Michelle’s Story Part 1
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Hello and welcome to the Safe to Hope podcast. My name is Ann Maree and I’m the Executive Director for HelpHer and the host of this podcast. On the Safe to Hope: Hope Renewed in Light of Eternity podcast, we help women tell their story with an eye for God’s redemptive purposes. All suffering is loss, but God leaves nothing unused in His plans. We want to help women see His redemptive thread throughout their circumstances, and then look for opportunities to join with God in His transformational work.

Warning: Michelle’s story is for adult audiences only. As a heads up, this season includes discussions regarding marital emotional, spiritual, and sexual abuse. We advise listener and reader discretion.

Domestic Sexual Abuse – STORY – Season 2: Episode 1

May 2, 2023

Hello and welcome to the Safe to Hope podcast. My name is Ann Maree and I’m the executive director for HelpHer and the host of this podcast. On the Safe to Hope: Hope Renewed in Light of Eternity podcast, we help women tell their story with an eye for God’s redemptive purposes. All suffering is loss, but God leaves nothing unused in His plans. We want to help women see His redemptive thread throughout their circumstances, and then look for opportunities to join with God in His transformational work.

[theme music]

Lately, numerous victims and survivors have come forward to report instances of domestic abuse. The church is being faced with the harsh reality that the same percentage of abuses occur inside the church as they do in the broader society. Often, I’m asked why so many women are coming forward. I wouldn’t say that there are more cases of abuse now than there have been throughout history. There is really nothing new under the sun.

I would suggest women may be becoming less likely to accept the devastating impacts of emotional, spiritual and physical, including sexual misuse of power and control in their homes. They’re saying this is not a marriage that reflects Christ and His Bride. This is not how a godly man loves and cares for his wife. They’re learning that the very same methods their spouse employs to maintain a misuse of power and control in the home are the very same methods employed by, as Jess Hill writes, quote, ‘anyone who trades in captivity, kidnappers, hostage takers, pimps and cult leaders.’ And sadly, unlike unfortunate victims of these anonymous captors, Christian women are experiencing these ungodly behaviors from those who are the most intimate people in their world, their husband, the man who committed to love and cherish them.

I’m thankful for informants of abuse that are speaking about their circumstances, it truly helps us understand just how traumatic domestic abuse is. The church has been given a challenge, and the call is for us as Christ’s body to respond like Him. And I’m incredibly thankful for survivors like the one you’ll meet today, who came forward to share her experience so that we can get better at caring for the victims of this devastating situation.

By way of reminder, on the Safe to Hope podcast names have been changed in order to protect those associated with these stories. The HelpHer ministry exists to help people in crisis and to train people-helpers. So integrity is one of our concerns. To the best of our ability, we have sought to honor the privacy and dignity of those who share their precious stories with us. Michelle is a survivor of domestic abuse, and specifically sexual abuse. And we’re going to spell that out a bit clearer throughout this podcast.

But thank you, Michelle, for joining us today and sharing your story. Welcome.

Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to be part of this project.

Ann Maree
And I am thankful to have you here, and I’m anxious to hear your story. I look forward to helping you share some of the specific dynamics related to domestic and sexual abuse, but then also how God has or is redeeming your story in His story. Our goal throughout this 12 week series will be to hear from you, your circumstances and experiences, but also to hear how God’s redemptive thread flows throughout.

Before we begin, I’d like to share with our audience that there may be some things discussed that can be triggering. If you’re a victim or survivor, we want to just let you know some of Michelle’s story may be hard to hear. Maybe find a trusted friend to sit with or someone you can talk to and process after you’ve heard her experience. Also, Michelle’s story is for adult audiences only. Just as a heads up this season includes discussions regarding marital, emotional, spiritual and sexual abuse. We advise listener and reader discretion

Michelle, if it’s alright with you, can you just share a bit about your early life, and some of the key moments or learnings from childhood or your teenage years that may help inform the rest of your story.

