“Won Without a Word” – At What Cost?

The Watchtower’s out-dated approach to domestic violence is putting women in harm’s way

“In like manner, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, in order that, if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives, because of having been eyewitnesses of your chaste conduct together with deep respect.” – 1 Peter 3:1-2, New World Translation

The above scripture is used repeatedly in Watchtower publications to define the role of a Christian wife who finds herself married to a husband who does not share her faith. The scripture advises women in such a situation that they can win over their husbands “without a word”, or by letting their actions rather than their words give evidence that faith can make one a better person. In no way does it command any wife who faces abuse from her non-believing husband to remain with him regardless, and endure a violent relationship in the blind hope that he will eventually embrace her faith and stop abusing her. And yet, this is precisely how this scripture has repeatedly been applied, albeit mostly through insinuation, over many decades.

Before proceeding further, we may ask ourselves: “Is it right to question or scrutinize the way scriptural counsel is applied by the Governing Body through their publications on these matters?” Please consider the following words of Jesus:

“Indeed, everyone to whom much was given, much will be demanded of him; and the one whom people put in charge of much, they will demand more than usual of him.” – Luke 12:48, New World Translation

The above words of Jesus remind us of the grave responsibility that members of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses have assumed for themselves in issuing ‘spiritual food’ on behalf of the ‘slave class’ to the global brotherhood. Whether they are self-appointed, or have been granted their lofty roles invisibly by God’s holy spirit, is a matter for each of us to decide individually. However they attained their position, they are certainly accountable for the way they exercise it, which would include the material they print in their publications – particularly if any printed advice leads to harm being inflicted on any of their readers. Remember that more than seven million Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world will make important life-altering decisions based on the publications of the Governing Body, which are promoted as containing guidance from God.

With all of the above in mind, please consider the experience quoted in the February 15th, 2012 Study Edition of the Watchtower on page 29, paragraph 12:

“Selma recalls a lesson she learned from the Witness who studied with her. ‘On one particular day,’ says Selma, ‘I didn’t want to have a Bible study. The night before, Steve had hit me as I had tried to prove a point, and I was feeling sad and sorry for myself.[i] After I told the sister what had happened and how I felt, she asked me to read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. As I did, I began to reason, ‘Steve never does any of these loving things for me.’ But the sister made me think differently by asking, ‘How many of those acts of love do you show toward your husband?’ My answer was, ‘None, for he is so difficult to live with.’ The sister softly said, ‘Selma, who is trying to be a Christian here? You or Steve?’ Realizing that I needed to adjust my thinking, I prayed to Jehovah to help me be more loving toward Steve. Slowly, things started to change.’ After 17 years, Steve accepted the truth.”

The above experience may be real, or it may be fictitious, but regardless, many who have read this account (both inside and outside of the Witness faith) have been saddened and worried by the course of action and attitudes that it seems to either promote or condone, depending on how you read it.

If one were to draw the worst possible conclusions from the experience, one might arrive at the following understanding:

  1.  A wife trying to ‘prove her point’ with her husband might be demonstrating a lack of Christian qualities (particularly those described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7), and if the husband were to then hit his wife, this may therefore be understandable.
  2. Feeling sad and sorry for oneself is not a proper way to respond to being beaten by your husband. Instead, you should think about what you can do to show love to him.
  3. A husband who receives “acts of love” from his wife is less likely to hit her, and it is therefore incumbent upon wives to show more love to their husbands if they do not want to be beaten.
  4. Any wives who consider it unacceptable for their husbands to beat them for ANY reason need to have their thinking ‘readjusted’.
  5. Leaving a husband who is violent is not advisable, and wives are expected to show more love to violent husbands in the hope that they will then change their behavior.

The wholly untrue assertions listed above may be the worst possible conclusions that one could conceivably draw from the ‘Selma and Steve’ experience, but nonetheless, they can still be drawn. Some have defended the use of the experience, pointing out that it does not promote spousal abuse but simply comments on what a certain individual experienced. Certainly, nowhere in the above text is Steve commended for hitting his wife; neither does Selma’s mentor directly tell her that Steve is justified in hitting her.

This does not mean, however, that quoting such an experience in the absence of any condemnation of domestic violence was wise or appropriate on the part of the Writing Department of the Governing Body, who will have prepared this material. Many feel that what is NOT said when dealing with such sensitive matters is often as important as what IS. By failing to denounce Steve’s behavior, either directly in the paragraph or through the use of a footnote, the Society have left their words wide open to be interpreted by some as excusing domestic violence. In many cases, this is precisely the conclusion that is being drawn.

A Disturbing Track Record

One of the most disturbing aspects of the use of this experience is that it seems to perpetuate the myth that any abusive husband will change his habits if exposed to the “miraculous effect” of Bible teachings. Some may not see it that way, and think that reacting so strongly to this experience in isolation is an exaggeration. However, many are perhaps unaware that this experience is just one in a long line of similar experiences that have been used by the Society to drill home their interpretation of 1 Peter 3:1-2 over many years. In fact (to my knowledge), the February 15th, 2012 Watchtower magazine features the nineteenth[ii] such experience in 54 years[iii] – namely that of a husband beating his wife; then studying the bible before finally relenting from his violent behavior with all concerned living ‘happily ever after’.

