Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Playing the Victim – Always Remember this Tactic+

Isa 58:3 ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.

I have written numbers of times before on this subject but we really cannot be reminded of this favorite tactic of the abuser too often – playing the victim. The wicked among the Israelites even tried to pull this scheme with God. Didn’t work of course, but it does work quite often with people.
Those who live to have power and control over others – the people we call abusers – act cruelly toward their targeted victims and then if they are ever confronted, they turn on the tears. They become the poor, oppressed people we are to be sorry for. They are the ones who surely deserve our empathy – or so they make it appear. In truth it is the abuser who abusesed! But then, when they are called out on their evil, in one way or another they work to make it appear that they are ones who have been wronged. Pity them. That is what they want from us.

This dynamic can happen very rapidly and we must be wise to it. It generally happens, as I have already mentioned, after an abuser is starting to catch some heat for his evil mistreatment of his victim. He must turn the tables. And so, in any one of a number of ways, he plays the role of the victim. I have seen many examples of this business as I suspect many of you have.
One time I knew of a particularly evil individual. Classic self-exalter, craver of power and control, all disguised as a fine, wonderful Christian saint. This abuser made it a habit (behind the scenes of course) to treat with remarkable meanness all co-workers, lording unlawful authority over them. When, ultimately, this abuser was confronted, here came the classic portrayal of the victim. Oh the tears. The hurt. How grievous the wrongs suffered. The spewings of accusations of all sorts toward all who dared say “enough.” And, as always it seems, there was no lack of people who offered mounds of empathy.
I believe I read once in a book on sociopaths that one expert in the field said something like “if I had to name one classic identifying characteristic of a sociopath, I would have to say it is this: the seeking of empathy.” This is a very true statement. How often we have heard of domestic abusers who are members or even pastors of their churches being surrounded by the flock with tears pouring out, arms placed around him, and the sorrowful calls of, “oh, you poor man. We know how hard you fought to save your marriage, but now she has left you.”
I have grown suspicious of tears. Crocodiles shed them all the while they are eating their victim.


Putting Easter into Practice


Abusive Tactics: The Claim to Know Our Thoughts


  1. sharon

    I have been married to my abuser for nearly 22 years. I did not realize he was emotionally and financially abusive until 4 years ago when I started reading A Cry for Justice. He decides how to spend my earnings and whatever I spend on myself or my son’s expenses is from money I secretly saved. My biggest mistake was not to tithe all these years as my husband refused to tithe and he would have known if I had taken the money out for tithes. I want to set this right and re-pay whatever I can to the Lord. I have started doing this already without my husband’s knowledge. I realize I cannot re-pay 100% of what I owe God but at least it is something.
    I am not sure what my husband does with the money I earn. There should be extra after payment of all the expenses but he gives me no account. I am responsible for all the expenses like house mortgage, food, medical, car, holidays, insurance, college education for our son, savings for retirement. I feel it is so much of a burden for one person to carry. My husband has not worked for 19 years. He keeps telling me that I should keep working and not retire. Even before we were married, I spent so much on him as he was unable to keep a job and pay for his basic necessities like rent and food but I helped him because I loved him.
    I think that over the years I have become more timid and afraid to fight him. Th only way I seem to fight him are by doings things secretly. Even when I buy clothes or cosmetics for myself, I do it without his knowledge. The less he knows the less arguments we have. He was such a charmer when I was dating him and I did not see the red flags. I know now that he must have married me for the money I earned. He shows me no love, except to take care of our son and preparing the meals. It is a meaningless marriage and a sham from the begining. Most days I feel stuck and trapped in a lifeless marriage.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Dear Sharon – you are a courageous and strong person who endured much hard oppression for over two decades. Your husband is indeed a cruel man who delights in the exercise of power and control, all the while being worse than an unbeliever in the Lord’s eyes. That is how the Lord views a man who refuses to provide for his own household. You need not guilt yourself in anyway.
      So often we grow up in churches that teach false doctrine about who the Lord is and how we relate to Him. This false teaching typically includes erroneous, unbiblical notions about marriage and divorce. Those lies tend to keep Christ’s people in bondage. Pleae be assured that the Lord is not somehow judging you or punishing you for some sin. He is not making you “pay the price” for not seeing those red flags. He is not withholding His blessing from you for not tithing. He is not demanding that you endure more decades of suffering because you are expected to suffer as Jesus suffered.
      Christ is the great Exodus leader of His people. Just as He freed Israel from bondage in Egypt, so He leads us into freedom from slavery to the devil and sin and death. And he frees us from the oppression of evil people in this world. He opens doors and authorizes us to walk through them joyfully.
      Might I make a suggestion? You are the one who ultimately must decide how to proceed regarding getting free from your abuser and I don’t presume to know your situation fully nor am I telling you what to do. But I can tell you this – 1) Your abuser is never, ever going to change and it is not your duty to change him, and 2) A marriage to an abuser does not need to be fixed, it needs to be ended. If you will base your decisions on those two principles, you will make wise decisions. And one more suggestion if I may – the Lord will certainly permit you to use that money you are tithing to go consult with an attorney or to build up a fund that will enable you to get free from your abuser. The Lord, remember, requires mercy not sacrifice. And quite often abuse victims need to begin applying that truth by showing themselves mercy.
      May the Lord bless you and guide you and set you free.

  2. IamMyBeloved’s

    Yes! And I have noticed this. The Psalms are filled with prayers and pleas to God to vindicate the people from the nets and traps of their enemies, even asking God to slay the wicked and rid the earth of them. Yet, an abuse victim is to embrace the wickedness of being abused. When a victim tries to use the Psalms as an example, they are often told that the Psalms were before Christ, so we can’t really go there. We are now to love our enemies and pray for them.
    But, they consistently use David to point to other sins he committed and tell us why those are so bad. But why is it okay to use David to demonstrate his life one way, but not the other? Only when it benefits their agenda I guess.
    Loving our enemies means to do them no harm. In other words, don’t retaliate or seek revenge against the abuser, just leave him.
    When I divorced my abuser, I basically gave him everything. I did not try to harm him in anyway. The Judge ordered he pay maintenance to me for life. But he’s the victim. Worth millions, but he’s the victim. He uses this now, to try to make certain I am still starved out, because he hides his income and finds ways to not report it. He asks if the doctor has said how long I have to live and when I’m going to marry again.
    I think that when it comes to abuse, there is such an evil to it, that people who don’t know what real evil is, can’t discern it. Only the devil would want God’s people abused and living under “pharaohs”. He is certainly at work in the leaders and “Christians”, to make sure it continues.

  3. walkinginlight

    The anti-husband loves playing the victim whenever he is called on his abusiveness (meanness). He will stoop to this childish low level to not be accountable for his disgusting behavior. The last two times he tried this “playing victim” with me I called him on it. I named exactly what he was doing. He stopped the behavior though. No woman could possibly have respect for a man that does the things that make him abusive. These men will be in for a shock that when they stand before God on judgement day, their “victim playing” will not work.

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