Absolutely. I grew up in a really small community. I remember feeling very safe, very loved. I had a very solid family life with no early trauma. My family and including my parents, both my parents were very involved at church. And I was pretty young age, I became really sensitive toward the truth of God, I loved church, most of my friends were there. My friend, or my parents did have a lot of rules. But I didn’t really sense that as restrictive, because I did want to please them. And many of my friends had similar home environments as well. So it felt somewhat normal to me.

Throughout high school, I just had a lot of confidence, and hope that good things were ahead. But as I look back, I think there were two things that were really impressed on me during that time, that do have some truth, but I think may have impacted me negatively, given my personality and my later experiences. The first one was this idea that I was never to question someone who was in authority, particularly spiritual authority, that was really important to a lot of people in my life. And the second one was that emotions were not to be trusted. And that because I was an emotional person, this was especially something I had to really guard against was, was trusting or listening too much to my emotions. And these principles were reinforced formally and informally, both in church and youth group and home. I often believe the intention was good, but maybe not reflective of the whole counsel of Scripture. So for example, we are to respect spiritual authority, and we are to guard our hearts and live thoughtfully. However, just given my personality, which was extremely compliant, extremely concerned with not offending God or, or anyone else for that matter. I think the idea that I could not discern things on my own began to really take up an unhealthy space in my life. And my worldview, throughout that time, I just developed this notion that if I made good biblical choices, that would result in a good outcome, a good Christian life. And this would include marriage and family.

Ann Maree
And so there’s a couple really important things you’re saying here? Well, everything is important. But as we move into your story, I think it’s helpful for us to remember and the audience remember that, one, the worldview you had going up meant you couldn’t trust your own ideas. And then, two, you said that other people, potentially even leaders supposedly knew better than you did. It’s hard not to believe that those thoughts might negatively impact your confidence in relationships going forward, right? Tell us about how you came to know your husband. And then some of the dynamics of that relationship.

I attended a very conservative Christian College, and there was environment foster, there were upfront ministry was highly valued. The opportunities for women to be a ministry were very limited. So the primary avenue for women who were interested in marriage ministry was to marry someone who felt called into ministry. And the call in that environment was very individualized. So for the most part, these were 20 something year old guys, that made this decision on their own maybe a few input from possible professors or something like that, but primarily on their own. So as a result of that, that decision was often because of outgoing personalities, musical giftedness, good communication skills, or some combination of those qualities. So that was kind of the environment in which I met Mike, I only dated him during this time. He was a few years older than I was, and he had decided to enter youth ministry. And so this was really appealing to me, in the sense that I truly did want to serve the Lord was an environment in which that seemed to be a primary way to do that. But unfortunately, there was a real preoccupation on my part with just how people viewed me. He was outgoing and popular and I was not. So I just felt like this was a really good thing. I did not have any indication during that time that there were any issues that would later become so evident in our lives. But after he graduated, I still had a couple of years to finish so we dated long distance and then we’re engaged. I did not know it at the time, but that time apart, he became deeply involved in pornography and other private sexual behaviors despite being in youth ministry. So we were married the following year. And I moved away from home to a new state to join him in youth ministry.

Ann Maree
So yeah, this is interesting. Michelle, you mentioned a little uncertainty about your then boyfriend’s quote unquote, ‘calling’ to ministry at such a young age with out a lot of external calling confirmation. What was one of those things about your now husband that might have given you reason for concern for him in a pastoral role.

I was very, very naive. I was a virgin when I entered my marriage, and I had little exposure, or even really information regarding sex or what a healthy sexual relationship should look like inside marriage. And so as I look back what I took on his part for maybe purity or inexperience, I now really know to be disinterest because of the things that he was involved in. But I just did not recognize it at the time. So it was incredibly shocking when I found him masturbating in our family room, our firstborn son was only six weeks old. And I truly had no idea at the time, the connection between masturbation and pornography and in a lot of other issues, all I knew was that I was really confused about why, why he was doing this in the family room of our home. And as we tried to work through that, I quickly accepted his excuse or rationale of just being really frustrated, sexually due to my postpartum limitations. As I mentioned, I had a newborn son, I had torn during delivery, I had stitches, and I just… my body was having a hard time recovering. So I hadn’t been able to be sexually active in the week since delivery, due to that slow healing. And he kind of indicated that that was the reason, maybe because of he was just so frustrated, sexually. So that day, sticks out in my mind for many reasons. But one thing is that I began to develop a habit that I continued for many, many years: I ended up apologizing for not being available enough. This is a pattern that would repeat, be repeated over and over in our marriage, he would masturbate or have other questionable behaviors. I’d be confused and scared, try to sort through what was happening, he would give an explanation that somehow resulted in me, apologizing, and feeling ashamed. And this really came to a head about nine months later, our Senior Pastor appeared without warning at my front door one morning, to inform me that my husband had lost his job as a youth pastor. Due to pornography being found in his computer at work.