I do not attempt to convey the thought that Watchtower publications consistently give incorrect or out-dated advice on this issue. It is noteworthy that one 1994 Awake article urged victims to “seek emotional and physical protection from a competent third party”.[iv] However, it seems that for every article that correctly advises on the subject, there are several that entirely miss the mark and give deeply damaging advice. Take as an example the following 1979 Awake article, which implied that family disputes involving domestic violence are a waste of police time:

“Also, what is home violence doing to the quality of police and hospital emergency-room service that we get? Did you know that in some places more police die in the course of handling domestic violence than in any other avenue of their duty? Responding to family-fight calls eats up a major share of the policeman’s time, time that otherwise could be used protecting the rest of us from public crime and violence.” – August 5th, 1979 Awake

Though printed more than 32 years ago, the above statement is still deeply offensive to many. It has never been retracted, so I can only assume that it still represents the Watch Tower Society’s viewpoint today – despite its absurd implications. One can hardly imagine a battered wife turning up at her local ER, her face black and blue, and being turned away by doctors because the circumstances of her injuries are not considered serious enough (i.e. “Come back when a burglar does that to you, and not your own husband!”).

It would seem that the same hopeless naïvety and insensitivity to the plight of abused women has never really departed the Watchtower publications. As the world in general grows increasingly intolerant of such out-dated views, the rhetoric of the Governing Body through the Watch Tower Society’s publications grows more and more notably detached from reality. But why is this the case?

A Doctrinal Handicap

To a large extent, the writers of Watchtower publications have their hands tied doctrinally when approaching these issues. That is because Jehovah’s Witnesses do not currently accept domestic abuse as legitimate grounds for a ‘scriptural’ divorce, no matter HOW extreme the abuse may be.[v] True, Witnesses impose no sanctions against a battered wife who succeeds in obtaining a legal separation or divorce from her violent husband. However, she would not be allowed to subsequently remarry without being disfellowshipped from the organization as an adulteress.

Put simply, if a battered Witness wife takes her faith seriously, or wishes to maintain full contact with her believing family (or any children that may have been yielded from the abusive relationship), she is forbidden from having a relationship that is both loving AND intimate with any other man for the rest of her life. She must live out her days as a spinster for no other reason than because she didn’t know that her husband was a wife-beater before she married him.

I personally find it difficult to believe that Jesus had this exact scenario in mind when he said: “if ever a woman, after divorcing her husband, marries another, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12) Nonetheless, the Society takes the view that Jesus meant that a wife should remain married to her husband even if she receives violent treatment regularly– and it is this understanding of this key principle that flavors their approach to 1 Peter 3:1-2. This, in turn, leads to highly impractical and damaging advice being given almost every time the issue of domestic violence is touched upon, because the emphasis is placed on protecting the marital bond even at the expense of preserving human life.

If the Governing Body have doctrinally bound themselves to this narrow understanding of Jesus’ words, then that is one thing. Obviously, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion – and it is ultimately for the Christian wife to decide whether the Society’s view of divorce and separation in the context of domestic violence is valid and binding on her personally. What I find totally unacceptable is that the Governing Body should then take things further – making implications through the Society’s publications that might directly lead to abused women being exposed to dangerous or even life-threatening situations.

Certainly, when it comes to applying 1 Peter 3:1-2, the implication is consistently given that by persevering in a violent relationship, a battered wife will somehow succeed in ‘winning over’ her abusive husband, thereby bringing a swift and lasting end to the violence. The answer, it would seem, always lies within. Although this has doubtless been the case in certain instances, it is inconceivable that studying the Bible is a blanket panacea against the scourge of domestic violence that will effectively remedy ANY situation whatsoever. In short, there will always be casualties, and the Society completely fails to consider this when publishing experiences such as the one being discussed.

The Outside Perspective

It was with these thoughts in mind that I recently contacted Refuge, a prominent domestic abuse charity based in the UK. I was particularly interested in their opinion of the ‘Selma and Steve’ experience, because they are extremely active in campaigning against domestic violence, and providing protection and support for victims. I sent them a copy of the article, and this was their response:

“Despite Refuge’s tireless work in the last 40 years to change negative attitudes about domestic violence, some people still excuse domestic violence by perpetuating the myth that an abused woman is somehow to blame for the violence of her partner. No one can be blamed for another person’s violence or behaviour – he alone is responsible.  Domestic violence is rarely a one off incident and it’s not the result of a row going “out of control” – in fact it’s all about power and control, which one person chooses to exercise over another. The only person who can be blamed for the abuse is the perpetrator.  Violence and abuse, no matter what form it takes, is unacceptable and is against the law.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, you’re not alone and there is support out there. In the UK, call the Freephone 24-Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline, run in partnership between Refuge and Women’s Aid, on 0808 2000 247, or go online to www.refuge.org.uk for more information. If you’re worried about a friend or family member who may be suffering in silence, go to www.1in4women.com for expert information on how to spot the signs and support someone who’s going through domestic violence.

