaring. She will need a friend when he puts the props away and begins to act himself again.

Readers, what is your reaction to Leah’s story?  How can we balance the principles of forgiveness, repentance and the Atonement when faced with a person wielding unrighteous dominion?

How can we help those around us who are victims of misplaced gospel principles (such as family, the temple covenants, unity and selflessness in marriage, priesthood, honesty, forgiveness, etc.) especially in cases of abuse?

What does it mean to truly repent and forgive? How can we allow the Atonement to heal us when we have been (and are being) seriously wounded by another’s exercise of agency?

Comments 59

  1. You forgive when you’re ready to forgive and nobody has the right to make you feel guilty about not “getting over it” and moving on.

  2. The only way that one can forgive, is to be acknowledged that the event took place. This is why after over eight months I still have not gone back to church. I probably never will. I have a BP and SP who have refused to acknowledge anything, and this is attempting to contact them withr 28 emails.They refuse to pick up the mantel and begin the process. That’s on them. I do not want any part of it any more. This is a religion which is controlled by men. They talk a good game of not allowing abuse, but when it happens they refuse to acknowledge and just expect the person to forget about it. I think, and in fact know that if I were to walk into that building this Sunday, they would act like there is nothing wrong and attempt to pick up like nothing ever happened.

  3. My close friend was abused much like Leah was abused. Her stake president and bishop who were friends of her husband, who was a bishop, discounted the abuse. She told me the psychological abuse was worse than the physical, which was horrific. When my husband and I tried to help her by contacting the area authority and sharing with him doctors’ reports of the abuse, her SP threatened us with excommunication, telling us we would be ex’d if we lived in his stake. We were told to have no contact with our friend.

    I would suggest that when physical abuse occurs, a woman needs to call the police and get a police report filed. (If your husband if close friends with the police chief, as my friend’s husband was, this may be a problem, however.) Keep a diary of each type of abuse when it occurs. Ask you friends to document the abuse as well, including time of day, date, and type of abuse. Go to a shelter if possible. Get away from the abuse.

    My mistake was assuming that the Church would solve a legal matter. Leaders are imperfect at best and sometimes malevolent at worst. I would not make my decision to stay active in the Church by the bad choices of the leaders. However, if possible, if I had been abused and my ex was still abusive, I would make every effort to move away from him. A spouse is in greatest danger after attempting to leave an abusive relationship.

  4. What is there to say? To say that a patriarchal religion will always side with men is not enough. Because there’s the essential issue of discernment. What is one to think when the anointed who are supposed to have been gifted and charged with special gifts of discerning the will of the Holy Spirit are not prompted to act to help the helpless and right a wrong? Are we to conclude that abuse and continuing abuse — can anyone fail to hear that this woman who is no longer in the relationship in question is still suffering abuse? — are the wills of the Holy Spirit and Heavenly Father? Or that the specially chosen whom we give great authority in our lives are so misguided or uncaring or unwilling to take on the uncomfortable responsibilities of their offices?

    If this story were unique it would be one thing. When you hear it over and over again over the years it simply erodes. Erodes. And it points again to why setting women aside as subordinant is a grave strategic and spiritual error.

  5. alice, in my experience it depends where you live. Some places the assumption is that the man must always be in the wrong. Some places vice versa. Some places people assume the best of those they know, some places it is the inverse.

    call the police and get a police report filed.

    Yes. If the police run interference, go to a shelter and remember that obstruction of justice for your friends is a federal felony.

  6. This is just plain creepy. Leah needs psychological help. Amazing how she can write this, putting all the blame for the crazy on her ex-husband while exposing her own deep psychopathology, seeming to be completely unaware of what she is doing.

  7. Anon,
    You obviously have never been abused. Sometimes the crazy IS all in one person, though both are human, most people (I like to think) are not abusive.

    My aunt just got out of a 20 abusive relationship… she says herself that she would have committed suicide if it were not for her youngest child and the will to protect that child from the emotional abuse of her father.

    You obviously have no empathy. What harm is there in extending some compassion to someone who is obviously hurting? No matter where the blame lay.

  8. I have witnessed similar situations to this. The first and greatest mistake made each time is to try and address matters of abuse through the Church. Church leaders at the local level rarely have the guts to act, and to their credit, really aren’t prepared to know how to act in the first place. Even if you find a leader willing to take decisive action, what can they really do? I think Hugh Nibley pointed out, albeit in a different context, that the only power the Church has is to excommunicate. When abuse is the issue, forget the Church, go to the police. They are supposed to be the ones prepared. Secondly for the social sake of wanting to expose an abuser to their Mormon Ward/Stake members and leaders, the police are better equipped to help here as well. If a person is found to be guilty by the local legal authorities, local Church leadership is less likely to dispute that by challenging the sanity of the accuser. They are also more likely to be supportive when the persons claims are not under scrutiny. Not so when local Church leaders are approached first (before the police). Naturally, leaders who are not trained in this sort of thing want to do the right thing, but claims to discernment notwithstanding, have little faculty to do so. In these cases I think they tend to take the path of least resistance. So again, police first, if necessary, Church leaders second.

  9. Agree with Cowboy. I often wonder what on earth people really expect a church leader to do in a “he said she said” situation? They have no power or expertise to conduct investigations and they do not typically discipline people for sins unless the person admits to them. Would we really all WANT our church leaders taking sides in marital disputes? The truth is, none of us know whether “Leah”‘s version of events is accurate or fair. Her ex may have been abusive or she may have some psychiatric problems or both. It does seem clear she could use some counseling, but beyond helping with that, what would you want her Bishop to do? I don’t see that there is anything he could do as far as the alleged abuse without engaging in unrighteous dominion himself.

  10. I mostly agree with,”E” and Cowboys response, however, when a bishop has a statement in black and white and refuses to deal with the situation simply because he does not want to deal with the person then there’s a problem. In my case, I had it in print what he say, he, wrote it, and sent it to me in a email when I asked him to stop doing something. This was and is a case where there was unrighteous dominion and eccleastical( i know I spelled it wrong) abuse, yet know one has done anything. I know I have written about this before, but we keep dealing with topics of abuse and I feel that there is a lack of understanding from most people with regard to this issue. Spiritual abuse, is as bad as psychological abuse, because while its’ easy to recognize, its’ mor hard to do anything about.