I was already pregnant again with our second son. And the next few days, were just a blur as we tried to work through what the implications of this meant. As I mentioned before, I was very naive. So a lot of this, I was just trying to process what had happened. About a week later, he went through what we would call a public church discipline, and I was asked to stand up front with him during that time, and I did. I don’t remember many of the words that were said that day. I think the thing I remember most is this kind of the light shining down, burning down on me, and just this feeling of really deep shame. And it was such a difficult time, I felt so much weight, about the impact on other people, the kids that had been in our youth group. And to this day, I really feel like that day, I started to have just this deep feeling of anxiety and fear, take root in my heart. And that feeling would not leave and in fact, would only grow in intensity for the next two and a half decades.

Ann Maree
So, Michelle, I know where your story is headed. And I just want to re-emphasize something you just said. Our audience will be able to readily identify this pattern as you continue to share what happened. Your has your husband would be caught masturbating or some other sexually deviant sin. And then he ascribed blame to something about you. You then would end up ashamed and over owning his behaviors. This pattern is just so common in abusive behaviors. But I want you to go on what happened after he was disciplined and let go – and might I just say how thankful I am that your pastor took your husband’s sins seriously, seriously enough to say, ‘No, we won’t stand for that here.’ We’re grateful for pastors who take that seriously. But yeah, talk to us about what happened after he was disciplined and let go.

Well, we went to counseling with a local pastor, not someone associated with our church had just been recommended to us. It was called Nouthetic Counseling. I know you’re familiar with that. And I truly did value the biblical basis. But in hindsight, it was just very superficial, given the depth of the issue that had already taken root in Mike’s life. And so within just a few months, we were declared, ready to move on, healed. And quickly, we began applying for other ministry jobs. I had our second son in December. And then by the end of December, we packed up and moved to a new state and a new church. So really only about nine months total from the time that all this came out. And so we were already moving and starting a new ministry.

I remember being told that the pornography issues that had surfaced in our first Ministry had been addressed with our new church. But I was not included in any of the meetings that addressed it. I honestly have no idea what they knew about and what was kept from them. I just know that no one asked me any questions about the pornography addiction, how it affected me, how it affected our marriage, and whether or not I felt prepared to go back into ministry.

Ann Maree
Very interesting. Well, as you know, Michelle, and as you mentioned, and perhaps others in the audience know, Nouthetic Counseling is how I was originally trained, and I too, appreciate the biblical foundation for care. However, nothing I learned in that training could have prepared me for this conversation. I would have likely made similar mistakes as in the counsel you received, for instance, why did quote, ‘We need counseling for your husband’s pornography and exhibitionism?’ I mean, sure, you might have benefited or you would have benefited from care as a result of your husband’s sin. But he needed a whole different and individual type of counsel. So I can appreciate why this felt sort of disorienting. And with all that uncertainty hanging out in your thoughts tell us what life looked like next.