Domestic violence is a crime.  Don’t ignore it.”

It is noteworthy that Refuge, who were consulted prior to publishing this article, have placed great emphasis on urging readers of this website to contact them if they are undergoing domestic abuse – and I would echo such sound advice if you are in this situation. Bear in mind that the Governing Body’s approach seems to be that if Bible principles are applied, there will be no problems whatsoever requiring external support or intervention of any kind from “the world”. In fact, the Governing Body has used the pages of its literature to try and dissuade victims of domestic violence from availing themselves of, for example, the emergency services. It is little wonder that a religious body that issues such ludicrous advice would be the focus of concern from a domestic abuse charity. Unquestionably, it is the over-reliance of the Governing Body on Bible counsel coupled with its narrow-minded interpretation of scripture that is placing married female Jehovah’s Witnesses in peril – thereby making the above appeal all the more warranted.

Moreover, bear in mind that it is incumbent on the Governing Body to exercise their role as shepherds of the flock of God in a way that furnishes “a fine testimony from people on the outside.” (1 Peter 5:2; 1 Tim 3:7) If a prominent charity specializing in combating domestic abuse sees fit to issue the above response to the negative and out-dated approach that is perpetuated by this Watchtower article and others (without having any religious bias to influence their opinion in this matter), how does this reflect on the Governing Body’s claim to such worldwide ministerial prominence, serving as a mouthpiece to God’s spirit-directed organization? How does it reflect on Jehovah’s name?

But there is more to this than simply bruised egos, damaged reputations, and the stumbling of people beyond the Witness faith. There is the very real harm that can be inflicted upon those who passively subject themselves to innumerable beatings and vicious attacks, simply because they feel compelled by the Society’s publications to endure these in the false hope of ‘winning over’ their mate. By insinuating that an abusive husband may embrace the faith of his wife provided she ‘sticks it out’, the Society are putting countless women in harm’s way – in direct breach of their ‘duty of care’ as Christian shepherds. –1 Peter 5:2

The Wives Who Didn’t Win

It is profoundly irresponsible, bewilderingly arrogant and grossly negligent on the part of the Governing Body to persist in perpetuating the myth that advice contained in the bible constitutes a one-size-fits-all antidote to any and all cases of domestic violence. I have no way of knowing the true scope of the collateral damage that this approach has inflicted over the years, or the number of women who have been seriously harmed (or worse) by applying such ill-considered advice. All I know is, it must end now before there are any further casualties.

Whilst preparing this article I was contacted by a woman in New England who wishes to remain nameless. She told me that she has been a victim, not only of an abusive husband, but of a mindset within the Witness fraternity that increasingly favors the plight of the violent husband over that of his beaten wife. She had this to say:

“Very soon after our wedding the abuse started. It was a lot of mental, emotional abuse, as well as physical abuse. The typical hair pulling, face punching, body kicking, strangling, etc. He never beat me bad enough to put me in hospital, and I honestly think he and others justified the abuse as ‘not that bad’ as a result.”

What was the reaction of responsible shepherds within her congregation?

“Whenever I reached out for help in this organization, I was told to be a better wife. I was told to apply Christian principles. So I tried. The more I tried to be a submissive Christian wife as suggested, the more of a victim I became. Early in our marriage I had tried to leave him. I was told by my family, who were influenced by those in charge, that it was the wife’s duty to stop the abuse. The elders, who are trained on how to protect the congregation, told me that it was my duty to stop the abuse. There was no scriptural reason for divorce, therefore I had to stay and make it work.”

The woman could finally no longer tolerate the situation, and found the courage to leave the abusive relationship. Though not baptized (or liable for disfellowshipping), she was shunned by all of her former friends and family members. She summarizes her experience in this way:

“This advice, this ‘loving counsel’ that comes from the men in charge, not only created a domestic violence victim, it kept the abuse going. It blamed me, the victim, for it happening in the first place. It punished me for escaping and surviving.”

I would like to think that this woman, whom I greatly admire for coming forward, is the only one to have experienced such an ordeal. However, the more I look into this troubling subject, the more I am astonished by how much damage is being done by the Watch Tower Society’s stance on (what I believe should be) such a straightforward issue.

Indeed, on the website www.silentlambs.org there is a page under the heading “Battered Lambs” containing firsthand experiences from both women and children who have been abused by those within the Witness faith. At least 12 of the experiences related are of women whose husbands beat or otherwise abused them with little or no support or intervention from their local elders. I am sure there are many, many more of our sisters who are currently in abusive relationships but do not have the courage or opportunity to come forward without risking further harm.