  11. Sorry,

    I meant to write,”I had what this former bishop said, in black and white.” He clearly stated in his response that as a former Branch President, he had every right to tell me what he said, and still my current bishop did nothing and expected me to be okay with that. Obviously I’m not and no one who is going thru a similar situation should be.


    I hope you never go through a situation with abuse, because you will feel like a fool with your response. Empathy goes a long way and clearly you chose to judge because that’s what is easier to do.

  12. dblock, I’ve watched women in my family go through serious abuse. And I’ve seen church leaders trash them and show no empathy year after year. But I’ve also seen the women in my family who’ve been through this react in different ways. The ones who strengthened their faith in the Lord and learned to separate the fallible (in our case, sometimes grossly and horrendously so) leaders from the infallible Gospel principles, found a way to recover their lives and move on. The ones who haven’t, who couldn’t let go of their (fully justified) anger and turned away from the church, have had a path so rough and long it was like the original abuse never ended in some ways. I think cowboy’s comments are helpful in this regard, but obviously each situation is unique and I don’t know yours or if its anything like what I’ve seen in my family. All I’d say is, tighten your relationship with God, learn to separate the stupidity and malice of human beings (even in the church) from the church God wants to be a gift to you. I mean, we read it all over the scriptures in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon that there were plenty of times where the shepherds failed their flock. It’s not a new problem. God put the church structure in place to try in most cases to help imperfect human beings get his truths channeled more efficiently to us. But sometimes the human beings who have to run it screw up royally. Don’t let that turn you away from the church, because the church is you. It’s you and me and everyone in it. Don’t let the jerks have the run of the house. Separate yourself from the jerks who have created or worsened your predicament if you have to do that. But don’t let their sins today turn into a lifetime of regret for you. I’ve seen that happen. It didn’t make the abused woman in my family a bad woman, she’s one of the most wonderful kind people I know. But she’s suffered so needlessly for so long. Go to the cops if you’ve been abused, get the book thrown at the abuser to make sure he stops abusing, try to get those jerks who tried to protect him to acknowledge their mistakes. But if it doesn’t work, then step away from those people if you have to, but find another way to start new in the church in another ward or stake or whatever. And find a way to let your justified anger run its course, but then melt away. You don’t ever have to look back at the people who hurt you if you know you’re in danger of being hurt again. But don’t let the anger they created in you with their abuse gain the victory in the long run. The church needs you. Those leaders who jerked you around are expendable from their positions in my mind, but the hurt person is indispensable. Christ came and befriended those of us who’d been kicked in the gut, he didn’t spend much of his time with the people who already thought they were great and powerful.

  13. 10 Cowboy, I agree with what you’ve written. The only exception is if there had been church action taken against the accuser and he is now applying to have his blessings restored (so he can take his new wife to the temple), the church is also obligated to hear from the wounded spouse and seek her input. It does not mean that the offended person controls the situation, but at least her voice can be heard. But generally I agree with you: abuse victims should report the abuse to the police.

  14. Paul:

    I wouldn’t dispute that. In your scenario the abuse has allegedly ended and now all that is left is personal and spiritual recovery.

    My point was that essentially Church leaders are not in a position to intervene or evaluate abuse claims. Nevertheless, for church members that seems like the appropriate avenue of redress. Unfortunately this often backfires. The victims then range from the abused to spiritually well intentioned, but unprepared church leaders.

  15. I know I wouldn’t have accepted anything her husband said at face value. Having been a bit demonized (not by my current husband) I know that’s a very lonely position.

    But this patriarchial order deal is truly problematic. Something’s got to be done about this. It’s one thing to assume the leaders don’t know the truth, having heard both sides, but the true damage is done by leaders who seem to always believe the man’s side to be true, to champion the man as victim and mistreat the woman. Which is sort of an exaggeration in some instances but not others. The accusations and stories are too numerous and too consistent to dismiss.

  16. Cowboy,

    I agree with you 100% that the church is ill prepared to handle victims of physical abuse.

    However, the church does have very clear cut guidelines on what to do when the abuse is spiritual. The only problem is that the local leadership will not follow those guidelines, especially if the accused are friends of the current bishopric, etc. There is no point in having guide lines which are often spoken about, if leadership doesn’t, or won’t follow thru when situations warrant. For instance, I even had my Relief Society President (who happens to be a very accomplished lawyer, in the room when I spoke to the Branch President and he still refused to deal with the person.,

    Yet, I’ve seen him approach many sisters whom he doesn’t feel intimidated by and correct them on something. For instance, A sister I know was wearing a cross that someone gave her as a present,(she was a former catholic) and he told her she could not wear it. There’s really nothing that states that.

  17. Dblock:

    I’m less inclined to see the “abuses” of Church leaders in the same light of spousal abuse or child abuse. I have seen instances where leaders either throw their weight around, and/or build leadership alliances that can come across as institutionally oppressive. At the same time, this only happens because we submit ourselves to their church authority. Often times, beyond their callings in the Ward or Stake, these individuals have little ability or influence in the world or our lives.

  18. Cowboy, of course you’re less inclined to see “abuses.” This is the prevalent opinion of men in the church and your opinion makes my case. You’d be more inclined if you’d ever been on the receiving end. Men with your attitude are the problem. You’re living in a la-la land of priesthood hierarchy that treats women’s claims of abuse as hysteria or instability and gives the benefit of the doubt to the man. Every time. I’ve known so many men with your attitude who have no problem calling women to repentance but will cut a man miles of slack. I bet women in your stake aren’t allowed to give opening prayers either.

    I hear this attitude disguised as reasonableness all the time and it gives me a stomach ache.

    Although it’s true I was BoH biggest patsy and Leah might not even be real, I’ve been on the front lines of this debate or so long personally I recognize the story and the rhetoric put forth by priesthood holders. It makes me tired and angry but I’m convinced that one thing will never change and it’s something I have to accept because I choose to remain a Mormon. Thank God for men like John Dehlin and Stephen Marsh.

