Did I Enable Sexual Abuse?

Morning friends,

I am doing Nana camp this week. We are working on a special project with cowboy boots. They are turning out so cute. I’ll post a picture next week when we finish. 

Today’s Question: 

My husband sexually assaulted me over a year ago. He thought that I was leaving him and felt it necessary to ‘demonstrate' to me how good we were together. 

I was fearful and gave in to him, as often saying no to him meant he would tell me I wasn't normal. My family became aware of the situation and went to the police who later called me and asked if I would like to talk with them.

I realized that things were quickly spinning and I declined to talk with the police saying that I needed to first talk to a counselor to make sure I wasn’t going crazy.

I was blinded by disbelief and could not grasp this as being abusive. His calling me not normal had become so repetitive through the years and I believed it. I never did follow up with the police. My husband found out about their involvement and has accused my family of being crazy. He told me that a police report like that would make him lose his job and that would hurt our family because we wouldn't have money. 

He also said that children's aid would get involved and our children would be taken away. In the subsequent year, my husband denied doing anything wrong. He has told family and friends that I am mentally ill and even satanic.

My question is, did I enable his behavior because I didn’t stick up for myself and ultimately shielded him from the law because of the fear he instilled in me with regard to money and my children?

I struggle with this daily and welcome your comments.

Answer: First I am sorry for what you’ve been through. Your story is not the first one told on this blog of sexual abuse in marriage but it always breaks my heart to hear it. 

It’s curious to me how the one who does the wrong so easily twists things to look like you are the cause of the disastrous consequences (job loss, money problems, perhaps jail time, Child Services being involved) if you simply tell the truth about what happened. Obviously, he knew he crossed the line when he violated you, not to mention he knew he broke the law or he wouldn’t have been so worried about you talking to the police. That said, your question is really about your part. Did you enable it?

I’ve talked before about fear, how it can capture us, muzzle us, and beat us silly with its lies. Here are some of the lies I hear you falling for. 

Lie #1: I’m afraid I’m not normal if I don’t want to have sex with my husband every time he wants it. Something must be wrong with me. 

Truth: In a healthy marriage a couple’s sex drive may vary. It is not abnormal for men to have a higher sex drive than a woman, nor is it abnormal for her to not want sexual relations as much as he wants. 

When a woman is in an unhealthy and/or destructive marriage her sexual desire for her husband diminishes considerably. Having intimate relations with a person who treats you like you are stupid, crazy, satanic, a pain in the neck, or ugly feels not only wrong, but also oppressive to your soul and spirit, let alone your body.

When a man watches a lot of pornography, women are portrayed as panting after any man who will have her. Pornography portrays a woman’s sex drive as insatiable. As he saturates his mind with pornographic images, this is what becomes his “normal” woman. A total fantasy. 

Lie #2:  I’m afraid I’m going crazy when I feel strong emotions inside. I can’t trust my own mind to tell me what’s wrong and what’s right, what’s good and what’s bad. I have to let my husband (or others) decide that.

Truth: Our emotions of fear, anger, anxiety, hurt, sadness, and confusion are warning bells. They warn us something is wrong. Something is either wrong with us inside, or something is wrong with our environment on the outside. Either way, we are to PAY ATTENTION. We shouldn’t ignore our emotions and shut down or minimize them. And, we shouldn’t allow our strong emotions to take over the decision-making function of our lives completely or we can make some big mistakes we deeply regret. 

You are having strong emotions around your husband. Emotions of fear, confusion, hurt, and anger. Those emotions are informing you that something is wrong. He says the answer is, “something is wrong with you, – you are mentally ill.” But there is another explanation. Something is wrong with your marriage. Something is wrong with the way you are being treated. Something is wrong with being threatened, called names, sexually assaulted, and invalidated. Your emotions are telling you that there is a problem you need to face. Pay attention. There is good anger and fear at being wronged, oppressed, and abused. How we display that good anger or fear makes a difference, but anger, hurt, and fear are the appropriate emotions you should be feeling.  

Lie #3: It’s my fault if things fall apart at home (financially or legally) if I disclose that he sexually abused me. If I don’t disclose, then that means it’s my fault he did this because I’ve enabled him over the years.

Truth: First sexual assault is a crime and you did nothing to enable that. Women and children are sexually assaulted daily, which is devastating to their sense of self. You may have been afraid (as any person would be who is being sexually assaulted), but that did not enable him to do it. He was going to do it: period. He decided, not you. You could have fought him, some women do. But that doesn’t mean he still would not have assaulted you. 

