Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

I Have Married three Abusers — Am I stupid?

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” (John 4:15-18)

Over the years in this ministry to abuse victims we have been fairly regularly contacted by victims who are not only presently married to an abuser but who have been married previously to other abusers. And in most cases they are asking themselves, “Just how stupid can I be?” Or, “What is wrong with me?” Or, “Am I going to be alone for the rest of my life?”  These questions and more.

I suspect many of you who follow this blog can relate very well to this scenario. And many people who are ignorant of abuse and abusers will be quick to answer those questions  — “Well, yes, you must be stupid.”  “Yes, there surely is something wrong with you.” But in reality all that has happened in most of these cases is that a wicked, deceiving person came along, identified some vulnerability in his target, capitalized on it, and deceived her (or him).  All of us have had that deception dupe us in some relationship or other and most often more than once.

Was the Samaritan woman at the well a loose woman who went from man to man? That is usually what is claimed, but surely there is a very high probability that she was the victim of deceiving, using men and she was an easy target for them.  Why? Might I suggest it was because she was “thirsty,” but she was looking for the wrong kind of water to quench that thirst.  John 4 is the record of that day when Living Water met her and she was never the same again.

Yes, I would suggest that a victim who has been duped by abusers several times does need to look within herself. Not to blame, but to try to understand what it is that is making her so vulnerable to evil ones. Does she fear being alone? Does she believe she is just rather worthless if a man doesn’t want her? Maybe she is just too naive about evil? Often she is just plain too “nice.” None of these possibilities is sin, but each one is certainly dangerous.

It seems to me that a woman who has been repeatedly abused in a sequence of “marriages” must be somewhat similar to the traumatized rape victim. Through deception and guile the rapist drew her in, used her by force, and cast her away. Or if she is still with the abuser, he is killing her slowly, just as a rapist so often murders his victim.

We know numbers of women who have been through this chain of abusive marriages, and I am sure that they could be greatly helped by our readers, especially those who have had the same experience. What have you discovered about why this happened to you? Did you have some awakening moments when some truth jumped out at you that helped you? How can a victim of this serial abuse make some changes to break out of this cycle of being a target?


More Thoughts on Getting Free from Victimhood


Some Very Important Points (from Lynn)


  1. My thoughts were that since the woman could not give the man a certificate of divorce in those days she was vulnerable. She was probably pretty and maybe resourceful and had no trouble attracting men. She could have been barren or had another issue that caused these men to divorce her (or maybe one or 2 had died – we don’t know.) I’m guessing her last husband ran off and did not give her the much needed certificate of divorce so she was certainly used and abused.

  2. BeyondRubies

    All to familiar former trap into which I slipped my foot; sadly, unwittingly. Unfortunately, my child and I were targeted by a pedo and this after I previously childless married a man who attempted to kill me by throwing me over a railing onto the foyer of my house that is just purchased. I believe he first tried to end my life in Hawaii on our honeymoon but the Holy Spirit both warned me to step back from the edge of a volcano he kept encouraging me to creep closer to just then a couple approached.

    The last marriage was to a pathological narcissist who sought to destroy both my minor child and myself over the span of 15 years. During the time spent in hell on earth this man claimed to be a Christian! You see our so-called church belabored submission and despite my attempting a separation twice prior I was counseled “God hates divorce” to which I now reply, “Do not misquote scripture lest ye be like Satan;” and, that this was my chance to show the love of Christ.”

    There’s the source of disfunction, I believed I could accomplish what requires the Power of I AM alone ~ transformation of a heart of stone into a redeemed heart of flesh fit for the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. This resulted in people pleasing, denial of what Yeshua wanted for my life which was His Power reaching the lost through my life.

    Wisdom is known of her children and God uses broken vessels that have yielded to Him as Potter. Only then can the child of God be effective, only now do I see the perfect plan of God, and now I see the enemy keeping me imprisoned by liars that contradicted what I knew Yeshua wanted me to do ~ end the abuse.

    Five years out ex has moved on to his newest victim and I have been deeply healed of childhood sexual, physical, and emotional abuse that laid the foundation of what Satan incorrectly assumed would be the end of me. In fact I’ve only begun to fulfill the plan Father God has written in the chapter of the book of this gift called life that will bring glory to His Holy name. May each of you wonderful brethren facing down the devil and his children be granted Power from the Prince of Peace to heed His voice and take His hand as He leads you out of the enemy’s prison. Love in Jesus Christ.

  3. two sparrows

    I have learned in my healing process that often it is our good traits used against us….kindness, trust, loyalty. In other words, it isn’t necessarily what is wrong with me that allows abuse, but rather many of the things that are actually good traits.

    I also recently experienced a situation that taught me about guarding my heart. I was not expecting anyone to come across my path who I would be attracted to or vice versa. Before I knew it my heart was involved in a bad situation.

    Looking back, I would say ultimately that was the case in each of my abusive situations. I was “surprised” everytime. I am learning to guard my heart by surrendering to God daily and learning to know my own vulnerabilities.

  4. Lynn

    I would also add that it doesn’t solely have to be abusive marriages that a victim can repeat patterns with. I’ve seen it happen with “friends” at church. I’ve had it happen at work and in business. After almost 4 decades of abuse from family resulting in toxic personal and professional relationships, I hit a wall realizing that I have to figure out what’s causing these people to target me.

    What I’ve learned:
    It is critical that you diligently study the Bible and compare what anyone else says to scripture. Test the spirit of the person to see if they’re from God. Getting the right handling of the core doctrines of faith is key, but you mustn’t stop there. It’s about the practical application of those doctrines that reveal the heart of a person. Become wise about the nature of evil, what it looks like. Many of us have been trapped by twisted theology that has kept us in bondage because we didn’t fully understand the nature of evil and how it parades itself as an angel of light. Be willing to mine your past experiences to see what lessons you can learn from them so that you stop repeating the patterns that are resulting in you being abused. Knowing what not to do is just as powerful as knowing what to do.

    A big part of why I was so vulnerable was I longed for a place to belong and people who would love me for me, not what I could do for them. Growing up where love was transactional and the bar to meet it was constantly moving left me feeling unloved and unworthy of love. While I knew that God loves me, it’s taken me a while to believe it because many who profess the name of Christ aren’t saved. They don’t want to do the work of loving the brethren because that requires real effort, commitment, and sacrifice. They want their comfy lives where it doesn’t cost them much to be a Christian, while the victims of abuse languish. Or they use their generosity as a tool for manipulation and control.

    Fierce loneliness and desire for human connection was a tool that the enemy exploited for a long time in my life. I’d share personal information too quickly in a relationship in order to try and make genuine connections. That choice left me vulnerable to untrustworthy people who used that information to get their own needs met at the expense of my own.

    Charm and charisma are super deceptive. Charisma is not character. The more charming and charismatic someone is, the higher of a risk you are in being taken advantage of – especially in church settings. They flatter. They deceive. They coax seemingly harmless information out of you that becomes a weapon to harm you once they’ve gotten what they’ve came for. I’ve learned to be very skeptical of those with charisma. Few may have good motives, but most don’t. They use that skill to get what they want and then move on to their next target.

    Boundaries can save your life. They are the litmus test for how genuine your relationship with the other person is. If the other person balks when you set a boundary, you’ve seen where their care for you ends and where their own agenda begins. It’s healthy for you to say no to the people and things that do not serve you. God doesn’t require you to punish yourself by staying in a marriage, family, job, or any other relationship with someone who is abusing you. Make a plan to walk away if that’s the only way for you to get free. It will take wisdom and strategy if you find yourself in that place to get free, but it is so worth it. It’s made a world of difference in my life in the last 3 years.

    Mutual reciprocity is a mandatory requirement for my relationships. As someone who tends to give more than I get in my relationships, I’ve decided that the relationships that I will invest in require both parties to be giving and getting from the relationship. I can’t be the only one calling, texting, and keeping the relationship alive. Those who love you should be willing to make an effort to contribute to the health of the relationship. Are there times when one person might do more than the other? Sure. But if it becomes a pattern, then be careful, it’s revealing the character of the other person and how they feel about you.

    Trust your gut. If you get a weird feeling from someone, pay attention to it. Your body is trying to warn you. It knows something’s wrong. One of my biggest regrets is ignoring those warnings and having some very painful emotional, spiritual, and financial abuse as a result of it. When you want to belong and be loved, it’s easy to dismiss those warnings. We are wired for human connection. The challenge is for those of us who’ve been chronically abused, is that our baseline is screwed up. What we know to be “normal” is actually abusive. Fortunately, we don’t have to stay there. Just like how we learned the bad patterns as children, we can learn new patterns and rewire the brain to respond to them instead of the bad ones.

    In Christ, there is freedom from that abuse. The scriptures help us renew our minds so we can grow in wisdom and become spiritually mature. In prayer, we communicate with God sharing all of who we are, asking for his wisdom, justice, and righteousness to prevail, trusting that no matter the outcome – whether it’s here or in eternity – the abusers will get their just end.

    • BeyondRubies

      Well said. Breaking patterns and identifying traits before it becomes abusive is wise. I’ll second the not sharing personal info that’s also been an issue for me in the past. Congrats on three years of freedom from abuse. May we all keep close to our Lord and Savior as He loves beyond measure.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Lynn- you pretty well wrote my story played out in churches as a pastor for almost 40 years. I could not have stated it better. Thank you.

  5. Be free

    Thank you for sharing all of your comments. I echo many points, particularly Lynn’s. Have found the most hideous repeat abusive marriages, or other relationships, are quite often within lives of those who are kind, loyal, often quite educated, typically very hard working, and also faith based (whether they are or are not church goers). I found the mix of many of the “Christian” dating styles blended with the traits I mentioned are a recipe for many times either something positively meaningful, or something straight from hell – which is the entangled life with the abuser(s).