If the Governing Body has any regard for the welfare of the many married sisters within the organization (or those married women who are studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses), not to mention its external reputation with domestic abuse charities such as Refuge, it will abandon its practice of using these ‘experiences’ to encourage women to remain in abusive relationships for the sole purpose of potentially converting their husbands, or observing the organization’s doctrinal standpoint on divorce.

It is not my intention to unfairly criticize the Governing Body or the Watch Tower Society over this issue. I have done my utmost to write fairly (and not unduly hindered by emotion) on what is an extremely sensitive subject, in a way that reflects both sides of the argument. I do not pretend to have all the answers as to how the Society can balance its views on the sanctity of marriage with the need to protect vulnerable women. However, I do know that to encourage women to remain in a situation that could result in them being beaten or worse is profoundly irresponsible, and in breach of the Governing Body’s duty of care as shepherds.

I would therefore urge the Writing Department of the Governing Body to (1) publish a full retraction concerning the offensive experience contained in the February 15th, 2012 Watchtower, including a full apology for any offence caused to victims of domestic abuse, (2) remind all publishers that domestic abuse of any kind is wrong and that abused wives should not have to endure violence for any reason, and (3) undertake never to publish any similar experiences or material giving advice of this nature in the future – either directly or by insinuation.

Any who agree that the Governing Body should take the above action can vote on the domestic abuse survey that has been compiled on this website in response to the ‘Selma and Steve’ article. You will also have the opportunity to add your own comments anonymously, and the results will be forwarded to the Governing Body. The purpose of this survey is to give voice to the many both in and outside the organization who object to the Governing Body’s approach to domestic violence, and feel it should be drastically updated in a way that reflects due regard for the sanctity of life.

If the Governing Body is truly humble, discreet and sincere regarding its responsibilities, it must ensure that the measures proposed above are implemented – not just to preserve its own ‘image’, but also to protect the lives of the many vulnerable women towards whom it owes a duty of care.

Your brother,

Cedars

 


[i] It has been noted that translations of this Watchtower article into other languages have lessened the severity of the account by avoiding words that directly convey ‘hitting’, or an act of violence on the part of Steve. It is not clear why this is the case. It may be that some of the Society’s translators were acting under their own initiative to make the paragraph more acceptable. Whilst it is pleasing to know that individuals reading the article in those languages may therefore be slower to connect the experience with the issues of domestic abuse, this does not excuse the way the experience was related in the original English source material.

[ii] The nineteen articles referred to are: w58 7/1 p. 400; w69 12/15 p. 740; g70 12/8 p. 10; g74 1/8 p. 11; w76 5/15 pp. 292-293; w82 7/15 p. 7; w86 8/1 p. 21; w90 8/15 p. 21; yb90 p. 64; yb93 pp. 179-180; w94 4/15 pp. 27-29; yb94 p. 145; w96 5/1 pp. 22-23; g97 4/22 p. 31; w99 1/1 p. 3; yb99 p. 60; w04 8/15 p. 10; w07 4/15 p. 6; w12 2/15 p. 29 – although there may conceivably be more that describe similar scenarios. In each of the foregoing references, an initially violent husband improves his behaviour thanks to his wife’s example and/or the husband eventually embraces the wife’s faith to varying degrees. Key: w = The Watchtower, g = Awake!, yb = Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

[iii] Watchtower publications older than 1950 were not available to the author at the time of writing this article, although the Watchtower magazine has been in print in some form or other since 1879.

[iv] See the February 8th, 1993 edition of the Awake, page 12 – in the article entitled “An End to Domestic Violence”.

[v] See w75 5/1 pp. 286-288, a Questions From Readers article relating to the question: “My husband sometimes beats me. Should I get a legal separation or divorce because of it?”

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17 Responses to “Won Without a Word” – At What Cost?

  1. cheryl way says:

    I have been in this situation. I even took it further, I now have a 5yr CPO civil protection order against my now ex-husband. He was in violation with two contempt f court admitted to judge he in fact was in violation. He spent 24hrs in jail.post bail. Even after showing the elders the court papers, they did nothing. They covered it up. I even had other witnesses who were going to back me in presenting the evidence of adultery, fornacation, physical abuse. Hospital records police records. The elder refused to see any of it. Told the witnesses, that were going to back me up, not to say any thing about what they knew or saw. He got off without a scratch after abusing me for 6yrs. Elders knew this was going on for those 6yrs. They caught me smoking. I was disfellowshiped. Wrote the elders told them I no longer was a JW. They took sides with my ex they had the nerve to show up in court when this all first started. 2 elders sat down the hall with my husband. While I sat alone down opposite hall. Now what was wrong with that picture? And they say they don’t take side. What would come into your mind if you were me? The ex witnesses are right its deprogramming time. Jehovah never intended for his flock to be she pared this way nor will He ever. Let the narsissitic be with the narsissitic. I want no part of it. The way they treated me hurt me more than my husband did. That’s a fact that will take a long time to heal. I trusted these elders and the idea I was in the truth. Once I stepped back I could see so clearly. I was also bring abused mentally by the elders. They even when so far as to tell me where I was going to sit in the kingdom hall. That was it for me. Please post this. I too want to help others.