  19. Annegb:

    The Church is sexist, no doubt about it. The abuses are not the same as spousal/child, and to suggest otherwise is absurd and self-centered. If you don’t like it you can leave. But patriarchy is an integral part of Mormonism, always has been, always will be.

  20. I’ve had to deal with people who had borderline personality disorder. I’ve dealt with situations where the people took the guy’s side over anything else and situations where the reverse happens. So I meet guys who are certain that the Church has it in for men (traditionally, for adultery men were excommunicated, women not … now the “not” part has expanded somewhat).

    In the story above, the guy had been excommunicated for his abuse. Leah’s complaint is that he is claiming to be rehabilitated and changed, she is sure he hasn’t. She sees the new wife as just another victim who is wrapped into a codependent enabling status, the new wife sees her as locked into the past, and someone she needs to reach out to. The one is trying to warn (in language that makes her look a little unhinged — but if she was abused, who can blame her), the other is portrayed as typical for those who are wrapped into the first part of the cycle involving abusive predators.

    At the moment we don’t know how rehabilitated the guy really is. Is he telling the new wife much of the truth to disarm her or has he really acknowledged he was really an abusive creep? Has he really gone through inventorying himself, making amends and seeking to have God take away his defects of character, truly repenting and seeking change and rebirth or is he just a chameleon who knows the steps to go through to get back in the game without really changing?

    Hard to tell. Bet he may not know (having seen people like that who could not understand what was wrong with them, though the sisters all hated them and the Bishopric, the guy who was the liaison to the singles sisters [me] and everyone else agreed with the sisters) what is wrong with him if she is correct. Heck, he may be “rehabilitated” and still be a controlling, overweening exploitative jerk, just no longer nasty about it.

    And we get women who abuse. Given that they have less upper body strength than men, the results usually aren’t as bad, but I’ve seen some nasty cases. When I was on the board of a rape crisis center, a significant sub-set of the service was for both lesbians and gays abused by other lesbians and gays. [Strange, but when that came up everyone was at first like ‘of course homosexuals don’t have problems of that sort’ followed by ‘duh, they are human like everyone else’].

    Anyway, an interesting set of comments. Too often we give people authority they don’t have. Too often we fail to empower ourselves. Too often we can’t tell if Leah is right or not, sometimes she can’t tell.

  21. The abuses champion the abuser of spouse/child and to suggest otherwise is a mark of small men who have found a safe haven in Mormonism. And who use patriarchy as an excuse to express mysogyny. The true patriarch would never act in such a manner. But they are few and far between.

  22. Annegb:

    I actually agree with almost everything you are saying, and to be clear I see the whole structure of mormonism as manipulative. I just think it is less severe than spousal/child abuse. This is where we disagree. I don’t see any reconciling that between us, but don’t misunderstand my comments to be an endorsement of the church.

  23. Here’s something to think about.

    The most dangerous person can come across as being the nicest guy.(i.e) Ted Bundy. He was just your average guy next door and that’s what made him so dangerous, because people never thought he was a killer. People who knew him could never thought that he could be capable of pulling off the kinds of murder that was doing. So when people like Anon tell me that one person seems more normal than the next, that’s what I think. Really good crazy people can and do come across as sounding normal, precisely because they are so cunning in their deceit.

  24. annegb, Good analysis, Stephen. I didn’t know you worked for a rape crisis center. — I was on the board of directors of one for a while, not working there. I found it really hard, emotionally and otherwise.

  25. I’m sorry cowboy, I misunderstood. I should clarify my stance as well. I’m incredibly bitter about the way some situations have been handled and I believe the problem is systemic. But I’ve known very good men as well and I believe in the gospel.

    Stephen, I could never work with women—or men in those situations. In fact, I’m pretty sure the director of the womens shelter wouldn’t take me. I would be completely unable to detach.

  26. Dblock, you’re right there. My sister’s roommate dated Ted Bundy and he’d come to their family home evenings etc. She said he was the nicest guy to come over. I think she had a psychic awareness of his true character but he was well behaved and mannered on the surface.

  27. Yet another reason why I’m afraid of getting into a relationship. Both because I was at times physically abused by my ex-fiancee and the fact that I’m also prone to fits of irrational anger. All I can do is just pray to be able to maintain self-control when the tension rises.

  28. Sorry for my late response, I’ve been thinking over what to say.

    GBSmith, thank you. My problem is I want to be ready yesterday!

    dblock, I can’t accept that. If I say that in order to forgive, the other person must acknowledge the event, I condemn myself to never forgiving. An abuser will never acknowledge it, because he can’t afford to. They build their world out of a farce because they are afraid to face the reality of themselves. Terrified, really. In order to acknowledge they abused me, they would have to acknowledge that they were wrong. It will not happen. And I will not allow him to determine my peace.

    C, where children are involved, the courts force a woman to stay near her abuser or face exorbitant fees. When recovering from a situation that most often involves some form of financial abuse, the last thing a woman can afford to do is escape.

    alice, I truly don’t think that most leaders are lazy or uncaring. I think they simply don’t understand. I don’t think that many men can understand the vulnerability that women live on a daily basis. When they are forced to understand, such as when they themselves are raped, they often have a harder time dealing with it because they are not taught on any level to expect it the way women are.

    Anon again, I am well aware of my own psychological damage. Thank you for pointing it out. Writing this is part of my trying to heal. I don’t have the money to pay someone to listen to me, so I listen to myself. And write. One thing that people who only look through the windows of abuse do not see is the vast rooms of blame in the back of the house. It has taken what free counseling and self-help books I’ve been able to utilize to even realize or acknowledge that it is not all my fault, and I still fight that dragon every day. I write also so that others who have not been blessed with a willingness to speak up can hear they are not alone.

