Suppose that you are faithful Latter-day Saint who lives in a part of the world where there are few members of the Church, and everyone knows each other–or knows someone who knows those you don’t. A small, close-knit network of several 3rd and 4th generation families and their children, minimally impacted by converts and migration.
Suppose further that your spouse is a very well-respected member of the Church–generally regarded as a highly spiritual person, faithful to temple covenants, magnifies callings, has friends in lofty local leadership positions, and serves in the ward otherwise in ways that demonstrate to all observers that he is an honest, loving, faithful Latter-day Saint, husband, and father. Suppose, however, that the truth is, your spouse is a monster who uses the gospel as a weapon to demean you, to malign you, and to compel you into submission in all areas of life. A monster who has abused you in every way imaginable, draining of you of any light or happiness you once had while forcing you to live in fear for your life, and convinced you that you’re an unworthy, sinful, waste of a spouse who holds the whole family back from achieving its potential in the Kingdom. Suppose that, after enduring five years of abuse in secret, you finally flee with your children for a safe house.
Suppose that, during the divorce proceedings, your ex-spouse-to-be tries to convince you to come home, to not destroy an eternal family. Suppose also that your spouse has enlisted the help of all your joint friends to talk you into returning. Suppose that he has hedged his reputation in every imaginable way, creating lie after lie and planting rumors of your mental instability, your “need to find yourself,” and giving watery-eyed speeches in Church about the love he has for you, while secretly sending you text messages full of vitriol, filth, and cruelty. Suppose that he has taken your flee and call for help, and spun it publicly as a woman walking out on her family, destroying an eternal marriage, and rejecting temple covenants. Suppose that through it all, you have turned the other cheek, and having determined to not give him any ammunition he might use before a judge in a custody hearing, you have refused to stoop to his level or drag his name through the mud by telling “your side of the story” to people who really have no business prying into your marriage or personal life. Suppose that your only refuge is your own family, a few old friends, and a Bishop who has seen through the lies and nonsense, but who is largely powerless.
Suppose that you win big in your divorce proceedings, because the judge also can spot a narcissist in sheep’s clothing, and you get a final divorce, full custody of the kids, and a new start. Suppose though, that your now ex-spouse will not let you get an new start, because he continues to spread rumors about you to anyone you go on a date with, to show up at functions where you might have social outlets, to refuse his court-appointed time with the kids if it happens to allow you to engage with anyone on a social level. Suppose he continues to abuse you verbally, if not physically, and tries to turn your children against you, while simultaneously frequently and strategically refusing to see the kids or pay child support.
Suppose that, in this close-knit network of small wards and stakes where everyone knows everyone, you have grown weary of countless “friends” and ward members telling you to return, to forgive, and to repent. Suppose that you’ve grown tired of discovering, after an exciting first date, that your ex-husband has “gotten to him,” and ruined any hope for a second date.
You make the call: Is it okay to go on the offensive?