Marissa Greentree


I met my abuser at church. We were both attending seminary, headed into full-time ministry. I was an ordained Elder in my denomination and a Bible College graduate. I’d studied Scripture, debated theology and had been involved in church and ministry for as long as I could remember. Being a “Christian” was easy, for the most part. I even knew all the pretty, cliché things to say to those who needed counseling. My life drastically changed when I met … him.

He was charming, handsome, smart, funny and going into ministry … everything I ever wanted in a guy. When our relationship turned physical quickly, I was uncomfortable but, for fear of losing him, I went along. Light petting turned into a full-blown sexual relationship and, despite my best intentions, I was fearful of saying that “no” that I’d encouraged so many girls to just-say. He proposed and I was sure marriage would solve everything. Besides, as he had told me many times, “Marriage is just a license to have sex.” Somehow, twistedly, that made sense.

As we left the parking lot after our wedding, my now-husband was different. He was angry. I did everything I could to help and to make it better. The abuse gradually escalated. The sexual abuse started right away and got to the point where it was happening multiple times a day. Finding out I was six weeks pregnant six weeks after we got married only made the abuse worse. Partial bed rest ordered from my doctor was ignored by my husband. I had too many things to do around the house to keep him happy–my homework, etc. No chance to sit still. Gradually, I quit classes and my job and became a prisoner in my own home. I begged him to stop yelling at me. I cringed when he raised his hand to hit me and cried when he gripped my arm and blocked the door so I couldn’t pass.

At seven months pregnant, I became a victim of marital rape. I sat stunned when it was all over. I couldn’t tell anyone about what was going on behind closed doors. Why would anyone listen? My husband had me convinced that I wasn’t worth hearing anyway. So, I hid behind a mask. My son was born and I was thrilled to have someone to love and who would love me unconditionally. Very early on, my husband began spreading his abuse onto our newborn son, which escalated my own misery, guilt, and abuse. A mere five weeks after birth, with episiotomy stitches still in place, legs and feet still inhumanly swollen, and pelvic bone cracked, I again became a victim of marital rape and, this time, sodomy.

Soon after, I discovered his pornography addiction. Confused and defeated, I wondered when it would end. I knew of a girlfriend who had struggled in her marriage due to her husband’s use of porn, so I sought her out to gain some advice. After a few well-chosen questions from her, she got my entire story out of me. It was this friend who finally put words to what I had been experiencing: sexual abuse, rape, physical, verbal, emotional abuse. I began to do research and discovered she was right. After seeking the counsel of other older Christian women who had survived domestic violence, talking to DV advocates, sheriffs, reading books and articles and praying very hard, I knew I had to leave my abuser. I had to protect my son and myself.

The following year was riddled with divorce proceedings, protective orders, living in a shelter, watching the rear view mirror, legal paperwork, court appearances, and many fearful nights of crying out at God. With the finalization of our divorce, my now ex-husband was ordered to graduate from a Batterer’s Intervention Program before having unsupervised visits with our son. Just three weeks shy of his graduation, he took a polygraph test through which he admitted to molesting at least five children. After another year in a custody battle, I received a verdict from the judge: I won sole physical and legal custody of my son with no contact between my son and my ex.

The last four years have been a roller coaster ride. I left my marriage devastated physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I felt like I was alone. I felt God was distant. I was angry at my abuser and at God. I screamed at God for answers … I’d decided I wouldn’t let go or let up until He answered me. Finally, God did speak to me and radically changed my heart from one of hatred and bitterness to one of seeking and learning. Now I encourage abuse victims and survivors, as well as educate others on how to recognize and respond to domestic violence. I started a ministry called Healing Arts Hawaii and I do trauma-informed art workshops for abuse victims/survivors, human trafficking survivors, and the homeless in our community! God showed me in real, tangible ways that I am special to Him and didn’t deserve abuse. God took the ashes of my existence and is making a beautiful life out of it.

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