  2. Julia Orwell says:

    My friend, a sister, was married to a sociopath who beat her almost to death, and she is now crippled. She left the brute, who of course found another girlfriend not long after (abusers always manage to find new dupes) so of course she is free to remarry according to that scripture.

    The problem is, that while she was with him, she repeatedly went to the elders for help, and there were two answers she kept getting:
    1. Be more submissive (she used to try to protect her son from getting beaten up)
    2. This is what you get for marrying an unbeliever.

    Even I know that no matter what you do, you can never win over a narcissistic sociopath. They have medical reasons for the way they are and submission will just make them worse!

  3. Barna er knapt nevnt.Barn får store psykiske problemer ved å oppleve at mor blir slått,de blir gjerne også selv slått.Et ekteskap har ikke lenger noen verdi hvis en mann ikke oppfyller sine ekteskapelige forpliktelser,det er nullstilt.Han er forpliktet til å beskytte familien,ikke utgjøre en fare for den.All vold er en kriminell handling,om den begås på gaten eller i hjemmet og er ingen privatsak.I Norge blir barnevernet kontaktet av politiet når de rykker ut med patruljer til hjemmevold for å skjerme barna.Hvis ikke mor fjerner seg fra en voldelig mann risikerer hun å miste omsorgen for barna og mannen får som oftest en fengselsdom.Flere 100 000 kvinner blir drept av partnere hvert år over hele verden fordi de reagerte for sent,ble overtalt til å bli,eller fordi de ikke hadde noen mulighet til å rømme.Lederne i Jehovas Vitner har en fariseisk tilnærming til bibelske fortolkninger,de er stivnet og mangler realitetsfårståelse og tilpasningsevne slik at reglene blir en tung byrde.Det er også tydelig at skribentene mangler livserfaring og klokskap fordi de låser seg fast mønstre de evner dårlig å komme ut av og dialoger blir umuliggjorte.

  4. 70wksofyrs says:

    I care so much about your experince and how it has affected the rest of your life. It’s a madness that many elders can be such hypocrites and many are trapped to express their view for fear of reprisal of being disfellowshipped.

    How are you now? How is your precious dear son?

  5. Ann says:

    These types of articles always irked me as untrained MEN are giving out the advice. I found myself in an abusive marriage very soon after my wedding. I left early on, when my daughter was an infant and life has gone well. However, the points Julia mentioned hit home. After meeting with my elders, I heard basically the same reaction. One elder, separately, told me the next time I saw him “If you have a reason to leave, do it and don’t ever look back”. I’m glad I did. Although I stayed in the organization, this was one of the issues that always bothered me, as WT is clearly not handling it correctly, nor qualified to give this council. I’m trying to think of ways to help a friend who is studying now (whole family except husband is JW) and parroting these kinds of comments from WT about her own situation “(
    Funny thing is when I left my husband, no one in the hall was there for me, except this same “worldly” friend. Now that she started studying after marrying a couple years ago, she constantly feels she isn’t doing enough for Jehovah and this is her persecution (allowing her “worldly” husband to demean and verbally abuse her). She isn’t even thinking straight and these articles DO NOT help women improve their situation.

  6. A. Chick says:

    I stayed for 8 years in a verbally abusive, controlling marriage. I married a regular pioneer and ministerial servant who appeared to be a great ‘spiritual’ person. After some financial issues and personal issues with ones in the congregation, he drifted away. I tried to keep going even though he didn’t, bringing our children, which eventually made more of a struggle between us and more tension. His rage and anger got worse. I wanted to leave for years, but there is the never ending hope ‘it will get better eventually if I do everything right’. My mother in law reminded me of her situation and what they had gone through since his father was a similar personality when younger. My father was a long time (alcoholic) elder and badly mistreated my mother, although I never saw any physical marks. I had seen the ‘other side’ of many elders, so I personally never went to them for counsel or had the amount of respect that we are supposed to have. I have several broken now single friends and relatives that stayed in abusive (emotionally and physically) who like me married active, good standing JW, but they did not get the happily ever after ending despite trying to be the good submissive, quiet wife. These marriages ended after the guy (after 10 plus years) decided to leave and find a new girlfriend. Was the years of misery worth it? We are left with being so broken down and discouraged and needing ‘professional’ counseling or anti depressants or anti anxiety medication just to get through the day. But, we did everything ‘right’. Hmm, for me I look at my life and ‘endurance’ and say ‘so this is my blessing?’ There is such a pressure for the wife to stay in a bad marriage and keep doing everything on her part to display the fruitage of the spirit and be quiet and submissive and continue putting up with it. If the wife leaves, then the guy finds a girlfriend while they are separated, the comments are made ‘see, she put him in that situation’. The wife is blamed since she left first. Or if you do leave without any ‘wrongdoing’ on either part, then you are stilled looked upon as being ‘worldly’ or spiritually weak to not stay and keep working on the bad marriage. There is no support or encouragement to help these ‘crushed’ souls like myself. I do appreciate the sanctity of marriage and yes, both parties should follow the principles and treat each other lovingly and with kindness, but you can be the most perfect wife and be treated like dirt. The situation does sometimes eventually get better, but in other cases, as in mine, it gets worse and worse to the point it may start as verbal and emotional abuse, breaking furniture or items, then can escalate to physical violence or endangerment. Where is the line when the good JW christian wife can say enough? I did not notice how bad it was until others in ‘his’ family started pointing out how worried they were that he was going to ‘snap’ against me or the kids. These situations do not just apply to the bible studies or women who marry unbelievers. Thank you for addressing this topic. This is something in my life that I deeply struggle with remaining a JW. I cannot continue with that viewpoint that divorce would not be an option other than adultery that I will put my health and that of my children in jeopardy if I ever end up in another bad relationship. I do not think Jesus Christ would want women to endure what some are subjected to with no way out for the possibility of ever having a loving, future relationship. There are many fine Christian elders, ministerial servants and regular pioneers that have another ‘side’ that bully, indimidate, and evoke fear as he displays his ‘headship.’ I am sorry, I will never go through what I put up with again. There has to be a better option for women who go through severe abuse. We cannot just pray that it will someday get better and stick our heads in the Bible. I tried and I ended up hospitalized from a nervous breakdown eventually. Fellow sisters, please use your instincts and preserve your health and sanity above all else. They are not all ‘won without a word’

