I Was an Abused Wife: Why Didn’t Anyone Help Me?

There is a question that will forever plague me. Where was my help when I needed it? Did I hide my abuse that good? Did I fake it so well that nobody saw even a hint of what was happening? Did my husband have everyone so fooled that they didn’t believe he was capable of any wrong in our marriage?

I’ve thought hours upon hours about this question, and I really don’t have an answer that satisfies me. I was a member of a close knit church family. It HAD to be apparent that something was wrong in our marriage. Heaven knows that I tried giving hints!  All victims of abuse will try giving hints as their plea for help! Many times I sat on that cold, hard church pew with rivers of tears flowing down my face. Do you want to know how many times I got asked what was wrong?  NONE!

I had a sister who lived with us for several years. It was only after John and I separated that she said, “I used to lie in bed and hear you crying for hours. I wanted to ask you what was wrong, but I was too afraid.”  

She heard the crying, yet didn’t ask! She saw the sadness, but never went beyond wondering why. She was too afraid to ask. Most everyone has been in this kind of situation. We don’t want to interfere mostly because we don’t want to make things worse!

You might be wondering why “I” didn’t take action. Why did I continue to live in a relationship where emotional abuse had been going on for years and years?

Now that I’m free from this abuse, I am finally beginning to understand. There are layers of pain from emotional abuse. Layers upon layers of pain and hurt. Depression. Sadness. Anger. Guilt. Frustration. Loss of self-respect. Lack of courage or inner strength. A growing dependency on the abuser. Feelings of no worth. And FEAR. So much FEAR.

I was so afraid that I wouldn’t even allow my mind to dream of a life without abuse until things got so critical that I wanted to die. I can remember laying on the couch curled up in a ball when the kids got off to school thinking of how much I wanted to die. I never came up with an actual plan for ending my life, but I wished things like dying in my sleep. That’s how badly I wanted relief from this daily agony.

Again I have to ask. Didn’t anyone see the hollow look in my eyes? Didn’t anyone pick up on the extreme sadness with my life? I guess not. In fact, I can probably say they didn’t. Victims of abuse are very good at hiding the abuse, lying about the abuse, and covering up for the abuse. Why? Because it takes so much strength to talk about it. There is such a feeling of shame and an overpowering feeling that nobody really cares. And, the constant, nagging fear of rejection. 

My abuse was not likely to be seen or understood by others mainly because when people looked at me they saw me as part of a “couple.” And the other half of that couple (John) was loved and adored. Nobody would ever think he was capable of being anything except a wonderful, caring husband! He had masterfully created an iron wall of support for himself over the years. He knew what he was doing and his actions were very intentional!  Abuse is never a mistake! 

Can you begin to understand how deep and complicated abuse of any kind is? It’s part of a tangled web of deceit and lies.  There was a constant tug-of-war going on inside of me. I wanted to get away, but didn’t know how. I wanted my life to be free of this pain, but felt I had no support at all. I wanted to break away — like a person being held hostage — but kept thinking of what a failure I’d look like to others because nobody would understand. I felt alone and desperate and had no clue how to get the help I needed!

Inside I was falling apart. Piece by piece my heart was breaking. It was a slow wearing down until I felt like I was nothing but an empty shell.

I can’t tell you exactly how it happened. But, I remember a friend of my sister’s calling me because she was in an abusive relationship. Her husband had a raging anger, and he was trying to keep their son from her. She wanted a suggestion for a Christian counselor. (What a joke that she was asking me for advice when I needed counseling as much as she did!)

I managed to find her a Christian counselor and she kept in touch throughout the months. She separated and got custody of her little boy. She was beginning to get her life back. Emotionally she was getting stronger. And,  as her way of thanking me for helping her, she invited me on a beach vacation with her and three other women.

I have no idea how I got the courage to go, but I did, and it was on that trip that I knew I had to get help. Hearing about how her life was improving made me realize that there was some hope for me, too.

Coming home was horrible. It was a ten hour trip, and with each passing hour I grew more and more tense and felt sick in my stomach. I knew then that I definitely needed to do something. It would be another two years of deep, emotional pain and millions of tears until I would finally get the courage to get some help.

Next time, I will share with you that critical defining moment in my life when I made the phone call that would ultimately save my life. 

