How churches can help victims of domestic abuse

thecross

I just re-blogged an article concerning churches helping abuse victims from Peace Works Blog https://revchrismoles.wordpress.com/ . The blog was written by a pastor concerned about abuse in Christian homes. Unfortunate, he doesn’t seem to be updating it anymore but I still visit it from time to time to drink of his wisdom.

The article I re-blogged from him, What can a healthy church provide to victims of abuse?, https://revchrismoles.wordpress.com/2014/10/24/what-can-a-healthy-church-provide-to-victims-of-abuse/ ,was one that hits right where I live. Having been in the position of trying to get help from God’s people, and having been hurt in the process, I shared his article in the hopes that somewhere down the line, someone else will receive the help, and the Christian love, that they so desperately need.

A reoccurring story that I hear from other abuse victims is that, when they turned to their local church for help, their pleas for help were rejected, they were blamed for the abuse, they were sent back home to be further abused or they were disbelieved. Our family has moved around quite a bit so I’ve sought help in multiple churches. Sadly when I turned to church leaders in order to seek guidance for the difficulties I and my children were facing, I was more often than not, turned away. Contrary to what I had hoped to find, I found leaders who were not approachable.

It is hard for an abuse victim to find the courage to speak up about her life. It was hard for me. To find that, instead of encouragement, concern, and prayerful guidance, I received harsh treatment, was ignored, or sent away, was disconcerting. I was used to that type of behavior from him but from God’s leaders? It hurt.

Eventually I was listened to, and believed, and offered prayers and prayerful advice but it took several attempts. Practical help still eluded me.

I wanted to go through some of what Peace Works writer, Pastor Chris Moles, suggested that the church can do to help victims of domestic abuse. I appreciate that he suggested that church leaders Believe her. As he put it, When a woman in particular gathers the courage to tell her pastor what she is experiencing it is important that we believe her. Remember we are not gathering evidence for a court case; we are supporting a sister who is hurting. Belief validates her suffering and puts us in a position to help. My experience has informed me that we may be the first people to truly believe her story and her, genuine, response to that kind of hope will convince us of her sincerity. 

Yes, there are women, and men, who will lie about being abused but a God-fearing woman won’t. Being believed, and accepted, means so much. When you live in an abusive situation, the abuse beats you down. You’re often told no one will believe you and, in fact, that is often true. It’s terrifying to reach out for help. Will anyone believe you? What will happen if that information makes it back to the abuser? So, him encouraging churches to believe her is beautiful.

He also suggested that the church Support her. He went on to say that supporting her means that she be allowed to walk through her pain in community, surrounded by loving sisters who will comfort, pray for her, and hold her accountable to the process. Part of supporting her, Pastor Moles suggested was providing biblical counsel to her. Counsel which will include a process of healing and forgiveness in the context of safety. Ensure her that the church will not rush reconciliation but will promote her healing, while aggressively calling her husband to repentance, change, and accountability. While I know this will be a difficult subject for some churches, consider how your plan may include considerations for separation, and even divorce if necessary. For more information on a biblical approach to abuse and divorce please consider my friend Barbara Robert’s book Not Under Bondage. http://notunderbondage.com

I’ve read Barbara Robert’s book and, when the blog A Cry for Justice (which sprang the book I worked on with Pastor Crippen) was first getting started I worked with her for a while on the blog. I cannot recommend her book highly enough.

Further, Pastor Moles suggested that the church Consider meeting physical needs. For instance should we establish an emergency fund to help her and children if the abuser is unwilling to financially contribute to her well being? Should we establish safe houses within our congregations for temporary shelters? Are we prepared to offer rides or other services that may be needed? 

For some abuse victims, money isn’t an issue. For many others, it is. Sometimes she’s struggling because they simply didn’t have much, other times it’s due to financial abuse. To have the church say “We’ll help you –in this way or that–until you can get on your feet” would be amazing to the women and their children who couldn’t dream of getting to safety otherwise.

Lastly, he suggested that the church should be prepared to Confront the abuser: I believe the greatest means of serving victims is holding abusers accountable. WARNING. Unless you fear for her health or immediate safety and are taking her to a safe house, communicate to the victims your desires and intentions before you address her abuser.

Pastor Moles went on to suggest that, before talking to him, you tell her that you plan to and ask her permission. Confronting him without making sure she’s safe (usually away from home either for an extended period or permanently) is dangerous.

So that’s it in a rather large nutshell. It’s an excellent article and one I suggest you read and then pass on to your church leaders. Domestic abuse is alive in our churches. We must confront it and we must love and support the victims while doing so. To do otherwise, is to be the Priest and the Levite that ignored the victim and passed by on the other side of the road. And remember, Jesus condemned them.

What can a healthy church provide to victims of abuse?

Peace Works Blog

I want to begin this post by saying a huge thank you to the folks at Redemption Hill Church of Iron Mountain, Michigan. I had the wonderful privilege to speak at a conference they hosted a couple weeks ago designed specifically to raise awareness in the church regarding domestic violence. It is such a thrill to see churches and leaders humbly ask for help in learning more about how they can speak into the lives of victims, survivors, and perpetrators. The pastoral team at Redemption Hill are very supportive and affirmed the need for more and better quality church-based training. Unfortunately, other than the host church, there were few pastors in attendance. This is a common problem that must be remedied. We, as pastors, are often the first contact for victims and yet are consistently ranked among the least helpful. We need more resources and equipping for pastors.