I was really happy at our new church. It was very small. It had a really strong family atmosphere. That was very comforting to me. Over a couple of years, we added two little girls to our family. So we had four kiddos total and I stayed home and I tried to help out as much as I could at church. So in many ways, this was the life that I had felt called to or in college. But there were deep issues beginning to surface at home. I often felt uncomfortable in our sexual relationship. I was very self conscious about how naive I was, you know, obviously having recognized that through the first round of his pornography addiction, so I’d try to talk him out of certain ways in which he wanted to be intimate in the bedroom, primarily just due to his demeanor, and a complete lack of connection or intimacy. There was no open communication about what mean made me feel uncomfortable. He would continue to do what you wanted, despite my concerns and uneasiness. And over time, I felt more and more convinced that I was being asked to act out a part that this was tied to his viewing of pornography, just by the way he acted and reacted to me. And as I mentioned, there were attempts to to try to talk about it, but it did not go well. And I just remember feeling so stupid, for being so uncomfortable for being so naive and just feeling so trapped, and not sure what else to do, except to continue to comply with whatever he wanted to do. So once again,

Ann Maree
I hear that pattern of Mike wanting something you not providing it and subsequently you taking the blame. Meaning in the words feeling stupid and stupid for being uncomfortable, among others, but I remind our audience of this pattern simply because there may be those listening who don’t recognize perhaps a similar pattern in their own relationships. When we work with couples, it’s so important to identify those patterns.

So Michelle, what else do you remember?

Specifically, I remember several occasions where he would initiate things that I did not want to do or did not feel comfortable doing and because I just didn’t really know what else to do. I laid perfectly still, unwilling to participate in any way. I remember thinking, I just feel bad. I did not move or respond in any way that he, he did not stop. There were times when I would cry, but most often I didn’t even cry I just laid perfectly still. And he did not ask if I was okay, if something was wrong. There was just no communication, no words of comfort or clarification, completely isolated. And I felt really alone, really       . And when he was done, I would just roll over, cling to the side of my bed and, and try to go to sleep. And I want to be really clear here that this wasn’t just a one time mistake, where maybe we got a little off track, this was repeated and deliberate on his part. We never discussed it. Through all the ensuing things that happened in the counseling we never talked about until many years later, when I actually asked for confirmation that it had happened as I remembered, I was still kind of operating under that idea that I couldn’t be trusted to remember things correctly. And he he actually agreed that my memory was correct. And I think this is important, because I know that oftentimes, victims are questioned about the interpretation of the events, especially inside marriage. And I think that the fact that he was even willing to confirm that reiterated to me how damaging that was. And I do believe that something very, very damaging happened during that time. And to this day, I struggled deeply with the issues related to those events. I was not loved, I was not safe or protected in my own bed. And for many years, I tried to just forget those nights. But my body did not forget. It was around this time that I began to have infrequent but really difficult panic attacks, I would just be overcome by a sense of fear, and a sense of overwhelming emotion. And again, because I was operating under the second principle still, which was my emotions are not good. I did not ever have stopped to really allow myself to ask what is triggering this, I had never had panic attacks previous in my life, until this time, I just felt so embarrassed that my emotions were out of control definitely felt like this was some kind of lack of faith or spiritual issue on my part. And so I did not get any counsel or help. And at this point, they were not frequent. But I think the infrequency also prevented me from really dealing with them or trying to understand what might be causing them. And this would be something that would crop up much later in my life too, as the abuses mounted. But at this point, I just kept trying to put one foot in front of the other.

Ann Maree
Wow, I’m so very sorry. It’s really hard, I’m sure to have lived, let alone talk about again, and also for all of us to hear, not being safe and protected in your own bed. I can’t imagine even the layers of leftover emotional and physical scars. Marital rape leaves the same lasting impact as does rape committed by a stranger, although I would suggest it is even much, much worse. The person who said no to the one who you told you are not comfortable with the ways in which he wanted you to perform, this was supposed to be somebody who loved you. And for our audience to I just want to make it perfectly clear that there is no such thing biblically or otherwise, as your consent being violated. Thank you for sharing that, Michelle. So, the detachment you mentioned runs much deeper than those horizontal relationships. Right? I mean, can you speak a little bit about the impact of these circumstances on your relationship with God?