    • Charlie43 says:

      I have only just seen these comments from a couple of years ago now, but it rings true in my case too. I would love to see some support group set up specifically for JW sisters affected by domestic abuse. The elders told me after I had separated that for the sake of the brothers in the cong. I should go at least go back and try again. You and I all know with these type of men it just doesn’t happen and the abuse started all over. The watchtowers touch on domestic abuse very briefly….I have researched and researched and found just a handful of articles or comments. Your comments are so true a.chick, and in the end you have to do what is right for your own mental health, sanity, children, and spirituality. Does Jehovah approve of these men’s actions and words? I know for certain he doesnt.

    • anonymous says:

      @A.Chick, your story sounds very similar to mine. I also married a pioneer and once we were married, he started punching me with his fist at the slightest thing. If he couldn’t find something the instant he started looking for it, he’d come after me. I never knew when it was going to happen or what would cause it. The verbal abuse was stunning. To the public, he seemed like the nicest guy in the world but behind closed doors, the real person came out.

      I wanted a divorce within one month of marriage but couldn’t get out of it without being the butt of everything bad being said about me simply because I was new in the “truth” and he was a 3rd generation born in with that great winning personality and a pioneer.

      At one point, I laid in bed for 3 days with a fever of 104 and I was so sick that I couldn’t get out of bed without passing out and I couldn’t urinate for 3 days because my kidneys had stopped working and he refused to take me to the hospital but he went himself because he didn’t feel good. I begged him to take me too but he refused because he said “he” couldn’t afford a hospital bill but I begged him that when he went to the doctor if he could at least tell the doctor how sick I was and so he brought home some medicine that the doctor could send home without a prescription (not antibiotics) and I took it and at the end of three days, my temperature finally dropped and I was finally able to go to the bathroom.

      We didn’t even have a telephone at the time so there was no way for me to even get any help if I could have crawled out of bed but I came so close to dying.

      We are supposed to forgive because people are “imperfect” but that is something that I can’t forget or forgive. There were so many things that I have had to live through because of this religion’s strict divorce laws that nobody should ever have to endure.

      I wonder what my husband would have done with my body if I had died. I believe with all my heart that he would have taken me out into the woods and buried me and told everybody that I ran away and he would have gotten away with it.

      There were at least two times that he told me that he could kill me and get away with it and I believe him.

      When men appear before the committee for a “wrong doing” they can make up any lies they want to about how their wife did this or that or she didn’t satisfy him sexually or whatever excuse they can come up with and since she isn’t there to defend herself, they can get all the sympathy of the elders and the wife has to wonder for the rest of her life, just what that lying piece of sh**t said about her behind closed doors and she has to live with these guys and put on a “happy” face for all to see and if she doesn’t put on that “happy” face, everyone at the Kingdom Hall will look at her like she’s a bitch who won’t be submissive to her husband.

      This religion is the worst way of life anybody could chose.

