While attending an ARMS banquet in 2001, Monica sat shocked as she listened to the speakers. What they were describing as “abuse” in their lives was in fact what she had been living with in her home in Idaho before she fled to Oregon.
Monica, previously divorced, met Rich when he came along to help with her mountain home. Although beautiful, the land required upkeep, including snow removal in the winter and additional care in the other seasons. As she got to know him, she was impressed that he was both a Christian and a dancer. They had much in common. She had never had a Christian relationship before.
But Rich had another side. It wasn’t long before he started isolating Monica from friends and her church, convincing her that he loved her more than they did and had more to offer her. “They don’t want you to be happy or be in a relationship,” he told her. It became obvious that he wanted her to choose either her friends or him.
She loved him. And chose him.
After marriage, although Monica truly enjoyed her home, Rich moved her to his house with his two kids–and decided that he didn’t want Monica to work. His method was manipulation. Monica became convinced that he was right. She SHOULD stay home and take care of things instead of working outside the home.
“I felt like I was living in an alternative universe.” Monica shares. “One with unstated and constantly-changing rules. It was really confusing. There was anger, but not a lot of outbursts. It was more of a quiet control, with such constant badgering that I simply gave in, exhausted.”
Rich implemented financial abuse as well. When she went to the store, she wasn’t even allowed to buy a toothbrush for herself. She remembers thinking, Is every Christian marriage like this? Is every Christian man this manipulative?
Monica started counseling at church with a pastor to try and make sense of it all. Unfortunately, the message she received was not, “your husband is being abusive” but instead “you need to be a better wife.” She went home to try to be better.
She lived in fear, never knowing how things were going to turn out that day. One time, they went on a hike with his son and Rich brought his gun. She clearly remembers her thoughts, I’m not gonna come back. He’s going to kill me.
Although they all made it home safely that day, the abuse later turned physical. Monica took the dog and went to a friend’s house. Her friends called the police who arrested Rich and she found her way to a shelter. Emotions spinning, she no longer knew what to feel. I wish he would find me. He’ll be sorry and we can start over.
When Monica and Rich reunited, he wasn’t sorry at all. He didn’t seem to understand that he had hurt her and never repented. “He excused and minimized his actions”, she recognizes now. They attempted counseling several times, but he would leave every time he didn’t agree with the counselor.
Next time it got physical, she left again.
Monica didn’t give up on church or her faith in God. Finding another congregation, she met a pastor with a different opinion. He said, “we need to get you out for good” and helped her with a safety plan that included an accountability contract for her. Part of the plan was to relocate and since she had family in Oregon, Monica chose the Pacific NW.
After moving, she received letters from her former church community telling her that she needed to come back. Even Rich got into the act and had his kids also write blaming letters to her. But she stayed strong. She knew that a life of fear and abuse was not for her.
Monica not only attended the ARMS banquet, she started feeling passionate about getting the message out and called to help it happen. She joined the ARMS Board of Directors. She and her present husband, George, continue even now to give financially and Monica still serves as a volunteer.
“More women, men and churches need help,” she says. “ARMS has programs that can and should be replicated to people all over the world. I will do my part to help make that happen.”