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Excerpt from the Choice to Leave Abuse by Ryan Anderson
Bishop Simon sat in silence. I think he was. In his situation, I certainly would be. He looked across the desk at me and nodded, but did not smile. Neither did I, that lack of smile turned out to be more than a little prescient. It was a warning of what was to come. No geographical relocation can move a person far enough away from the troubles they carry within themselves.
It was a hopeful thought, but I did not yet realize it was a naive one. I did not know what else to do. I felt completely whip lashed. I had entered the Bishop's office, looking for hope and anticipating feeling better, leaving it. Instead as I left that room, my life was even Bleaker than when I had entered.
I felt like I had asked for a fish and received a serpent. I don't blame Bishop Simon. He was just as blindsided by Rick's confession as I was, I still wonder what he was thinking when he looked at me, but could not find it within himself to smile, to be clear. None of the bishops I worked with told me to stay married to Rick, or even to try to help him back to the golf.
They were very supportive of me and never once gave me a duty to the priesthood speech or tried to tell me that wives should submit to their husbands for that. I am extremely grateful. If anything, it seems to me that they were trying to help me find a way out of this marriage rather than stay, even though none of them seem to feel they could actively ask me about that as.
I was never pressured by a Bishop to stay unlike many other women I've met. It was my choice to never leave Rick because of the covenant I had made. And from what I understood, leaving Rick meant breaking a covenant. That's something I simply would not do.
I did not have fairytale delusions. When I got married, I knew that all marriages have problems, but I genuinely thought that Rick and I would work through them together. I did not realize that he had schizophrenia. I knew that there were some things mentally wrong with him, but each time I would try to get him help, he would just look at me like I was in school.
In all of my experiences in my crazy upside down marriage, heavenly father placed bishops in my path to help and guide me to find the correct answers. The answers didn't always come when I wanted them. Sometimes I don't think I was ready for them, but they did come our move to Idaho brought us under the stewardship of Bishop Z.
He was a man filled with love. He led his congregation with love. He counseled with love and he never stopped loving the 19 nine while he went after the one. My experience with Bishop Xavier felt like a three-year experience when it was only for seven months, we arrived in Idaho with the new job, three babies, and what I wanted to call a fresh start, the truth.
The drugs, alcohol and sex issues with Rick had grown more frequent and severe. Nothing had changed the way I hoped it would in reflection. Maybe that was why Bishop Simon never smiled. As I left the office, perhaps he knew that would be the case, but couldn't bear to tell me.
In those bleak circumstances, I sought to make my Idaho ward, my family. I was called to be the second counselor in the relief society. I was able to experience ward councils and serve others on a level that I had not experienced previously. It was a wonderful and enlightening experience. Unfortunately, this new light in my life was met by a deepened assault by dark.
Rick's physical abuse accelerated and it left its marks upon me, Bishop Xavier took notice of my injuries. He was constantly asking if I was safe and I would lie and say that I was, I felt that hiding the truth was a part of being committed to my marriage. Bishop Xavier tried to extend friendship to Rick and connect him to the light of the gospel.
Rick would have none of them. Things continued to get worse. Rick lost his job, construction opportunities dried up along with our food and shelter. And yet Rick could always seem to afford alcohol and drugs and the pattern of the abuse never slack. And it's amazing how a customer person can become to misery.
Bishop Xavier never gave up on. Or our family, he did all, he could to protect us from the constant suffering. That was a part of our life. He did the right thing by loving both of us in spite of rigs, obvious flaws and failings. After six agonizingly, long months of sheer craziness from Rick's mental instability, Bishop Xavier had to step in and take some decisive.
I will never forget Bishop Xavier's tear stained face. As he told Rick that he was being disfellowshipped, Bishop Xavier took Rick's hand with such firmness and love. He tried to encourage him to continue to find Christ and sought to impress upon him that our family depended on it. Even though Bishop Xavier presented the disfellowship as a path to repentance and healing from.
It also impressed upon me, just how damaged our marriage was five years past with life, continuing as a variation on the themes of addiction, abuse, and hardship. It was now November, 2006, four months since Trek and my visit with Bishop Connors. I had been married to Rick for nine and a half years and had five children.