  7. whatevs says:

    If I had a nickle for every story I heard of a woman being hit, slapped, or outright beaten by her husband, even elders and servants, and the response from other elders being, “Well you must not have been submissive enough for him to feel he needed to hit you, and now you need to go home and apologize for having provoked him into hitting you,” I could retire on those nickles. One sister in our hall was hit by her elder husband so bad she needed to get her lip stitched up, and while she was in the hospital the other elders came and said the same thing to her. She had to face a judicial committee for “not being submissive enough.” (He hit her for some trivial garbage about dinner or something.) She divorced him because she was afraid for her teenage daughter (from a previous marriage) who was in the house, and she was reproved for the divorce. Surprise surprise the elder went to marry someone else even though it wasn’t a scriptural divorce and was just reproved for six months, then almost immediately made an elder again. Surprise surprise again, the daughter, who had never gotten baptized, never came into the truth either. Gee, wonder why she didn’t embrace a religion that endorsed the idea of her mother (who was a very lovely, very kind woman) being beaten for every perceived slight.

    I’ve been considering starting my own blog about all this garbage. I feel like I owe it to these women who are for some reason still endorsing this garbage to say the things they can’t say. Jehovah’s going to kill me at Armageddon anyway, so why not go out with a bang, y’know?

  8. 70wksofyrs says:

    Great article Cedars,

    The mishandling of Domestic Violence in the WTBTS is a serious problem, JWs in good standing beat their wives and kids. It has to stop.

    Cedars, can you bump this article up somehow so new visitors can see it and I can link something please.

    Only 8 comments, may be it will get more hits since you are more well known today than 2yrs ago.
    70wks…

  9. Mitch Jamison says:

    I was abused throughout my life by a narcissistic father. He studied with a Witness “brother” for two and a half years and in the end the brother quit the study because my father refused to make any changes that would be required of any christian in good standing. I totally understood. What others did not see is that we were being tormented and mentally tortured by the expectations of “setting the fine example” and “That he may be won without a word”.

    IT IS NOT OK to tolerate abuse because one calls himself or herself a Christian. IT IS NOT OK to watch your child be abused because you think GOD (Jehovah, although if you think HE is OK with abuse I doubt you know HIM) is proud of your efforts. My father has spread lies about me from the point he felt rejected by the brother who terminated the study until recently. No matter what I was always the one who was considered WRONG.

    Now I have a son who is 17 and he has been abused mentally, physically and sexually by a mother who was once baptized as a Witness who then returned to the “vomit” of the Catholic Church. None the less NOBODY has been willing to help me protect my sons and I have endured all the abuse from so called Christians who attend the Kingdom Hall. Before I quit going the question kept coming into my head “If Jesus says you will know his followers by the love they show among themselves, why is it I neither feel nor see love?” I only saw hypocrisy, judgement and verbal abuse. I was even told that people had a hard time trusting me and the things I said because I was too nice. Really? I told the person I was not putting on nor trying to be nice, I was just being myself. I knew the pain others had caused me and I made choices to never treat others in the ways others (Mostly Witnesses) treated me.

    So if being loving and kind at the Hall bring you more abuse and accusations, why go? I prayed fervently to Jehovah, asking HIM if I was missing something and if I needed to learn obedience as the Bible said Jesus learned by the things He suffered. I was more and more convinced that the behaviors I was suffering was just plain wrong. I was sad to come to the conclusion, but I saw the only way I could have any peace in my relationship with Jehovah was to leave the religion.

    Upon leaving I suffered a nervous breakdown but I was relieved to realize, once I came out of it, that everything I learned doctrinally was sound. I could build on that. I continued to work on healing from the years of unnecessary abuse including being disfellowshipped on false pretenses. In fact I never really knew the reason I was disfellowshipped until ten years after I was reinstated. It was common knowledge to almost everyone that had known me in my youth that I was removed for adultery and I had never been told that and I had not done it. I was told by the presiding overseer that I was being removed because he was tired of dealing with me.

    Even when a second committee was brought in I was not allowed to speak in my own behalf, the whole conversation was held behind my back. I was ordered to go sit in the library. I was only invited to come out After the brothers from the neighboring congregation were gone. I ask you this, “How can anyone repent when he does not know what he is charged with?”

    I believe Satan has been behind these and many other situations, because humans dont stop to question what they believe and why. One thing I learned with the nervous breakdown was that nothing is worth believing UNLESS you can prove it within yourself. The truth (not THE “TRUTH” according to JW’s) is self evident. Jehovah will always help us gain clarity if we are determined to see and know what is actually true. Just because you have learned or were told what is true does not mean it is part of your identity and character. Getting work on time to avoid getting in trouble is not a mark of Character, that is the model of the Devil.

    The following is my story. You can read any of the stories I have posted there. http://www.divinecaroline.com/life-etc/culture-causes/my-so-called-life-so-far-part-1

  10. Anonymous says:

    Decades ago, I married a demure divorced sister that was considered exemplary as a Christian. Soon after the wedding she casually mentioned that she had an alcohol problem; something she had artfully concealed before our marriage.

    Soon thereafter, the problems started in earnest. I told the elders about her alcohol confession, but she denied it. Within a few months I was being physically abused while being warned that I would be DF’d if I didn’t stick around. She accused me of hitting her (which I never did) and the elders jumped on that as a way to intimidate me.

