Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Stephanie's Story: Part 1

Stephanie, like most of our readers, married an abuser and, to make her plight worse, her church and pastor added to the abuse. Stephanie wants to tell her story, so we are publishing it here in a series. AND we are going to include the emails and letters her ex pastor and church sent her. This first part will be a bit longer than the next few because it is a summary of her story, and as you know, our stories are very hard to summarize. Many thanks to Stephanie!
[In your comments to this story, see how many typical abuser tactics you can identify here. Naming them will certainly help others who are following the blog]

MY story… It began when we were childhood  friends. We knew each other’s families well. He is 5 years older than me, so I played with his younger brother and sister. I knew he liked me and he attended all our birthday parties. Many years later Terrance friended me on Facebook and we started talking a lot about church because he said he had been saved and was now attending church. I was impressed because I knew of his bad childhood and that he got into trouble with the law.
I had just left a Pentecostal church and was burned out working in childrens church.  He kept inviting me to attend on Sunday or Wednesday night for church and I finally visited.  It was a Reformed Baptist Church and it was small with only 6 families.
We dated on and off for about a year. We had premarital counseling a few times. Then he said he wanted to get married before the end of the year. So in 2015 we were married.  Before we were married I was working as a ESE (special needs) para professional in the school system and had been there for 14 years. He said he didn’t want me to work due to religious beliefs that the wife stay at home. I agreed because I wanted to be a stay at home wife/mom one day. He also said he didn’t belive we should celebrate Christmas and or Easter or any other holildays because they are paganism.  So we didn’t exchange Christmas presents nor participate in Easter egg hunts with families. I had to leave one family Easter egg hunt prior to it beginning.  We slightly celebrated birthdays and anniversaries. But I couldn’t cross him or disagree with his beliefs.
Life  was good at the beginning with his promises of making his place he lived in a home for us. He had cut back on his gambling.  We were enjoying trips and cruises together. We enjoyed each other and being out of town. But at home it wasn’t the same.
I wasn’t happy in the living conditions. He inherited his grandfather’s property with a small building that he lived in.  It was infested with spiders  and  mice in the walls.  It had broken down porches and rotting wood around the place. And I wasn’t  permitted to use toxic chemicals to kill the spiders. The property had his families junk on it. He kept telling me when he paid them off he would clean it up. Ok… how much more left to pay? I was never informed of the total amount.  But he did not remodel the place nor clean it up. He told me every winter that we would get a washer and dryer. But no washer and dryer were ever provided.
Terrance continued to impose his rules on me. I wasn’t allowed to vote, nor was I permitted to listen to any secular music. I could only listen to the channel that had Bible preaching, and nothing else.
Going now on year #3.  He had became more annoyed, ignited, frustrated, upset, and mad with me. I could never say or do anyting right. He would say things to me like  “I don’t know why you haven’t burned yourself yet.”  And I couldn’t talk on the phone correctly either.  He always said that I never asked or got the right answers when I made his calls.  His gambling had also increased. I did overhear a conversation with someone bragging about some gambling he did and didn’t tell me.
I was made to attend church on Sundays and on Wedneday nights. If I didn’t attend I was not allowed to participate in the next day’s activivies.  He would attend when he felt like it. And he rarely attended on Wednesday nights.
Gradually he seemed to be more moody, controlling, irritable, annoyed, and upset with me and he moved to sleeping on the couch. He said we needed to get off Facebook to study the Bible more.  By the way, we live in the woods with no internet or television except on our phones.  He had mentioned that the next plan was to switch my phone to flip phone because he said I didn’t need internet access and I should be reading the Bible more.
So I asked him one morning what was the plan for this place. He said he wasn’t putting any money into it.  I had enough so I left him a note telling him to clean up and remodel the place to make it safe and decent and I will be back. That afternoon I received a call from him. He said, “I have cut your access to the bank account.  You have no job. Bring that damn Tahoe (vehicle) to the house.  So what are you going to do now? Guess you better come home.”
Well, I texted my pastor’s wife to meet with her the next day. She cried with me and didn’t know how I was living there, and understood what I felt.  As a result, the pastor and his wife met with my husband and me. When we had sat down, Terrance throws the note I had left him to the pastor and says “she lied about it all.” At the meeting we discussed 1st Corinthians  13, and we were to go over the chapter at home together, make a list, get a budget and get pest control, and to meet with them again next week.  Not one time did the pastor ask me how I felt or my concerns. Instead the pastor’s wife asked Terrance if the note hurt his feelings? I managed to bring up Terrance’s gambling and that I was still waiting on a washer and dryer. Pastor says ” Well is it hurting the budget?”  I said, “well, I don’t have a washer and dryer.”  He made no comment except “set up a budget.”
The pastor added that right now it would be best if you both aren’t around your families. “You and Terrance need couple time without your families involved.  And you (meaning me) need to go home to your husband.” Finally, Terrance added that I was not to go and clean up an elderly friends house either, because my mom was there.
[Stephanie’s story will continue in Part 2. Things are going to get much worse for her before they get better]


Patience? Really?