We had moved. I now worked full-time as a teacher and I was working on my master's degree. Rick was there for Thanksgiving that year. He was stoned as usual, but in some ways it was different for me this time. In my mind, I had accepted that this is who Rick is. I was no longer hoping that he would be who he seemed to be when we first met.
I was no longer relying on him to change as a path for things to get better for our family working and going to school gave me perspective and hope for our family. How Rick acted didn't matter to me anymore. I had shifted my focus. I was convinced that I just needed to keep going and provide for my family.
My life was not objectively, any easier. RICS drugs, alcohol and sexual acting out were all still in full swing. And yet my life had become easier to bear by the mere acceptance of the fact that Rick would not change. And therefore I had to do something differently.
[webinar by Ryan Anderson on Abuse]
Work and school gave me something to focus on. As Thanksgiving had passed, I found myself slumbering on the couch on Sunday morning, basking the lights of our small Christmas tree. I remember waking and focusing on the pinpoints of light from the tree I reflected on how each one gave meaning to the season.
I felt pulled and directed by each of these tiny little. As my eyes scanned over each one in turn, I became aware of a feeling growing within me, which expanded until it overcame me. I sat in that feeling for a moment frozen there as time seemed to stand still. The silence in my mind served as an empty stage for what came next, which was life-changing in that silence.
Timeless moment. I felt a voice say you are released from your calling. It reverberated within me, filling me with warmth. I blinked at the lights of the tree until they came into focus through my tears, connecting with my heart as a beacon of light. And in that moment, I just knew it was time for. Later that morning.
As I partook of the sacrament at church, I felt the same warmth and light flood my soul for a second time, the voice came to me again with the same message you are released from your calling. I ate the bread with those words, speaking in my mind and bowed my head and Thanksgiving and prayer. I listened to the words as the water was blessed and more lights seemed to fall apart.
It filled my being completely. I felt the power of the savior spark within me, an unquenchable energy and conviction.
I felt his love around me, quieting my fears. I felt strength build within me as my mind reviewed my temple covenants. Each one of these sensations was accompanied by an almost tangible feeling of light. Suddenly in my mind's eye, the light pushed out the darkness. What remained was a clearly defined line between me and the children on one day.
And Rick on the other, my world was now separated from Ricks and this allowed there to be light in my world. Whereas darkness reigns so long as our two worlds were combined in this new world of light, there were no tangles or threads of darkness reaching out towards me from the shadowy field where Rick stood the distinction between the light and the dark was raised there.
Such an eloquent lesson taught through such a simple image. I took the water from the tray and as I swallowed it, I felt the Savior's love envelops me even more powerfully. You are released from your calling the voice repeated a third time. I had heard and I had understood. I knew what I needed to do.
Following sacrament meeting. I looked up from the pew and locked eyes with Bishop Lewis, who was up on the stand presiding over the congregation. He never broke eye contact with me. As I traversed the distance from my pew to the stand without prelude, I asked Bishop Lewis. If I could meet with him, he held my gaze and replied yes.
Come into my office. As we stepped out of the chapel, a sister from the ward help to shuttle my five children towards the primary room. As I Strode across the mov carpet, I reflected on my first meeting with Bishop Lewis four months ago, I shared with him all of the ups and downs of my marriage, and even insisted that he connect with my previous Bishop to learn the details of my background.
I didn't have time to do that with work and everything else. I was trying to hold the. Bishop Lewis opened the door. I walked into the office and sat down opposite his desk. He quietly took his seat with my eyes, locked onto his, I blurted out the phrase I'm getting divorced. Wow. That was not the way I thought I was going to start this conversation.
I guess it just burst right out of me. He looked at me and sat forward in his chair. We contemplated each other for a moment in silence, then he said, I will support you. How can I help? It was that simple. There was no interrogation about whether I was sure about the decision. There was no admonition that I should pray about it more.
There was no attempt to prescribe me prerequisite actions before I left. It was elegant. Beautiful, and exactly the right thing to do. His next word surprised me. What is your plan? I did a mental double-take. There was that phrase yet again, he was right to ask that my conviction to leave. Rick was absolute, but how to leave?
