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You made a fool out of me

There’s an old Motown song sung by Mable John that sums up how many survivors of domestic abuse feel:

I should have never let you know

That I love you, love you so

My big mistake was to let it show

And you see, you made a fool out of me

You make me do most

Any old thing

Just for your delight

You take me around

Just to be your clown

And baby, you know that ain't right

My biggest fear is that someday you'll leave me

I'm just a slave that don't want to be free

Whatever you say, that's how it will be

And you see, you made a fool out of me

It’s easy to feel like a fool when someone manipulates you and takes advantage of your love and kindness.

It feels foolish to still feel drawn to someone you just can’t please and that you’re afraid of. It’s a misplaced sense of shame, but it’s the shame that so many survivors struggle with.

— Bekah Legg —

The ‘how did I get myself here?’ kind of a shame. The thought that this must be my fault because this couldn’t just happen. If I’d just tried harder, made more effort, been wiser or more disciplined in the first place.

When, for years maybe, your abuser hasn’t taken responsibility for their own actions and attitudes, it’s hard not to take the responsibility yourself. Somewhere in the midst of the chaos of the mind of someone who has been subjected to abuse, it is hard to believe that you are worth more than this, that actually this is about the abuser, not about you.

If you have been told that you are worthless, useless and an embarrassment day after day, it’s almost impossible to see the truth of your identity in Jesus. Your immense value as a human being, made in the image of God, and the beauty that He placed in you in your mother’s womb, which has not left you.

But you are not a fool. You may have been treated like one, you may even have been told you are one but that does not make you one. That sense of shame that keeps you from letting anyone know what home is really like is totally misplaced. Shame needs a light shining upon it, when we speak out our shame in a safe space, it loses its power and we become free of its grip.

Making a fool out of US

Shame holds victims with their abusers, but it’s not the only barrier to freedom. The fear of not being believed holds many survivors from ever telling anyone what is going on.

You see, we can be fooled by abusers too. So often they appear charming, charismatic, kind-hearted, valued members of society: upright pillars of the community and/or church. It’s easy to spot someone who is angry everywhere they go, who lashes out to all and sundry but that simply isn’t how many abusers appear to the outside world. Two of the key descriptors of domestic abuse are that it is intentional and it is directional.

Intentional: Domestic abuse doesn’t happen because of stress or alcoholism or a bad day or a bad upbringing. Those things can all be exacerbating factors, but essentially domestic abuse is a choice someone makes to control and dominate the one they are meant to love.

Directional: Domestic abuse is aimed in a particular direction, in chosen places, behind closed doors, whispered quietly in the ears of one whilst those around see and hear a totally different ‘reality’.

Domestic abuse is not a wild lack of general control, it’s a deliberate, targeted strategy to undermine, coerce and control chosen people. The reality is that the wider community is manipulated by the charm, but they may never see the coercion and the silent threat that lies beneath.

Abusers can make fools of us all. When we are taken in by their charms and generosity, it makes it almost impossible to believe the stories of those who see their other side. And so we become quietly complicit.