I am a long-time writer of other people's testimonies. When I was serving on the faculty of a Christian Writers Conference in North Carolina, a student named Kay came to my room to share her stirring and inspiring experience with me. And this is her story.


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Norm seemed like a nice guy when we dated. He had a great sense of humor, and we laughed a lot. We went to church together, and he professed to be a Christian. I had no way of knowing how alcohol would plunge us into an indescribable Hades!!


We married when I was eighteen. Norm was affectionate and attentive. He taught a Sunday school class. But he was possessive and had a tendency to put me down at times.


Then Norm started drinking. As his intake increased, what happiness we had shared was shattered by violence. I began wearing long sleeves to cover the bruises on my arms. My husband's abuse caused three miscarriages.


One night I picked up Norm from a tavern because he was drunk. Pregnant again, I was terrified of what might happen. Our son, Danny, had fallen asleep on the couch. Awakened by his father's shouting when we came in, he saw his father smash his fist into my mouth. Danny shook with fear as his father carried him to his room.


When Norm laid Danny in his bed, our little son began saying his prayers. Norm laughed at him. "There is no God," he declared contemptuously, "and I don't want you to pray any more!!"


Then Norm turned on me. "Don't you ever teach our kid to pray!!" he ordered. That hurt me more than my bleeding mouth. When Danny prayed, "Please God, take care of Mommy," Norm returned to beating me.


On another night Norm staggered into our bedroom and jerked the full-sized mattress right out from under me and threw it across the room. I sat on the box spring with my book still in hand. As Norm came roaring at me, I instinctively jumped, grabbed the lamp and crashed it over his head. That knocked him out and ended the violence for the night.


That does it, I thought, as I looked at his prone body. I'm tired of being battered physically and psychologically-of having him kill my babies. I'm sick of his infidelities with other women. I'm leaving!! Taking our little boy, I left. Danny and I moved in with my parents.


One night Norm came to talk me into coming back. He was drunk. I refused, and he got violent. My father called the police. When Norm began threatening to kill my father, I had him committed to a mental institution. I realized he had mental problems and was dangerous to my family.


I felt depressed and hopeless about my situation. One evening when my parents went to church, anger and self-pity overwhelmed me. I filled the bathtub with steaming hot water, climbed in and then screamed with pain. Hyperventilating, I slid under the water. I wanted to drown. My unborn baby, now eight months along, began moving frantically. Pulling myself out of that tub, I angrily declared, "No devil is going to take my life or hurt my baby!!" And that was my turning point.


Until then, I had forgotten how to smile and hadn't been able to pray. Now, I could pray for the Lord's help. I knew he had saved my life and he cared for me.


Then Norm was discharged from the mental hospital. One Sunday morning he broke into my parents' home, his eyes glaring demonically. With her soft, kind talk, Mother kept him from violence until the police arrived. After several more violent episodes, I finally sued for divorce. Norm had a heart attack when he got the papers-and later died of a subsequent attack.


That is part of a slow, painful process in which God helped me to forgive, heal and start anew.

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I am now happily married to a good Christian man. I took no chances this time. After working through my own issues, I prayed to the Lord for wisdom and guidance and asked him for a good husband. That's exactly what God gave me.


I now work as a nurse in psychiatric hospital, counseling other women who have been abused by their husbands.


I believe the Lord put me here so I can share the lessons I learned through my bitter experiences. I pray that he will continue using the healing biblical truths that released me from the pain and resentful feelings that kept me from being a whole woman. Here is a sampling of the advice I give:


If a woman's abusive situation is in the past, I urge her to forgive her former husband. For good reason Jesus taught, "Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven" (Lk 6:37).


As long as you harbor anger, bitterness and resentment toward your husband," I tell women, "you will be hurting yourself and your children, and be unable to get on with your life in a wholesome way. In your mind you will stay an abused, defensive person with inferiority feelings. If possible, find a qualified counselor to help you work through and release those harmful thoughts and feelings. This will free you to forgive your abuser and allow God to heal you completely."


If another woman has been involved, I tell the abused wife to forgive the other woman also. Forgiving others clears the air between a person and God and makes it possible for God to help and guide.


If a woman is still in an abusive situation, I advise her to get herself and her children out immediately. They are all in danger. I don't believe God wants a woman to stay in a violent environment. Abused women need to learn to say no, set boundaries and protect themselves. They need to learn that they deserve to be treated with respect. Abuse does not need to be tolerated. Furthermore, being exposed to violence heightens the children's odds of becoming abusers themselves. After one occasion when my husband abused me, my little boy came over and twisted my arm. When I asked him why he was doing that, he answered, "Daddy does it."


I counsel women not to be hasty in filing for divorce because crises and major decisions do not blend well. Divorce, too, should only be a last resort, after all else fails. After leaving an abusive mate, many women are anxious to start dating, but they're not ready. First they need to find their own identities, relearn to smile and begin feeling human again. They need to think of themselves as someone who deserves to be treated well. It is important to restore relationships with their families.


More importantly, they need to seek God's guidance; not only regarding their future, but to see if there was a deep-seated reason why they were attracted to an abusive partner in the first place. If such a reason surfaces and they don't face and resolve it, they are likely to be attracted to another abusive person (he, too, can be charming at first).


Children of abused women have endured so much horror in their homes, but they need to know there was love in the marriage at one time, if there was. I realized that I had robbed my children by not telling them of the love their father and I had once shared. This is something I now pass on to other women. I am thankful God saved me from myself and that he is now using my life to help other suffering women.


How To Get Help

[white square] Most communities have a department of social services. Learn from them what help is available to women and children in abusive situations. They provide information about financial, practical and counseling aid available in your area, as well as of safe houses or places of refuge. They may assist in finding another place to live, a job and care for your children while you work. Your pastor also may also be able to give guidance and practical help.


[white square] Share your problems with a dedicated, sympathetic friend or with your pastor, Sunday school teacher, or a trained Christian counselor-someone who will let you talk and will keep your conversations confidential. A trained counselor knows that, in many instances, just listening is as helpful as giving advice. Often, when talking about problems in depth, you are able to think them through. This, in turn, helps you gain insights and direction.


[white square] Pray to the Lord and seek his help. In addition, pray with your confidant and ask God to give you direction. He will guide you and supply your needs.