She’s Someone–Plus Priming for Abuse

by | Jul 8, 2022 | Abuse, Preparing for Marriage, Theology of Marriage and Sex | 34 comments

Are We Grooming for Abuse
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Can we talk about how our messages about a woman’s role can actually undermine her safety?

Just a quick catch-up for today’s post! I want to share a few things I’ve seen on social media and then throw this open for discussion. I’m taking a bit of a downtime this week and next week to relax, but I thought I’d share something quickly I was thinking about this week.

First, I shared this Fixed It For You on Instagram and Facebook, based on a meme I saw.

She's Someone Fixed it For You

Women’s worth is not based on who they are related to.

Yet so often we tell men especially to remember the rape victim, the victim of sex trafficking, even the young woman in the bikini is someone else’s daughter or sister or wife—as if we can’t imagine having empathy for her for her own sake.

Until we can have empathy for a woman merely because of who she is, we will continue to assign women’s worth based on who they are connected to. That’s part of what needs to stop.

Of course we can picture how we would feel if she was our daughter, our sister, our mother. But let’s remember that no matter what, she’s a person.

Made in the image of God.

And that’s why she matters.

Sheila Wray Gregoire


Some great comments came out of that!

"A groundbreaking look into what true, sacred biblical sexuality is intended to be. A must-read." - Rachael Denhollander

What if you're NOT the problem with your sex life?

What if the messages that you've been taught have messed things up--and what if there's a way to escape these toxic teachings?

It's time for a Great Sex Rescue.

Great Sex Rescue

But then I saw another meme from Mountain City Counseling in Denver.

Are we priming women for abuse?

Grooming for abuse

I just think that this raises some interesting questions. I’ve written about some of these things, like:

But I’d like to throw this out for discussion today. What do you think about this meme? Does Mountain City Counseling have a point? 

I’m working on the edits for our mother-daughter book She Deserves Better, and these are a lot of the questions that we’re raising (and some of the things we tried to measure in our survey to teen girls). And now I’d like to know what you think! So let’s talk in the comments.

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Jo R

    Well, I guess I’ll get to be the first comment again today… 🙄 🙄 🙄

    I think the Mountain City Counseling meme would make much more sense if the heading were worded “If you told a woman not to marry a man ***SHE*** suspected was abusive…”

    Or am I a quart low on caffeine this morning?

    • Nessie

      Fwiw, I fully agree. With the conditions listed below that, I think it would pretty much guarantee she would blindly listen to the man (dad, etc.) that is telling her not to marry because she has been trained so thoroughly that way.

    • Suzanne

      I don’t think she would suspect abuse, though, if she’d been taught those things. It’d probably be someone else bringing it to her attention. Just my thought…

  2. Codec


    The whole ” She is someones daughter” thing is there to remind us our shared humanity. Rather, that is the principle behind it. That she is someones is a ood point.

    • Jo R

      The problem with the words that Sheila crossed out is that the original statement subtly implies that a woman
      who is an orphan, unmarried, an only child, and/or childless is unimportant.

      Men get respect simply because they are human made in the image of God, regardless of having living parents, or being a husband, brother, or father. Women have to be “human AND” some other category (daughter, wife, sister, mother) to be important. Or even just to be noticed.

    • Nathan

      While that’s true, another problem with that kind of wording is this.

      Let’s say that I abused a woman in some way. People remind me that she’s somebody’s wife. At that point, the woman is no longer the victim. The HUSBAND becomes the victim. It almost turns it into property damage instead of the abuse of a human being.

      • Helen

        Yess, so true. Reminds me of something I’ve heard about and witnessed far too often: when a man sexually harasses a women and then as soon as he finds out she has a boyfriend or husband he stops because he doesn’t want to ‘disrespect’ the husband. No mention whatsoever about disrespecting the woman. Ugh

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Yep. Every Man’s Battle actually includes a story of a youth group volunteer in his 30s raping a 15-year-old girl (though they portray it as her seducing him) under the heading that he’s trespassing in someone else’s field (presumably her father).

        • Rose

          Every time I hear any reference or quote form that book it makes me more and more grateful I have never read it. It would have been DEVASTATING if I had encountered this in my teens. Especially considering that literally months after I became legal, I was abused by a much older “youth leader” and, as it was, it took me over a year to escape. Or rather, God literally notified some people in prayer to come get me because I was in danger – I was so isolated and screwed up in the head by then I could not have even gotten away on my own!

