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Verbal Abuse and The Church

Verbal Abuse and The Church

A Commentary by Dr. Irene

August 21, 2000

It is unfortunate how often I hear from verbally abused women who have fallen prey to well-meaning but uneducated Clergy. Verbal abuse in particular is treacherous - there are no broken bones; the only "thing" shattered is the soul. Yes, the same scenario can occur even when physical abuse is present - as the abuser has a rational and convincing reason readily available.

 
Abused wives are typically beaten-down, codependent women. Way too depressed and guilty to begin with, they are urged by their Clergy to reconcile with their abuser. How can the woman looking for answers not follow the advice of her Pastor? Can she bear the guilt if she does not?
 
The Pastor, typically not an expert in domestic violence, is fooled by the manipulative abuser. Note that if the psychotherapist is often fooled, why shouldn't the pastor be? The abuser appears rational and calm. He denies any abuse at all. After all, his rationalization is so tight, in his eyes is was no abuse! The wife is presented by the husband as somehow sick or out-of-sorts. The woman is so wounded and so confused, she engages and plays right into the hands of her abuser - who knows exactly how to provoke her. Right on cue she may burst out in tears, go into a hysterical rant, or otherwise appear sick and broken.
 
The reality is that her apparently loving husband made an inside needling comment understood only by the couple. Her mis-behavior has no rational basis to the outside observer. So, "She must be crazy and she is pushing her loving husband away. Let's help her save her marriage to this good man...      Dr. Irene

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