Monday, August 29, 2005

Worth More Than That

I read some stats the other day.

13% of teen girls have been physically abused by a boyfriend.
26% were repeatedly verbally abused.
25% were forced to engage in sexual activity.
More than half of America's teens know a friend who has been abused in some way by their significant other.

These numbers brought back a memory of a girl I knew. She came to church every week with her boyfriend. She was 16. He was 20. I watched her during service as she listened to the message and watched what unfolded.

She was really in to it.

Somewhere about 2/3rds of the way through the service he would receive a phone call and walk outside. Within minutes, he'd walk back in and tap her on the shoulder. She followed him out every time.

I knew something was up. Control. An unhealthy relationship.

She wanted God, that was clear, but she wanted this guy too. Even when she felt her Heavenly Father tugging on her heartstrings, the tap on her shoulder from the guy in her life was what she knew to follow.

One night after service I walked through the church making sure the doors were all locked. It's a big church and easy to feel swallowed up in the darkness of the long halls. The lights were out and I heard voices. I tried to see who was ahead but it took time for my eyes to adjust.

They didn't see me, but suddenly I could see them.

She was walking away quickly. He pushed her in her back, taunting her, calling her names that didn't belong in a temple of God--whether made of stone or the beautiful young girl made by God.

She stumbled and turned to defend herself. Then he kicked her--hard. Right in the back. He called her another name.

I called out his name and he twirled around, surprised.

I talked to him, but later, privately, I talked with her. I tried to explain that her guy's love was anything but.

I tried to paint a picture of what her life might be one day--isolated, broken, caught between the love of her abusive husband and normalcy, trying to protect the kids from daddy. I told her that there were women who would give anything to be in her shoes right now -- young enough to walk away because the situation wasn't complicated with children, able to pursue her dreams and find good love.

She confided that she wanted to be a doctor. She was a 4.0 honor student. She wanted to help people, especially children.

I also told her, "you are worth more than this, sis."

Later that night the youth pastor called her parents, but the girl convinced them it was just an argument.

I ran into her the other day. She's working as a waitress. She's 19 now and they are married. She had a bruise on her neck that was purple and yellow. She looked old.

It's still not too late, I said.

"I love him," she said simply.

She doesn't get it. She doesn't understand that real love is generous and nurturing and that God never intended relationships to look like this.

I hope you get it. I hope that you understand that there are women--like me--who have been married for a lot of years who feel safe and passionate, in love and protected by an awesome godly man.

I still have fun with him. I love hanging out with him. My children (and one day their children) are marked and shaped by their dad, a very cool man who knows how to love in all the right ways.

Don't accept less than real love--from your Heavenly Father and from the guy or girl you allow into your heart and life.


Samantha said...

Wow. My older sis was married to a guy for about a year. Before they got married, he got in an accident at the temp job he was at, he had to have his left leg amputated below the knee. He became addicted to painkillers, even after he didn't need them, and was lazy. Jen (my sister) had to take care of everything. Then, he started beating her. She came back to us after awhile and divorved him. She's now engaged to a wonderful guy whom we all love. (And okay, he is a Nascar fan, but we had to give him that lol) He treats her wonderfully, just as she deserves.
God bless.

Joanne said...

As a teen girl I really appreciate that people like you (and others) realize this problem. I know that sometimes it's easy to say "Whatever, that's so their problem," but when someone like you sees these things and even takes time to blog about it, that (in my oppinion anyhow) makes a difference. No, I'm not in a circumstance like this, but I certainly know girls who were/are in these situations. The pain it causes, not just for the girl, but for their family and those who love them, is horrible. We certainly should remember to pray for everyone in these situations... even if they think they don't need our prayers, they do.

Wana said...

As a survivor, and, more recently someone who worked in the field of domestic abuse for five years, I can tell you that it never pays to stay in a situation with someone who abuses you in any way. Not only will you pay the price, but your children, your parents, your friends, your coworkers, your pets are also at risk. Domestic abuse almost always gets worse over time. Why do we choose to date people like this? In some cases, we grew up with parents who lived it and we don't know how to choose someone who doesn't abuse. Furthermore, abusers are often very charming and attentive. Who doesn't want to be the love of someone's life? Who doesn't want to be "missed" when they go out for awhile, or "worried about" when they come home a little late from work. Please learn what to look for. Beware of someone who falls madly in love with you instantly; beware of someone who says they can't live without you; be alert to how they interact with others such as their parents, sibling, coworkers. If they abuse alcohol or drugs and/or possess weapons, if they have a Jekyll and Hyde personality, if everything is about them, stay away from them. Please know that if you feel uncomfortable in the relationship, there is a reason for that. In my county alone, there are an average of 4,000 criminal cases each year involving domestic abuse. This number does not include the incidents that go unreported. If you are in a relationship like this and want to leave, be very careful about doing so; if the abusive person knows you want to leave, they may become desperate. I've seen it happen too many times. For help, please contact a local domestic abuse agency. You cannot change the person's behavior. It is not a relationship problem, so couples counseling will not help, in fact, it could place you in more danger. Why do we stay in relationships like these? There are many reasons. We love the person. We have children together. Our church does not approve of divorce. We are financially dependent on the person. They have threatened to kill us, our children, our pet, if we leave. You can get out, but you need to give careful thought and planning on how to do so safely.