          False teachings destroy lives.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            They really do destroy lives! That’s what we’re really getting at in our mothers of daughters book that’s out next spring. We talked to so many women who read books aimed at teen girls BEFORE they were assaulted, and then they simply didn’t recognize date rape and thought it was their fault based on what they were wearing. Just awful.

      • NM

        Yes, exactly! Our former church preached on the rape of Dinah last summer. Dinah is famously silent in the story about her rape – the story centers on the prince who raped her, and her father and brothers. The pastor totally went with that view and was talking about how hard it was for the men to have their sister/daughter raped. Like she was their property. We almost walked out because he also victim blamed her for going out without her father. Interestingly, I googled Dinah’s story afterward because I was so upset. I found some Jewish rabbis teaching the story, and they were able to say, “Wow, back then women didn’t have a voice and that was awful. Dinah mattered.” They were able to be respectful of the scripture but not be stuck in ancient culture! It seems that taking scripture so literally leads to us trying to undo all the progress the human race has made. It’s sad!

    • exwifeofasexaddict

      Thinking of a woman as somebody’s sister, mother, etc and therefore don’t do things to her that you wouldn’t want done to your sister, mother, etc….. is a good starting place for a man with a very entitled, superior, pornographic style of relating. But it shouldn’t be the place we stop. Men must learn to see women as someone, and worthy all on their own.

  3. Helen

    I still remember reading the blurb of a book that I wanted to buy and one of the reviews was from a woman who was a fairly well-known author and speaker in her own right but she was also married to a high-profile speaker and pastor. Underneath her review it said something like ‘Wife of [famous pastor] and author of…’ I know it’s not really related to how we talk about rape victims but it just really infuriated me. Why can’t women be recognised for who they are in their own right instead of who they’re married to or related to? Obviously I didn’t buy the book!

    That Mountain City Counselling one is pretty spot on in many ways but I agree with the comments above that it should say ‘she’ not ‘you’. Numbers 1 and 5 really hit home for me this week because I realised that I’d stopped trusting myself after I was raped because I’d initially trusted my rapist and thought he was safe. But because I stopped trusting my gut instincts I then also ignored all the red flags in an abusive relationship. So I can see how dangerous that message is if it’s taught to young people. It’s definitely grooming them for abuse as you said in the article.

  4. Hannah

    I think I’ve heard people refer to men as ‘some mother’s son.’ My memory is it’s mostly about humanising someone who has committed terrible crimes. Interesting how it’s used differently there.

  5. A2bbethany

    Something I learned to embrace as an older teenager. What is and can be the worth of a woman? It all started with my learning self respect/love. And it was a very positive thing. Because history shows that women can be whatever they choose to be remembered as. I want to be remembered as being: loving, patient and kind. Loyal and independent…not controlled by anyone.

  6. Jane Eyre

    I think the title of the graphic misses the mark (“If you told a woman…”); however, the points are dead-on accurate. Listen to your intuition. Reflect on what your intuition has told you – has it been right? has it missed the mark? If it’s the latter, has your intuition missed the mark in predictable ways or for understandable reasons?

    We talk about “red flags” but then leave young people completely adrift as to what those “red flags” are. It took me ten years of dating to figure it out.

    Being single can be great! I don’t mean this in a patronising way to the singles who desperately want to find someone. Singles can develop rich, meaningful lives – family of origin, friends who are chosen family, career, volunteering, prayer, travel, hobbies. From that perspective, it’s less challenging to avoid bad relationships – you figure out pretty soon that you were happier without that person, and if you were taught that a bad relationship is worse than no relationship, you know to leave it.

    Reflect on how people’s advice turned out. I know some people who are completely certain about their advice, and that advice is nuclear-bomb-level awful. There is a difference between certainty and Truth. When I was dating, there were people I all but lied to because they would basically browbeat me with their painfully bad advice. (Think, encouraged me to stay with men who made me cry on a regular basis and didn’t think good, solid men were “fun” enough.)

    Let me save your readers some trouble: a lot of people’s bad advice is based on their own baggage and emotional shortcomings.

    • Laura

      I definitely agree especially this last sentence that “a lot of people’s bad advice is based on their own baggage and emotional shortcomings.” I have noticed this when people tell me how hard marriage is and tell me I’m better off remaining single. Well, I agree with that to some point. I like being single and I was once married so I know how hard marriage can be. My marriage was hard because it was an abusive one, but I’m not going to go around telling others to stay single because marriage is so hard.

