I met my abuser at church. We were both attending seminary, headed into full-time ministry. I was an ordained elder in my denomination and a Bible college graduate. I’d studied Scripture, debated theology and had been involved in church and ministry for as long as I could remember.
I met my abuser within the walls of a Christian home. I bumped into E.D. in the halls of my church, hung out with him in my youth group. I saw E.D. in safe places and good places and at first his words were mild, gentle, simple advice. “You could be healthier if you ate less. You could be much more perfect if you were a little stricter with yourself. Just work a little harder.”
Being a “Christian” was easy, for the most part. I even knew all the pretty, cliché things to say to those who needed counseling. My life drastically changed when I met … him. He was charming, handsome, smart, funny and going into ministry … everything I ever wanted in a guy. When our relationship turned physical quickly, I was uncomfortable but, for fear of losing him, I went along. Light petting turned into a full-blown sexual relationship and, despite my best intentions, I was fearful of saying that “no” that I’d encouraged so many girls to just-say.
E.D. was easy to follow and easy to love, at first. He made me more admirable and self-disciplined. When I was with him, heads turned. “You’re so strong! I wish I could be that thin.” When he started to get meaner, I told myself that he was just making me a better person. I was still able to talk about my faith and encourage other people. I was considered a leader.
As we left the parking lot after our wedding, my now-husband was different. He was angry. I did everything I could to help and to make it better. The abuse gradually escalated. The sexual abuse started right away and got to the point where it was happening multiple times a day. Finding out I was six weeks pregnant six weeks after we got married only made the abuse worse.
As E.D. and I spent more and more time together, things began to change rapidly. He pulled me away from friends and family, especially at meal times. He insisted that I workout multiple times per day, even when I began to bruise easily, lose my hair and my thinking became foggy. Like a snowball rolling downhill, things got worse by the day. Soon, I couldn’t even see a true reflexion in the mirror.
Partial bed rest ordered from my doctor was ignored by my husband … I had too many things to do around the house to keep him happy–my homework, etc. No chance to sit still.
E.D. denied the validity of doctor’s orders and my parents’ concern. He demanded clandestine jumping jacks, long walks, white lies about my after school activities (at the gym instead of at work.)
Gradually, I quit classes and my job and became a prisoner in my own home. I begged him to stop yelling at me. I cringed when he raised his hand to hit me and cried when he gripped my arm and blocked the door so I couldn’t pass.
I quit going home to visit during college. Too many people were concerned about me and tried to meddle in my diet and exercise. I quit hanging out with friends. Too many opportunities to eat during social activities. I certainly quit dating. If I were to cheat on E.D., there would be hell to pay.