It’s really interesting as I look back at this point, because I always just talk fresh. I felt so isolated. I felt so alone. And in some ways those feelings or emotions were transferred to my relationship with God. I did not feel outrage or anger at God. I felt guilty. I felt like I had to be doing something wrong. My belief that if I lived a good Christian life, I make good decisions, I would have good outcomes really came into play, that somehow I must not be pursuing God completely. Because if I was, then there’s no way I would be having these kinds of issues in my marriage. And Mike took advantage of that. He knew my insecurity, made me so much less likely to be confrontational and honest. He knew it was incredibly important to me what God thought about me, and I did not have a good understanding at this time of the wrong that was being committed towards me. In fact, I was asked God to show me ‘what am I doing wrong? Why are my emotions so out of control? Why can I not get the fear and anxiety to abate?’ And remember, again, those two deeply held beliefs do not question authority, your emotions are unreliable, it just at this point really began to take a toll in my life. And so I did very little to push back on his action. And I continue to believe that my emotion must be the problem, rather than my emotions actually being a protection for me. So I think that when someone who has promised to love and protect you, is hurtful and dismissive of your thoughts, your feelings, they take advantage of your vulnerability, and your safety, emotionally, spiritually and physically, then this idea that you are loved and accepted and cherished by God, very, very hard to grasp. And so the impact on my relationship with the Lord has been significant.

Ann Maree
And you’re so right, Michelle, when we dissociate, when we detach from our emotions, in order to protect ourselves from pain, I mean, that’s a natural response to pain. But it’s not just the people in our lives we disconnect from. Sadly, that separation comes between us and God as well. So while this was happening in your insides, in your inner being, what was happening again, in your outer world.

So at this time, Mike was finishing up a seminary degree, and we accepted a call to a different church. And I knew that was going to be very difficult for me, because I, as I had mentioned, are at a small, very family oriented church. And they did agree before we move to our new ministry that they would want to ordain Mike and I have very limited, but very happy memories of that day. It was just a very surreal day, I remember very little about the ordination questions or anything like that. But I do remember at the end, the elders and members of the ordination council wanted to pray over Mike and they asked me to come forward and stand behind them while they laid hands on him and prayed. And I think I was expecting this to be a moment that you feel very close to the Lord, you feel kind of the power of that corporate worship. But I just felt completely unattached to what was happening. I found no comfort in that prayer, not any real connection to God in my heart, it just felt very dead, almost like I was watching my life on TV. And as I look back, I just think through that day, and it’s so strange, to me, at least in the circles that we were in at the time that they, they never asked the wife of a pastor how she feels about her husband being ordained, if she has any concerns are things that need to be addressed before we move forward with this really important process. And so again, I’m not sure if that’s a common experience. But I do know that other than being asked to come and stand behind him during a prayer. I was not involved in the ordination decision in any way. And really, it was just in within the next few weeks, as we were preparing to move. I felt a very deep sense that something was very, very wrong. He was often gone late at night. He was, he told me he was usually at the church working. But something about this just didn’t feel right. And I actually remember reaching out to a trusted friend and saying, I think that we’re in trouble. And the friend offered their help but said, ‘you know, do you think you should at least try to confront him or talk to him first.’ So I agreed with that. And I put the word confrontation in quotation marks because my confrontations at that point in my life lacked any strength. I was so concerned and terrified of being the dripping faucet wife. Again, somewhere along the line, I picked up this idea that that was the worst possible type of wife you could be and was to be avoided at all costs. And I wanted to believe that things were okay. And I was still so confused as to what he could actually be doing that I think at times, I just let things go to avoid having to face the reality. So during my very timid confrontation, where I said, ‘I just feel like something’s wrong. I’m concerned.’ He proceeded to tell me all about his accountability partners and his passwords and his Bible studies. And for some reason, I just remember very specifically, sitting on my bed and him telling me, Michelle, I’ve never been so protected. And he went on to remind me as was our pattern that this was probably you know, a result of my tendency to be mistrusting, especially in light of what had happened previously. And this part always confused me, because I’m actually a very trusting person. My children actually tease me about that. So the fact that you’re always pointed toward that was always so confusing. But again, I just concluded from his remarks that this was probably another me issue. And, again, I remember that familiar pattern of offering an apology for for my lack of trust and for confronting him and nagging about this issue. And we went on from there.