      Being single for the last 20 years has been great for me. Unfortunately, up until the last 3-4 years after I faced a broken engagement, I desperately wanted to get remarried and have a family. I wanted to have sex without feeling guilty (I don’t believe in having premarital sex). I just wanted to feel like I was valuable because I believed the lie that I had to have someone in order to feel valuable. However, I look back and see how many blessings I have experienced being single that I probably would not experience had I been married. I have been able to freely complete my education and am currently working on a master’s degree without any financial burdens or time restraints. I’ve been able to move a few times and have had the privilege to be with my parents. I got to be with my dad for the last six years of his life and I’ve been able to be with my mother after she became widowed nine years ago. I’ve formed a lot of friendships over the years. I have been the proud mom of three different dogs. I could freely change careers without having to think of someone else. I have also learned to be more resilient in life.

      If I were to remarry someday, I feel that I will be able to bring a lot to the table. My biggest concern is finding a good man who does not buy into the submission doctrine. I don’t want to be in another marriage where the man thinks he’s entitled and can control me.

    • Tim

      Re red flags, can you please educate me on this Jane? I have two pre-teen daughters so it’s a pretty important thing for me to understand and pass on!

      And as someone commented on one of the John Piper posts (might have been you even), I think most normal (i.e. not abusive) men can be pretty oblivious to signs of the forms of abuse directed specifically at women because they’d never do something like that and would rarely if ever even observe that kind of behaviour.

  7. Suzanne

    Wow. Yes, I think Mountain City Counseling is spot on with this! Whether the bride suspects the guy is an abuser, or someone else suspects the guy is an abuser, it’s spot on! (But I doubt SHE would suspect he’s an abuser cuz if she was taught all those things, she’d think his abusive treatment towards her was normal and not suspect that anything was wrong! Like I did.)

  8. Tim

    Is the message of the mountain city thing that points 1-11 are also abusive (or place women at greater risk of abuse), so it’s hypocritical to say them and also to say don’t marry a potential abuser? If so, I think it’s probably a fair point, but it’s *very* poorly communicated. I had to read it about 3 times before I picked that up.

    Or am i just having a stupid day? (It happens)

    • Jo R

      Unfortunately, Tim, several of those points are taught as solid “Christian” doctrine in many churches, and most of them are taught in a quite a few churches. When women hear such things their whole lives, from men they trust, why would the women doubt them, especially since doubting means women are wavering on disobedience to GOD HIMSELF. Naaahhh, THAT won’t be damaging in any way. THAT wouldn’t count as spiritual abuse. 🙄🙄🙄

      Women, especially, are taught to not trust their gut instincts because … wait for it … the heart is deceitfully wicked. So women need to listen to their menfolk (first fathers, then husbands). Isn’t it amazing how MEN’S hearts AREN’T deceitfully wicked? Very lucky for all us women with fathers, then husbands. 🙄🙄🙄

      And submission in those circles means more or less abject subservience—and it’s only one-sided.

      And a woman’s highest goal is being a wife and mother. It’s extremely interesting that the ONE thing a man CAN’T do is held up the ONLY thing a woman should strive for. Too bad for the 12 percent (that’s one in eight!) of infertile women (, who now can’t even fulfill their prime directive.

      Sorry, NOT directed at you personally, Tim. The church has a lot to answer for. Although, really, how can such organizations claim Christ in the first place? That’s the real question.

      • Tim

        You can vent your righteous anger in my general direction any time.

        And I get it now. I think it just went over my head because I’ve never really heard those 11 points taught. Not sure if that means I’ve only been to healthy churches, or if I just zoned out to the stuff relevant (supposedly) only to women.

        Anyway, if those things are commonly taught (which I’m not disputing, to be clear) then I think Mountain City Counselling are making a good point.

        • Jo R

          “if I just zoned out to the stuff relevant (supposedly) only to women”

          I’d guess this. But on the other hand, why wouldn’t you? You’d likewise ignore someone telling a mixed crowd of adults how important pap smears are.

          And perhaps an even bigger issue, way bigger, probably, is women’s Bible studies. Oy. The stuff that women get told… and since women we’re supposed to respect are teaching it, why wouldn’t we believe it? A women’s Bible study or retreat is authorized by the church ministry team, so there’s yet more weight behind the content. (How could those leaders be wrong in the material selected?)