    For all, one thing to also understand is that victims often don’t want to get the abuser in trouble with the police. They know that by trying to protect themselves, not only do they make themselves more vulnerable (because the police cannot be there forever!) but even if they have proof, they don’t want to jail their abusers. And most physical abuse cannot be proven until it is so horrifying that witnesses have no choice but to concede the point. Physical abuse is the tiniest, most benign particle of abuse, but it is the only part that even stands a chance to be proven. No one wants to believe a human being capable of the ruthless behavior an abuser displays to the victim. Most abusers are charming, kind, genial people. Try convincing anyone of something they don’t want to believe, and you will see the enormity of the outlook for a woman who on top of all the other obstacles, believes she deserves it.

    Most victims go to spiritual leadership not because they expect anything to be done, but because they just want to be believed. Mostly because they, themselves, can’t believe it.

    To think that the law has any real power to stop abuse is naive, as I discovered myself. My lawyer pointed out to me that the law can avenge, but cannot prevent or stop. And vengeance is not what I want. The only thing that will stop physical abuse is for men and women to no longer tolerate or downplay emotional abuse in any degree.

    Stephen, thank you. You are absolutely right in saying I can’t tell for certain if I’m right or not. A significant part of my healing has been to try to believe my instincts, and not necessarily what everyone else is telling me. One of my biggest mistakes was losing my faith in myself. To tell a victim to trust what she is being told over her own senses perpetuates the emotional and mental abuse. To tell a victim to be fair is to side solidly with the abuser, because she became abused because she was trying to be fair.

    In the end, it doesn’t matter to me if I am right or wrong in saying that he is unchanged, what matters is that I trust my instinct. And yet, I know he is not changed. I know it because I can see it, having been through it. I have looked, hoping desperately for some sign of change. His pattern has not changed one bit. He is already lying to this new girl. I know it because I have objective proof. (This is what he said to me, this is what he said to her. This is what he did to me, this is what he is doing to her.) Yet, my proof is meaningless to her, and I have to remember that.

    This post was partly to show how the gospel can be twisted and warped in these situations, to educate those who may not be aware by their own experience to distinguish between truth and lies. It is easier for a person bit by a coral snake to see the difference between that and a king snake, harder for those who have not felt the difference for themselves.

  29. And I should clarify: he was never excommunicated. He was inactive until he found his new victim, and in the meantime his recommend had lapsed. Before I knew of the new girl, I was asked to give feedback as to whether or not he was worthy of renewal. I told them that he had not paid his debts to his children (which he has since done), but that I saw no reason not to allow him to go through the steps of repentance. I told my bishop that I did not envy either bishop’s position, and I would not choose to deny my ex his chance at true repentance in the off-chance that I was wrong, and he was genuinely repentant. As an afterthought, I added that should there be a woman motivating his change, I’d want to warn her, if I were them.

    Only later, I found out for certain that his motivations were inspired by a new victim, not his own repentance. I was not surprised.

  30. Relationships wherein lies abuse are incredibly dangerous, not only physically but obviously emotionally too. I agree that the police and domestic shelters should be resources used in these types of situations. Unfortunately, I’ve never really heard of these resources being discussed in a frank and direct manner over the pulpit.
    Along with “endure to the end” is not necessary in these cases.

    At the same time, in most of the cases I have personally worked with where abuse was present – I felt that the bishops involved did a fabulous job of holding “unrighteous dominion” correctly accountable.

  31. Leah, what is your response to the opinions here? Because I had an ex-husband who was a terrible person and experienced some of what you write about (although not as long or intense–I kicked him to the curb) I’m not only sympathetic, I’m on your side, lock stock and barrell. But others raise some points worth discussing.

    When, after 7 months of hell on earth, I decided to divorce the returned missionary son-of-a-stake-president etc etc person I’d been sealed to, I faced opposition from everyone. Nobody thought I was doing the right thing. But I KNEW it was the right thing to do. I powered it through in the face of total opposition and my own fear of lonliness etc. It was really hard and I learned how they treated divorced women in Utah. Only a year before, I’d been a widow and totally respectable. Suddenly I had a scarlet letter and was a credit risk. “Friends” stopped speaking to me. And he had cheated on me and knocked me around and abused my son. The leadership knew that—he’d confessed and still I was the bad guy. I know where you’re coming from, Leah. But I would like to hear your take on the comments here.

  32. I’m going to try to do this again.

    GBSmith, thank you. My problem is that I want to be ready yesterday!

    dblock, I can’t accept that in order to forgive, the other has to acknowledge the hurt. Abusers will never truly acknowledge the abuse. Most of them do what they do because they are hurting, afraid of themselves. They can’t afford to admit how much they have hurt someone else. I refuse to let him control my peace.

    For all, I have discovered that it is rather naive to believe that the law can stop abuse. As my lawyer pointed out to me, the law can avenge, but not prevent or protect. The police cannot stay there forever. And vengeance is not what I want. Additionally, no one wants to believe a person capable of doing what an abuser does to a victim, especially a person so kind and genial. In order for the law to step in, a victim has to allow the abuse to the point of physical injury so severe that witnesses are forced to concede the point. If you have ever tried to convince someone of something they don’t want to believe, you will know the magnitude of the outlook, especially for a woman who believes at least on some level that she deserves what she is getting.

    alice, I don’t think that most leadership are too lazy or uncaring to help, I just think they don’t know how. Most people try so hard to be fair to both sides, they don’t realize that by “being fair” they are siding solidly with the abuser, who feels justified in his actions because he is still being treated as a normal person. And the victim got herself into her situation because she was trying to be fair, to the point of losing herself and her own perspective.

    Anon again, I am well aware of my own psychological damage, thank you for pointing it out. One thing that most of those who look through the windows of an abuse victim don’t see is the rooms and rooms of self-blame and guilt in the back of the house. The free counseling I’ve been able to get, along with what self=help books I’ve read have helped me reach a point where I know it was not all my fault, though I still feel it inside. I can tell myself it was him and his problems, but inside I still long to know what more I could have done, where I went wrong.

    Cowboy, most of those who approach ecclesiastical leaders do so not for anything to be done, but because they want to be believed. Mostly because they can’t believe it, themselves.