Ann Maree
Right, just another evidence of that pattern again. Thanks. Yeah.

Yeah. And for, you know, again, not the first time, I spent time with the Lord just begging him, ‘Can you help me be more forgiving and trusting?’ I’ve never been someone that really held a lot of grudges or anything like that. I don’t know what my problem is. Why do I have this constant knot of fear in my stomach, and please help me get my emotions under control. And just nothing really seemed to work. I just consistently battled fear and anxiety. Despite thus prepared then what felt like to me was a really sincere desire on my part to believe the best to believe the things I was being told. And just within just a couple of weeks of that conversation, I was getting ready for bed alone. He was gone later at night. Again, the kids were already long, had been in bed for a long time. And he came home, very distraught, obviously upset, and told me that he thought the police were on the way to our house. And of course, completely shocked. He ended up actually meeting the police somewhere else. But he was arrested that night for public sexual acts. He had been caught by a passing car masturbating and exposing himself in public in the outdoor courtyard of our church. And obviously, this was just completely disorienting. Over the next few days, if the depth of his sexual addiction began to come to light. I, I just felt my heart completely shut down during the time. I remember, specifically during the middle of the night, one night just thinking, My life has changed forever. There’s no going back to the happy Christian family that I had tried so hard to create and just totally disoriented. How did we go from pornography, which I know was, you know, a somewhat unfortunately common problem to, you know, someone completely disrobing and masturbating in public. I had no resources for this. No one in my life had any experience with this. Obviously, he lost his job at the new church where we were supposed to meet. And because I had been a stay at home mom, we were now completely unemployed. We had already sold our home at our current location. Now, we had nowhere to live. And we were informed by the local authorities that they would be going through a process to see if this crime qualified him to be registered on a sex offender list. So again, just complete devastation, completely disoriented, and I was terrified. I was terrified for myself for my children. Both of my brothers and other extended family stepped in and helped me navigate the legal situation and the housing situation. But really, the total abandonment that I felt was was something that really no one else could help with. And at this point, I began to struggle with panic attacks again. I remember telling a friend, ‘I feel like my childhood, I have just been left in the middle of a four lane highway, totally unprotected. And I can’t figure out how to get it across to safety. I don’t know what to do.’

Ann Maree
And as you mentioned a couple of times now, that feeling of not being able to trust your emotions, Well, evidently, God was using those emotions to point you towards the problem, you, you knew. And ultimately, He did confirm, yes, what you were sensing was true. How do you navigate what happened next, Michelle?

Yeah, after several months, in a temporary housing situation, we left the state in which the charges had been filed, he would have to return later to take care of that. But I just felt like I really needed my parents. And so we returned to my hometown, and my mom, in particular, was so helpful and supportive during this time, we were informed that the legal authorities had decided they would not make him register as a sex offender. I’m not sure at this point in my life, that that was the best in the long run. But it did make our immediate life a little bit easier in terms of where we could live and those types of things. So I returned to school with plans to work full time, he had gone to a very short term, residential program for pornography addiction. And then he needed to find a job that, you know, kept him busy, but also had fairly limited access to the internet, because we were advised that that was a problem. And, you know, obviously, this was in the mid 2000s., that’s, you know, sometimes challenging to do. But he did, he found a job and I returned to school. But the deeper issues really remained unresolved. We went to a counselor, this time, it was a person psychologist, so a little different approach. And I’m sad to say, he offered some of the most harmful counsel I have ever encountered. I did not recognize it at the time. And so I went home with information along the lines of you are over spiritualizing sex, this is just a biological need, like eating and drinking. So withhold that for any reason, especially given his issues, that would be weaponizing sex, that my anxiety really probably greatly interfered with our sexual relationship. And just so many themes that came nowhere close to addressing the issues that we were facing. And the result was it placed an incredible burden on me to maintain the status quo, so that he would not act out sexually or pursue other deviant things. And so just the net result was that I became the legal option, for sexual relief. In fact, I was the only legal option. And so there was zero intimacy, zero feelings of safety or protection, and really no path forward to try to build those things that are characteristic of a healthy relationship. And so I think it probably goes without saying that it was some of the darkest days of my life. I felt incredibly alone despite tireless help from my extended family with daily tasks. But when the door closed at night, you know, I was by myself, and some of the things that he had confessed to during these months, whether in counseling or conversations that we had terrified me more than ever. One big thing that he repeatedly came back to was he just had this need to take sexual risks, that was part of the gratification for him was of sexual risk. And although he couldn’t always define this very well, it encompassed, at least in part his masturbating and disrobing in public places. So obviously, this made me feel so afraid for for what that may have meant in the past. You had been in youth ministry, what did taking risk look like during that time? What could it mean in the future? And so I began to live in just a constant state of hypervigilance, trying to make sure that I protected my children, anyone else that was in our home. Constantly worrying that if I did not acquiesce sexually, then horrible things can happen, his impulses would be totally out of control. And that would be my fault. I had to take over the finances at this point we had received counsel that it was not wise for him to have access to cash, or there just there needed to be a lot of accountability with finances, so that we didn’t want to, you know, create another means for him to engage in sexual behavior that was out of bounds. So, so I am trying to keep tabs on him, manage the finances, go back to school, but also do it without nagging or questioning because that also is deemed out of bounds. This just completely overwhelmed. And I thank God every day for my children, they really became my daily reason for pressing on. I could not quit because of them. And I just thank Him so much for that. Because I’m not sure to be completely honest, that I could have made it through that time in our life without them.

