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Rape and Sexual Assault, Women's Bodies

Mary Winkler Was Abused and Raped by Pastor Husband

Mary Winkler

Mary Winkler, the pastor’s wife who shot and killed her husband and about whom I’ve blogged about here and here has been on trial this week.   Yesterday a psychologist testified that Matthew Winkler regularly forced Mary Winkler to watch pornographic movies with him, forced her to have anal sex and didn’t stop when she said “no.”   Defense attorneys have introduced images from the Winklers’ computers into evidence and an expert has testified as to the number of similar images on the computer.  While jurors and those attending trial have been forbidden to discuss the images, it seems likely they are pornographic.  There are hundreds of them.

Matthew Winkler was, according to testimony, a classic abuser.  Besides raping and sexually abusing his wife, he regularly threatened her with a gun, cuffed her around, pinched and bruised her, and routinely humiliated and demeaned her.  He criticized her weight, attempted to control what she ate, and forbade her to eat chocolate in  his presence.   He consistently berated and dehumanized her, including in front of church staff members.   He told her he was disappointed that their third and last child was a girl  instead of a boy.

Matthew Winkler was also a bully, in the way abusers always are.   A neighbor described him as completely out of control one day because the neighbor’s dog was barking.  Church employees said that while at first he seemed nice, he mistreated Mary and mistreated them as well, behaving as though he were better than them.

Mary’s psychologist testified that Mary responded as those of us who have been sexually, physically and spiritually battered do.  She dissociated sometimes, stopped feeling things, stopped being aware of her surroundings.  She didn’t try to leave because she feared it would make things worse. 

Matthew Winkler also abused his children.  The evening before Mary shot him, he had done something he regularly did to their kids when, as babies, they cried or were noisy.  He put his hand over their nose and mouth until they stopped.  The night before the shooting, Matthew had covered the mouth and nose of his then 1-year-old — the one he wished was a boy and not a girl — because she was crying.  Mary Winkler says she got the gun out in an attempt to confront Matthew for what could easily have become a suffocation. 

Mary doesn’t remember shooting her husband.  She remembers bits and pieces of the events which led to the shooting. 

What I know is, her story rings true, and absolutely, I believe her.  Matthew Winkler terrorized her, terrorized his family.  I am not at all surprised.   Her story is the story of countless hundreds and thousands of women married to conservative religious men who abuse, bully and sexually assault them and all with the blessing of church members who do not even agree that it is possible for a wife to be sexually assaulted by her husband.  If they speak up, if they protest or, god forbid, complain, they will be called “disobedient” and “unsubmissive,” a “shame” to their husbands and to God, bad mothers,  and in some instances they will be subjected to church discipline and shunning.  In that world you don’t talk about the sexual brutalities your husband is inflicting on you regularly– especially if he is the pastor.  It isn’t “discreet.”  It isn’t “chaste.”  It isn’t “reverent.”  You will be told you are a “foolish woman” who is “tearing down her own house with  her own hands,” instead of “building it up,” like the “wise woman,” by agreeing, for example, that being anally raped, or raped in any way, isn’t “really” rape because, after all, your body belongs to your husband.  You should be praying and reading your Bible more, you would likely be told.   To complain about being forced to watch pornography wouldn’t have been helpful either.  She watched it, didn’t she?  She would have been adjuged one of those Jezebel types, leading her husband down the primrose path, because surely this man of God, this man of the cloth, wouldn’t otherwise watch pornography. 

So Mary Winkler endured.  She smiled.  She took care of the children the best she could.  She lied about the bruises.  She told herself tomorrow things would be better, God would “change her husband’s heart,” he would stop smothering the kids,  he would stop raping her, stop pinching her, he would stop being revolted when she ate in front of him, he would treat her, maybe,  like a human being.  One day.  If she was just a good wife, and prayed, and kept on serving him and above all, kept quiet about what he was doing to her.

Link, Link

Tennessee v. Winkler




22 thoughts on “Mary Winkler Was Abused and Raped by Pastor Husband

  1. I meant to post here.
    It is absolutely detestable that someone could use that sort of power for negative instead of positive. It’s this sort of thing that turns the church into an ominous,scary, intimidating thing. I am not religious, but perhaps I would be if things like this weren’t so prevalent.

