Singer and worship leader Jakki Civeriati has walked a road of discovery and learning, often through very challenging times. Some of her greatest learning moments have been through the experience of emotional abuse which has been prevalent in her life from her childhood and through her first marriage.
     Jakki has written a book Goodbye for Now or Goodbye Forever about her experiences of emotional abuse and how she has overcome them, with the help of her Saviour, Jesus, in the hope it may help others who are experiencing the same behaviours in their life, within relationships they have. She speaks with Sight about the book...

When you were writing Goodbye for Now or Goodbye Forever, did you have a specific readership in mind?
"Before I commenced writing I was at a Hillsong conference. During worship I felt the Lord ask me to write a book. Prior to this, I had had conversations with women who described being in an emotionally abusive relationship, although they were too close to the relationship and weren’t able to see it. I felt frustrated to see this. As I prayed about this, I heard the Lord say to me ‘write a book for women who are ready to address the emotionally abusive behaviours in their lives’. Emotional abuse is experienced by men and women, whilst acknowledging this, I have written my book with the audience of women in mind."

Goodbye for Now or Goodbye Forever

The cover of 'Goodbye for Now or Goodbye Forever'.



A person I admire?..."These days it is a person who rises up and breaks free from the cycle of emotional abuse – a person who chooses to overcome."

A favourite book in the Bible..."Isaiah, the Lord has spoken to me so much through this book."

A place that is special to me?..."Italy – so much beauty."

Your story is very raw and honest; you include instances of the emotional abuse you experienced. Did you debate about including these moments in your story and how you handled them or knew they had to be in there?
"It was really important to me to explain that not only was I experiencing emotional abuse, but the way I was reacting to the coercive control was also emotional abusive and my reactions kept me trapped in the cycle of abuse I was in. I grew up in a home with emotionally abusive behaviours which shaped me, and I attracted that type of behaviour into my adulthood. As I journeyed through the cycle of emotional abuse in my first marriage, the Lord was teaching me how to set boundaries and how to manage my response to emotionally abusive behaviour. These tools I felt I needed to write in the book. I wanted to be real and honest about who I was. Our marriage wasn’t a one-sided story. The Lord was changing and growing me, leading me to break free from the cycle and the trauma bond I was trapped in. An emotionally abusive relationship is very difficult and very messy. I wanted to present my story in a way that others also related to."

In the book I get the impression your journey to America caused you to question your faith. Has your journey of faith always taken an upward trajectory or were there times you wanted to give it all away?
"My first husband and I were together for 16 years, married for 13-and-a-half years; he was a man I deeply loved. I chose to leave emotional abuse and three months after this, he ended our marriage. Some time after this I went to our home to collect all my things to discover another woman. The marriage ending, along with the betrayal, saw my life explode into a thousand pieces. The rejection hit me so hard I felt a breaking of my soul.
     "The disappointment was so severe that I lost my ability to care. Even if I wanted to, I wasn’t able to. I had spent that whole first year in intense grief and I chose to hang on to Jesus with everything I had. Along with this I attended counselling. I got to the end of that year and my black-and-white had faded to grey and I roamed around New York city asking myself the question if Christianity was right for me. I wasn’t sure anymore. I was absolutely exhausted yet maturity and a trust in God had me book into Ellel Ministries returning to Australia. I didn’t even know what course I was attending, I just knew to go. On that weekend, the Lord challenged me to submit myself to the Lordship of Christ over my life and I rededicated my life that day.
     "We all will go through suffering. For some of us that suffering will take years to process and overcome, yet the Bible says that we will share in the sufferings of Christ. Rather than walking away from my faith, the Lord wanted to show me this is the reality of the narrow road and, as we go through trials and hardship, we have a choice to come before the Lord on our knees in surrender, knowing He is a good and loving God who is always bringing the best to our lives. I didn’t want to become stuck in blame, ‘Why me? it’s not fair’ which stops us from moving forward. I had walked with Christ for 16 years and He was bringing me into a relationship that reflected intimacy with Him. For this to happen, the foundations within me that were founded in rejection and shame had to be broken for Him to lay down new foundations. Up until then, my walk with Christ reflected my brokenness, which looked like performance and striving. Today my foundations are built in belonging in Him, His love and righteousness."

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In the book you speak of how you came to write your album Dust in the Sky. Did writing your album become a way to help you through your marriage breakup?
"Country music was a big part of our life at that time. We had spent many years travelling up to Tamworth for the Country Music Festival. I had been singing for many years at our church and I was taking my first steps in song writing. I had written the title track of the album Dust in the Sky when we were together. When the marriage ended, the songs just flowed. It’s amazing how grief enables you to put words on page and articulate what you are going through. Each year in Tamworth I attended the shows of Kasey and Bill Chambers. I was a big fan of their style of country music. So when the time came and I was ready to record, I approached Nash Chambers, Kasey’s brother and manager, at one of Bill’s shows. It took a whole lot of courage to ask them to take on the project, and the final product was so much more than I imagined."