Ann Maree
Yeah, thanking God for those babies. Thank you so much, Michelle. I’m just sighing deeply not knowing quite how to respond to everything. And the weight of it is off, I feel as well as I can see it on your face, and your your physicality. So I’m confident that it has not been easy to really live all of those days. And again, I just want to say how grateful I am that you’re willing to share, especially this particular issue that we do not talk about in our Christian circles in our counseling circles, in just definitely not in the church very often, at all. But we need to hear stories like yours, or well, I mean, we will never know how to care for someone like you or someone like Mike, right. So in in your in our next episode, we’re going to talk a little bit more about the rest of your story. There’s there’s more to it. But that’s all we’re going to talk about for today. I think that’s been quite weighty again. But thank you for joining us.

In this next episode of the series, Melissa Affolter, who we’ve had on the show before, she’s going to help us understand more about Michelle’s situation specifically about the ways to help these victims of domestic abuse and survivors as they try to continue to heal from this very, very unique, devastating type of trauma, especially as it relates to sexual abuse and marriage. Again, just thank you, Michelle, for joining us.

Thank you for having me, I truly appreciate the opportunity,

Ann Maree
You’re a definite blessing to this project.

If you do want to know more about domestic abuse, I’ve got a few suggestions and that is one that you can go to the website Called to Peace.org for numerous resources, contact information if you need to talk with someone and advocate and they have a lot of resources as far as practical needs, so calledtopeace.org also highly recommend Darby Strickland’s book Is It Abuse? and she has an excellent section, a chapter in that book on sexual abuse in marriage. So it’s a really great resources for both victims and church leaders for identifying these patterns of abuse. And then in addition, specifically for church leaders, Dr. Jeremy Pierre and Dr. Greg Wilson wrote a book called When Home Hurts and I think that’s just really the textbook for church leaders and understanding domestic abuse.

Safe to Hope is a production of HelpHer. Our Executive Producer is Ann Maree Goudzwaard. Safe to Hope is written and mixed by Ann Maree and edited by Ann Maree and Helen Weigt. Music is Waterfall by Roman Senyk Music from Pixabayand and is licensed by Pixabay.

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If you want to know more about domestic abuse, go to Called to Peace.org. They have a lot of resources that would be helpful can get a hold of an advocate if you need one.

Also, I recommend Darby Strickland’s book, Is It Abuse? which is  an excellent resource for both victims and church leaders for identifying patterns of abuse. And specifically Darby speaks in one chapter regarding sexual abuse in marriage.

And then as I’ve said before, Dr. Jeremy Pierre and Dr. Greg Wilson’s book When Home Hurts is particularly helpful for church leaders.

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