    Posted by hurricanecandice | April 18, 2007, 2:24 pm
  2. I hope she gets off. She deserves to be able to have her life and to raise her children. His control and reign has consumed her life, she did not pre-meditate this action, and even if she did, who can blame her for wanting to defend herself and her children.

    There has to be a special place in hell for men like this.

    Posted by Divine Purpose | April 18, 2007, 2:43 pm
  3. Its good she took the decision to get out of that situation. No religion condones that kind of behaviour or treatment.

    Posted by Sumera | April 18, 2007, 2:46 pm
  4. Fucking sick sleazebag – if only ‘solid evidence’ was behind every woman who’s ever killed her life-threatening (or not) abuser.And GOD (har har) I hate these fucking religions that dominate people’s minds – this may probably not be the most sensitive response to a story like this but as long as you’re reading it in terms of what Matthew, in his mind, thought it acceptable to do to Mary Winkler and her children, and the incredible ego-inflating response (basically, ignoring it) his behaviour invoked in his peers – just thinking of the over-blown image this man must’ve had of himself makes me laugh.He was a whiny, deluded moron who needed the cover of the most violent, patriarchal and widespread religion in the world to make himself feel good, in charge, in control.

    I know and see and my response as anomalous – probably as I’ve been lucky enough to not have had to endure the worst of what patriarchy doles out to women in terms of psychological abuse mixed with physical violence – but stories of this kind of abuse in religious communities make me see men and patriarchal religion as incredibly weak, infinitely insecure, and laughably ridiculous.Not that I don’t seethe at these men’s feeling entitled to do what they do to the women and children in their ‘communities’, but it all the more exposes the organizing (and doctrine) of the Abrahimic religions as nothing more than men having an existential crisis.So what do they do?Invent huge, brainwashing, psychologically,emotionally, and physically damaging religions and social systems where they finally have a big, huge, all-important 24/7 purpose:control over everything, lest everything go awry and somebody wises up.That’s what it is.Their hand-wringing rage and insecurity makes me laugh.There have been plenty of societies without this particular mind-fuck in the men.I believe that the cause and origin of patriarchy lies with men’s minds, not women’s reproductive capacities or ‘role’ as some would have it.They get fucked up in the mind somehow, and then expect women to reassure them of their usefulness and their purpose.Some mommy complex.Think of the Musuo in China, for instance (I’m quite positive everyone here’s heard of these lovely people) where the concept of fatherhood is nonexistent and men play the role of father to their sister’s children.Perhaps men’s mindfuck lies in their entitlement to children.”I’m gonna have kids when I grow up” – if you don’t find somebody to incubate your precious seed, well the whole statement implies rape, really.Only girl children should ever think that thought.Naturally speaking, women are in charge by default.You have a little human slide out of you, it’s ‘yours’.You feed it, teach it how to live (tell it what to do).But it seems men take that important biological fact, twist in their own importance in producing some dna for the child, and take it to mean that THEY ought to be doing all the ‘providing’, the living, the having fun whilst trying to keep all women in a perpetual state of pregnancy.Fucking MORONS.And I bet they’re going to look to us to salve their little consciousness and solve their problem for them, if they ever feel like it.Well fuck that noise.YOU fix it, and I suggest you do it now before women really, REALLY crack and decide to wipe your sorry asses from this planet.With women being able connect all over the globe and with the increasingly hideous way men are abusing women, it just might happen.

    Well jesus christ in a fruitwagon, talk about going off on a tangent.Forgive me, Heart?What I really wanted to say is, believe or not, Hi.I’ve been reading your blog for over a year but haven’t commented as of yet.I actually wanted to, if I could, make a suggestion about the pictures that accompany your posts of cases of men’s abuse.It occured to me that most posts have a picture of the women or girls that have been victimized, but rarely of the victimizer himself.That may be because pictures of them are sometimes hard to find especially when posting during a pending trial.Is there a reason you do this, or, hell forbid, have discussed it somewhere here that I’ve missed? I only think that, considering how women are generally blamed for their own vicitmization, and how mainstream articles are written about it (” she got raped” for instance), posting a picture of the abuser, right there for everyone to see and to connect what the abuser’s done (which is usually all that gets written of him) to an actual person, would be very countering to that mainstream attitude.Not that you shouldn’t have a picture of the victim as a person as well if you wish, maybe as it helps women who have been through similar situations to not feel alone and inhuman.

