By Jon Platt
In light of October being Domestic Abuse Awareness Month, a Baylor professor spoke with the Lariat about her experience in an abusive relationship, how she escaped and what she learned. The Lariat does not identify victims of abuse.
Can you tell me about what happened?
I was married for seven years. We were very happy when we got married, but I learned that my husband had been hiding a long-term addiction, and, at first, I wanted to be by his side to help him heal. I felt like we were in that together. But, after repeated relapses, I felt like my grace was being taken for granted and there was no hope for healing.
Over the course of our relationship, patterns of emotional abuse become more pronounced. Things like: holding me hostage in silence, not letting me leave the room but refusing to talk, monitoring my activity, showing up at my office, invading my privacy, sabotaging things that were important to me.
Emotionally abusive relationships try to rewire your brain so you can’t think for yourself. The abuser will challenge any idea you have that’s outside of what they want you to think. They will try to isolate you from other people. They will say things in a moment of conflict to appease you. It’s like they try to convince you that you’re not you.
What made you decide to talk about this with the Lariat?
I work with a lot of students who are making choices for their life under the influence of abusive relationships, whether that’s with a potential partner or a faith community or a family member. I feel responsible, as a survivor, to advocate for those who are silenced. My hope is that my experience could help someone else not enter into an abusive relationship in the first place, or if they’re in one, to find help and get out.
Have you always been this open to discussion on this specific instance?
No. I do think there is a time of healing when you come out of an abusive relationship where you’re still processing and coming to understand what you’ve been through. It’s really a lot like being in combat. You feel like emotionally you’re constantly under fire, and it’s hard to adjust to the peace of coming home. It’s hard to come back from war, so to speak. But now, as a professor, as an advocate for undergraduate students, I feel responsible to do something.
How did your Christian faith intersect the decision to leave?
So, obviously, I spent countless hours in prayer and seeking counsel from trusted, wise friends.
I feel God’s blessing over my decision. When I left, I knew what it might cost me, but I knew it was the right thing to do. It was a point of liberation for me. It has made my faith so much stronger.
God is faithful in suffering and God will be with those who work for freedom.
How do you view yourself now that you’re out of this relationship?
Really, really strong. I did something really hard because I love my son and I want him to have the very best life. It would have been easier to just comply and give up, but I did the harder, better choice. I know I did the right thing and I’ve never looked back.
Some people have the misconception that leaving is giving up, but, in my case, staying was giving up. Leaving was my shot at having a better life and leaving was my son’s only shot at having a better life.
What are some of the signs students can watch for, whether they’re in an abusive relationship or whether they see one occurring?
Abusers will isolate you from other people. They will try to control who your friends are, who you talk to and in what settings. They will challenge any disagreements you have with what they think. And they will slowly but surely ebb away at your ability to question them.
It’s like they emotionally beat you into submission to who they want you to be. They will punish you if you speak up for yourself.
If you notice a friend who is suddenly quieter, more absent or when you try to ask for things that seem reasonable and they have lots of excuses, I think that would be an indication.
If you suspect someone is in an abusive relationship, your primary concern needs to be their physical safety.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
I think one of the most dangerous things that abusers do is convince you not to trust your own gut, but if you suspect that you are in a relationship that is abusive, go with your gut. Don’t let anybody silence your voice.
As Christians, we seek liberation and life, not oppression and death. Sometimes the most Christian thing to do is to leave an abusive relationship for your own sake and for the potential reconciliation and redemption of the abuser.
For a long time, I was afraid of him, but I’m not afraid anymore.
For resources on how to respond to abusive situations, visit bearupnow.com