Purity Culture and Abuse

Purity Culture Set Me Up To Marry An Abuser

The following story is not my own. This is the true story, written by my friend Lea*, about how the Purity Culture set her up to marry an abuser. She graciously offered her story to me to share with you, and after last week’s post on Purity Culture’s Dirty Little Secret, it seemed like the perfect time to put it out there. She touches on so many of the deeply rooted ideals and beliefs held by the Purity Culture. I’ll be diving into my own thoughts about this in a future post, but for now, let’s really take the time to see the horrendous oppression of women that the Purity Culture depends upon to survive.

 Female Brainwashing

“I was asked about how Purity Culture (PC) set me up for marrying an abuser.  My teaching may be a little more extreme than some, but the church we were in already had me primed and ready to be accepting of any behavior from a man. We were taught that uber-patriarchy was Biblical. Eve was deceived, so all women necessarily are.  Men make decisions and women shut up and submit.  We were taught that we were to submit even if we thought our male authorities were in sin.  Because we couldn’t judge sin in a man, we were to repent of our arrogance of believing that our husband/father was even in sin at all.  He had this special in with God that we would never understand, so we must always trust them.  IF we happened to be right and they were actually telling us to sin, we had to submit anyway and God would bless us because of our obedience, and hold the man responsible.

The gaslighting was intense.  We were taught that as women, our thoughts, feelings, desires, beliefs, etc. were always, always wrong.  We were to defer to our male authority because he had the mind of God.  From the pulpit and in ladies’ meetings, we were taught that women were inferior in all ways: physically, intellectually, spiritually.  We were the weaker vessel in all ways, so we must always submit. All the marriage books I ever read supported this in some form or another.  Men were always right, women were always wrong.  We give the benefit of the doubt, love according to I Cor. 13, cast our bread upon the waters without asking if it pays, serve willingly and eagerly as unto the Lord, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things.

If we believe a man isn’t doing what he should, we were to repent of our own sin of even thinking it.  We never, ever judged a man.  Even the pastor’s adultery we weren’t to judge.  He had sinned against God, he said, not against us as a congregation. We were to bring all our thoughts captive to obedience.  We were to only think good, positive things about male authority, and trust that God spoke through them.

Men’s Sin is the Woman’s Fault

This teaching was on top of all the PC you all already know about.  We girls were responsible for the sins of men. We were taught in ladies’ meeting to *expect* to find porn, and it’s our fault for not keeping him satisfied.  This messed me up as a teenager who had never even had a boyfriend. Again, all the marriage books supported this.  Men’s sin is our fault, but we were so weak we had to be washed by the word from our male authorities because they were so much stronger than us.

I met a man when I was 19.  He was 28.  I wasn’t allowed to marry him because I was required to marry within my little church.  All the guys were younger than me or related to me, so there was a lot of pressure put on me and my best friend to convert guys and bring them in.  I was the only person in all those years who saw a problem with this mentality.  I was supposed to be grounded in our church’s unusual theological views enough to convert a man, and coax him into the church, just so I could marry him…and then spend the rest of my life submitting to him.  Nobody else saw a problem with that, but I did.  If I knew more than he did, and was responsible for converting him, it sure would be hard to submit to him from then on out.

One of my brothers told me the older I got, the harder it would be to get married and submit to a man, so I’d better hurry and marry.  I told him it wasn’t my fault the church was so small and I had to find someone to convert and manipulate into joining.  He (and the church) said that there must be something wrong with me that God isn’t blessing me with a man.  My only purpose was to marry and have children and honor God with my body by making a man happy in bed, so I was not fulfilling my God-given purpose since I was still there, unmarried, at 23.  I was an old maid, not honoring God.  My pastor told me to my face that an unmarried woman’s life was a joke. I believed him.  I repented of hidden sin.  I asked the Lord to bring me a man so I could honor Him in my life.  I begged the Lord to hide the problems in the church from men so they would want to join, so I could get married.