    Well those are just my thoughts, I love this place any way.Thank you for the safe space and the important words.

    Posted by Gonne | April 18, 2007, 3:02 pm
  5. Makes me sick! Do you believe in capital punishment?

    Posted by Mary | April 18, 2007, 3:15 pm
  6. I really hope that Mary Winkler gets off. She has been through more than enough already.

    Posted by stormy | April 18, 2007, 7:23 pm
  7. A scum-sucking, repeat wife-beater and child-smotherer, who used twisted religious ideas as justification for the torture of his own family, is dead by the hand of the Woman he abused, in defense of herself and her children. This is NOT a crime, it is DIRECT ACTION to protect innocent lives in the face of AN ONGOING THREAT OF GRIEVOUS BODILY HARM AND DEATH.


    Posted by akkarri | April 18, 2007, 7:24 pm
  8. First I heard about this case, I KNEW she was being abused, just from the way she carried out her “crime”. I just knew.

    Posted by Amananta | April 18, 2007, 8:56 pm
  9. This is NOT a crime, it is DIRECT ACTION to protect innocent lives in the face of AN ONGOING THREAT OF GRIEVOUS BODILY HARM AND DEATH.

    Absolutely. It is strange how women are not ‘allowed’ to protect themselves, nor claim self defence, but if a man was in the same position, with the same threats against him, suddenly it becomes ‘justifiable’.

    Posted by stormy | April 18, 2007, 9:09 pm
  10. I made a comment to this thread as soon as it was posted but the comment never appeared, so I’ll make it again.

    She should get an award for killing him.

    Posted by Branjor | April 18, 2007, 9:28 pm
  11. Akkari, I cannot help but wonder just how people would’ve reacted if he had KILLED HER AND THEIR CHILDREN… I can just picture the fucking headlines “Wife and children slain in lovers spat” AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH I just want to #$%$%#$@$%$$#%% (too harsh to type believe me. ;))

    Ok deep breath… return to “normal” calm appearance… She is no criminal, she defended herself and her children, but no DOUBT ABOUT IT, they will say she didnt go through the proper channels set up for women in her “situation.”

    Posted by Divine Purpose | April 18, 2007, 9:37 pm
  12. Go! Branjor!
    (It is what I was thinking, but wouldn’t say it.)

    The point is, even if she managed to get away from him successfully (and we know that is rarely easy/fast), he would have taken up another women who would have been his next victim. Abusers go from victim to victim — that is quite often the only time that the first victim gets any peace, once he has taken up with his next.

    Posted by stormy | April 18, 2007, 9:53 pm
  13. typo -‘another women’
    should be – ‘another woman’ singular.

    *slaps wrist* must proof read BEFORE hitting button. Doh!

    Posted by stormy | April 18, 2007, 9:57 pm
  14. Well, I don’t know what happened to your first comment, Branjor! Sorry about that. :/

    Gonne, I’m glad you finally came out of lurkdom, and thanks for your good thoughts and words! I hope you keep on commenting. As far as photos go, in general, I don’t post men’s photos unless there is a good reason for it, because this is women’s space. 🙂 I like to see the lovely faces of women here as often as possible. 🙂 But I hear you– sometimes it does seem right to post men’s photos, and so I do. But sometimes I really just don’t even want some abuser’s face on the page next to the woman he abused. 😦 Sometimes I don’t want to give him that level of attention, which some guys actually want and get off on.

    If people could imagine what a woman like Mary Winkler faces, or any woman in that world, in that situation. The guy presents this wonderful face to everyone and even people who see him in bad moments give him a pass because he’s a pastor or righteous dude and they figure everyone has a bad day. People WANT to believe pastors are spiritual people, wise, close to God, they WANT “holy men” to be holy, and so they see what they want to see a lot of the time.

