Don't Plant Your Seeds Among Thorns:
A Catholic's Guide to Domestic Abuse
by Jenny duBay
The Catholic Church understands the true nature of marriage. The marital union isn’t merely a piece of paper and a few words spoken between two people, followed by a fun party. It’s not a gold band, or a promise to remain faithful—until disagreements pop up or someone more exciting comes along. For Catholics, marriage is a sacred sacrament, an indissoluble union that, according to The Catechism of the Catholic Church, is “a partnership of the whole of life … ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring” (CCC 1601). Love is “the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being” (CCC 1604).
Yet what happens when the indissoluble becomes desecrated, when the sacrament promised at the altar in the presence of God proves to have been a lie? What happens when the early excitement of a loving relationship and future family are replaced with anxiety, confusion, turmoil and even cringing fear? Sacred Scripture describes well how such betrayal feels:
"My heart is in anguish within me, fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me. It is not an enemy who taunts me—then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—then I could hide from him. But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. We used to hold sweet converse together; within God’s house we walked in fellowship." (Ps. 55:4,5,12-14)
Every day, around the world, millions of individuals are crushed by the trauma of living with a spouse who controls, mistreats or otherwise violates their sacred personhood. The statistics are shocking: one out of every three women has been or currently is a victim of abuse within their own homes.1 Yet even if you’re among those statistics, you might be unaware of the truth of your situation. Instead, you may be full of self-blame and doubt—especially during the times when your spouse is acting kind, charming, even remorseful.
It’s common for victims to minimize their experience, to believe their partner when he says they merely have “regular” relationship or communication problems. Victims often tell themselves, “It’s really not that bad. Sure, sometimes he calls me stupid or an idiot, but at least he’s never called me anything worse.” Or, if he does make it a habit to hurl even the most brutal insults, a target may try to minimize the situation by thinking, “Well, at least he’s never hit me.” If he is physically violent, “at least he’s never broken a bone.” If he has broken a bone, “At least I’ve never been knocked unconscious.”
And on … and on.
This minimization isn’t a deliberate effort to excuse the behavior of the abuser, but rather an unconscious defense mechanism that attempts to make sense of the nonsensical. To be the partner of an abusive spouse is to live in constant anxiety. Developing coping strategies is a necessary part of living in a toxic environment.
Yet living in that environment doesn’t have to be permanent. Healing begins with awareness, education, support and guidance from the Holy Spirit. These are all things this book will help you develop.
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Jenny duBay, Trauma-Informed Christian life coach.