They walk the streets, stand in line in front of us, smile behind the cash register. They are here on campus. They are victims and they may not even realize it, victims of manipulative relationships.
You may be asking, what is a manipulative relationship? This occurs when a person manipulates the thoughts, feelings, and motives of another individual by means of deceit and exploitation. The goal of the manipulator is to gain complete control over the partner, whether it’s a romantic partner, parent, coworker, etc. The relationships are devastating and damaging. Some lead to serious sexual abuse. Others sever marriages that are broken even before they begin because they are based on lies.
Though women are typically the victims, sometimes it’s reversed. Male or female, the victim easily becomes trapped and has a very difficult time pulling himself/herself out of it. Though one may try several attempts to walk away, he/she gets pulled back in. Most often it’s coercion; “I need you,” or, “If you leave me, I’m going to lose my faith.” In a Christian community, that plays right to the heart because Christians are taught self-sacrifice, to give themselves to others. Unfortunately, there are people who are fluent in the “Christian” language, and they know how to use those praises to control and manipulate people.
Often, the victims believe, “There must be something wrong with me, because who else would get caught in this kind of situation?” They tend to have a lower opinion of themselves just for getting trapped in the relationship. They need to be aware that they are not alone.
So what does this have to do with you?
If we are the body of Christ, shouldn’t we be looking and listening for those crying for help? They are more than likely right under your nose. They are searching for a way out and are too afraid to step out on their own. They’re looking for a listening ear and a gentle hand to guide them.
On our small Christian campus, it’s easy to gloss over these situations. Surely these things don’t happen among us, and if they do, surely someone else is reaching out to them. But if we each have this mindset that someone else is going to help them, there is no one left to step up is there? Let this be your motivation: assume that no one else is going to make the move.
Learn what you can do to help this matter. On Wednesday, April 17, Dr. Darrell and Martha Iler, along with Lori Gaffner and Susanne Hughey-Rasler, will be leading 9:30 chapel with a series of five dramatic presentations called “If You Have Ears.” These five stories are based on true experiences of manipulative and controlling relationships, some of which happened at Greenville College. The purpose is to bring an awareness to students and freedom for the victims. You can learn what signs to watch for and how to help. These situations can occur anywhere, but since we are a Christian college, we need to be doubly aware of the reality and learn how to reach out. Are we listening?