    So there is Mary, charged with being the supportive pastor’s wife, the good Christian mom and a good example to the women in the church. But the guy is raping her anally. He’s forcing her to watch pornography. Even if she does manage to leave, imagine having to explain WHY, and particularly in a milieux in which you are required to be modest, chaste, discreet and reverencing your husband, submitting to him. When people ask why you left you’re going to tell them? What about your kids? Do you want them to know you left their dad because he was a pornhound who raped you? What about his folks, whom you may care about and love, your in-laws, your couple friends? Maybe you’ve said all the right things, that you have a great relationship, hot dang, isn’t it the most wonderful thing, this “Christian marriage,” thing. Maybe she’s talked him up because she’s supposed to, she’s said what a great dad, man, husband he is, in moments when he was treating her well, or at least wasn’t abusing her.

    If she leaves, she’s going to be called a liar because if he was so bad, why’d she say he was a great husband and father? If she explains why she left, he’s going to deny it or say it was all her idea and again, she’s the liar. If anybody DOES believe her, she’s going to be told (1) God hates divorce; (2) she should have sought “spiritual counsel” (which counsel usually amounts to telling the woman how to be a better wife and that her husband probably abuses her because she is failing in some way); (3) she should pray and read the Bible and ask God for grace to get through whatever he put her through.

    So she bears up under it and hopes God WILL change him. Until she breaks. 😦


    Posted by womensspace | April 18, 2007, 10:10 pm
  15. If she leaves, she’s going to be called a liar because if he was so bad, why’d she say he was a great husband and father? If she explains why she left, he’s going to deny it or say it was all her idea and again, she’s the liar. If anybody DOES believe her, she’s going to be told (1) God hates divorce; (2) she should have sought “spiritual counsel” (which counsel usually amounts to telling the woman how to be a better wife and that her husband probably abuses her because she is failing in some way); (3) she should pray and read the Bible and ask God for grace to get through whatever he put her through.

    Heart, that’s an over-familiar scenario to me, and very likely what she *believed* would happen if she left.
    But sometimes people are better than imagined. My mother expected universal hatred when she filed for divorce. In fact she was given a lot of support. Even so, it was a black time, and I don’t know how we would have coped without those few friends of hers to remind her she was doing the right thing.

    The point is, even if she managed to get away from him successfully (and we know that is rarely easy/fast), he would have taken up another women who would have been his next victim. Abusers go from victim to victim — that is quite often the only time that the first victim gets any peace, once he has taken up with his next.

    Nods. Seeing history repeated now with my father’s new girlfriend, and I can verify that exes don’t quit harassing until they’ve successfully chased down a new victim.
    One thing I find disturbing about my parent’s case is that after the decision to divorce, stories started crawling out of the woodwork. Everyone had confirmed for years how wonderful our father was, then they were saying they’d always known there were problems but hadn’t wanted to ‘upset the applecart’. Practically no-one ever told Mum about his anti-social behaviour.

    I do hope common sense prevails in Mary’s case.

    Posted by Sophie | April 19, 2007, 1:13 am
  16. Yes, Stormy and Divine Purpose–

    If a Woman shoots her abuser- usually after *years* of sying nothing in the face of horrific attacks- she is dragged through the courts because slaves are not allowed to fight back, and the men are thinking ‘Gee, if one does it and we say it’s okay, the rest of them might start to get ideas’…

    You can bet that if a male cop had ‘rescued’ her by shooting her abusive husband, he would have been given a medal. It’s the old ‘Women are supposed to wait for rescue’ CRAP. Most of the time, there is no rescue, just more beatings, until the waiting Woman dies.

    I suggest that Women follow Nature, Our Great Mother. When a badass male Grizzly Bear tries to come after a Grizzly Sow to get at her cubs for snack-time purposes, the Sow unloads on him with tooth, claw and Female Fury until he is beaten back. She goes after him again and again, until he not only knows to leave Her and her cubs alone, but also until She is able to completely drive him out of the area where She and Her cubs are. She fights like Hell, Destruction and Death, with every ounce of Power and Viciousness She can muster, because it is She and all other Sows– not the males they breed with– who are the True Guardians of the future generations of the Bear Nation.

    This being said, I hereby nominate Mary Winkler for the ‘Great Bear Mother Award of Valor’ for acting with the bravery of a She-Grizzly in standing up to the cowardly shit-stain who tortured her and her children.

    The Mother hath Judged in Her Daughter’s favor, and the attacker is dead.