Emotional abuse is so difficult for others to see. There are no bruises or broken bones. There are no marks around the neck from being strangled. Instead there is brokenness in the heart, and that’s a brokenness that can’t be seen by the naked eye. It’s such a hidden, safely guarded pain!  And, the abuser knows it. The abuser knows how to keep pressing down on a victim until it’s even hard to breathe! And, all the while putting on that very polished exterior of love to others. Believe me, the abusers know exactly what they are doing! 

If you are in an abusive situation please know that you aren’t alone. I thought I was, but there was help. I just had to take the first step to find it. I can finally breathe now. I go to sleep at night in peace. I don’t soak my pillow with tears anymore. I want to live and not die. I treasure every beautiful moment of life, and you can, too! Yes, it’s hard. Really, really hard taking that first step to get away, but it is the best, most wonderful gift you will ever give yourself!  You’ll be giving yourself back the gift of life! There is nothing better than that!

To those who are suffering physical and/or sexual abuse, I beg you to get help now. Don’t delay! The longer you wait, the more trapped you will feel. Abuse squeezes the life right out of you until you finally collapse in despair and feel so alone, discouraged, and beaten down that you feel there is no way out.

Please know you are not alone!

  1.  Visit my son’s website at jimmyhinton.org. There is help! Use the resources  given on Jimmy’s website.
  2. Sign up for email notifications for new posts. It’s easy. Just enter your email on the home page where it says “subscribe” to the right of the page.
  3. Once you’ve signed up for email notifications, you will also be given notification of new podcasts from Jimmy and myself. These podcasts are powerful. You won’t want to miss even one!
  4. Need more help? Please visit the FAQ page on A Cry For Justice.

The more educated you are, the more empowered you will be! It’s time! The time is now for all abuse to end! Please, let’s be a voice together and end this abuse!






14 thoughts on “I Was an Abused Wife: Why Didn’t Anyone Help Me?

  1. I know from a different post that when you left he was under investigation for embezzlement, but people still took his side!! Is it because they thought the embezzlement charges were false? Or because they didn’t think a felony should bother you?

    • I didn’t leave John. Interestingly, John left me. The embezzlement charges took place in 2000; he and I had a crumbling relationship after that until he finally left 7 years later. He knew that eventually I would leave. I was seeing a counselor and an attorney (to try to get protection from all of the money John owed — $1.2 million in restitution. That’s a LOT of money! A lifetime of money!) John was surrounded by supporters simply because people didn’t want to believe he could be guilty of fraud and embezzlement. He had worked years gaining the trust of so many people. Why would they question him now? This was manipulation at its best, and is not uncommon in cases of masterful abuse as this was.

      • Now I remember that he left, but he told others that “she kicked me out”, which was a lie-just like other lies you mentioned on today’s podcast. And even your kids believed it for a time……did your kids believe the embezzlement charges immediately? Or how long did it take them?

        • Yes, this was one more lie in the pack of lies, and as I mentioned in the podcast, it was sometimes enough to make me feel as though “I” was going crazy! It’s hard to always be sifting through lies to try to figure out truth from lie.

          First of all, I would NEVER place any kind of blame on the kids for believing John. As you heard Jimmy talking in the podcast, John was the dad that other kids wished they had. So, they had no reason (at that time) to believe anything except John’s innocence in the embezzlement charges. I had kept journals throughout the entire six years of investigation. Honestly, that was one of the most trying times I’ve ever lived through. That period of six years would make a fascinating book as all of the lies were beginning to unravel and more and more truth (about John) was coming out. There was nothing at all to indicate to me (at that time) anything that pointed towards even the most remote possibility of him being a pedophile. Of course, now I know differently. The lies take on so much more meaning to me now.

          He was crafty, but my journaling proved to be extremely helpful to the Federal investigators. They took my journals and poured through them and used those journals in that week-long trial.

          John was so angry with me. He wanted to come off looking clean as a whistle, but…..that was a lie. He knew what he was doing and his actions hurt a lot of people. Like I mentioned — this investigation and trial could be another whole book, chapter, and verse uncovering many, many more details about the hidden side of John that was finally being exposed.

  2. Dear Clara, You have received two very helpful reply’s from both Anu & Shirley….. To Anu, I want to say a deep thank you for your response. Please please do not say sorry for being “long winded”. I am also a “Clara”. A wife who was downtrodden for over 30 years by a “Christian” husband and now has a criminal record. Your writing Anu, is also AMAZING!
    To Shirley, Thank you for your honesty. I know “friends” who have left me, for all the reasons you describe. Fear is so paralysing for the abused wife and for the friend who “senses” something does not look/sound right.
    I pray for all of us to trust that “God does not waste the pain” and I thank you Clara for believing and trusting God to use you for His eternal plan and shine a light on emotional marital abuse.

  3. Oh how I HATE how you were treated! How I HATE that our paths got lost! I would have seen the sadness in your eyes! But I do remember calling you a few times over the years you NEVER let on there was abuse happening. We love you Clara Luca Hinton and are so very proud of the steps you have taken to help yourself but to help others!

    • Deb,
      I had many opportunities to share with people, and especially with a close friend such as you. Next week in the blog post I’ll talk more about why it’s so terribly difficult for victims of abuse to say anything to anyone. There really is nothing that you or anyone could have done except to be a listening ear. All victims of abuse (unless they are young children) have to take that courageous first step to speak out. And, believe me it takes tons and tons of courage!

      Thanks so much for your comment, Deb. You continue to be a blessing in my life!

  4. Clara, once again I want to reiterate that you are an AMAZING writer. When you write and we read, it’s like you bring us into your world.

    I am praying telling your story is cathartic for you, since you held in so much pain for so many years! Hard, too, as I recall reading how you would shake and become quite worked up, remembering so much pain. It’s a bit of give and take, right?

    You are so right on about everything. EVERYTHING. It is rare that I’ve seen somebody tell it “as it is” as straightforward as you are. THANK YOU! It needs to be understood what abuse does to a person.

    It may be that one of your readers knows someone like you, and simply did not see what was right in front of them the whole time. Perhaps they will reach out to that loved one, and ask: is something wrong?

    Possibly one of the reasons no one asked you, or offered support—is the thought that “it’s none of my business; it’s not my place to meddle. This might be gossip, or just hearsay. We don’t want to hurt an innocent man by hearing things about him that may or may not be true. I don’t want to take sides in this.”

    Ironically, Christians can be MOST guilty of gossip and/or meddling! But this is something we tell ourselves to get out of trying to inquire or reach out to someone.

    But I again think you were spot on with your observations. And I’m beyond sorry that no one saw your pain, or wanted to see (IMO, it’s more of the last one) When we see pain, and choose NOT to look away—we are accountable to do or say something. And most people, Christians most of all, don’t want that on their shoulders.

    It’s risky business to get involved, and you MUST take sides. There’s no middle ground, no staying neutral. If you try to, you are siding with the abuser, whether you realize it or not.

    I’ve been blown away at John’s mastery of manipulation. He really did a number on so many people. If they DID see you crying, I wonder if they thought something ELSE was wrong, not anything to do with your marriage. That was just too unbelievable to consider.

    And you were right on: I think they saw you as his wife, not as an individual separate from him. Many women “lose” themselves in an abusive marriage. They are dehumanized and minimized. As a preacher’s wife, that must be a major issue, too, because ministry is so consuming in general. Now toss his abuse on top of all that, and the results are simply disastrous for the victim!

    Here’s a tip to “spot” emotional abuse victims: a person who is loved, feels loved and knows they are loved by their spouse—will show it. No, they are not going to be bouncing around without a care in the world. But look beyond that outward show.

    Yes, victims are good at hiding abuse, but look into their eyes. Jesus said the eyes are the window to the soul. Clara spoke of a hollow look on her face, in her eyes. Watch for the signs, and even if the victim denies it when you speak to them, stay connected to them regardless. The more you are available, and loving— chances are they might confide in you.

    Abuse is so hard to talk about, because it takes strength to admit it actually happened to you. It’s embarrassing. Society says: “that will never happen to me because I’m tough, and smart, and I’d never put up with that! I’ll be out the door in a heartbeat!”

    What is NOT understood is that abuse happens to smart, confident, successful women ALL the time. It does NOT happen to those of “lower intelligence” or other such nonsense.

    Love gives strength to speak up, and the more you show His love to a possible victim, they might lower their guard and trust you.

    I DO understand why you stayed. Marriage is serious business, and we take it seriously. I understand why so many don’t understand, but it needs to be understood why women don’t leave. Because that is an open door for victim blaming (it’s your own fault for not leaving).

