Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Facing Domestic Violence in the Church: One Women's Story

From Crosswalk:

From Flower Girl to Fair Lady: Freedom from Domestic Violence

Marie Barlow Martin Guest Contributor

"Note: Watching her on stage, no one knew that singer/actress/musical theater star Marie Barlow Martin was an abused spouse.  But the reality is, domestic violence happens even in seemingly-stable Christian marriages. Now years later, re-married to producer/songwriter Gordy Martin, Marie has dedicated her talents to singing inspirational praise & worship music and helping women find the courage to tell their secrets. 

Of all the roles I have played in my career in musical theater, my favorite role was that of Eliza Doolittle in "My Fair Lady."  When Eliza exclaims, "The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves but how she is treated," I knew exactly what that meant.  Because at the time I became Eliza on stage, at home, I was living as the victim of domestic abuse.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and I have a burden for women who share my story.  Statistics are startling, but having lived through it, not surprising.  On average, a woman in the United States is battered by a partner every 12 to 15 seconds.  Up to six million women are believed to be beaten in their homes each year.  And over thirty percent of all homicides of women in America are committed by intimate partners. 

I have vivid flashbacks of the nights of terror, wondering at times if I would live or die - often wishing for the latter.  Spending nights hiding in my locked car - huddled in the back - the safest place I could find.  Praying out loud to God --as violent hands gripped tightly around my neck - that He would send his mighty angels to protect me in that moment of surrender to my assailant.

I had not told anyone of my circumstance, and looking back now, I realize what a mistake that was.  But the chaos of such a life began to seem normal.  And I began to believe that I didn't deserve better treatment - that I was worthless and that it was somehow my fault.  The most influential and important voice in my life at the time was telling me I was nothing but a lowly flower girl... and I believed it.  And in virtual isolation, who was I to tell?  Who would believe me anyway?  After all, my husband and I faithfully attended bible study and fellowship several days a week.  He was liked by everyone.  To the few who knew us in public, we were a fine pair, yet in the privacy of our darkness, we kept the secret locked away. 

I remember in the middle of rehearsals for a Gilbert & Sullivan production, my husband was in such a rage that he cracked one of my ribs.  I covered it up.  I wrapped my ribs as tight as possible so I could stand and breathe correctly enough to hit the high notes.  Although I was in terrible pain, the show went on.  My husband was sorry, and my secret was kept...

... on the occasion of National Domestic Awareness Month, I want to talk directly to women who are living in an emotionally or physically abusive relationship. TALK ABOUT IT! There is power in sharing what is happening to you. It doesn't matter who you share it with - a pastor, a counselor, a friend, a family member or even a stranger. When you share your struggles, you become stronger, and you are able to see things in a different way.

The power of the abuser is to isolate you so that you will remain weak and under his or her control. The way to counter that is to come out of isolation. Shame keeps you in seclusion, but the shame should not be on you. My personal faith in a living God who loved me and wanted the best for me, gave me the strength to get out of that pit of loneliness and despair and gave me the shelter I so desperately longed for... 

f you are living in an abusive relationship, I beg you to hear God's voice speaking through me directly to you today. Follow me out! You are a Fair Lady, fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of almighty God. You can be free of your fears. You are loved, you are cherished. Find help today. God has a better life awaiting you."

To read this article in its entirety, click here.


Emybloom said...

This is so powerful and true.

Thank you for posting it :)

Alisha De Freitas said...

You're welcome. I'm so proud of the writer for sharing her story. I know it had to be hard, but it's a very important issue. I think it's also a very overlooked one within the Church.

Thank you for commenting, Emybloom!

Anonymous said...

The hardest thing about domestic violence is being controlled in the mind. My ex just convinced me that there was nothing abnormal, that I had to try harder, that it was my fault if things weren't OK. Then there was the constant teaching of the church to never contemplate separation, and that no matter what, the marriage had to come first, even if the kids were dying on the inside. Even now, after leaving, the abuse doesn't stop but it does get very covert and hard to prove to others. His attorney is a Christian lady who is lovely, thank God, but to my dismay, she believes him that he isn't violent and wants me to stop alienating the children, even if there has been a successfully prosecuted assault case against him! So I either have to put up with people's contempt of me out of ignorance of domestic violence or put up with the shame for those who know he is and wonder how I could ever have supported such a pathetic jerk for so many years and damaged my kids in the process.

Alisha De Freitas said...


I'm so sorry about everything you are going through and the pain and confusion your children must be experiencing as well.

I'm going to post a great portion of a book about marriage very soon regarding the roles of husbands and wives and the thorny issue of submission. I believe many churches have improperly taught on what submission really means, twisting it to the point where some women resemble slaves. Other times, churches don't touch the subject at all, leaving couples to try to decipher such vital teachings on their own, with dire circumstances.

I don't know you, Anon, but please rest assured I will keep you and your family in my prayers. And if you want to correspond privately, my email is

Please always remember God's promise to never leave or forsake us, even during our darkest of times. Joy comes in the morning, Sis.

Alan said...

Wow Anonymous, you will definetly be in my prayers. I know that the church teaches to stay and work it out no matter what, but there are some things in my opinion that just cross the line, and abuse is one of them. The moment it happens, you need to leave, because it will happen again.

Even in my most frustrating times of my marriage, or disagreements that my wife and I have had, never has violence or even the slightest thought about it entered my mind.

As a man, I apologize for the way you have been treated, as this is not a representation of all of us, nor should it be a representation of anyone period. I do hope things will improve for you and that through all of this your walk with God will be stronger than you could have ever imagined.

Alisha De Freitas said...

Thank you, Alan. Your words are powerful.

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