“It’s not that bad. You’re still here. If it was that bad, you would have left 10 years ago.”
That was the reaction my husband of 20 years had when I handed him a 15-page letter in February 2012, outlining his 20 years of physical, sexual, financial, verbal and emotional abuse and requesting he get counseling.
My husband had started with financial and emotional abuse, but at the end our marriage, it had escalated to daily violence. My home had become a prison, and I was dying a slow death — physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Despite being nearly nonfunctional, I heard the Lord say, You must get out, and get out now.
I fled my house on Good Friday in April 2012 with only an overnight bag and went into hiding for 2 1/2 years. Escaping an abusive marriage is the most traumatic thing most women will ever do. I felt alone. Satan had taken away everything important — my marriage, home, children, friends, church, community, law practice. But one thing remained — God. I dove into His Word, which revealed a powerful God who takes care of His children.
God was teaching me to hear His voice and to ignore the voices of my abuser and his minions. After my escape, I came to know the Lord as the Protector, Author of Truth, Giver of Courage, Provider, Warrior and Mighty to Save.
An astounding 35 percent of women, including Christian women, are victims of physical abuse, rape or stalking, and nearly half experience emotional abuse or coercive control.Domestic abuse is the most misunderstood, silenced epidemic of our time. Too often the church and the legal system support the abuser and silence the victim. The Holy Spirit called me to minister to women in abuse. In 2015 I started a support group in Lake Forest, Illinois — my home of 20 years.
The #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements have opened the eyes of the church community to domestic and sexual abuse, and leaders are looking for answers. Given the prevalence of domestic abuse, every woman reading this knows someone who has suffered abuse.
I have written legislation that protects abuse victims. As of 2020, a new Illinois law requires all mandated reporters, including clergy, to take training in domestic abuse. Hopefully, other women will not be treated by their churches like I and countless others were when we exposed our husbands’ abuse.
Overcoming Narcissists, Sociopaths, Psychopaths, and Other Domestic Abusers: The Comprehensive Handbook to Recognize, Remove, and Recover From Abuse weaves together research, my professional expertise and personal experience, true stories of others who have overcome abuse, and God’s healing words to educate, equip and encourage women struggling in abuse.I was shocked to find the mothers of my children’s friends join our support group.
But God had bigger plans — He urged me to quit my job at a big Chicago law firm and to represent women escaping domestic abuse.
I was not happy. Litigation against an abuser is a nasty, dangerous business. But God reminded me that He had prepared me for such a time as this. He had given me a law degree, rescued me from abuse and healed me. But most of all, He promised to make me into His warrior.
I opened my law practice in 2016. And God has shown up in every case, Mighty to Save. I remind each client that she is a daughter of the King of Kings, and He goes before her. A sheriff often needs to escort me and my clients out of the courthouse because a violent, crazy man is on the other side.
Satan has a target on our backs, but God protects us.
God also called me and my new husband to open our home to women who need a safe place to live temporarily. We see God at work — healing and helping them become the women He designed them to be. God had also urged me to write a book to help women of faith overcome domestic abuse.It is the book I wish was available when I was escaping abuse — the book that tells a woman everything she needs to know about this horrible scourge and how to overcome it.
Little did I know that God was also preparing the church to see the epidemic of abuse in the church.
If you or someone you love has gone through abuse or is in it now, take this article as the sign you have been looking for. He is calling you toward freedom.