Second, if things fall apart at home because you told someone, that is not your fault. You don’t have the power to put people in jail or make your husband lose his job. But judges and police do. And, if you told the truth and the result was that your husband lost his job and/or landed in jail, the fault lies squarely on him for what he did. However, that does not mean that if that happened, it would not cause you hardship. Sin hurts people and the consequences of sin don’t just fall on the sinner, they often spill over onto the innocent victims of someone’s sin. 

Third, part of your getting healthy is taking a look at if and how you have been enabling your husband in other ways and stopping. Change begins with you. By staying silent about what’s going on, you enable him to become a bigger bully, a bigger liar, and more and more self-deceived. 

He’s now rewritten the story of what happened in his mind, telling himself and others, “I didn’t do anything wrong. She’s the crazy one. She’s satanic.” Romans 1:25-28 says that the more we exchange the truth of God for a lie, the more one’s mind becomes depraved. By staying silent and not going to the authorities that God has put in place to protect you and your children, your husband continued to lie to himself, as well as avoid the consequences of what he did. You won’t know for sure, but perhaps those very painful consequences of job loss and jail time may have woken up so he would repent.  

It would be tempting to beat yourself up for not being strong enough to take that action. Don’t. It’s just another tool of the enemy to accuse and attack. God knows you’ve been suffering with this question daily. He led you to ask this question. You are waking up to what really is. This is God’s grace for you. He will lead you out of confusion and fear and empower you to walk in truth and love. 

Get support for yourself now. Grow. Learn to walk in CORE strength. Your husband hasn’t changed. There will be other opportunities for you to take a stand. Hopefully not another sexual assault, but now that you know, get yourself strong enough to do something different.

Our Moving Beyond People Pleasing Group Coaching program is now open for enrollment. It might be your next right step. Click here for more information. 

Friends: When you woke up to your own enabling ways, what helped you the most to take those first steps of change?

11 Comments

  1. Jacquelyn Watson on June 29, 2023 at 8:29 am

    Wow. This is so relevant to me. I left my marriage with help from Leslie’s book on emotional destructive marriages but I never allowed myself to think too hard about the sex part. My ex forced himself on me early on (and for some reason I was so blinded by his charm I looked past it) and multiple times a week when we were married. He watched so much porn and made me feel like less of a woman and that I was broken, dumb, useless and yes, I was also called satanic — for not wanting to have sex with him whenever he demanded it. Now that I am single again, sex and intimacy sound terrible to me and I hope those gifts from the Lord will be restored to me someday in a healthy situation. Thank you to this woman for being brave and asking these questions. And thank you always to Leslie for making us feel normal and validating what we have been through.

    • Jesus' Princess (Julie) on July 1, 2023 at 8:35 pm

      Unfortunately, the name-calling is just a form of manipulation, gas-lighting or turning the tables…

      I’ve heard, ‘Godless’ (and have no clue why), or seen the jealous side of accusations when getting medical help for our son. All while he has been looking at porn, unbeknownst to me at the time.

      “Sticks and stones may break our bones
      And names will surely hurt us too!”

      Let’s try to remember all the beautiful and wonderful ways that God sees us and calls us by name.

  2. Elizabeth Lewis on June 29, 2023 at 8:34 am

    Beautiful response 🦋

  3. Roz Garrett on June 29, 2023 at 8:37 am

    Anger at myself for being so naive, looking back my rage pushed me into throwing my husband out .
    I watch others negotiate mutual agreements.
    What I see is more pain, hurt and confusion.
    God has a plan for each of us.
    God used my complex trauma reactions to get me out.
    It is now almost 18 years since I have spoke to my ex , the no contact was my best decision.
    Even after all this time, I have huge trust issues .
    No dating at all in 18 years, life is calm and peaceful.

  4. Angela Farkas on June 29, 2023 at 8:45 am

    The realization that god loves me more than his law (no divorce). I can’t “help god” by remaining in oppression and abuse just to hang on to a piece of legal paper… the marriage vows and what that paper stands for has not been fulfilled (let alone been honored). We do not bring glory to god by cloning to a price of paper rather than Him. He does not approve of abuse and oppression and has not asked us to be anyone’s slave”. He came to give us life to the full and freedom in Christ. I could not embrace Him and walk in freedom while living under a rock. We are called to plant our feet on the rock … from his victory we can sing His praises and be heard… it’s a beautiful testimony that makes our Lords heart sing. He will redeem ALL OF IT. There is Hope and his name we know is Jesus. He is your husband and totally in love with you and 💯 trustworthy. Take his hand and walk down the aisle…

  5. Jennifer on June 29, 2023 at 8:58 am

    I would like to mention that Elizabeth Smart has a little blog about ‘willing consent’ versus ‘unwilling consent’. It opened my eyes to all the forms of coercion my husband uses to get his way sexually. If there is manipulation or coercion is it consent?