Some Thoughts

Today, I’ll…

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NoMore’s chilling anti-domestic violence Super Bowl ad

This PSA was aired by NoMore.org, the NFL’s anti-domestic violence organization, during the Super Bowl. It was taken nearly word for word from a Reddit threat about a call a 911 operator received. As the commercial begins, watch for the clues that something has gone horribly wrong–the broken and scattered items–and listen to the woman as she calmly conveys that help is desperately needed without ever actually admitting to what is going on. The operator who took the call checked the address and realized that it was one from which several domestic disturbance calls had been placed. When help arrived, the woman was found to have been beaten by her drunken partner who was then was arrested.

Shining God’s light on abuse

BibleI guess my perspective on domestic abuse is different from that of many Christians. I have an understanding born of experience as to how abusers act and what their victims go through. I know the pain of abuse. I’ve lived with abusers. I’ve been abused. So my heart is with abuse victims, to show the love of Christ to them, to hear and to help them.

If you are abused know this: Abuse is never your fault, and the Lord is on your side. God hates abuse. (Psalms 11:5, The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.) God stands with the oppressed and against the abusers. (Psalms 18:48, He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man. Psalms 22:24, For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard. Psalms 9: 9, The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.)

Knowing Him offers healing, hope and truth. God is love. He is mercy, hope and peace. (John 14: 27, Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. 2 Thessalonians 2: 16-17, Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word. 1 John 4: 7-10, Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Phillipians 4: 7, And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.)

He sent His own Son to die for us so that we, by His sacrifice, might be saved. His death brought our salvation. His rising again brought our justification. We are made perfect in Him. (Romans 5: 10, For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. 1 Corinthians 15: 17, And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.) We need none other. (Colossians 2: 10, And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: 1 Corinthians 1: 30, But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption)

If you’ve not done so, turn to Jesus in repentance, and be saved. (Acts 3: 19, Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;) God, unlike many humans, will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31: 6, Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Hebrews 13: 5,  Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.). His love, His presence, is sure, steady, everlasting and never changing. (Malachi 3: 6a, For I am the Lord, I change not; Hebrews 13: 8, Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.)

If we have been saved, we will continue to be saved until the end. However, our salvation isn’t just bound up in a “sinner’s prayer” that then allows us to live however we wish. True repentance requires a change of heart. We must turn from our sins and live for Christ. He is faithful. We must be also. (1 John 3: 9, Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 1 Corinthians 1: 9, God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.) For further information, read Romans 6.

I share that because, if we are to know God’s love, we must be His. We must serve Him in truth. God is holy, and He demands that His people be holy also. If you’ve lived with an abuser, you know the pain of not ever being able to trust him, not ever knowing who he’s going to be from one minute to the next. God is never, ever, like that. God is faithful, trustworthy, and true. We can be sure of Him in ways we can never be sure of another. I know Him as my Savior. I desire that you know Him also.

Now, on to the discussion: Domestic abuse in any form is sin. There are church members who are masquerading as Christians who are abusing their families behind closed doors. They are hurting their families, sinning against God, and bringing reproach on the church. The church needs to become educated about abuse. They need to help the abused who members of their churches. To fail to do so is to choose to sin.

If you’ve not walked in the shoes of those who have been abused by family members, I guess it’s easy to look away. After all, you don’t understand what’s going on, or even know what’s going on. You don’t see the daily suffering at the hands of their abusers. Observing abusers only from the outside, it’s easy to be confused. Some of the people being accused of abuse seem to be “just the nicest people” or “the best Christian man I know”. It’s much easier to dismiss the accusations than it is to have to deal with the messy fall-out.

It’s easy to say “God hates divorce” while failing to read that Scripture in context. It’s easy to tell the wife to “go home and love (serve, cook for, have sex with, etc.) him so he’ll want to treat you better”. It’s easy to say “Just leave” and leave it up to her to figure out how. It’s easy but it’s wrong. Her concerns, her needs (and sometimes his, as males can be the victim), are ignored because it’s inconvenient not to ignore them

Because we aren’t looking at the situation through a biblical lens. We must learn to do just that. In this blog, I intend to share what the Lord has to say about abuse, delve into what abuse victims go through, explore how the church might help abuse victims, discuss one’s options and how she or he might grow through the abuse so that they are no longer victims but survivors, and share some of my experiences also, and what the Lord has taught me through them, in the hopes that God might use it to help a fellow traveler on the road of abuse.

Abuse is horrible but it’s made more so by ignorance. It is my desire that the victims of abuse be not ignorant of what the Lord has to say on it, be not ignorant of the options they have, and be not ignorant of the fact that they are not alone. It is also my desire that the church be no longer ignorant on the subject of domestic abuse. Some churches do really well in helping victims and some do not. If we are to be pleasing to the Lord, this must change.

If you have any questions about what I’ve shared, or are an abuse victim, and want to share your story, either leave a message below or, if you want to keep it private, leave a message with your email address. I’m here for you.

Soli Deo gloria!