Well, I hadn't even thought about. I would need to continue my night classes and to keep teaching. So it need to remain close enough to work. So moving back to my parents' home is not an option. I reasoned my financial options at present were highly limited while I had a job. I did not have any credit to my name because we had filed for personal and business bankruptcy due to disastrous business decisions on the part of Rick's partner.
As I sat pondering in the office, many questions and ideas started to flow within me. I knew I could not get a house. So I figured I would stay where I was in the basement apartment until Christmas was over. But I would find an apartment and figure out a way to move during the month of December, that would give me three weeks to pull together a plan and to put it in motion, that would be tight, but I thought I could make it.
My mind tried to fit together. Logistical considerations like pieces in a complicated jigsaw puzzle. The Bishop's mind was drawn to a different topic. However, does Rick know that you want to divorce his question? Acted like a speed bump to my train of thoughts? No, I answered. I was planning on telling him after he sobers up this afternoon, to me, this felt like a minor detail.
It was clear that the. It felt very differently.
His gaze held concern and a warning. Make sure you are not alone with him. When you tell him, you said, I know he hasn't laid a hand on you in months, but things can change. Okay. I said, feeling like the concerns he was bringing up were the least of my worries. Can I ask what you were going to do for money?
He asked, well, I'm teaching full time. So we have that under control. Yes. I understand the Bishop acknowledged. Do you have a reliable vehicle? Do you have it gassed up? Yes. I said I was feeling increasingly confused about the points you seem to be driving at. What exactly did he think I needed to prepare for?
Do you have a few different hotels you could go to in case waiting for one month just gets too much to handle. Clearly what he was envisioning happening. When I told Rick that I was getting a divorce was quite a bit different than what I was thinking. Well, I didn't think about that Bishop. I just need to get through the next three weeks till break and then I can move.
I said, I guess it sounded to the Bishop. Like I was only thinking about things in terms of time in calendaring is next question. Cut straight to the. What if you need to make a run for it, what will you do? Make a run for it? I thought, why would I need to do that? This was my life, not some Hollywood movie that involved an elaborate chase scene or daring escape, my expression Telegraph, my confusion.
And I answered trying to reassure the Bishop that I had things under. Well, I'm not sure what you're getting at, but I have my bank account separate from his, he can't access it. I said, the van is in my name as well there that ought to clear things up. There was nothing to worry about. That's good to hear.
He said, and then persisted with his concerns. Do you have a bag or two pack just in case you feel like you need to sleep over somewhere else? Yeah. Do you have friends and coworkers you can count on to give you support as you're going through this transition? Yes, I think so. I replied, are you going to stay in the word boundaries or move away from here?
He asked, well, I'm used, there are some apartments down by the school that I teach at. So I was going to start looking there by this time I was waiting for him to suggest the witness relocation. I felt certain that the concerns he was expressing were disproportionate to the task in front of me in my mind, it was pretty simple.
I was going to tell Rick that we are going to get a divorce. Then I would apply for apartments. I would take the two week Christmas break to make the necessary arrangements and move out. I would keep the kids stable and in their familiar places as much as possible. I had some friends that I could go to for emotional support and for other assistance, if needed, his worries were not abated by my explanation.
I want to ask this again. He emphasized, will you promise me not to be alone? When you tell Rick about the divorce I relented and told him I would wait until everyone was home from church, the in-laws would be present upstairs where they could hear if anything. Bishop Louis held my gaze longer and spoke with great conviction.
I want you to know that this is the right thing. The spirit has confirmed it to me. I will be here no matter where you are. My heart was full at this expression of commitment to me and my children. I stood up feeling ready to go and put things in motion. Will you promise me one last thing here? Take my card and call me if you need anything, I'll be here.
I took the card and promised that I would, I shook his hand and as I approached the exit, I looked back into his eyes. They were wet, but encouraging, I walked to the door, never to see him again. In retrospect, I can testify that all of those questions that the Bishop had to ask. We're from heavenly father.
He prompted me to prepare for what would be the most intense, emotional, mental, and physical abuse that I had ever experienced in my marriage. Rick's reaction to the news of the divorce was beyond anything I had ever imagined. And each question of the Bishop's council proved to be inspired to prepare me for what was.