Stephanie's Story: Part 2


  1. IAmMyBeloved’s

    Well, where to start! It appears that all of his actions and treatment of her are abusive! Rushing to the altar first off. Then spiritual, financial, mental, verbal, isolation, neglect, etc.
    I can see where this biblical/pastoral counsel is headed as well. See, it’s all about law and keeping a broken covenant together. They don’t care what it is doing to her in any way! They want to be healers of something God has already said “no” to.
    I can only imagine that each post is going to be harder to read through than the last one.

  2. Rowan on the high mountain

    This is my first time commenting here, but I’ve been reading your posts for a while. Thank you for providing a Christian take on this topic that focuses on those of us who are abused. I’ve noticed through the years that abuse is always accompanied by some combination of dishonesty, hypocrisy, and idolatry, and you’re one of the few people writing about it from that perspective.
    In Stephanie’s story, along with all the obvious signs of isolation and coercive control, the expectation of non-reciprocity is the most significant red flag in both husband and pastor–Stephanie is required to submit/obey unconditionally but her husband doesn’t recognize an obligation to provide her with a suitable home. She has to attend church regularly, even though he doesn’t, and isn’t allowed to participate in relatively harmless Christmas and Easter celebrations, but the man’s gambling is somehow acceptable–even to the pastor? Also, when the pastor insists Stephanie not see her family, I find myself wondering how he treats his own wife, since restricting the victim’s access to friends and relatives is straight out of the abuser’s playbook. Finally, Terrence forbids Stephanie from helping the elderly friend, so he’s allowed to gamble away money that might provide a better home for his wife, but she’s not allowed to perform an act of Christian charity.

  3. I Woke Up

    the Reformed Baptist Church – where weak men learn how to dominate women in the name of God.
    Very similar to the church that abused my children and me – the Presbyterian Church in America; or, as I like to call it, the Pharisaical Church in America.

  4. IrisJane

    So sorry Stephanie, this was incredibly cringeworthy to read because I know how difficult it was for you to live through it.
    Every single action of his was a lie, even if the action was good, such as those in the beginning, it was a lie meant to groom and deceive. His behaviors were also incredibly selfish and childish. Recently I’ve been realizing more and more how childish these abusers are, not child-like, but childish…and how the use of the ‘tantrum’, which can take many forms, is continually exploited to keep their victims in line, among other things. He seemed to use every narc trick in the book though, from the especially sinister, purposeful isolation to playing the victim, to the complete neglect of any duty or responsibility to you and the marriage, who’s vows he ‘chose’ to not honor.
    The pastor’s (if you can truly call him that) behavior, was atrociously ignorant, it’s disgusting to read. The blindness of not seeing the husbands blatant abuse and sinful behavior proves that there was no Holy Spirit guiding his eyes and heart to see the truth. So many so called pastors are admonishing victims with zero credibility to do so as they have no true leading from God’s Spirit…they just lead from their own depraved, blind, ignorant character, and expect all to follow and obey…it’s so pervasive, and it sickens me. I feel so sorry for the wives of these men.
    Thank you for sharing Stephanie…may you be strengthened and protected by God’s love as your story is re-told, I know it will be a blessing to many who have and are, suffering the same.

  5. Stormy

    I did not have children with the fake Christian youth minister criminal. If I had I believe he would have restricted pain meds during the birth saying it was better for the child only so that he would delight to see me in pain.

  6. Stormy

    The abuser also told me it was stupid for me to get an advanced degree. He criticized my every strength and talent so that he could enjoy the delight of trying to destroy me. He did this all while wearing a fake mask of piety, gathering his allies against me so that he could justify his cruelty. The abusers are servants of the devil himself.
    I take comfort in knowing justice will be served. I say this to myself frequently.
    “My God shall supply all my needs including my need for vindication, restoration, healing, comfort, support, friendship and justice. “

  7. Allis38

    I am struck by the double standard of this man; it’s ok for him to gamble and who knows what else but she must stay in her proscribed box. Also the isolation – wow. There’s no where to turn when you aren’t allowed to talk to anyone. It’s like being a prisoner. Horrible, horrible way to live.
    My story is similar with same kinds of control tactics. I lived 25 years heart broken, stressed out, lonely and depressed. This is no way to live. I am still recovering; it’s been 5 years since I left.
    Thank you Stephanie for sharing your story, look forward to reading it all.

  8. sue

    i am not the brightest light in the ceiling, but have, for some time, noticed a pattern. What is it with narcoid husbands not bothering themselves with getting done basic home maintenance! Nothing fancy, just a home that is livable, and cleanable.

  9. Stormy

    Another variation on the narc persona—-some abusers have nice homes but it’s not to provide a comfortable home for their wife and family—its to impress others—it’s to maintain the Charade of normalcy. It’s used to blend into the environment and boost their own reputation. To Look successful. The family knows the abuser doesn’t love them. The nice home provides no comfort to the abusers family because there is no thought for provision or building a life for his family. It’s all hollow!! It’s all a fake illusion!! It’s all a house of horrors!!

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