    To answer the original question, no, the person who had multiple marriages is not stupid, and is most likely a perfect target for the traits I mentioned above …… I had similar experiences and found that the first marriage was over the top toxic (the standard charismatic charmer that everyone loved etc., and was a nightmare behind closed doors) but nothing compared to what came years later in the next! What I realized is the older the abusers are the more time they have learned the tricks to better cover their pure evil tactics – legally and socially, and so often behind the veil of a “loving” “Christ-like” yada yada yada…. Over and over and over and over again.

    So back to the original question – learn, discern – apply your growing wisdom – and if you encounter another deceiver, move on. Sometimes they hide it for as long as it takes to rope you in (eg legal marriage) – however the more you learn and grow closer to the Lord the stronger you become, your “sirens” go off earlier and it just gets better and easier to catch and redirect. If someone initially deceives, although you will most likely catch it faster – it still hurts, but not near what it would if you stayed longer in their hell as their source of energy through abuse.

    Personally, after the repeat abusive relationships I took entire inventory of friends, business, church and family….. needless to say….. there was a lot of deception and toxicity in the mix and most were simply not good to be around, period. Those that still required some engagement is via a very distant and thick personal wall – and I have learned, don’t let the wall down, ever – abusers do not change.

    There is a freedom beyond my younger life imagination on this side of the wall, you literally walk through situations and they can still be incredibly difficult, they are almost a minor event in comparison to whatever happened before. There is also such a feeling of freedom – so much of what others try and get you tangled up in simply does not matter anymore!

    You are free now – the Lord has paved the way, he literally paid for your freedom, please accept it and be free from here forward.

  6. Thank you Jeff

    “4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

    This is the heart we have when we are true Christians. Yes, we are not perpetually happy or calm but this is our “go to,” ….what fulfills us and what we seek. We are trusting and forgiving and we want peace and happiness for others as well

    What about the heart and mind of an abuser? What does that look like and what makes them “happy”?

    “…being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30backbiters, hateful to God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, unmerciful: 32who, knowing the ordinance of God, that they that practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but also consent with them that practice them.”

    Remember, this is ALL that is inside of them. There is NO love for others, kindness or goodness. all the attributes of the first bible verses about love and it’s characteristics DO NOT EXIST IN ANY CAPACITY in the worthless minded. Do not forget that.

    When were any of us ever taught the truth about the worthless minded? NEVER. Even knowing the truth now I still NEVER meet a single person who knows the truth. (Oh by the way, there are BILLIONS of these worthless ones all over the world. It is NOT a small percentage of the population, hence why it’s so bad.) We are programmed with psycho babble or guilt tripped with the parts of the bible that turn us into lambs for the slaughter to the point where we are conditioned not to see evil for what it is.

    So is it ANY wonder that we end up with another abuser who simply disguises themselves in a different persona? Who is sounding the alarm? Where are the laws protecting us and our children? No where and never will there be any. It’s why we need to turn to Jesus and his word and help each other.

    God knows ALL OF IT and he laughs at the worthless minded and their boring typical schemes which are the same from the beginning of time. Now that you are awake and aware he can teach you to more quickly identify the worthless. And it starts with accepting that most people are this way and NOT allowing them access to your heart until they have shown themselves worthy…..ESPECIALLY those who claim to be Christians. Pretty much the opposite of what we’ve all being programed to believe but this IS biblical as Jesus lambasted many and refused to answer those who had selfish motives for grilling him.

  7. notlongnow

    I’ve noticed a trend among some abuse survivors and advocates who are abhorrently opposed to the idea that we could end up being targeted by an abuser because of some vulnerability, due to childhood abuse or something like that. They say it’s all about having ‘super traits’ and this is what attracted abusers to us. While it is true abuse victims are often very kind and giving people, there is no shame in saying that a lot of us were primed for adult abusive relationships in our childhoods etc and hence were vulnerable to being preyed upon by more than one abuser in our adulthood. I’ve come across some women who find that idea almost offensive, as they don’t want to consider the fact there might have been a vulnerability in them that made them a target. It comes across as they don’t want to be identified with the classic ‘battered woman syndrome’, as if a woman who has had multiple abusive relationships is somehow inferior, unlike themselves who were apparently targeted for their superior qualities like confidence and initiative. That may be true for some, but to refuse to accept that other women have been primed for abuse from past experiences, and it’s apparently all about the ‘super traits’ is wrong. I don’t understand that thinking. There is absolutely no shame in looking at and working on anything inside of us, that made us vulnerable to abusers or realising those things made us attractive to an abuser. It doesn’t mean we are to blame for being preyed upon at all. I had one woman on an online abuse group get quite angry about it and insist it is only ever because we have ‘super traits’ like ‘super empathy.’ Maybe not all women were abused as children or had some vulnerability as an adult that meant an abuser saw her as a prime target, but a good lot of us did, and it’s vital we look at that and have an awareness about it, so we can protect ourselves from these predators.

    Having said that though, I agree that abusers are such skilled deceivers that even the most aware among us can still be tricked again, even if for a short period. I recall there are accounts of therapists that work with sociopaths that can still be fooled by them. If I’m correct, it may have mentioned it in Robert O Hares book, ‘Without Conscience’.


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