There is nothing so discouraging, so soul-crushing, as slavery. Abuse is a form of slavery. Anyone who says otherwise has never experienced this clenching, strangling, controlled, humiliating, indentured servitude, or is in denial that they are under its weight. The abused has no rights, receives no pleasures that are not gifted by her master, to dole out as he wills, in what measure and at what times please him, arbitrarily, like a rat in a maze, a perfect Skinner’s box. There is no one-to-one ratio of wages, no guarantee she will please him this time, enough to earn food, affection, a kind word, a gift, a home that is not broken or squalid, or any help whatsoever with all her endless duties, nor any basic human decency. It may be months, years-yes, literally, years yes, it is true, I myself have gone long months without-before such a thing occurs again, is bestowed again, by the one who deems himself benevolent, generous, for the scraps he feeds his dog.
The abused are a slave to their master who controls all through guilt, shame, manipulation, fear, and violence-violent words, outbursts, and actions. The victim feels helpless, hopeless, and all control is in her master’s hands. Who could hope in such a circumstance? Who could have joy? Nothing like that remains. Only brief glimpses, brief tastes, strategically placed when there would be an audience. So the master appears benevolent, so the relationship appears loving, safe. So that no one threatens to remove the slave from her master, the victim from her abuser, no one breathes a word of escape, of freedom. And she dares not hope for it. And he makes her believe it is impossible. No one cares for her as he does, no one will ever treat her as well as he does. His behavior is normal, he lies. All men treat women this way. All women live like this, poor, oppressed, overwhelmed by endless rules, new ones cropping up every day, in filth, in broken houses which will never be repaired, in squalor it is their job to keep clean for appearance’s sake.
All pressure to cook, clean, work hard, give him all her money to spend as he pleases, to be sexy and desirable but only to him and but never to exercise, to neve allow anyone else to see or comment on her body or appearance or else he will be furious and punish her, to indulge every whim and desire of their master, every mood, to cater to all he dictates and desires and settle for the random, squalid crumbs he offers—this is the life of the abused, of the slave.
This is the wearying, soul-crushing, numbing existence of the abused. Very soon she becomes a shell, a ghost of a person.
I am my own ghost. I want freedom! Her soul screams, to a world that would send her back, telling her she must FORGIVE! AGAIN! Pray harder and he will change! God is Santa Claus and if we pray hard enough for other’s sins God will force them to repent because of our holiness and our prayers and our hard work! We can earn the salvation of others by our own deeds, our own example, our own prayers! So screams the false doctrine and false prophets and wicked leaders and fellow abusers who seek to hide their own sin because it too closely resembles that of the slave master. They see his sin in themselves and must not align with the victim, lest they too be convicted of their own hurtful, hateful words of shame and guilt and placing their own guilt on another, the blame for their own pain or emotions or suffering another human’s cross to bear.
And what is worse than this slavery? The false promise of hope. The carrot dangled on a stick always out of reach. The promise (lie) that he won’t do it again, that this was the last time, that he’ll change, that he’ll get better, that it was her fault, and if she never ________ again then he never will again because it’s all her fault really. She should forgive him, again, submit to him, again, endure it again and again and again. Besides, If she wasn’t so _____ he wouldn’t have to hurt her, to talk to her that way, to treat her like that, to abuse her. The abuse is her fault, he claims. And so she wears the burden of guilt, of shame, of a cross that is not hers, that she cannot remove until she gains her freedom from him. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, said Solomon. What hope is there in slavery? Freedom is the only hope. Full, permanent freedom. Why do some rejoice at the death of a marriage? How wicked and selfish must they be! So are the whispers behind the fists of the loved, the provided for, the safe.
Words of judgment fall heavy from the mouths of the ones who’ve never been hit with words or fists or open hands, who’ve never cowered in a corner or hidden under a bed or in a closet or screamed for their lives or felt hands around their throat, their arms, their face, their mind.
The mind game is the worst and leaves the most lingering damage. It takes the most work, the most time, to heal. Most suffer silently and no one ever knows except for an outburst they deem strange. Why would someone cry and shake because dinner was burnt? Why would someone scramble to clean a broken glass, apologizing profusely as if a great evil had been performed? Why would someone flinch when an angry word was spoken towards them (because they know the physical retaliation that will soon accompany it). Only someone who has been abused or known the tale of the abused knows the fear, the terror, that accompanies any and every mistake punished in the torture chamber, the prison that was their “home.”
And then, after the punishment, then comes blame, followed by affection. If the victim, the slave, bows her head, admits fault, receives her punishment with silence and resignation, then she is gifted the kind word, the gentle touch, the affection for which she craves and longs for and so seldom receives.
This is how she earns her reward, earns kindness: by first submitting to punishment for a crime she did not commit: his feelings. He attributes the punishment to something else, but the survivors all know the truth. We all have learned through much hard work on the road to healing that because he cannot deal with his anger, his insecurity, his fear, his __________ and because he was punished, perhaps as a child, perhaps by a parent, for his feelings, so he passes on to his victim, and his children, and the sins of the father visit the third generation, and the fourth, and the fifth, until someone screams so loudly for freedom that they chase it and never look back. Until someone pursues it no matter what pastors and lawyers and friends and parents and spiritual advisers stand in her way. Their foolish, blind, empty advice be d-----. Their guilt and shame are nothing compared to what she had -placed on her shoulders by him, under him.
Freedom is cool water to a dying, dehydrated, desert slave. Freedom is all she desires. Freedom from him and all his cronies, his flying monkeys, his worshipers, his deceived and deluded followers. Freedom, at any cost, even poverty, even loneliness (how could she be more lonely than she was with him?), even disgrace, shame, humiliation—has she not suffered all these silently for years at his hand anyway? What difference is it if others join in, if she is free?
Oh freedom. Oh to be free. May you, safe person, never take a day of it for granted. Thousands are suffering in literal and figurative cages across the globe as you read these words. May you never look down in judgement on the slave, on the abused, on the victim. May you always encourage, uplift, aid, believe the victims, lest the punishment of the master, the wicked, the evil one fall upon your head as well. “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” (Tolkein). And may the victims all find freedom. May we all be fully free. This is my hope and prayer for us all every day. “For a person is a slave to whatever masters him.” (2 Peter 2:19)
© 2020 Amanda Lorenzo
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on December 30, 2020: