Sunday, April 26, 2009

Book-Signing Day, Part 1

The conversations I had with the people I met yesterday at my book-signing and afterward, give such an excellent representation of the variety of experiences and viewpoints about domestic violence, that I just have to share them.

One woman shared about the confusion she had felt about her husband’s nasty behavior. She kept trying to submit, but that didn’t make anything better. She was so miserable and she didn’t know why her husband acted that way or how to stop the misery. (This part is so typical of the experience of abused Christian women.) Then one day her husband severely abused their child when the child hadn’t done anything wrong. Suddenly it became crystal clear to her that her husband’s behavior to her was abuse and she could not stay with him. She abruptly left him, taking her child with her. He did not fight for custody, since he didn’t want children, so that was the end of the abuse. She seemed to have no idea that many abusers fight for custody and win, thereby sentencing both wife and children to years of his abuse.

Twenty or so years later he asked her why she had left so abruptly. When she told him, he denied doing all that and said she had been having an affair. His claim was based on an incident where a strange man had accosted her and she pushed him away. From that the ex-husband extrapolated an affair. Strangely enough, it was he who had had the affair, and as abusers often do, he twisted the truth and claimed his wife was unfaithful. So typical. That woman was very very glad she left him when she did; he had obviously gotten worse, and she had been spared much misery.

Another woman was not interested in my novel at all, but said religion is the cause of domestic violence, wars and human conflict. I pointed out that Stalin and Hitler had not been Christians, and engaged in major wars and killings. She replied that both had been atheists, which she seemed to rate as a religion. Her agnosticism she considered to be free from religion. I would guess there is also domestic violence among agnostics, but the only statistics I have to back this up is that researchers say domestic violence is present across all racial, socioeconomic, denominations, religions, and any other category we can think of. I’m guessing they would consider agnosticism to be a religion, too.

Still another woman had been married to an abuser. Her husband choked her until she was unconscious, and often threw her over his shoulder to make her go where he wanted. A female friend asked if her husband was hitting her. The woman said he was not, apparently not realizing at the time that choking her and carrying her against her will were both abuse. The friend commented that something was not right, and eventually they did make the connection that abuse is not limited to hitting. The woman left her husband and when their church turned on her, she left her church, too. She was currently not going to church at all. The only church she could find where she felt safe was one that embraced everyone, even those who continued in sin. I sensed she felt uncomfortable with that. (after all, wasn't that what the previous church had done when they refused to hold her husband accountable?)

A teenaged girl-scout troop came in and I got their attention by suggesting there was info in the book to help them avoid the pitfalls of a bad dating or marriage relationship. One of the girls bought the novel, and I gather intended to loan it out to others in the group. I felt pleased that the younger generation would end up with knowledge to help them identify abuse and steer clear of abusive relationships.

I was so pleased when visitors from out of town, and even other states bought copies to take back with them. The more people who educate themselves about non-physical abuse, the more likely it is that we can stop it. All in all, the signing was a pleasant experience and people were appreciative of my work.

Part of my intent in holding the book-signing was to get input of the needs of women who have survived abuse in our community. As book sales increase, I want to start a foundation to supply financial aid to women who are in circumstances where they can neither get financial aid, nor make a living wage, or whose childcare costs makes holding down a job prohibitive. My hope is that if money is available, that churches will be more willing to offer support to abused women.

One need for abused women is one I can not provide on my own. It is the need for churches that are safe and embrace abused women, giving them genuine love, emotional support, and a sense of belonging. Again, perhaps if money is supplied through a foundation, people will be less likely to see abused women as financially needy, and be able to supply those other needs.

But things are looking up. Most of the women I spoke to DID recognize domestic violence and leave their abusers. Although this contributes to the high divorce rate, I cannot tell women to stay in relationships that are destroying them. The real answer is that men must stop abusing.

Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel" Please visit


  1. Just wanted you to know I'm reading your blog and finding it excellent. Congrats on your book!