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The abused woman

Posted By January 20, 2012 | 6:07 pm | Commentary
St. Paul on joy

By Father John Catoir
Catholic News Service

Every once in a while, I hear about a Catholic priest with a personality disorder so severe that he feels justified in verbally abusing women whenever he pleases and reducing them to tears. Such behavior should be reported to the bishop, and if the bishops is satisfied that the charges are true, he should suspend the culprit immediately.
Using the priest shortage as an excuse for tolerating any kind of abusive behavior is unacceptable.
Many husbands abuse their wives habitually at home. Women need to defend themselves by breaking the cycle of secrecy.
Abusive husbands often present themselves to the world as nice guys or, at least, as decent human beings. However, in the privacy of their homes, they are relentless, mean-spirited bullies who need to be exposed for what they really are.
Younger women, generally speaking, do not tolerate this kind of domestic abuse, and more power to them.
But too many older women suffer in silence. Fear seems to paralyze them from taking action. They forget that the divine commandment to “love thyself” is a command, not a suggestion.
Cowering in fear and living in misery is a price no one has to pay to save his or her marriage.
Go for help and break the cycle of secrecy; that is what they recommend at every shelter for abused women.
Abused wives have the option of calling the police when things are calm, explaining their husband’s pattern of behavior, and committing to contacting them again for help the next time an incidence of abuse happens and then pressing charges.
Any abused person who cannot do that yet should follow St. Augustine’s advice: “Do what you can do and pray for what you cannot yet do.”
Even if the abuse hasn’t reached the stage of physical violence, abused women must admit that the psychological trauma has already started to ruin their health.
By wearing down their self-respect, such ongoing emotional damage will eventually lead to serious physical symptoms, such as migraine headaches, colitis and a host of other ailments. More people go to the hospital with pain caused by stress than anyone can imagine.
I urge abused women not to be afraid to press charges when the time comes. The police will arrest the offender, be he a husband, a supposed friend or other associate, and arrange a hearing before a family court.
When arrested, the man will, of course, be shocked and furious with the woman pressing charges and with those who support her.
I realize that this is easy for me to say, but I plead with abused women not to let their fear of the unknown overwhelm them. Their abuser just may come to realize how much he needs the woman he has victimized, if he sees that he is losing her.
Jesus said, “Do not be afraid; just have faith” — faith in the Lord for one’s future and faith in one’s common sense.
By the grace of God, many men do change. Generally a tiger cannot change his stripes, but it is surprising what breaking the cycle of secrecy can do to awaken the better side of a man’s personality.
If he does revert to his old patterns of abuse, a woman would surely be justified in leaving him. By taking some kind of action, she is sending him a wakeup call that just might save him from himself.
With prayer and the grace of God, all things are possible.