    Posted by akkarri | April 19, 2007, 1:51 am
  17. DP: Akkari, I cannot help but wonder just how people would’ve reacted if he had KILLED HER AND THEIR CHILDREN…

    The reactions would be something like these:
    Whey didn’t she leave him?
    She’s as bad as he is for not protecting her kids.
    Some women will do anything to hang on to a man, even put their kids’ lives in jeapordy.
    I wonder what she did to make him, a good man and pastor, so crazy. He must have discovered that she was cheating on him.

    It’s always the woman’s fault. Always.

    Posted by CoolAunt | April 19, 2007, 12:53 pm
  18. CoolAunt, as much as I have those reasons, I have to say thank you for pointing them out. It makes me so damn sick, I too grew up in a christian home, i DETEST the church and its perversions. My mother was told that first is God and THEN is her Husband and then her Children. So my father’s abuse, addiction, theft was excused, his being passed out stoned with his male friends in the house and ME IS 13 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER as the sole guard of the younger 3. To keep these MEN from entering their room and killing their innocense. THE WOMEN IN THE CHURCH TOLD HER THIS IS HOW IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE… she was a sinner because she had 4 children out of wedlock, she had to pay for her sins and that his ABUSE was just some sort of fuking punishment for her “crimes.” (My name: Divine Purpose, is sort of a mock if you will of my experience. I use that as my pen name just for clarity. I havent been to church since I was old enough to say NO and not be beaten aka 19) I cannot blame the church for these men, but I can say that that experience DOES NOT HELP. It gives these cowards the “RIGHT” to act as they do.

    I’m going to stop because I am getting very emotional and I dont want to ramble.

    Posted by Divine Purpose | April 19, 2007, 3:41 pm
  19. because of my families good name and sensivity of the thing i will be anonomious here. i am a muslim by birth and when i was 12 my mother who was a 35 year old widow got married to a muslim pastor or mullah because she was forced by her parents. soon we were at uk and life was nothing but hell. the mullah supposed to be a man of god but he sure do have a wicked brain of a a conservative indian woman my mom was very obedient of her husband and this mullah abused her in all sort of ways. he was very poor so we had to live in a one room apartment and he forced mom to wear provocative dresses at house often bra and petticot for his viewing pleasure , that i am also at the room never bothered him a bit. he was abusive in nature and despite being a kid i was forced to work in a grocery store ran by some other immigrent for no money as he took it from me. instead of sending me to school he told mom that i am going to be home school and that it. my mom an uneducated woman tried her best to persue him to give me some education which he mostly did in gibberish manner .i begged the grocery store owner and his wife enrolled me into a school and thus i got some education, but at house things were as bad as ever. in a one room i had to live with them and often at night i could hear him talk about sex and etc and even some nightes i had the misfortune to see him fondling and mounting mom, it was vile. his perversition was such that to prevent mom making loud noises at night while love making or fondling he would often tie her mouth to prevent sound. when i turned 18 i jet off and i have no respect for these vile man of god’s.

    Posted by annonomious | February 24, 2008, 11:23 am
  20. annonomious, I am so, so sorry for what you have gone through in your life. I have just finished responding to Tam, whose husband and father went to strip bars, then came home and raped her. And now I am reading about this “man of god” who abused you and your mother so relentlessly. I feel such anger and such grief and I am just so very, very sorry. I’m so glad you got away from him and I hope that you never encounter this kind of man again, that you are able to create a life for yourself that is full of people who love and respect you and would never hurt you. I’m glad you could write about your life here because I know there are thousands of girls and women who have had your experiences and who will feel less alone because of what you have written.

    My very best to you,


    Posted by womensspace | February 24, 2008, 6:01 pm
  21. Having grown up in the same religious background I was not surprised to find out about the abuse. There are many men who grow up in a strict faith such as this that are messed up and I have no doubt her husband Matthew was one of them. It is kind of like the forbidden fruit, they are drawn to the forbidden. Women who love these men are damaged by having known them. This religion also doesn’t believe in divorce, that is why the women stay for so long in the abuse. Besides the sexual abuse , these men are extremely verbally abuse, Unless you have been there, you can not even imagine. I hope Mary has found peace and her children as well.

    Posted by amandamic21 | February 10, 2014, 12:13 pm


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