    To go to the authorities means one of two things. Either the victim has enough proof that the offender is punished or jailed (which is not what the victim wants) or there is no proof, and she makes herself and her children more vulnerable. When she separates from him, she leaves her children exposed without her there to protect them at least half the time. Half if he does not succeed in making her look like an unfit parent and taking custody away. There is no way for her to win, going to the police. If she does not have sufficient proof, she is then isolated more because she looks unhinged and crazy. In the best case scenario, she can get a restraining order, making child exchanges very difficult, and she still has to put her children further in harm’s way.

    And physical abuse, the only kind the law can see, is the smallest most harmless grain of abuse. The only way to truly stop abuse is if women and men cease to tolerate emotional abuse in even the mildest forms. If my husband breaks my arm, emotional abuse is the difference between physical abuse and an accident.

    I should also clarify, that he was never excommunicated. He was inactive while living with me, and afterwards, until he met this new girl. In the meantime, his temple recommend had lapsed. When I was asked if he was up on child support, etc., I answered truthfully. I told my bishop that I didn’t envy his position, and that if I were either bishop, I would not stand in his way in the offchance I was wrong and his repentance was genuine. I also said that if he was doing it for a girl, I’d want to warn her, but otherwise there was only himself to hurt. I didn’t know until later that his changes were indeed for her, and not for him.

    Stephen, thank you. You are right that I can’t completely know whether I am right in my judgment of the situation or not. One thing I’ve been helped to understand is that it makes no difference to me whether I’m right or not, but that I need to trust myself and my instincts. That is the biggest damage I have: that I can’t trust my own feelings and perceptions any more. Am I right, am I wrong? I’ve driven myself half-crazy at night trying to figure that out.

    But I know his pattern, because I’ve lived it. I have the ability to see things in his behavior that others would not notice. A person bitten by a coral snake is likely better at seeing the difference between that and a king snake than one who has never felt the pain.

    annegb, thank you. That is part of what I wanted to show. This great, good and glorious gospel can also be twisted and used to empower an abuser.

    Thank you, everyone else, for your comments.

  33. Leah – not sure why your earlier comments weren’t there. I checked the comment queue and didn’t see them. We don’t mod much here, so usually the only thing that gets something sent to the filter is more than 2 links in a post. Thanks for trying again.

    The concern I had as I read through the piece was the extreme difficulty in discerning what’s really going on in an abusive relationship. It’s hard to tell (as an outsider, like the bishop is) in such a highly charged emotional situation if the abused is accurately relating events or not, if the abuser is telling the truth or not, and so forth. And will the abuser abuse the next person or is there something to do with the relationship dynamics, personal growth, substance abuse, etc.? There are so many complexities and moving parts. Therapists sometimes fail to accurately assess these situations. And bishops aren’t therapists. No wonder they often fall short.

    I had a college roommate whose father sexually abused her but he could not admit it, and her mother sided with her husband and believed she made it all up. Yet she seemed to have the symptoms of sexual abuse victims: bouts of depression, promiscuity. I believed her, but I didn’t know her father, so it’s easy to side with the person you know. When it comes to marriages, I think no outsider can really know what’s going on in the marriage, and often even the spouses are unclear what’s going on.

  34. annegb—You were so blessed to have the conviction that you were doing the right thing. After he left, I kept trying to make excuse after excuse, chance after chance for him to show me that his changes were genuine, that he recognized how much I and the children had been hurt, that he was sorry . . . but he always failed the litmus test. I remember praying one night and asking the Lord what to do. I thought up one more line that if he crossed, I would know he was faking it. The Spirit pointed out to me that I had created “one more line” dozens of times. I told Him that this was the last time.

    When my then-husband attacked me verbally in joint counseling, I went ahead with filing. That was a very dark time. Wave after wave of criminal intimidation (breaking into my car, etc.), legal verbal abuse, slander, all interspersed equally with pleas to forgive him. If it were not for a few good friends, I would have lost everything, family, finances, sanity, faith.

    And I still am not convinced, deep down, that there was nothing more I could have done. Especially now that he’s “repenting” again. Maybe if I’d held on just a little longer, he would have “repented” in time to save my marriage.

    But then the Lord reminds me of when He told me that my then-husband would never have a chance if I remained married to him. In the end, that was the final factor that gave me the courage to follow it through.

  35. Hawkgrrrl, I think that discerning abuse comes more from the effects in the victim than from the actions of the alleged abuser. I don’t think that fear can be easily faked.

    One of my friends said something to me once: that she was there at the hearing and heard for herself what he was doing to me. I have clung to that sentence from her time and time again, else I’d believe I was making it all up, that it never really happened.

    I can’t blame others who never lived it for getting just as confused.

  36. “And will the abuser abuse the next person or is there something to do with the relationship dynamics, personal growth, substance abuse, etc.?”

    One other thought. This question is partially why abusers do what they do. Their answer is always “no”. They believe that “something to do with the relationship dynamics, personal growth, substance abuse, etc.” is why they do what they do. In reality, the answer is nearly always “yes”. Research has hypothesized that an abuser will, sometimes sooner, sometimes later, always abuse the next person or his children if he does not get extensive help (and court-ordered help is not enough). It is a common misconception that a man can abuse his spouse and not abuse his child. Abusers generally feel that what they do is justified in order to get their way. They see the world in terms of control. Every other person is defined in terms of “do they control me, or do I control them?” Anyone who fits into the latter will be abused if they try to exhibit autonomy. Anyone who fits into the former (bosses, ecclesiastical leaders, etc.) will be catered to.

    If you Google “why abusers abuse” there is ample information to this effect.

  37. I can’t think of a single instance that I’m personally aware (of which I’m personally aware? Not sure of the grammar) where the priesthood leaders did one thing to support the victim, for want of a better word.

    In one case, this kid in our ward took a girl at knifepoint and duct taped her, raped and sodomized her repeatedly (he’s in prison for life) and our bishop and stake president did NOTHING to support that girl and her family. They instructed the other ward leadership to stay out of it. Like it was a fight over a fence, not a first degree felony. I categorically and loudly refused that request. Her neighbor, a quiet sweet woman, then primary president did with less fanfare. But we were the only ones in court for that girl and her family. I love that bishop but I despise his spinelessness. I’ve complained as nauseum however you spell it about the sex abuse case in my neighborhood. Same deal. In fact, the leadership appeared to champion the person convicted and sentenced in court for what he did. He wasn’t disciplined by the church. The girls were shunned.