    • Jesus' Princess (Julie) on June 30, 2023 at 11:40 am

      I’ll have to look up Elizabeth Smart. Thanks for the resource.

    • Jesus' Princess (Julie) on July 1, 2023 at 8:24 pm

      It’s not true consent.
      There are a lot of factors at play besides manipulation and coercion—frozenness, pleasing, lies about ‘we have to do xyz from the Bible’.
      There are situations where the abuser just wears down the victim and giving in is the only thing that IS going to happen before anyone leaves the room.

  6. Michelle on June 29, 2023 at 1:24 pm

    Please report it. Reporting it doesn’t always mean jail time or a loss of job either. It’s just recorded. I didn’t because I was afraid of the same financial hardship. Now that we’re separated (I finally got the courage to stand up after 15 years), I’m in financial hardship anyway and have no record of what he did which would have helped me fight for the safety of my children. It’s all hearsay until you report it.

  7. Jesus' Princess (Julie B.) on June 30, 2023 at 11:38 am

    My husband and I ‘dated’ amongst friends, and agreed to wait till marriage for sex. One night I was sleeping at 9ish pm and he woke me up. His story is that I reciprocated. That may have been the case but it’s not what we agreed on and I was half asleep. I have a history of trauma and sexual abuse so I’ve just tolerated bad behavior and wanted to get it over and move on to a safer place not reporting anything. How was my husband any different preying on my 14 year old frozen state? He didn’t keep his end of the agreement.

    I felt horribly guilty for years and felt obligated to get married in some way bc of the sex. I wasn’t pregnant. Somehow I knew things were off and still got married. After the honeymoon, he pouted on the sofa and didn’t come to bed on occasion; or didn’t take ‘not no’ for an answer—even after childbirth. He has never received my sexual initiation, gestures, or date nights requests/ideas, ignored requests for whatever around the house. He has to do everything himself because he gets frustrated working as a team. He has Level 1 Autism, or high functioning in areas. His communication is close to a two-year old’s as I’ve studied communications and systems for becoming a Reading Specialist in graduate school.

    It’s hurtful to now know that he has hidden porn for me from 25 years and that is likely one reason for his contemptuousness and low-rumbling volcanic anger. He’s frustrated perhaps that he can communicate more about life issues, family issues, and future planning. But the reality is that he doesn’t have the energy or capacity to do those things.

    Being a teacher and ‘not giving up on a struggling student’ has limits of what we/I can do, however. How much more so with adults and disability in the home—especially a marriage partner. He won’t change and can’t. He’s 60 and doesn’t have the energy. He has become a better and more involved dad, but now he is taking the credit for being available to the boys etc, and says I’m not. For 15 years he was totally uninvolved with school, IEPs, meds, Dr appts (for health and Autistic Spectrum issues). I’m still around helping the boys with school, managing work situations and available to many things.

    I have been under constant scruntity and his passive control (not discussing money or meeting with a financial planner regularly). Even the boys know that any request is met with no and he ignores and shuts down conversations. He has to lead small talk conversation. He rarely compliments me. Even watching kids on the spectrum play in the circle so there are no neighborhood issues brought “Why isn’t dinner on.” That’s a pretty easy one to understand unless you deny what is going on with the boys (which he did for a long time). There has never been an acknowledgement of fibromyalgia, mold illness that he in part caused due to negligence in fixing the gutters. I’m like a silent piece of furniture in the house–there as ‘comfort’ but not human conversation.

    So…I want to give up on 25 years of marriage and have for years. Others see the writing. He is not capable of change. He thinks he is fine. So it’s up to me to figure out how to gracefully leave and afford life now since prices are so high. The whole reason for teaching certifications in reading K-12, art K-12 and K-6 classroom is so I have earning potential beyond a dying market of graphic design in the area of the country I live in. Now my health issues have significantly slowed me down. I’m praying for the right job I can handle…and God will provide.

    This has to be about my decision and doesn’t have to be an elaborate explanation—a simple, truthful, believable story that gives just enough insight. I need to stop caring about what others are going to think and realize I need to take care of my health and emotional well-being. Others will surely take sides like a sister in law. I really want to tell her if I’m not with my husband any longer…”Now you can have him and. be his next prostitute or porn star.” But I won’t. She has realized. her mistake I believe.

  8. Caroline Abbott on June 30, 2023 at 3:44 pm

    I finally realized God cared more about me than my “marriage” which was really no marriage at all. It was filled with abuse, manipulation and gaslighting.

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