          Because what woman wants to disobey God in something so fundamental as her marriage? A disobedience that might actually indicate she’s not REALLY a believer, which puts her soul in eternal jeopardy. Especially since the church (and therefore God) has told her only about a bazillion times that being a wife and mother are her highest callings?

          It’s all just a big mess, with about twelve base axioms that all tie together and feed one another, with the end result being heavy loads on women’s shoulders, very little freedom in Christ, and a very bare and bleak and narrow, as opposed to abundant, life.

          And we women gaslight ourselves, trying to convince ourselves we’re happy. And we can do it, for a time. Until we can’t. And then we break. And some of us, God and others forgive us, find a safe space on the internet and vent to random strangers. 😊🙄😏😳

          • Tim

            It’s a fair point. My “Ladies, know your Bible” attendance has been pretty patchy over the years.

            Though joking aside, an over-emphasis on single gender socialising is a massive pet peeve of mine (hanging out with a large group of only men is about my least favourite thing to do). So by accident we’ve largely avoided churches with dedicated women’s Bible studies.

            Anyway, I digress. I’m glad I know now that these unhealthy attitudes are widespread, so I can make sure my daughters get plenty of the opposite.

          • Jo R

            I did not trust Christ until I was in college, so I never did youth group at a church.

            But you need to know what your daughters are being told there, too. Stuff like “boys can’t stop, so it’s up to you girls to make sure you don’t go too far.” 😱

          • Tim

            Yeah, I have heard variations of that one. Pretty sick of messages like that which infantilise males and hurt everyone.

          • Tim

            Actually, is there a post on here somewhere summarising the main unhelpful/harmful messages given to teenagers in some youth groups? Would be a good one to read and discuss with my wife before our kids get to that age (oldest is 9 this week but how time flies). I’ve seen a various posts on that general theme, but my wife’s the main breadwinner at the moment and doesn’t have as much time for reading. I try to find her summarised versions of stuff when I can.

          • Jo R

            Select Family | Parenting Teenagers from the menu at the top of the page. There have been some real doozies recently. 😁

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            We have a book on that coming out next spring! She Deserves Better.

          • Tim

            Ah cool! I’ve heard you mention that book before but didn’t know that was the topic. Will look out for it.

            My wife and I have just started reading GSR together by the way. It’s great. Thanks!

          • Tim

            Have been thinking about this a bit more. Here’s something I can speak from experience on. I did grow up in the church, and one where abstinence until marriage was the norm and was expected. I can’t once remember hearing “Guys, your sexual urges are strong and will control you if you let them. You need to practice self control in other ways (by fasting, disciplined exercise, doing what you say you’ll do in small things etc) in early adolescence so that you’ll be able to live up to your values when you’re a little older, and in adulthood”. Which with hindsight, seems like such an obvious message to drum into young men if abstinence until marriage was a value you wanted to instill in them. And with lots of other positive side effects, unlike the negative side effects of the ‘girls as gatekeepers’ message that seems to be more commonly taught.

            When we were engaged, my wife and I often slept in the same bed. This was probably unwise and not something I’d recommend to couples aiming for abstinence. But we didn’t have intercourse before our wedding night, and as far as I recall it never required her to push me away. And I don’t believe I have/had an unusually low sex drive or superhuman self control.

            It’s a good thing to teach people to avoid putting themselves in situations where they might do something they’ll regret later, and that is a small part of self control. But I also think ‘temptation’ is often just used as an excuse by people who haven’t firmly decided to do what they believe to be the right thing.

          • Tim

            My comment re self control was in response to Jo’s one a few back starting ‘i did not trust…’, in case that was confusing.

  9. Jess

    About the Mountain city counseling quote:
    My mom tried to teach me that I’d potentially have to change everything about who I naturally was in order to get married. She insisted my future husband would want it and claimed that I’d then want to do it to please him. If I went by my mom’s view, I’m not sure I’d ever be able to even consider a guy abusive. Anytime my husband didn’t like ANYTHING about me, it would always be “my” fault, not his and he’d be well within his rights as my “authority” to force me to do it. Even if she ever claimed she thought a guy was abusive(and she never did, despite at least 1 family member I’m positive would fall into that category), she’d be hard pressed to justify it against what she claimed was necessary for a “successful” marriage. Even repeated infidelity (which happened to a cousin) could be chalked up to something the wife did wrong.

    Luckily for me, I spent most of my time with my dad, who had a much healthier view of relationships.

    • Tim

      That’s really messed up that you were taught that Jess! Pleased that you were obviously able to avoid taking too much of it on board.


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