    Another case: a teenager raped, terrorized in various ways, and sodomized a girl in his mother’s care for 5 years. Our bishop gave him “the benefit of the doubt” and the Melchizedek priesthood.

    If this were a case of leaders not knowing what to do we’d see a more even-handed application of their confusion. Men would be called on the carpet instead of protected.

    But maybe that’s just Utah.

  38. Annegb, what you’ve said falls sufficiently into the category of “extraordinary claims” that we’re justified in asking for extraordinary evidence. Names and headlines, please.

    While LDS local leaders may occasionally have a quietistic, “don’t rock the boat” mentality, I just have a hard time believing the above.

  39. I admit I don’t have a lot of firsthand experience with bishops & victims, but in my college roommate’s situation, she was supported in various ways, including referral to a counselor. The church didn’t however, prosecute her dad, nor did she bring charges against him. I am also aware of another woman whose husband was abusive. He justified his controlling behavior by stating it was his priesthood right. She fled and lived with us briefly; however, against my parents’ advice she went back to her abusive husband when he apologized and manipulated her into returning. At the time my dad was in the bishopric. So I know that church leaders can be supportive of victims despite lack of professional training.

  40. Hmmm, I’ll have to think about it. You think I would lie or make it up? You think those are that sensational, really?

    Two of them were, like I said, convicted. Both are now registered sex offenders. So it’s public record. Ok, here’s one name I don’t care if I make waves. He’s the one in prison. Joseph Taunton, there were headlines.

    The other, I don’t know. It’s public record, it was on the front page of the paper, but we’re still healing as a ward and I do have stalkers who report to my bishop. I’ll have to think about that one.

    The other—never charged, never convicted. You’ll have to take my word about that. He and his brother confessed, the mother wrote a letter of quasi-apology, but ( the time there was a statute of limitations based on memory, I think, and by the time the law changed the girl in question had gotten her master’s and moved on with her life.

    I could cite others, though. Plenty. That comes from years in incest survivor groups. Since I live in Utah that’s where most of the incidents happened. I’m basically raging inside a lot.

    Joseph would have gotten a federal kidnapping conviction but there was a plea bargain. The victim was pretty much destroyed by what happened and never really recovered. A tragedy in many ways. But the bishop, former now, sleeps well at night.

    What was really ironic is that the Relif Society president, who at the time of the Taunton incident, relayd the bishops order not to get involved, made me one of her first calls when her daughter revealed that she’d been molestd for years by the kid down the street. She said she knew she could count on me. I’m bitter about that, too.

  41. Thomas… don’t be so sure. My parents have nothing to do with the church because leadership (Bishopric and SP) not only ignored a report regarding a home teacher of incest with a daughter and grandchildren and the police involvement with that case, but allowed the man to be their home teacher without telling them… while they were watching after MY children on occasion. Then they proceeded to turn their attention elsewhere while the daughter was villainized etc etc.

    My father and the primary president were threatened with disciplinary action if they got loud about it. Well, my dad got loud… and they had nothing to Ex him over without having it bite them in the butt HARD, so ever since (even while my parents are inactive) they continue to insist on looking for things he is doing wrong (like calling his home and making sure he is not “sharing” his views -negative ones about the church- with others).

    The church could literally be sued for the cover up the bishopric did with that case, in not notifying the authorities when they had a report of incest.

  42. Annegb:

    Perhaps I don’t understand, and/or perhaps your not communicating quite effectively (not intended to insult), but ecclessiastical request that the membership don’t get involved actually seems like appropriate advice. With all due respect, if any of my Children were to be abused, the last thing I would want is for “nosey” (I’m not directing this adjective at you) Ward members to participate in the trial. In fact, if I felt there was a propensity for this, I would gladly abuse the purposes of Sacrament Meeting to personally insist that Ward members allow my family the privacy we would deserve. I see the Bishops advice, based on the little to nothing I know about this specific circumstance, even more poignant given that sometimes under the guise of support, Ward members may be really just satisfying their craving’s to “get in on the dirt”.

    As for the alleged abusers Priesthood advancement, I’m a bit torn on this. I have seen a reckless Bishop be too eager to save a soul that he placed a Ward in jeopardy. A drug addict uncle of mine was healed from a meth addiction with a Priesthood blessing and a desire to be married in the Temple. He was then given a calling with his “reformed” drug addict wife, serving in the primary. Several family members of mine contacted his Bishop questioning the appropriateness of his decision. The Bishop just brushed many of them off by challenging the audacity of experienced family members in questioning the “discernment” of a Mormon Bishop. Long story short, fortunately nothing terrible came out of this experience, but believe it or not, my uncle and his wife didn’t make it three months before they fell inactive and were back into the legal troubles and other issues that are common occurences in the every day lives of drug addicts. This story is not quite the same as abuse, but is close enough that I am willing to draw a parallel. Abusers (or drug addicts) should never be placed in a position of trust with Children, regardless of whether they are reformed/recovered/repentant. That is firm ground I am willing to stand on. Bishops ought to be more restrictive on how easily they forgive, at the same time – even they should be able to find spiritual/religious reconcilliation through the Church based on our teachings regarding an infinite atonement. How can we teach redemption, if we don’t mean it. What hoops should a person be made to jump through to qualify for Priesthood advancement, when they are guilty of abuse? In short, I agree with you that I have seen situations where reconcilliation seemed too liberal, but I have a hard time knowing how exactly to define that.

  43. Leah,

    My heart goes out to you as I am in a similar situation with my wife with a few minor differences – besides me being male. Both my SP and Bishop know about the abuse as they are my brothers-in-law. They believe me and they have seen symptoms of it in both me and my wife. My SP brother-in-law also works in occupational rehab on the psychology side and so knows about the psychology of this kind of thing. They give me advice and check up on my welfare, but apart from that there is nothing they can do for me. Ultimately it is my choice what happens if I stay or go. She already has some ‘defensive’ strategy if I leave. She has told one of our friends that she intends to report me as molesting our daughters if I leave her. She has told her father I have beaten her and had my way with her. Her father believes her over me and wont even talk to our daughters about what is happening at home to get the truth.