As dangerous and harmful as things had been within my marriage, I had never been in so much danger as when Rick learned that I had decided to leave. I have since learned that this is truth quite often, that the choice to leave is often the most dangerous time for many victims of abuse after a horrendous and terrifying night, my children and I found ourselves homeless, but alone.
And Rick found himself in jail. Our escape had been narrow and harrowing. I called the Bishop, like he had counseled me to do, and he was able to help me pay for a few hotels. He even gave me the heads up when Rick was released from jail. After his drug buddies had posted bail for him, the phone call came just in time and began a race against time to leave my night class, collect my children and discipline.
Rick was out for blood. If I hadn't known that he was free and looking for me, I don't think I would be here now. I wish I could tell you that after escaping all was well, but it wasn't, it was just the beginning. I had not done my homework. When it came to apartments, I hadn't considered the possibility of waiting lists or how credit scores would affect my ability to secure an apart.
The result was that the children and I were homeless for three weeks while we tried to figure out what to do somehow through all of that, I never missed going to work, getting my children to school or attending my night class. My life had transformed completely since leaving abuse. And it has all been for the better those early frightening days of loneliness and uncertainty are far behind me.
As I look at how I got from there to here. My heart is full for Bishop Lewis, Bishop Connors, Bishop Simon, and Bishop Xavier. Each of them were incredibly Intune with the spirit. They knew what to say and how to help me. They offered spiritual guidance and practical assistance. They believed in me and in the Lord's desire to deliver me and my children from abuse.
However, I know that this is not the case for so many women who find themselves in abusive relationships, this sad truth breaks my heart. And so I wish to take a few moments to speak directly to bishops elders, quorum, presidents, relief, society, presidents, stake presidents, and other church leaders who will find themselves sitting across a desk from someone who is being abused.
There are seven things I would ask you to do for these people. One, listen to victims of abuse, believed them, pray about what they're saying to you and feel from the spirit. What needs to be said to know that while each situation of abuse is unique, they are all dangerous abuse, damages families.
Oftentimes far more than a family being broken. There is hope for every soul, but frequently in abuse, both souls need to separate from each other in order to heal, allow for it. Support victims of abuse in this separation. When they choose it three, be a steward of the victim's safety. Please take care of the immediate spiritual health and physical welfare of the victims by assisting them in finding a place.
Where they are safe and cared for, for never put a victim in a situation against their will. Remember, as they have suffered abuse, they've had control taken away from them. Your calling is to help them restore their agency.
If you attempt to pressure them or leverage them in any way, this will only make them more likely to push away from you and other potential help. The victim of abuse needs to be able to be the one to choose when to leave your calling is to be there for victims. As they consider each step and enact their choices, you can help them think things through you can help them explore options, but do not try to make choices for.
This means that sometimes you make clearly see the need for an abused person to leave, but they may not be ready to make that decision yet when that is the case, your role is to continue to connect with them and to assist them in building other supportive relationships, you can help them sort through their tangled thoughts and feelings.
But remember, the decision is theirs. You cannot make it. The more, they feel supported and connected. The more likely they will be able to make the choice to leave when it becomes necessary. Five seek to understand, be humbly aware that you don't know the situation that the victim faces behind closed doors.
Be wise enough to know that in most cases of abuse, there is a fairly convincing public facade in place. Do not assume that you understand the situation. Never suggest that it is a woman's responsibility to stick with her husband through an addiction, whether he tries to recover from it or not be cautious about simply bearing testimony or sharing scriptures about eternal families or commenting on how husbands and wives should love and support one another.
In some circumstances, this is an excellent practice in cases of abuse. Doing so can put a tremendous amount of pressure on victims and lead them to believe that their religious leader is counseling them to stay in an abusive situation. Number six, be extra aware of the women and children around you.
Watch their body language, notice how they connect or push away from others. Look for those who are in distress, reach out. And seek to know them better. Number seven, be the first to respond. When a victim of abuse asks for help, rally others to assist, let them know that your support for their safety and their right to be free of abuse is unconditional for anyone who is suffering from abuse.
Please know this, you are not alone. Many people are beside you and are only waiting to learn about your needs in order to encircle you and friendship, love and help. We are your supporters. Others have faced what you now face. And we have found a path to deliverance. We are eager to help you find yours as well.