I Was In A Cult

Our *only* prerequisite for marriage was that the man join our church.  It didn’t matter how we felt about him, what we wanted, how our personalities meshed, what his character was like.  It only mattered that he was a member of our church and our fathers were in favor of the union.

So…I’d met this guy and was flattered that I’d caught his attention.  I was not popular, so the fact that a man 9 years older than me (and a PhD student!) was interested was pretty astonishing.  He didn’t join the church, however, and told me it was a cult.  After 1 1/2 years of courtship/non-courtship (the rules kept changing), the church told us we could no longer communicate.  He obviously was not a child of God because he’d heard the truth and did not receive it and join the church.

Over the next couple of years two other guys came and visited and said the same thing.  I was in a cult.  I eventually realized it was true and–long story short–I left. I got reacquainted with the first guy who ever told me I was in a cult.  I’d never been taught to listen to my intuition, to judge his character, to consider how he treats people.  Only his theological views were to be considered, and now that I was out of that church, I had the freedom to deconstruct my theological views.

Marriage To An Abuser

I spent a few weeks at Wellspring Cult Recovery Retreat in Ohio (I don’t think it exists anymore) and they told me due to the level of dissociation and the time I was there, I should not make any major life decisions for 3-5 years.  I received a marriage proposal, was still very flattered at the attention, and foolishly believed that marriage would be a safe place for me to heal.

Our honeymoon was horrible.  I felt like I was being raped. I know how that it’s not unusual for a PC-raised girl to feel that way.   My first kiss ever was on our wedding day. That was a mistake.  I was clueless.  If I’d kissed him sooner, I might not have married him at all, but I was also taught that what I felt didn’t matter and it was my duty to submit and obey.  So I probably would have married him anyway even though his touch made me want to vomit.

Within less than a month of marriage, he was yelling at me to get out of his way, quit talking to him, leave him alone, etc.  I apologized for anything I could think of, fully believing I was at fault.  After all, it’s all I’d ever been taught, and it’s what the books said.  Debbi Pearl said it, so it must be true.  It was always all my fault.  I lived that.  Wracked my brains for things to apologize for and change about myself so that I would be pleasing to my husband, and therefore pleasing to God.

15 years and 4 children later, I woke up and realized this was abuse, domestic violence, whatever you want to call it. I had a lot of help from others seeing this.  I’d married a cover narcissist with a variety of personality disorders, and I didn’t have to live like that anymore.  I left.  It took 3 years for the divorce to be finalized because when he filed, he went for full custody. A man who travels for a living and who didn’t enjoy his kids anyway.  He’d back-hand them, scream at them, call them stupid, “forget” to feed them if I left them with him for a while (I learned not to ever leave them because he wouldn’t feed them or they’d be crying when I got home because he was violent again).

We Have The Wrong DNA To Think, Make Decisions Or Have Preferences

PC teaching set me up to marry an abuser because of the intense gaslighting, the beliefs about men being in absolute charge, extreme female submission, never criticizing a man, believing the best, self-blame in all circumstances…. PC teaching is rife with abuse of all types, and coupled with patriarchy, you’ve got the perfect set-up to marry an abuser.  It sets you up to be blind to any red flags in a person.  You’re taught that your job as a woman is to silently submit to any behavior.  If you don’t like something, you repent.  If you imagine there’s sin, you repent.  If you selfishly want something different than what you got, you repent.  You never have permission to confront problems or sin.  Abusers prey on people who are taught these things.

Because churches defend abusers, a woman has no help there. She has to go to secular sources to find help.  The church *breeds* this mentality of male entitlement and female degradation.  Sex is a right for a man and a duty for a woman.  We have the wrong DNA to think, make decisions or have preferences.”      -Lea


If you’d like to learn more about the horrors of the Purity Culture mindset, be sure to check out my post Purity Culture’s Dirty Little Secret.

*Name changed to protect the innocent


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