    We ended up divorced and I ended up needing years of professional help. I essentially had PTSD. It’s been over thirty years, and I’m finally my old self, but much of my life has been ruined. I’m no longer active as a JW, nor do I ever intend to be in the future.

    I faded without judicial action, so my family is free to associate with me, but I’m no longer comfortable around them and we visit rarely these days. Just writing about this tears at my heart. I feel small, frightened and powerless when I remember it, even though I’m both tall and physically strong.

    I remarried another sister, but the effects of gossip and meddling tainted that union and caused it to fall apart. I wasted years and years on a religion that abused me repeatedly and I can never undo that.

    The alcoholic sister to whom I was once married, is still an active JW and still considered exemplary in spite of the fact that it came to light she had been sexually immoral on a number of occasions but usually with no judicial sanction. The elder that manipulated matters to keep her problems from being brought to light is still prominent and used at District Conventions, even though it became obvious to the body of elders that he had concealed serious wrongdoing on her part. He was never removed as an elder, merely sent to a neighboring congregation. (Sounds like the Catholic model of handling abuser priests.)

    As traumatic as all of this was, at least it started me on the road to questioning the validity of the Organization’s claims. My outrage over injustice and PTSD subsided when I let go of the notion that the Organization played a special role in God’s purposes. Once I realized that they were just another man-made organization I no longer felt the outrage and I started to recover. I had 15 years of inner conflict before I reached that point, but once I did my health improved and I found inner peace that had been lacking.

    I still believe in a Creator, call Him God, Jehovah, Yahweh or what have you, and I prayed long and hard before it became apparent that I had placed my trust in men (and by extension, a man-made organization). That was also what helped me to find a huge flaw in their beliefs; the JW concept that Christ died only for a few anointed Christians and that the salvation of others was dependent upon our association with the JW organization. Once I realized the import of that false teaching I felt free for the first time in my life.

  11. isawthelight says:

    A woman has to go through all these beatings just to win him over to a cult?. That’s what it all boils down to.Those old men in the gb don’t care how you win converts, just as long as he donates money to their cause.I have come to the conclusion that all religions are evil. And can anyone tell me what has religion done for mankind?Give me one thing. I am prepared to wait until Gabriel blows his horn and so far I cant hear no horn,

  12. Amanda says:

    Having grown up with a father who was extremely abusive and then a husband, I feel very strongly about this issue. I vividly remember some outrageous example of a sister with an abusive unbelieving husband who actually went after her with a machete or some weapon and she had to spend the night up in a tree, and of course he magically stopped abusing her eventually. I really want to find this example, but I don’t have the time, resources, or patience to do so.

    • Winston Smith says:

      @Amanda
      As I am sure you are well aware, sometimes spouses end up trading one form of abuse for another (e.g. physical abuse for mental/emotional abuse). Or perhaps the abused spouse learns to give up their free will to the extent that the abuser is content to have control over them without the need for physical abuse. It’s amazing the way abuse is tolerated in this organization and the different ways it is manifested.

      WS

  13. Minnie says:

    Today, I am married to a brother. Well, he is baptized. Used to serve as an elder but was disfellowshipped for adultery in first marriage. People worshipped this man. Because I have a mind and I can speak up when I don’t agree with something, he yells so I stopped talking. Lately, he’s been getting mad because I won’t go to the meetings and okay his game, he started punching me in my head, chest, throwing me around and even bust my lip. Hmmph. Braces on and my lip was morning he wanted me to go but I declined. He made threats really quietly so the kids wouldn’t hear. Said he was gonna ‘fix me’ when he gets back. He went to the meeting. I listened in and heard his comments on the lesson. I called the elders and they told me they couldn’t talk to me unless he agreed, it was adultery or domestic violence. Well, he denied anything was wrong. Said I’m not spiritual and I won’t listen. Said I have an independent spirit and thinking of Satan. Idk friends. I thought about writing a book under a pseudonym. I do believe Jehovah is real. I’ve been praying. I am not perfect. I’ve made mistakes, but I didn’t deserve to get beat like that. I screamed for the kids to call a particular brother and they didn’t. The other day I asked why? They said they didn’t think he was hurting me ‘that bad’. I apologized to them for having had that experience. I felt like I should just give in and give up the fight. He’s already maligned my name and character with the brothers. Idk. I feel like I’m in a twilight zone.
    I just feel like— I don’t care if he kills me. I don’t know what he’s gonna do when he gets back home. What a loving arrangement.

    • factsnotfiction says:

      @Minnie

      This is an old Article not many will see your comment.

      Most important thing is you need to be safe! It is unlikely you will get help from the Elders and I wouldn’t rely too much on getting help from Jehovah either. The one person you know you can trust is YOU. You say you are strong minded, then you are a strong person.
      You don’t want to teach your kids that its ok to hit Women and you don’t want to teach them to just accept being beaten either. I would suggest you go somewhere safe if you are in danger and contact the Police. Watchtowers reputation for dealing with abuse is not good.

      Above all stay safe. No one should have to live with abuse! Ever!!

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