    She has repeatedly physically attacked me with fists, feet and books but told me the other day that she has only hit me twice in the 16 years we have been married. Maybe your husband is like this where he does not remember it all or his subconcious has written a different version of events as my wife’s has.

    The best thing I did was go to the police after one attack and had it reported. When she attacked me again after that I went to the police again and took my daughters to my parent’s place for the night. She has settled down on the physical abuse since then, but is still very verbally, psychologically and emotionally abusive.

    When it comes to your ex’s new wife, it’s up to you what you want to tell her. If you do want to say something you could approach it with ‘OK, there’s 2 sides to the story, here’s mine.’ then follow up with ‘he says he has turned a new leaf – I wish you well’. If he hasn’t turned a new leaf then you have left a door open there for her to come to some one and then both of you can get help and credibility. But that is your decision. If you are truly worried about her then keep tabs on her so she does have someone to go to who will believe her.

    As far as the question of forgiveness goes, that is an indivual thing. For us it is commanded to forgive, but we are not told a timeframe. Obviously for some people it will take a while depending on circumstance and mindset.

    It’s difficult to keep the faith for some people when in abusive circumstances asking why Heavenly Father allows it. I know its difficult (I spent 8+ years getting the nerve up to seek police help) but the best thing is to look at your free agency and make the decision to do something about it and use the guidance of the Holy Ghost from Heavenly Father to work through what you need to do – ie get out or stay with restrictions on the other. It’s very difficult but I got there. I am still at home with her but she knows the borders and what will happen if she crosses them. She is now saying I am abusing her because I have put these borders (to her they’re threats) in place, but for me and my daughters the borders are a necessity. But the church cannot do much except give advice and send you to the authorities (psychologists, police, etc). They should if they know of an abusive relationship call the abuser to repentance and excommunicate them if necessary, but that’s not really anything that can help in immediate circumstances.

    Sorry if this is a ramble but when I think about these things I tend to get muddled as I don’t like to talk ill of my wife and I don’t like ‘remembering’.

  44. You know, I’m no poster child for doing the right thing. Basically I’m seething with resentment and ambivalence. I don’t have any answers. I’m not sure what I would do in a position of leadership. Probably get assassinated.

  45. And I still am not convinced, deep down, that there was nothing more I could have done. Especially now that he’s “repenting” again. Maybe if I’d held on just a little longer, he would have “repented” in time to save my marriage.

    Leah, a critical point. An un-waivering critical point. You can be assured that if an abuser is to be reformed it will not happen within the relationship where there is abuse. A core step you can take in breaking an abuse cycle is to leave the abuser and never go back.

    Woman’s shelters are a core part of any community. Get to know the people there. They should be able to help you meet other survivors, find resources, find support and help.

    Ralph, I don’t have a solution for you. I really don’t.

  46. Steven,

    Thanks for the thought but I am at a point where I know where I am up to and what I am doing. I have had some professional counselling and legal advice as well as having the police involved a couple of times as mentioned. I know that I can now live without her if it comes to it and I have told her this. She on the other hand could not live without me and would not be able to look after the children by herself and she knows this. I have a ‘line drawn in the sand’ now that if she crosses I will leave and she knows this as well. But due to her mental health issues she is interpreting things as she is the victim and her brain rewrites her memories to reflect this fact.

    Here in Australia there are limited resources for men in these situations compared to women, but they are there and the police and professionals have referred me on to some of these places.

    I have also had a lot of help from my Father in Heaven to get through these difficult times. I have learned to rely on Him and it has brought me closer to Him. So in that way it has been a blessing to me, but that is what trials are for – to make us stronger and bless us.

  47. Ralph, thank you. I tend to talk in terms of typical male->female abuse, because that is what I’ve lived through, but it is important to show that it happens the other way, as well. I think female->male abuse is actually quite common in the church, but usually takes the form of verbal, public put-downs and screaming matches behind closed doors, as opposed to physical abuse. You are exactly right, the abuser will always rewrite history to match his/her preconceptions of what things are. Rather than taking evidence and making a conclusion, they have a conclusion and twist the evidence to match. They desperately hold on to their world view because they believe themselves weaker than everyone else around them, and can’t afford to change their paradigms. They justify everything they do because they think they are weaker. It is hard to communicate to people how you could be afraid of and feel sorry for someone all at once, but for a victim of abuse, it is a daily reality.

    Stephen, “You can be assured that if an abuser is to be reformed it will not happen within the relationship where there is abuse.” Thank you for this. You can’t know how it has helped to hear that. It is exactly what the Spirit told me which gave me the courage to finally go through with it. I’ve derided myself a little because it wasn’t saving myself, or even saving my children which convinced me I had to do it. It was saving him. The Spirit told me that the only chance at change he had was if I left him. Now I feel guilty for releasing the predator back into the wilds of LDS singles wards. It really helps to hear you corroborate what I thought the Lord whispered to me. Thank you.

    I don’t think a women’s shelter would want me. I never sustained bruises. His physical abuse consisted of throwing and breaking my things, chasing me out of the house, and finally dragging me out of the house when I refused to go. He almost hit me that last night (and no one who has not seen the look of murder in a supposedly loved-one’s eyes knows what kind of nightmares that effects) but he decided the risks were too great. The caliber of what I’ve gone through in no way equals what most women have gone through. I wish he had hit me. At least then, I’d have had incontrovertible proof. Now, I’m left with memories and a mind semi-crazy with trying to figure out what was real and what was my fault.

    I think I have forgiven him. I don’t want any harm to come to him, I never did. I’m not really sure what forgiveness should look like. Yet, it is still hard to see him prospering, continuing to victimize others, when I am so far locked at home and unable to socialize without giving up even more time with my children. “Wickedness never was happiness” but that applies only to the long term, not the short term, I’m afraid.

    I still feel that blame cannot be laid at the feet of leadership who are trying to do their best with very little understanding. The power to stop abuse does not lie in bishops and stake presidents, it lies in us.

    I just haven’t figured out how to mobilize it yet.

  48. Leah, two last thoughts.

    First, if you called your local womens shelter and asked if they have a support group or just someone to talk to, you might be surprised. I did a lot of work for a while, before I left Wichita Falls (the the extent that I ended up the keynote speaker one year, which seemed strange to me. The judge who spoke did a much better job and we talked for some time afterwards, she was an excellent stand-up comic, professional quality, who really feared to talk on serious things).

    Second, you should be able to find a copy of Al Anon’s Courage to Change a book of daily reflections. I recommend it to many people. If you don’t have one available, have a permablogger drop me an e-mail with a mailing address and I’ll send you a copy. I don’t have an alcoholic in my life, I don’t even have a crazy person. But I find it valuable, and Al Anon is all about living your own life in spite of having an Alcoholic, a parent, a spouse, an ex-spouse, who otherwise would destroy it.

    Forgiveness means freeing yourself from resentment. It does nothing for the other person, it is there for you. The only person you need to really forgive is yourself — to forgive yourself for not loving yourself more, for blaming yourself for things that were never your fault, for feeling guilt over things that were never your responsibility. Love yourself as Christ loves you, let your faith in Christ remind you that faith in Christ includes faith in his love, that the love of Christ includes loving yourself, especially in your situation, at this time.

  49. I just want to tell Leah how incredibly useful this type of post is and that I recognize the courage it takes to write one’s story when it comes to abuse.
    I have several clients who have gone to shelters who were never actually hit but were still emotionally and physically abused. They were very much welcomed. Physical abuse entails the threat to hit and also the act of being physical to objects (ie throwing things around the house). Because as you very well mention, these behaviors are extremely frightening and cause the same type of emotional trauma.

    Both Ralph and Leah do an excellent job of explaining the “stuckness” an abused person can feel due to the children. Many in similar situations self sacrifice in order to save or try and protect the children. It’s amazing how complex these
    types of issues can be.

  50. Thank you, Stephen. Maybe I should look into it. I have always figured that those places are for those in immediate danger. I know resources are often thin, and I don’t want to use time and energy best spent on someone who really needs it. Thank you for the book reference, I will look it up.

    As far as not resenting goes, I was hoping I had forgiven already by not wanting him to be hurt. I don’t know how to root out resentment, though. Maybe if I could move on and get my own life, it would help, but right now I’m severely limited in capacity to do that. He is fine, he isn’t having to rebuild himself from the ground up. And, he feels fine walking away from his responsibilities to his children, should they not suit him at the moment. It feels impossible not to have any resentment about that, even a little. So I suppose I’m more unforgiving than I thought.

    Natasha, thank you so much. I was hoping it would be useful, and it means a great deal to me to hear you say that.

  51. Leah,

    It may be late for this now but just in case it isn’t:

    “He is fine, he isn’t having to rebuild himself from the ground up. And, he feels fine walking away from his responsibilities to his children, should they not suit him at the moment”…..”She and he are the magnanimous couple, having used the Atonement to wash away their sins, benevolent in their cleanliness”

    Both the proclamation on the family and D&C78:12 & 132:26 point out that he isn’t fine at all. He will still have to a) face God’s judgment one day for anything done wrong to you or the children including causing a divorce and b) if they are a repentant couple, over chastity issue as you seem to imply, although they can repent and move on with life they are still subjected to these “buffetings of Satan” until the resurrection. “Buffetings of Satan” can’t be a good thing to live with.

    But today I think you should concentrate on yourself and in getting rid of these negative feelings. You asked when you’d be able to forgive him? well (I believe) that it’s when one can live life normally without thinking about what he is doing or feeling bad over what he did to you and especially when one no longer needs to call on God for help to overcome all this. Once a person lives normally without praying over these past problems then, I believe, the person has forgiven those who have offended us….imho off course.

    With regards to bishops and judgments in church, in my experience bishops will act mostly after a member’s confession rather than after other member’s accusations. Sure that with 2 witnesses and that we can hold disciplinary councils but it never really happens much. But if someone confesses to a big sin then sure, the wheels are in motion and they are ‘loved’ back into full fellowship after some discipline is dispensed. Just the way it seems to work nowadays unfortunately.

    Interesting post and discussion though. I wish you all the best…

  52. Wow.  So much of this sounds so familiar.  I am going through a separation and divorce from a man very similar to this.  He is largely unaware of it himself.  He knows the acts of abuse, but shows remorse to the world, just like he has a thousand times before.  And they are all seeing him as this poor, broken man whose wife has taken his kids away from him when he is so willing to try to and make changes.  He’s the strong man who gets himself to church every week and tries to seem so sincere.  What he doesn’t know is that even though he believes himself to be sincere right now, he would drop the act the minute I went back to him and he felt secure again.  Secure in his ability to have control again and to call the shots, or do nothing.  Whatever he wants.  Then there was the emotional abuse, the pushing, the blocking me in a room, the ear-splitting screaming and swearing in the car with the kids, and so much more.  And let’s not forget how he’s done counseling (two different court-ordered anger management programs) and endless meetings with our bishops.  All of this, but I’m still being told that if he is willing to change, I need to apply the Atonement and give him a chance.  For how long?  How long until someone realizes that it’s all a show?  How long until we realize he’ll never change because he is choosing not to and staying with him will only teach my three sons how to treat women the same way?  When is it time to leave?  Now.  I’m doing it now, despite being told by our former bishop that I shouldn’t be holding a temple recommend because of my choices and if he were still my bishop he would take it from me.  Despite my current bishop giving me the “let’s not forget forgiveness” speech, even after hearing my whole story.  It’s like they don’t believe me.  What about their inspiration?  Their stewardship?  I have a strong testimony of the Gospel and I know, firsthand, that the church is imperfect, but not the Gospel.  But I can’t help doubt myself and my choices among so much well-intended advice from these church leaders.  Thank you for writing this.  It gives me hope that you have made it to the other side, and so can I.  As far as the next “her”… we’ll just have to see if/when that time comes.

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