When I married the man I loved, I never dreamed things would turn ugly the way they did. My husband was successful, charming, and the life of every party. But behind closed doors, things were different. After the birth of our first child, things slowly deteriorated into a nightmare of cruelty and coercive control.
Ultimately, I got out. It wasn’t easy, but I did. And it was my friends—the courageous and wise women around me—who made all the difference. I saw God's grace expressed through their words, actions, and presence.
Here are the ways each friend helped:
Being in an abusive relationship is a profoundly isolating experience. I didn’t know how to communicate to the people around me about what was happening. For instance, how could I explain that although I lived in a large home in a gate-guarded community, I had been completely cut out of our finances and didn’t even have access to $20? Or that my clothes had been confiscated and I was forced to wear my husband’s clothing? Or that my husband’s erratic behavior and threats were becoming increasingly frightening? So I sat in silence for several years.
The first time I shared the truth with a friend, she listened to me—without judgment—for nearly two hours. After listening, this strong and godly woman said something that shocked me.
She told me that what I just described was abuse.
Until then, I didn’t realize I was a victim of domestic abuse. I had grown up in a loving Christian family, attended a top university, and I didn’t think I fit that mold. My husband would hurl threats, but before we separated, he had never actually physically assaulted me. Instead, the abuse was emotional, financial, and verbal, and it wrapped me in an invisible cloak of shame that kept all other people at arm’s length from me.
By listening to me and naming what was happening, my friend helped shatter the isolation the abuse had created.
Living in prolonged fear and diminished self-worth seriously messed with my identity. A wise friend reminded me, loudly and often:
I am God’s child. (John 1:12)
I may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12)
I can find grace and mercy to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
I have been bought with a price and I belong to God. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power and sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
I can be confident that the good work God began in me will be perfected. (Philippians 1:6)
I had read these words in my own Bible many times. But when my friend spoke them to me and about me (and even printed them out for me!) God’s truth became personal. It blossomed deep within my heart and transformed me from the inside out.
I could finally see that it was never okay for my husband to hurt me or commit crimes against me, and these biblical truths gave me the courage to take the steps I needed to take.
Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed.” The wise women around me knew we needed help. They understood that leaving would not be as simple as packing a bag and marching out the door. I needed a plan, and they helped me find the right resources to successfully build that plan.
Leaving an abusive relationship can be dangerous or even lethal. The Justice Department says that the majority of domestic assaults reported to law enforcement take place when a couple separates, and 70% of domestic violence murders happen after the couple has separated.
My friends introduced me to a support network that was prepared to provide assistance. We connected with lawyers experienced in domestic abuse, a local women’s domestic abuse shelter, and a government agency to help me leave safely—and to protect my children in the process.
**Looking for resources? I highly recommend reaching out to your local church and the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233). They can connect you with shelters and local resources in your area.
At first, leaving seemed scarier than staying. It opened up the possibility of homelessness, losing custody of my children, or even greater harm. But having a few close friends who reminded me that their love was not conditional and that they could not be scared away by the messiness of abuse infused me with a courage I can not describe. God used their friendship to help me to face my future with hope.
Here’s the thing about domestic abuse: it happens in every community, at every income level, at every educational level. Christians are not immune to it. Domestic abuse can sometimes equal physical violence, but it can also manifest in emotional, sexual, financial, and verbal forms. Men can be victims too, although it is believed that 85% of domestic violence victims are women.
Don’t underestimate the impact your friendship can have on the women around you. You never know who is scared and hurting. The simple act of listening, really listening, can be the first step towards safety and freedom for a woman experiencing domestic abuse.
Reach out to your local church and to the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233). They can connect you with shelters and local resources in your area.