What are some of your techniques to deal with stress and what are your ‘tells’?
"Over the years living in an abusive marriage, my 'go-to' in coping with the stress of the marriage was worship. I was a hard-core worshipper of Jesus and, outside of church and on a Sunday, it was either in my home or in my car. Singing is a powerful tool to relieve stress and entering into God’s presence lifted that stress off my life."

What do you say to people when they ask ‘Am I in the will of God?’, knowing what you know now? 
"Being in the will of God is submitting to Him guiding you in your steps, where you are and where He is taking you. I got to the point in the marriage where each night I was laying face down in my pillow crying out to God 'Help, please help me'. I was drowning in the relationship, which was destroying me. I had spent years pressing the reset button, forgiving and processing through painful behaviour and I wasn’t able to live like this anymore. Yet, my Christian belief was to fight for my marriage, I didn’t believe in divorce, I didn’t know what the Lord’s will for me was. The Lord brought people into my life to help me have clarity in my situation and one particular conversation brought me to the point of choosing to separate. Yet before this choice, He spoke to me one morning. I woke up with that emptiness that had been consuming me now for months and I opened my Bible as I sat up in bed to read ‘live in peace’. I knew He was calling me to a life of peace, to leave the turmoil I was living in. I chose to live in peace."

Due to your experience with people who have controlled your life, have you ever found yourself in the situation where you have become the controller?
"I think every person has behaved in a contolling manner; this is humanity and the fall of man. Yet there is a difference in being a bossy person who looks to have their way, to a person who lives from an agenda to control another person. Not only holding the power in the relationship, but taking the other person’s power away from them. Coercive control exists to take away the victim's independence and their self worth. The victim comes to the point of believing I am not able to live without this person and I can’t trust myself. This is the cycle of emotional abuse.
     "It starts off in the honeymoon stage moves around to the agitation stage and as that builds, it moves to the explosion stage. As this cycle goes around, it creates a cementing of the relationship which then becomes a trauma bond through behaviours such as being spoken down to with disrespect, name calling, gas lighting, silent treatment, rage, accusation, intimidation and blame. Along with this is where the abuser acts as the parent and the victim as the child, which is referred to as 'infantilisation'. The victim is communicated down to and not allowed to do things their way. They can’t make decisions for themselves or the family and their individual expression is not allowed. The decisions they do make are seen as the wrong choices which leaves the victim second guessing themselves, afraid of making other decisions, afraid of having a voice and walking on eggshells in case they make a mistake. They believe they are inferior and the abuser acts out as if they are superior.
     "Along with this, the abuser creates division within the family, between the victim and their children or extended family, undermining them and using destructive criticism to destroy the victim's character and credibility. My heart and passion is to see people shine, to be all God has created them to be. I am naturally an encourager and a lifter of others. I love to build confidence into others because this was also done for me in my church when I was living in emotional abuse."

Do you feel you have forgiven those in your childhood and your ex-husband for the way you were treated?
"Yes, definitely. The thread of forgiveness is woven through my story. When you address emotionally abusive behaviours in a relationship, there is always payback to deal with. This is also referred to as narcissistic supply. Payback is very painful and it is the reason why I would feel like I took one step forward and three steps back. Yet each time I faced abuse, the Lord took me on the road to forgiveness and being set free from the impact of the behaviour. Forgiveness is key to moving forward and I have always been determined that I wouldn’t stay where I was in my brokenness."

Would you say you have successfully managed many of the relationship issues in your life with your second marriage and what role did your faith play in that?
"As we travelled across the Nullarbor Plain in our Jucy Rental campervan for our honeymoon, Marco drove and I sat in the back playing my guitar and reading the book Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. In my first marriage, I had lived for so many years in self-protection mode and I found that I continued to live this way now I was married to Marco. My learnt behaviours - of looking over my shoulder, being ready for what would come next - hadn’t left me and I watched Marco so closely to see where he would fail. It’s not easy travelling on the road together, it brings stress and frustration and we faced some pretty big setbacks - like having a massive car accident where we hit a cow warming his belly on the bitumen at sunset on the highway 1000 kilometres from Perth at 100kph and then a truck hitting us at the same speed from behind, taking off one third of our van. As we drove across the Nullabor, the Lord was drawing me unto Himself as He whispered, 'It’s time Jakki'. It was time to step out of self-protection and into love and friendship. As scared as I felt, I said 'Yes'. I didn’t change overnight, yet in time I began to look at Marco differently and I stopped watching his responses so closely because I now found myself in love and in friendship rather than coercive control."

With your advice in the book - was it mainly from experience you worked it out, or have you had professional help to work through it all?
"The Lord has blessed me with amazing leaders in the church over the years who have come alongside me, encouraged me, prayed for me and taught me how to affirm the word of God over my life. I served in the worship team and, being under the teaching on worship, I took it into my private world. Along with this I walked closely with my counsellor and mentor who was a massive part of my healing and recovery. Saying all that, the first eight years of my marriage, I journeyed the abusive behaviours in our relationship on my own. Over the years, the Lord put tools in my hand such as how to rise up and have a voice in the midst of intimidation, how to set boundaries, how to trust my intuition, how to stop walking on eggshells and be myself, to stop addressing the circumstance and to address the abuse, along with other tools that I speak about in my book."

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.