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.