    I’ve heard craziness like: God says to love your enemy, so stay in the marriage and just love your abuser like crazy. You’ve heard of turning the other cheek, right? We’re supposed to suffer unjustly, for His righteousness sake, right?

    Answer: If my spouse is behaving like my enemy, what kind of a spouse is that? What kind of a spouse, who made a covenant to love and honor me, would turn on me like that, and become my enemy? And loving our enemies is more of a reference to the unsaved, to show His love to a dying world. And abuse (which is suffering unjustly) does NOT bring about His righteousness, so that argument falls flat.

    One of the reasons (IMO) Christians cannot be trusted with abuse revelations is because they use Scripture in twisted and evil ways—possibly unintentionally. It needs to be understood the Lord’s heart for the abused. When He died on the cross for us, He was NOT condoning abuse —He was condemning it!

    I am long winded and I’m sorry. It’s just your posts bring out so much in me that I want to share, and encourage you to KEEP WRITING!!! I again am VERY angry that John never saw this talent you have, but if he did, he would just try to squash it I’m sure. Abusers never want their victims to grow and mature and find ways to feel useful and purposeful. Then they will lose control over their lives, so they keep them isolated and unhappy. Feeling useless and of no good to the outside world. So glad you are free from all that, and growing so much!

  5. Several reasons I thought of for the reluctance to help.
    1. have I earned the right to approach this person ? Many times I would have loved to talk to someone but my feeling is the person would respond with “so who are you to think you can help me ? you think you are better than me ?” Especially if they appear self confidant and “appear” to have their life together. and my life is not what it should be.
    2. fear of ostracism – not so much from the person being abused but from the abuser who might have connections and would “spread the word” to have nothing to do me. I had never made the connection until now but years ago I visited a friend from church who I suspected was being abused. Her husband was not at all receptive to me being there -in effect calling me a loser among other descriptive names and telling me to leave. I left in tears -more from realizing that if he was calling ME that in public then what was he doing to her in private ? But also that limited our interaction because I wanted to protect her . Also soon after (and I just realized this now) was when I started really being ostracized at church. It took awhile for me to realize it -and longer to accept what was happening. We are no longer with that church for obvious reasons !!! There were other issues involved that led to my being ostracized but I wonder how much of what he said influenced others (or gave them the excuse they needed!)
    3. When is a safe time to talk ? I have wanted to approach others but there never seemed to be a private time to do so away from the prying (and gossiping) eyes of others.
    just some ideas of why it might have been difficult for others to approach you.
    But I do want you to know that since being in a church thats healing and accepting I have found a lot of growth. Reading your blog esp has given me motivation to approach people more or at least let me know I am available to help in whatever way they can accept.

    • Clara is it all right to respond to comments? I won’t make a habit of it (this is your blog!) but what this person said struck a huge chord in me. And I will keep this short!

      Shirley, you are right on that there is often a price to pay if you ask questions or make comments, thereby causing “ripples” in the abuser’s well-crafted pond of lies and false image. I 100% agree with you that may be one of the reasons why people are so hesitant to say or do anything.

      Abusers know how to make “allies” and exile or ostracize anyone who won’t play along with them. Abusers feel perfectly entitled to lie and tear down anyone who gets in their way. Their only desire is to keep abusing their victim(s), and since they feel so shame in their abuse, they have no problem in spreading their net to hurt anyone else who even suspects their evil deeds.

      It takes an incredibly brave person, willing to accept the risk and possible consequences in reaching out to a possible victim. Only the Lord can give that kind of strength to do so, and not back down.

      I would encourage anyone who DOES feel the Lord tugging @ their hearts to reach out, but is scared to obey—-to ask yourself who is more worthy to fear: Him or the people. The fear of people brings a snare (Proverbs 29:25)

      • Anu, Absolutely YES!!! Please feel free to reply to comments. I’d love to see this be a much more interactive blog! I will be responding to all of these wonderful, helpful comments later on today.

        With love,

      • sorry to take so long to respond Anu. but yes you are so right. One observation -sometimes the reluctance can be that the person hasn’t had their mind reprogrammed to be able to deal with responding to the onslought. Its one thing to be called a loser and know ” I have confidence in who I am and what God created me to be” its quite another if you are still believing the lies that you are a loser and no one wants you as a friend and there is no proof otherwise ! But I would say this – I believe Clara’s postings have given more people confidence to say ” ok been there done that – dont have to believe the lies” and to reach out to help others.

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